Friday, 7 November 2008
Friday, 31 October 2008
Friday, 24 October 2008
It is a cliché that today we live in a culture obsessed by ‘celebrity’, with the lumpen proletariat forever fawning over the minutiae of talentless non-entities who are famous merely for being famous. The popularity and power wielded by Hello! magazine, the profusion of famous nobodies spawned from and spewed out by Channel Four’s Big Brother and other reality television programmes, are often cited as proof of this cultural phenomenon. Perhaps the most visible evidence of our celebrity culture can be witnessed at local newsagents, which now sell a cornucopia of cheap magazine titles devoted entirely to the inexplicably famous.
Saturday, 2 August 2008
The Countdown to the end
"Du-du, du-du, du-du-du-duhh, BONG.
With Des O’Connor and Carol Vorderman both announcing this week that they are leaving the show, it’s time to ask: is Channel 4’s afternoon quiz programme Countdown finished? Alas, I fear it is...."
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Let’s give credit where credit’s due
Whether sped-up to an unreadable blur or minimised to the point of invisibility, devaluing TV end credits devalues programme-makers.
"There are two things traditionally understood to have the television viewer reaching for his or her remote control: commercial breaks and end credits. In our zapper, YouTube era of zero concentration and instantaneity, they are regarded as an anathema to the viewer, and likewise perceived by the networks as a proper nuisance. And, consequently, in our age of digital evolution, both are undergoing a process of necessary adaptation.
As I have written before (see Why should we pay the Orwellian licence fee?), the proliferation of television stations in the UK over the past two decades has severely compromised the effectiveness of the commercial break. (And now with Sky+’s pre-record, ‘live pause’, rewind and fast forward facility, you can delay watching your programme by about 10 minutes and skip the adverts altogether.)
Back in the early 1980s, of course, the TV commercial wielded real power. Admittedly, its power may have arisen by default - your parents couldn’t be bothered to get up and turn the station over from ITV, BBC2 was airing a five-hour conference special featuring malcontent windbags from the TUC, or BBC1 was broadcasting some unfunny racist sitcom. But it was power nonetheless..."
Read on at
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
Hollyoaks and the madness of the TV nutterMentally ill people are very rarely dangerous - so why do soap operas so often portray them as homicidal maniacs?
Are the makers of Hollyoaks mad, or what? The popular Channel 4 soap opera – popular, that is, with teenagers, hungover students and TV reviewers who really should know better – is currently running a story about a teenager with schizophrenia. And the programme, like so many soaps that venture to address this issue, is perpetuating the notion that all people with this condition are dangerous nutcases with quite literally split personalities.
The current storyline features a troubled ‘emo’-type lad called Newt (played by Nico Mirallegro) who is constantly pestered by an ex-Army, anti-capitalist fundamentalist ‘friend’ called Eli (Marc Silcock), who persuades him to steal, plant bombs, and generally torments him. ‘Eli’ appears to him when he is troubled. But only to him. This is because ‘Eli’ does not exist. He is a figment of Newt’s disturbed imagination. As will be confirmed next month on Hollyoaks, this is because Newt is clinically schizophrenic. And of course, as night follows day in TV world, he is a dangerous one."
Jeremy Clarkson: because he’s worth itHe may caricature greens as cabbage-eating lesbians, but Clarkson says what people think. And the Beeb is right to pay him handsomely.
"Are BBC presenters a waste of money? Why are they getting paid so much? These questions seem all the more pressing these days, what with the likes of Jonathan Ross, Terry Wogan and Jeremy Clarkson currently being awarded phenomenal wages at the licence-payers’ expense. Why should we be forced to pay million-pound wages to assuage the egos of these egomaniacs, we cry?
Well, the truth is that some of our presenters are much better value for money than others. The problem is that by criticising BBC presenters in general, the Corporation’s detractors fail to acknowledge which presenters actually make a net profit for this country. The politics of envy are always stupid, but, when it comes to the current debate over BBC pay, they become supremely idiotic..."
Friday, 4 July 2008
Middle-class murder: so much more palatableWhy are so many murder dramas set in posh areas? Because TV execs think only the well-to-do have interesting reasons for killing each other.
