Thursday, 2 December 2010

A rare find - something that's not bad on C4

The main British TV channels used to have their own distinct personalities: BBC1, good at comedy, but stuffy and middle class in every other way; ITV, warm, cheeky, working class, occasionally crass; BBC2, posh, boring.

Then along came C4, which for many years was exotic, catering for minorities, daring, not timid about offending the establishment (all good characteristics, actually).

C5 …Hmmmm. Always been bland and crap, as far as I’m concerned. And now most of its shows are American. Hey guys! The population you are supposed to serve – guess what? – they’re NOT Americans.

But back to C4. It has lost its way and its identity in recent years, but at least it is producing some ‘original’ home-grown drama – the screen adaptation of ‘Any Human Heart’, William Boyd’s classic literary novel, for instance.
I haven’t seen this drama yet, so can’t comment, but I have read the novel which is very impressive.

The other night I did catch a new comedy sketch offering from C4, entitled The Morgana Show. Morgana Robinson is an accomplished comedian with strong character acting skills – a bit like Catherine Tate.

The new show is funny though not terribly subtle, and some of the sketches could do with reigning in a bit length-wise.

I liked Morgana’s send up of a certain type of fermale yoof and music presenter. In this case it was Fearne Cotton, I think, but such presenters all seem the same to me in their blonde vapidity, so I can’t be certain.

I also liked the over-the-top Hollywood harlot character, but, as I say, some of the sketches were too long, including the one about the daggy schoolboy who may or may not have had Tourette syndrome.

Overall though, Morgana is a good find, holding much promise.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The X Factor shames us all

Excuse me being the gorilla in the room, but how can anyone feel comfortable watching manufactured pop lightweights Dannii Minogue and Cheryl Cole dishing out advice on singing to anyone?

Let alone to the moron fodder contestants of the X Factor!

According to press reports Cheryl is to get megabucks to appear as a judge on the American version of the show.

I doubt if the Yanks will be able to understand her. We Brits struggle, but then again Chezza never says anything profound so what does it matter?

The X Factor makes me wish I’d had an en-suite vomitarium fitted into my house when I had the place refurbished a while ago.

Everything about this overblown karaoke contest is disgusting … the way it exploits the sad dreams of pop stardom in young people; the way it showcases mental and emotional disorders for the sake of chasing poxy TV ratings; the way the real story of the X Factor – as revealed in mean-spirited back-stage shenanigans – is kept out of the show itself and left to the popular press to expose.

Come to think, the symbiotic relationship between the show and the popular press works to cream money off all the dim people watching at home and buying rubbish papers.

And don’t even get me started on all the overproduction, technologically enhanced vocals and the silly dancing that goes on to distract from the paucity of talent on the show.

X Factor. It shames our country. Let the Americans have it.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

When Scouse humour falls flat …

Getting his own comedy show on BBC1 is quite an achievement for Liverpudlian comedian John Bishop. Shame it ain’t funny. At all.

I’ve watched two of ‘John Bishop’s Britain’ so far, and I’m not impressed.

The format doesn’t help. The comic (who in live performance can be funny) strains as he gives a sort of lecture on various aspects of human life – sport and work, for instance.

He gives the impression of reading from an autocue, and the sketches of himself as a younger man – being interviewed for a job in an ill-fitting suit, for example – don’t work at all. All too often they resemble a southern middle class stereotyped view of what working class Scouse life is like.

Predictably, many of Bishop’s observations slide into the gutter language-wise. His attempt to draw humour from observational comedy from the traditional office Christmas party featured “quiet Michael” who “got pissed” and “put his d*** in the boss’ soup”. Ha bloody ha.

This is what mainstream comedy shows are like on the BBC these days. Bit of smut, and everyone, including the studio audience, is giggling insanely.

As for sitcoms and comedy drama, the Beeb’s totally lost the plot. The latest pale offering is Grandma’s House (BBC2). It is part written by the highly irritating comedian and TV presenter Simon Amstell, and is intended as a “star” vehicle for him.

Amstell – the smug, bitchy host of Never Mind the Buzzcocks – now plays a young man who is part of an extended and vaguely Jewish family, where his mum has a new fellow in her life.

The characters are mainly Jewish momma types from central casting, and the actors struggle heroically with the clunky script. Amstell’s character is meant to be in turns bemused, made weary and amused by members of his family.

On watching the first episode, the bemusement and the weariness worked well enough for me – but the amusement factor never really kicked in.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The digital world of multi-platform stupidity

Call me old-fashioned, but I feel the so-called digital communications revolution we’re living through isn’t worth the paper it’s, erm, not printed on.

I think the explosion in web and mobile phone based communications, alongside ever-expanding TV “services”, well, it all causes human relationships to fragment and weaken.

The result is our World of Far Too Much Communication, which is making many people feel jaded.

