Monday, February 27, 2006

This Weekend's TV (25-26/2/06)

The centre cannot hold now David Seaman has been knocked out of Dancing on Ice. Who cares about Langford, and Faye, and Booth (Booth? Why's he still there?), now that Seaman, that majestic oak tree of a man, has gone? Well I don't, so at least I'll get out on a Saturday night at last. Watched a bit of American Idol last night, and that was quite nauseating. Lots of American teens who looked about 35 making my head hurt with interminable "ooooh-ooh-ooooo-oooooh-ohhhh-ooo-hhh-oh"-ing like Mariah Carey stuck on a spin cycle. Thank goodness for the now-obligatory Sunday night American Dad and Family Guy, programmes which remind me that telly is good and worthwhile again before I launch into another week of watching potentially depressing bilge like Davina. What I did miss over the weekend, somewhat ruefully, was Trisha Goddard presenting The Friday Night Project; although I also know that the stench of desperation that emanates from Justin Lee Collins and Alan Carr - who realise incrementally, and every week that the show stays on the air, that they are destined for cable and radio obscurity - wraps its deadening shroud around any interesting guest host and makes the entire show unwatchable. So probably fortuitous I was in the pub. Luckily, looks like Trish has gone mental over Phil Daniels' entry into Eastenders (see comments for Wednesday Night's TV 22/2/06) so I don't know if she'd have been really that perky anyway.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Wednesday Night's TV (22/2/06)

The new series of The Apprentice was as wonderful and expertly edited as expected, crammed full of vacuous business types overusing the word "dynamic", and a particularly demented ginger woman who is going to be great value over the next few weeks. As is Syed. An arrogant, ambitious, self-satisfied James Blunt who utterly failed to recognise that "The 'A' Team" was an unsuitable and puerile name for the male team. Almost reassuringly it seems that it's the men who are going to internally destruct in the same way as the women's team descended into catfighting and backstabbing last year. I think we may see evidence for something I've long felt, that men are just as bitchy as women and just as capable of slagging one another off behind each other's backs. In terms of the women's team - "Velocity" - they wasted no time at all in employing their feminine 'assets' to make more money. They shamelessly fluttered their eyelashes and bore their cleavages around Spitalfields to procure as much free fruit as possible for the task. It took the last female team until halfway through the series to decide that this was a usable strategy. At that time, Sir Alan claimed that the debate over whether women should use their bodies in business caused division even amongst his closest allies (I'm guessing Margaret - she did not look impressed at Syra's flirty fishing), but he had no problem with any tactic which increased profit. This year, he looked sightly disgusted that they had flashed their bits so easily. Now I know Sir Alan isn't exactly at the vanguard of feminism but I didn't know he was a hypocrite - surely you either think it's okay or you don't? Personally, I'm with Margaret. But nothing can put me off Sir Alan, who actually said last night that he'd quite like to lose everything he has, just for the challenge of building it up all over again. What a guy, what a will, what fantastic one-liners. The Apprentice is the best thing to hit our screens in this millennium.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Monday Night's TV (20/2/06)

