Final episode of “Gavin and Stacey” last night - as always with these things, there were positives and negatives. We’ll start with the latter:
a) - the winding up of the storyline was crap beyond belief. Despite a low sperm count diagnosed only one episode previously, Gavin mysteriously managed to get Stacey pregnant and they all lived happily ever after. And having shown no inclination to do so whatsoever, Nessa decided on the spur of the moment that maybe she would marry Smithy after all. And, yes, they all lived happily ever after. Ironically playing “Suddenly” by Angry Anderson as background music doesn’t gloss over the fact that it was worse than an episode of “Neighbours”.
b) - for something listed as a “comedy”, it was about as funny as a back spasm*. However, to be fair, “Gavin and Stacey” was never anything more than a silly twee thing which set out with very low expectations but warmed the heart of the nation - trying to wring three series’ worth of comedy out of things like Welsh accents and the eating habits of fat men is always going to have a limited shelf-life, which is why it became essentially a (crap) soap opera by the end.
On the plus side, at least the creators had the sense to end it here rather than letting the BBC convince them to scrape the last iota of gunk out of a fairly small barrel…
(* - I’m also currently wading through the DVD release of “Three of a Kind”, an early ’80s sketch show which launched the careers of Tracey Ullman and Lenny Henry, and it’s about as funny as having your spine surgically removed without anaesthetic.)
From time to time, we all indulge ourselves in pastimes or pursuits which are, well, a little beneath us. Mine, currently (and indeed previously), is watching “Waterloo Road”, a BBC school-based “drama” which makes “Hollyoaks” look like “Citizen Kane”. Still, it’s a harmless waste of an hour - a bit of frothy light relief. I should emphasise that the “frothy relief” I’m referring to concerns the unchallenging sub-soap-opera plotlines / characters rather than anything to do with the multitude of 19-year-old actresses cavorting in knee-length stockings and short skirts.
And I’m aware that some of you have your own guilty pleasures; LZ is deeply aroused by Twiglets*; Technical Organ Grinder, an avowed Google-hater, secretly loves their new “Street View” product, and pens fantastical stories like this under an assumed name to help promote it**. Cane, I’ve heard tell, arranges mythical sales conferences in Seattle to which he drives having loaded his car’s 6CD changer up with Smiths and Morrissey albums.***And finally, chess champion Pal Pito will occasionally, just for kicks, open a Sicilian defence with d4 rather than e4 (!!!) (****)
(* - sorry, that should read “Twilight“, and that particular gag wasn’t funny the first time either. Or the second or third, or the several other previous occasions on which I’ve used it privately.)
(** - this is a complete lie.)
(*** - also a complete lie.)
(**** - also a complete…you get the picture.)
If anyone would like to share a REAL guilty pleasure, feel free….
RIP Oliver Postgate, creator of Ivor the Engine, the Clangers and most importantly Bagpuss; the man who pretty much defined the childhood televisual experience for anyone of my age. Working with partner Peter Firmin out of a disused cowshed near Canterbury, making many of the characters by hand (his wife famously knitted the Clangers) and scripting / producing everything on a fairly free rein and an incredibly tiny budget, Postgate’s production company Smallfilms succeeded in entrancing pretty much every child born in the UK from 1960 - 1985.
Bagpuss deserves particular mention; only 13 episodes were ever made, but if a more wonderful childrens’ programme has ever been produced, I’m yet to see it. In an age of CGI, blaring soundtracks, shouty repetition and drekk like Teletubbies and Dora the Explorer which exist solely to encourage kids to become hyperactive nightmares / good consumers, the sepia-tinted “temps perdu” presentation of Bagpuss still looks and feels, 35 years on, like pure magic. Astonishingly, BBC mandarins at the time didn’t recommission it because the characters were considered “too old-fashioned” - mind you, this was at the same time as when they taped over most pre-1970 Doctor Who episodes rather than spend money on some new blank reels (!)
My eternal thanks are to Mr Postgate for such a hugely positive influence on the early part of my life. He’s proof that talent and invention will always be more important than big budgets, and the BBC would do well to his example in mind for the sake of the corporation’s future.
Your unintrepid reporter is back in Blighty, fresh from a week spent palling around with tourists, to find a media shit-storm involving hirstute panda-eyed stick-man Russell Brand and increasingly corpulent rhotically-challenged licence-fee-munchin’ Jonathan Ross.