I think what we’ve lost in the published word (something resembling truth and beauty, achieved through proper, professional fact-checking and editing) is more valuable than what we’ve gained (instant publishing / broadcasting open to virtually all – even the barely literate and the staggeringly stupid).

In terms of images and sound (music, film, TV and spoken word) the digital revolution has most certainly led to a dumbing down and coarsening.

And that’s before I even get started on the evil of internet-based pornography and the vile shoot-‘em-up adventures so beloved of geeks who play on gaming consoles.

We are indeed all caught up in a tangled multi-platform web of superficiality and irrelevance – from the zillions of out-of-date web-pages just hanging there, to moronic TV, to the the zillions of spam emails.

Even genuine emails are so often simply heralds of false imperatives. Just because someone sends you an email, you don’t have to respond to it. Only a tiny proportion of emails are any way important or useful. Anyone who works in an office knows that.

Meanwhile, social network sites such as Facebook are actually designed for the sharing of banal and infantile content, and users daily deliver just that.

I’m sick of being “invited” on Facebook to terrible “cultural” events I would never dream of attending.

For my money, a good paid-for newspaper is better than anything that any website or TV station can offer. The newspaper is fact-checked, elegantly designed, in many cases wittily written, portable, and professionally prepared compared to other media. What’s not to prefer?!

And an old-fashioned printed novel is still, for me, an immensely pleasurable, intelligent, human achievement – much more impressive that all the frantic half-baked toiling and spinning that goes on in cyberspace.

Two novels I have read recently I would heartily recommend as capable of restoring faith in the beauty of the written word in those who are turned off by what gets published in cyberspace.

(Urgh! All those myriad hyperlinks leading you up the arsehole of the information superhighway. All those sad couch potatoes watching reruns of Friends.)

The two novels I would recommend are: ‘Engelby’ by Sebastian Faulkes, and ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ by Muriel Barbary.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Davina dear - your skirt's too short you're too screechy!

If anyone deserved my old mantle as Britain's sneeriest TV critic it is Ally Ross in The Sun.

Creatively, of course, he’s compromised by working for the Murdoch press. It’s shame, but it means that while he's free to gleefully batter the old dinosaur channels (BBC, ITV and C4, especially) he doesn’t really dare get stuck into BskyB.

Having said that, Ally does make me titter. This gem from his column today....
GMTV, Thursday, John Stapleton: Today’s text question. Have you been troubled by rubbish recently?

It's the sheer delight Ali takes in being nasty that does it for me. I think we can all guess what 'FFS' stands for – and most of us like to laugh up our sleeves at blandies such as Stapleton, whose dreary careers just plod on and on and on.

Talking of which, I have some advice for the professionally excitable Phillip Schofield, who’s so fond of exclaiming “amazing!” and “fantastic” on shows as naff as 'Celebrity Mr & Mrs' and 'Dancing on Ice'.

I suggest he should instead say “that’s crap!” or “what a bore!”. Such phrases would accurately describe his shows and might actually endear him to his long-suffering viewers.

* * *
I predicted many years ago – when my column was on ORACLE and then on its colourless successor, Teletext (good riddance to the latter!) – that the TV industry was deluded in anticipating a new golden age of choice.

That was not, I’m afraid, ever going to be the case.

The expansion of TV, as I predicted from my perch at ORACLE, demonstrates just one thing – the paradox that More means Less.

Oh, there are, technically, more programmes for the viewer now, even for those limited to Freeview, but as a whole TV is a much diminished force.

And the public are utterly jaded by the samey old crap on offer. Again, as I predicted.

Also, the TV industry has help make the people of our country (Britain, in this case, though I suspect this applies elsewhere), ever more stupid.

With very few exceptions contemporary British TV is awful. It’s riddled with repeats, culturally irrelevant American kack, mind-sapping trailers, cop shows, gormless talent shows and karaoke kontests, cookery and lifestyle dross, spurious “celebrity” challenges, limp chat full of commercial puffs, and now stupid dance programmes.

It's 99 per cent pure moron fodder. So we shouldn’t be surprised at the results.

Take the current Celebrity Big Brother on C4.Celebrities?! Who the feck are these no-marks? Apart from the broad who was Ken Barlow’s bit on the side in Coronation Street, I haven’t a clue. Looks like they were dragged onto the show from Primark in Nuneaton.

And for six minutes the other night I forced myself to watch some barely comprehensible garbage called Celebrity Big Brother’s Big Mouth – anchored by the overrated Davina McCall, wearing a skirt too short for a bird of her age, and shouting and grimacing like a maniac.

Just watch this show. By the studio audience alone, you'll agree with me that Brits have become so THICK! If the cretins here are anything to judge by, adults now speak, shriek and act like truculent kids.

Next posting, I will point out the rare gems in the wasteland that is British television.