Winding down from a heavy weekend involved indulging in some hearty, comforting tv fare last night. My starter was Masterchef Goes Large. MGL is about ten trillion times better than Masterchef used to be. Gone is the slightly sinister all-black backdrop as three unknown, verbose people dip their foie gras tarts in raspberry coulis, and then go off with Lloyd Grossman to talk about whether the pecan, chocolate, walnut, truffle and mango mousse somewhat over-egged the pudding. These days Masterchef has taken a leaf out of the Pop Idol book, employing two brutal judges who take the pretention out of the series, being blunt with the contestants but also speaking straightforwardly about the food; "That's greasy" "That's both raw and overdone at the same time" "I don't want to eat another mouthful I'm afraid". Stuff you can understand, not, "The chorizo and lambneck hot buttered salad was a metaphysical triumph, although the aftertaste was like the excretia towards the end of a bronchial infection". My main course was America's Next Top Model, the diva of the NTM brand, and the one most reminiscent of Carrie. One contestant, Jayla, is a renegade Jehovah's Witness who wants to get her baps out as much as possible before returning to the faith, but also presents as the girl most likely to have put itching powder in a rival cheerleader's pants during high school. Another girl, Bre (honestly), is so God-fearing that nothing can happen to her or anyone else without it being attributed to His Divine Will. Not an evolutionist then. It's the combination of the initial smugness of the Americans with the contradiction of their gradual objectification which makes the show so watchable. Take Kim, for instance, a highly-educated and irritatingly-voiced butch lesbian. Watch as Tyra Banks' coterie teach her how to make her waist appear smaller in pictures. Observe as they take uncomfortable photos of her in a corset and supenders. Marvel that she doesn't invoke gender theory as a means of resisting her assimilation into a highly sexist industry. Wonder if the old adage is actually true - are all Americans stupid? The evidence of ANTM is pretty damning. My dessert, although it was more of a cheese board really, was ER. Thankfully the hapless new students I criticised the other week have been replaced with the series regulars, and I found myself moved as a sexually abused girl died after her mismanagement by the doctors. Not because of the tear-jerker storyline, which normally I would avoid like the plague, but because Maura Tierney was involved in it, and she is just the most wonderful actor. I felt satisfied if slightly dulled after my TV meal, and think I may have to replace telly with books tonight in an attempt to mentally diet. Anyway, The Apprentice starts tomorrow, my favourite programme of last year. A telly fast may make the first episode that little bit sweeter.....

Friday, February 17, 2006

Thursday Night's TV (16/2/06)

My dumb was thoroughly founded in the early hours of this morning when I caught a repeat of Anthea Turner: Perfect Housewife on BBC3. This programme pits two female slobs (they'll probably do an episode with token househusbands if it's not cancelled within a fortnight) who do not know the value of a hoover against each other, to see who has responded best to Anthea's housekeeping tips following a few days chez Turner. During their riveting stay they completed exercises in stain removal (Anthea: "There's nothing worse than a ballpoint pen"), recycling (Anthea: "If you can compartmentalise your rubbish, you can compartmentalise your life"), and throwing an imaginary tea party for Elizabeth II (Anthea: "The Queen would NOT eat sausage rolls"). While I appreciated the notion of a rolled-up newspaper inserted into boots for purposes of storage, the rest of Anthea's tips revealed that she is utterly demented. She cleans her metal-fronted kitchen units with baby oil. She does not have one drawer of odds and ends in her entire house. She clearly needs meds. The women didn't have a clue how to react to her fascistic approach to domesticity. When her back was turned they were giggling as if they were waiting outside a classroom to be rebuked by the teacher. The programme also didn't know how to take itself; whether to present Anthea as camply authoritarian, in the same vein as Trinny and Susannah or the How Clean Is Your House duo, or as mortally offended by her tutees' sluttery, a Gillian McKeith-type figure. It straddled the self-improvement genres of fashion, food and housekeeping in a confused and confusing way. My initial hilarity was replaced by open-mouthed senselessness at about the 40 minute mark, but, by then, I was resigned to sticking with it to the end, like a bad book. If BBC1 is the disease-addled auntie you once loved, then BBC3 is her Italian-funded mutant IVF baby, leeching the last dregs of her life before she slips from you forever. I don't even know if it is that, but it is certainly the cable channel producing the most regressive, conservative, condescending, idiotic and pointless crap on telly. If your finger stops on BBC3 as you scroll through the channels, be sure to summon up whatever strength lies within you to keep on pressing ahead. There's nothing for you here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Monday Night's TV (13/2/06)

The worlds of popular music and sport collided like tectonic plates yesterday, as Top of the Pops was mounted against the backdrop of Piedmont mountains near Turin, home of the Winter Olympics 2006. The momentous occasion was marked with such pithy dialogue as this:-