For anyone unconversant, the story in full is here, but in a nutshell, BBC Radio 2 broadcast a pre-recorded programme in which the pair left lewd / suggestive / slightly bullying phone messages on the ‘phone of Andrew Sachs, UK national treasure and formerly Manuel in Fawlty Towers. These messages concerned Sachs’s granddaughter, a burlesque artiste and member of the (ahem) Satanic Sluts, with whom Brand has had relations.
Nearly 2 weeks on, and following a slow-burning but highly-orchestrated campaign by the Mail, the story is now massive; Gordon Brown and David Cameron have both had their say, and the clamour for heads to roll has reached fever pitch. Now, until this morning, I hadn’t actually heard the excerpt in question - but nor, no doubt, had the 10,000+ people who have complained to the BBC since the Mail’s campaign (only TWO people complained at the time of the original broadcast). Nor, it was revealed last night, had the Conservative MP who sought to raise his profile by tabling a parliamentary motion on the issue.
The programme as a whole was two hours long, but the excerpt concerned is here. It’s not massively offensive, and has humorous moments, but it’s really not massively clever either.
I consulted two people to see what they thought - one is a journalist friend - he pointed out that this is the sort of thing that Ross and Brand do; the fault, if there is one, was with the BBC editorial process. He added that most people inside the business think that it was a mistake to broadcast and that a line was crossed (remember, it was pre-recorded).
My other interviewee is on my table-tennis team; an ageing Kentish “everyman” who probably reads the Mail and probably hasn’t heard the clip either. He was predictably angry about the whole affair, but the main thrust of his complaint wasn’t against Brand and Ross, but against the increasing prevalence of smut, swearing and lewdness in comedy / entertainment in general, and especially at the BBC. Leaving aside the spoonfed outrage, I have to admit, he has a good point - I have a fairly broad comedy mind, but (as LZ recently pointed out) comedy these days often stretches what’s acceptable to breaking point and sometimes beyond. If we young ‘uns are dubious, the old folk must hate it with a passion, and I suspect that this passion is what’s fuelling the current conflagration. This is a flashpoint that was waiting to happen.
So I have varying sympathies on this. There’s only one thing I really loathe about it - the fact that an anti-BBC witch-hunt organised by the malodorous modern-day Malleus Maleficarum which is the Daily Mail(*) has achieved so much critical mass. Very worrying.
Sack Brand by all means - he seems to thrive on it - give Ross a pay-cut and tighten up BBC editorial procedure, even introduce new guidelines to take us away from the over-prevalence of smut in comedy if necessary. But first and foremost, the country has to be very wary of the dumb right-wing media culture of these orchestrated shrieks of outrage which rely on prejudice, hearsay and rank ignorance; otherwise we’ll be burning books and stoning foreign people before long.
(* - The Mail, incidentally, has seen its circulation spike during this story, and is making a very pretty penny from keeping it in the news.)
Whenever our fair nation enters a time of crisis, a man (or, far less frequently, a woman) emerges to call the shots, take the country by the scruff of the neck, give it a good dressing-down and lead it onto a brighter future. And you invariably also get a load of self-aggrandising gobshites who reckon they’re helping when they’re really just shooting their mouths off about how clever they are. Robert Peston falls into one of these categories*.
Who is Robert Peston? He’s the BBC’s business editor, and, like former economics editor Evan Davis (now presenter of Dragons’ Den, spoofed extremely cruelly by Harry and Paul at the end of this clip) - and former political editor Andrew Marr, he appears to be an honours graduate of the “wobbly hands” school of BBC reporter training.
The current BBC mythology states that Peston was alone in “seeing the financial crisis coming” - and - Hey Pesto! - as a result, he’s now a multimedia-bestriding colossus, windmilling his arms for all he’s worth on every BBC TV news programme going from Breakfast to Newsnight, enthusiastically interrupting presenters on BBC Radios 2, 3, 4 and 5 (the credit crunch hasn’t hit happy little Radio 1 yet), and being fawned over by every broadsheet imaginable.
If I were to liken Peston to a foodstuff, it would be
extremely tenuous, erm, it would be to a huge dollop of gloopy green basil-and-cheese-based sauce ladelled over-liberally onto the rapidly-congealing overcooked pasta of our media. (Geddit?)
Isn’t it time he Pest-off?
(* - Editorial caveat - Robert Peston might in fact be an extremely able journalist and affable man, and equally this entire post might or might not be driven solely by the fact that he has a multi-punnable name.)