"Murder seems to be all over the TV these days. And I’m not just talking about news coverage of the propensity of South London teenagers to go round stabbing each other to death or the promise of their fellow adolescents in Glasgow or Manchester to ‘juck you up’ (ie, stab you).
I’m not even referring to those other morbid staples of television news reportage: losers dressed in black going on a high school rampage in America, taking revenge on the ‘jocks’ by gunning them down; Japanese cult members letting off poisonous gas on the Tokyo subway; or that perennial favourite of the Western media, religious nutcases in the Middle East blowing up buses in Jerusalem, Karachi, Baghdad or Basra.
No, I’m talking about our unabated fascination with fictional murder..."
Read on at http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5427/
Friday, 27 June 2008
"It was strangely appropriate that the conclusion of BBC’s The Supersizers Go... series, featuring restaurant critic Giles Coren and writer and comedian Sue Perkins, should have coincided this week with the much-anticipated launch of the eleventh series of Top Gear. The programmes share an uncanny resemblance. Neither really seek to educate and to inform, and both demonstrate that when the BBC does decide to entertain – albeit in a surreptitious manner – it can do so excellently.
I have previously bored spiked readers by explaining that Top Gear, in its original incarnation, sought to inculcate the best advice on what motors viewers should purchase. (See My name is Patrick. I am a Top Gear viewer.) But since its reincarnation in 2002, Top Gear has become increasingly less concerned with proffering plain consumer advice, and it has become more obsessed with just having a laugh. The programme’s hosts do things like destroy caravans, drive cars to the North Pole, or test how many vehicles an Austin Allegro can fly over while driving backwards.
Friday, 20 June 2008
"An old adage goes: ‘Is it big or clever to swear?’ Well, it depends if you are big and clever. If you are professor of astrophysics at Harvard University, weigh 16 stone and are six feet three inches tall, then I guess one can actually genuinely claim to be big and clever, and to be able use bad language at the same time. But if you are a petite 75-year-old Jewish New York comedienne, it seems you can’t be either.
Joan Rivers caused a stir in the UK this week while appearing on ITV1’s lunchtime Loose Women show. On Tuesday, Rivers described the actor Russell Crowe as a piece of ‘fucking shit’. She had pre-empted her outburst by telling the cameramen to ‘get ready to bleep’. Alas, as Loose Women anchorwoman Jackie Brambles embarrassingly had to remind Rivers, the show was going out live..."
Read on at http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5368/
Friday, 13 June 2008
In an ugly world, we need ugly newsreaders
"Much of France is in uproar that its best-known television newsreader, the veteran Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, is to be replaced by the ‘glamorous blonde’ Laurence Ferrari. D’Arvor, 60, has presented Europe’s most-watched news broadcast for the French channel TF1 since 1987, and he is something of an establishment figure in France – an equivalent to Jeremy Paxman or Michael Buerk. D’Arvor is known simply, and affectionately, by the abbreviation ‘PPDA’, much like our own ‘Paxo’.
‘Industrial accident at TF1: PPDA knocked over by a Ferrari’, lamented the left-wing newspaper Liberation. To make a comparison, d’Arvor’s dismissal would be like David Dimbleby or Trevor McDonald being supplanted by the BBC’s ever-vacant Emily Maitlis, or that rather attractive cross-eyed looking one from Newsround, Ellie Crisell. In short, France is having its own panic about ‘dumbing down’, with not a little bit of misogyny thrown in.
Saturday, 31 May 2008
"Robert Nairac was a famously brave and intelligent undercover British agent in Northern Ireland, who in May 1977 was abducted, interrogated and killed by the Provisional IRA. Even his murderers admired the man. “I shot the British captain,” confessed Liam Townson, prior to his conviction for the crime. “He never told us anything. He was a great soldier”.
The legend of Nairac returned to the newspages last week with the announcement that another man has been arrested in connection with the murder. The coverage has also acted to remind us that Nairac, like many British soldiers who have served in Northern Ireland, was a Roman Catholic...."