Fearne Cotton: So that was the Sugababes, the all-NEW Sugababes (cheeky grin), with 'Push the Button'
Sue Barker: (laughing) Yes, I used to sing along to that one as I drove into work in the morning
Feare Cotton: Fancy giving us a rendition now?
Sue Barker: (laughing hysterically) Oh no, no, no no. Oh gosh no, not now, no, I couldn't possibly....
Sue continues to laugh like a heron having an asthma attack, while Fearne introduces Nizlopi

And this :-

Fearne and Sue do not realise Nizlopi have finished their song, and the camera catches them chatting unawares
Fearne Cotton: Really? All of them?
Sue Barker: Yes. All of them. From the Director General down to the teaboy. Took me the whole of the 1980s. How the hell else do you think I'm still on the telly even though I can't find one incisive thing to say?

Ok, so the second one wasn't true, but Sue Barker's telly reign is a mystery. Who on earth likes her anyway? Who are her fans? Or is she supported by some breakaway sect of Cliff Richard devotees who think they shouldn't have split because his music was never the same after? I'm pleased that the BBC thought outside the box and offered her the TOTP gig, though. She's so down with the kids. They think Sue Barker's well sick.
I must be the only person actually tuning back into TOTP and its largely because of the surprise of who the producers will ask to guest host next. Will it be..... Professor Robert Winston? Dan Cruikshank, perhaps? I'm starting to wonder whether they're filling the presenting slot by seeing who's free on the BBC rota, Peters saying to Cowey - "oh, Adam Woodyatt's not filming for a couple of hours. Shall we get him to do it?" And beneath Fearne's pretty superficies beats a black heart which no doubt we'll catch more glimpses of as the ratings continue to nosedive. TOTP is so bad, it's becoming quite good again. Check it out.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Weekend TV (11-12/2/06)

TV highlight of the week, nay the month, was Philip Schofield getting called 'Vicky' live on air by the bloke who presents Dancing on Ice: Defrosted. As in, "We'll see Vicky later" - with the camera trailing away from a very confused-looking Schofield. Funny. David Seaman is now my favourite to win because he's metamorphosed from a lumpy northerner to a graceful, gentle giant. I'm sure he'd be a very generous lover. He gets my vote.
Did one of those E4 'catch-up' things on Beauty and the Geek which was avoided initially because I thought it was contrived to poke fun at ill-educated women, but actually it's the men who seem like idiots for their complete ignorance of what's going on in popular culture. Ok, it's not actually necessary to know Jordan's real name, but it's not like she doesn't make the broadsheets from time to time. Also, you can't tell me that these lonely men are always looking up equations on the internet. I think the word 'geek' for some of the male contestants is a bit unfair though - they've just got degrees in maths or science or know who William Blake is. 'Intelligent' seems a bit more appropriate. But I guess you can't compose a tenuously assonant title with the word 'intelligent'.
Been watching Invasion on and off over the last few weeks, but it was so boring last night that it has had to be struck from the TV register. Whatever I've said about Lost - far-fetched, filled with plotholes, improbably clean survivors - at least it can't be accused of being boring. Apart from the 'Evangeline-Lilly-gazes-intensely-at-the-ocean' moments, overall it's pretty watchable. I might give that second series a chance after all.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Thursday Daytime TV (9/1/06)