Just finished watching Andrew Marr’s “Britain from Above” documentary (which was visually good, if slightly less revealing / surprising than I’d hoped). Whilst doing so, I realised something; his “wobbly hands” demonstrative declamatory style of presenting is fairly annoying and slightly patronising. And he’s not the only one; even the normally-calm Sir David Attenborough’s work is increasingly being accompanied by over-dramatic music and wild gesticulatory abandon (e.g. the “Oooh! Look at the blue whale!” bit about two mins into this clip)
Now I know that a lot of these programmes also go out to an American audience, but other than that, why do documentary-makers feel the need to treat us as if we were children? Why are we talked down to all the time? Twenty years ago, we all thought that David Bellamy’s style made him look like a bit of a berk; what’s changed? Why do we have to be “storytold” our documentaries these days?
Two interesting comparisons and examples of how it should be done; Robert Hughes, who, in his utterly brilliant and riveting “Shock of the New”, was phlegmatic knowledge personnified, and Jonathan Meades (my all-time number one fave intellectual! Yay!) who, despite not being averse to the odd jokey directorial set-piece, never for one minute treats me as if I’m incapable of understanding a sentence with more than one concept in it.
A topical, and admittedly not very good, lookity-likety, to mark tonight’s final of the incredibly dull “The Apprentice”, and the continuation of the fairly incredibly dull Euro 2008. Turkish tactician Fatih Terim -
…. and Amstrad Apprentice-Approving Arsewipe Alan “Fatty” Sugar….
Imagine Fatih with a beard…. no? At least they’re both… erm… pointing…
Actually, on reflection, Terim looks more like Terry Venables…
The world of rock and roll today lost another founding father with the death of Bo Diddley. To my chagrin, I tried to recall a well-known song of his - in vain. Can you? Turns out his best-known one was eponymous, so in a sense, we’re off the hook; but why worry about posterity’s judgement of your songcraft when you’ve invented a beat?
All those songs that go “chink-a-chink-a-chink….achink-chink” - are essentially co-written by Bo Diddley. “Not Fade Away” by the Stones, “Desire” by U2, “Faith” by George Michael, “His Latest Flame” by Elvis… and, in lieu of being arsed to research the subject properly on Wikipedia, I daresay many more. RIP.
PS - AND he was in “Trading Places”, one of the top 5 funniest films of all time. Apologies for the pic quality.
Oh go on then, one more from Trading Places….
An interesting bit of synchronicity in the last 24 hours - 1) an address from the Bishop of Rochester addressing -broadly speaking - a “moral vacuum” in society, and 2) a very watchable, twee BBC biopic on the late “clean-up-TV” campainger Mary Whitehouse.
Now then - a lot of what the Bishop is reported to have said made sense, and a lot of people, irrespective of their faith / lack thereof, would share his despair at the lack of morals in today’s society (although, of course, talking about a “lack of morals”, and indeed “society”, involves HUGELY broad, blunt sweeps though swathes of infinite shades of grey).
However - as evidenced by the follow-up phone in on BBC 5 this morning - as soon as you bring G(g)od(s) into it, you inevitably, and sadly, provoke an execrable “told you so, we’re right and you’re wrong” righteous reaction from Christians all over the land, which in turn provokes a vast raising of hackles on the part of non-Christians who consider themselves to be perfectly “moral” and massively resent a minority claiming some kind of high ground simply because they have an imaginary friend and go to a building with a high-vaulted roof once a week.
Tellingly, the BBC’s revisionist Mary Whitehouse documentary made very little reference to her strongly-held Christian beliefs, which she would routinely shove in the face of anyone who disagreed with her; instead portraying her (through the ever-loveable Julie Walters) primarily as a caring non-denominational traditional tea-and-cakes, village fete teacher / mother figure. Had the dramatists included any more of the overweening holier-than-thou preachiness which made Whitehouse so hated by so many moderate, intelligent people throughout the media and beyond, the programme would never have worked in a million years.
The lesson? Yes, there are problems with “morality” in society. But preaching explicitly Christian ideas of righteousness and godliness won’t ever and solve them alone - and in fact, in a largely secular society, any group which claims morality as their sole preserve will only succeed in creating more disagreements and divisions, to the further detriment of that society. Save it for Sundays.
(OR WEEK, OR HOWEVER OFTEN HE CAN BE ARSED TO CHANGE IT...)
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