I'm sure we all have moments from our adolescence we'd rather file away, and being unexpectedly confronted with them can be difficult. In my youth, I had what is probably known as a 'badboy' boyfriend and we would occasionally purchase recreational drugs from a local council estate. Ultimately I became quite good friends with the seller and the people who frequented her house, but - bearing in mind I'm a decidedly middle-class doctor's daughter - I tended to stick out a bit on these visits. In fact, if someone got grassed up as benefit cheat or their home was raided by the Drugs Squad I would immediately become paranoid that they would think it was me; the outsider. From my objective viewpoint, it could feel rather like being in the audience of an early-morning chatshow sometimes - dramas would unfurl where someone would get pregnant by a neighbour's boyfriend, or have a lesbian affair while their husband was inside, or have to break the news that they were homosexual to their ignorant, exceptionally violent brothers. A real-life episode of Trisha. Maybe not so surprising, therefore, that the recreational drug seller was ON TRISHA yesterday. It's nice to catch up with people I suppose but I wasn't quite prepared for it to happen via the medium of telly. Trisha's guest was still 25 stone, still unemployed, only difference was that she'd had a baby with a sixteen-year old. Trisha told her to lose some weight and get a job. The only job I ever heard this woman consider was being a madam in a brothel, so I think Goddard's onto a lost cause. The experience has somehow taken the shine off such morning TV for me, and I normally love a bit of Trish in the a.m. Maybe it was all about some kind of kinship I felt with the guests given my own diversion into that world years ago. But to have the connection REALISED like that. My God. It's a bit thought-provoking. Has anyone else actually recognised someone on Trisha or The Jeremy Kyle Show? Please tell me I'm not alone......
Brenda did amazingly well on Deal or No Deal yesterday - although she did deal a round too early. With the 'Power Five' still in play in the 5th round she was offered £84,000 but had already dealt at £57,000. Damn! I'd have done the same though; everything can change in Deal or No Deal so quickly you see. And she had £50,000 in her box so she still did a good'un. Nailbiting it was.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Deal or No Deal......

It's about time I stated my allegiance for Deal or No Deal (C4), an almost-live quiz show which has been steadily capturing my heart since Christmas. On six days a week, it looks set to continue until Noel Edmonds has a stroke or dies. He can't believe he's back on the telly. I can't either, and after the vomiting eventually subsided, I was able to view the show dispassionately. A format which I saw in Australia over the summer, the rules are almost inpenetrable, but boil down to a game in which a banker bids for a box with an amount of money hidden inside it, from a player who has to decide when he or she is being offered the best deal. There are also twenty- one other people with boxes with amounts of money in them from 1p to £250,000. The player picks three of these boxes at random in each round, and then the banker phones up with another offer - better if they've managed to avoid the high numbers because of the greater possibility of the player him/herself having one of them. The object, therefore, is not to pick a box with £250,000, £100,000, £75,000, £50,000 or £35,000 inside it, as the deal offered to you will be lower - but because it's a game of chance and not skill, the possibilities for moments of incredible, unbearable tension and sudden, crushing deflation are endless. And to top it all off, once the player has dealt with the banker, they continue to see what would have happened if the game had continued to the end - so you get to see if they made the right deal at the right time. Cue intense pathos when it turns out the player had the £250,000 all along and, if they'd just held their nerve, etc........or vicarious joy, as when a 23 year old student dealt at £41,000 and it turned out she'd had £10 in her box after all!
I'm a big fan of the daytime quiz show, but they usually involve general knowledge or spelling, so the spell cast by Deal or No Deal is surprising. One great feature of the show is that the people who open the boxes for the player end up being contestants themselves at some later date, so it's like you already know a bit about them. I wanted Mumtaz to do really well the other day, for example, because she seemed so nice. It does make you wonder, though, how these people have that much time on their hands that they can stand around opening boxes from 4-4.45 pm every day. Do they not work? Am I a pot, and is the kettle black? I don't know if this programme's going to wane in my affections or not but I'm totally addicted at the moment. If I was forced to, I would even trade off Countdown to watch it. I can overlook the fact it's hosted by Edmonds for Chrissakes! Next time you throw a sickie - or if, like me, you're a bum - Deal or No Deal is must-watch TV.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sunday Night's TV (5/1/06)

How can I disappointed at the end of CBB when I have TV like Animal Winter Olympics (BBC1) to replace it? The BBC seems to be coming in for quite a lambasting in this blog, and maybe it's because they're increasingly s**t. This latest offering ludicrously pitted humans against CGI -generated mammals, reptiles, fish and birds in a variety of sub-zero sporting arenas to see who would triumph. Funnily enough, the beasts didn't have the same concentration levels as humans, nor the instilled notion of competition, nor the sporting techonology to really be effective adversaries, so the humans were usually victorious. Animal Winter Olympics fits squarely into a growing body of ridiculously conjectural programming by the BBC, like their What If...? season. What if.........Essex exploded? What if........seagulls ruled the world? What if.......the BBC didn't feel the need to insert the CGI technology they so clearly spent a lot of money on into every pseudo-scientific commission they produce? Now there's a thought. An expert actually imparting information rather than a mock-up of bioluminescent, maneating, opium-addicted porpoises in the year 4025. Actually, that was the only part of Animal Winter Olympics which was of any interest whatsoever. Apparently reindeers like to snack on magic mushrooms as they roam the tundra, giving a whole new dimension to Rudolf's shiny red nose. I think somebody in the BBC's Science Department must be partaking too - how can Animal Winter Olympics be anything else but the product of a very fevered brain? Someone needs a sabbatical, REAL bad.......

Friday, February 03, 2006

Wednesday Night's TV (1/2/06)

It's been a while since I saw one of those Greece Uncovered-type programmes, the progenitor of the reality TV which saturates our screens today. The biggest surprise when I watched Club Reps: The Workers was how self-critical such telly has become. For instance, as 16-year-old Jolene from Arran spoke about how her job in Faliraki was broadening her horizons, the editors intercut her platitudes with images of lads being sick in the road, and girls whacking their boobs out. The workers themselves were made to look as bad as the holiday makers; one particularly charming woman from the south of England promised her customer in a restaurant that she'd be his "dirty little waitress", but, swinging round to the see the camera trained on her, exclaimed, "My fucking mum's got to watch this!" The picture of package holidays presented was utterly depressing, from the rep/manager shouting threateningly, "peel the banana!" "eat the banana!" to a bunch of unenthused girls during a poolside sexgame, to Jolene and her colleagues downing more alcohol than their bored guests, then topping the evening off with a bisexual snogging sesh in front of them. Is this the end of 'Club 18-30' style holidays then? Or merely the end of programmes about them?? The editorial line seems to be that it's impossible to make them look the slightest bit appealing - and all the squaddies have gone off to Iraq now anyway, haven't they?

The makers of Hollyoaks Let Loose seem to have decided that by replacing Aryans in school uniform with a trio of dodgy males - an ugly one, a swarthy one, and a posh rake of the variety who attempts virgins in Dickens novels - they can get away with all manner of dirty jokes. Presumably the titillation makes up for the cheapest production values I have seen on English TV. They're also cutting corners by getting two of the real Hollyoaks cast into the programme but not giving them any dialogue. I guess they'd have to pay them a tenner an hour more or something. This creates a strange situation where the couple sit there like mutes during scenes, occasionally reacting through facial expressions to what is being said, but, more often than not, impassively staring at the others as if they've never seen them before in their lives and they just couldn't find anywhere else to sit in the pub. Very odd indeed.

The religious hatred bill didn't go through and I'm therefore very tempted to launch an attack on every faith there is. Not because I'm hateful but because I don't like being told what to do. You can't scare me with your prison, or your jihad or your eternity in hell. This cultural move really pisses me off. We should all be able to say whatever we damn well like - firstly, because it exposes who are the real dicks around us, and, secondly, because it's possible to separate offensive words from malicious intents. That's why we have irony. That's why we're better than beasts. All MPs, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Seventh-Day Adventists who back legislation which tries to stop our mouths should be sent to Faliraki to stay with Jolene until they cry for mercy and a democracy which lets individuals decide how far they should go; not cocking religious, governmental or patriarchal authorities, or reps who force you to do crazy things to bananas.