Read on at catholicherald.co.uk , or buy it. Available at all all good Catholic churches... and some rubbish ones too (etc etc)
Friday, 23 May 2008
This was brought to my mind while watching a re-run of the US hospital comedy series Scrubs on E4 the other night. This is one of the most underrated programmes of our time. So why has this Joycean, surreal and brilliant comedy been perpetually relegated to Channel 4’s digital-only entertainment channel, E4, and UKTV’s blokeish re-run channel, Dave? Its rightful place should be on Channel 4 at least, or on BBC1 and ITV1 at best."
Monday, 19 May 2008
Why should we pay the Orwellian licence fee?
Threatening TV licence-dodgers with scary ads can’t disguise the fact that fewer people are watching the Beeb.
"Some government public information services or advertisements on behalf of state services never change. Drink-driving awareness adverts invariably feature a before-and-after narrative, beginning with people shown having a merry old time at the pub, and ending with the aforementioned revellers entombed in a bloodied, twisted hunk of metal. Army recruitment adverts have always suggested that by signing up you can become a kind of ersatz, global social worker, learn some skills, or drive an exciting tank; they never mention that being in the Army may actually involve killing people or getting your head blown off. And TV licence adverts have always relied on the trusty old message: ‘We Know Where You Live’...."
"It’s difficult to come to a conclusion as to which lot are more risible: television companies who swindle viewers with phone-in competitions, or the people so stupid as to enter them.
It was announced this week that ITV has been fined a record £5.675million by Ofcom for abusing premium-rate phone services in viewer competitions. Its shows such as Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Gameshow Marathon and Soapstar Superstar were all found to have ‘serious editorial issues’.
A report also released by ITV revealed that The Catherine Tate Show was unfairly denied a prize at the 2005 British Comedy Awards. Although the comedienne Tate collected more votes for the People’s Choice Award, Ant and Dec were announced as the winners for their Saturday Night Takeaway programme.
Why anyone still bothers to vote in television award ceremonies for their favourite contestants on talent shows, or enters TV competitions is a mystery to me..."
There’s one thing that the liberal left and the conservative right share in common: they hate soap operas and the stupid people who watch them. -
"Tomorrow sees the hosting of the tenth-anniversary British Soap Awards. The ceremony will be broadcast next Wednesday, and what an unwittingly perverse celebration of unhappiness and moral bullying it will undoubtedly be.
I concede that announcing that one despises soap operas, decrying them as inconsequential or unrealistic or miserable, is yet another one of those very easy and feeble methods of ingratiating oneself at dinner parties. Like denouncing ‘reality TV’, Rupert Murdoch or George W Bush, it is also a means by which fogeyish Tories and puritan left-liberals can find comforting common ground - and for both similar despicable reasons..."
"The Adventures of Hergé, Creator of Tintin by Michael Farr,
John Murray £20 Posterity has not been kind to Hergé. In many ways, his life resembles that of P G Wodehouse. Both authors were unfairly accused of being Nazi collaborators (Hergé having written for the Belgian Le Soir newspaper in the 1940s when it was a sanctioned organ of the German occupying administration); both their works suggested an unconscious misogynistic mindset: Wodehouse's world was one in which the only female characters were airheaded or manipulative girlfriends, or the aunts Dahlia (bossy) and Agatha (terrifying); Hergé's only real female character was the monstrous pest, Bianca Castafiore, based on Maria Callas. And both Hergé's and Wodehouse's tales centred on two asexual characters, one of whom was phlegmatic and rational, the other spirited and tempestuous: Tintin and Haddock, Jeeves and Wooster..."
The harsh truth of the camera eye
When Esther Rantzen complains that Simon Cowell, Alan Sugar et al are too cruel when judging participants, she forgets one thing; that’s life.
"Is it cruel to be truthful? Or is it kind to be a liar? It is an age-old quandary, but according to some television people these days, the latter is the more ethical avenue of pursuit. So when it comes to television and morality, nothing receives more unfavourable attention currently than ‘reality TV’. No one likes reality, because no one likes the truth..."
Friday, 18 April 2008
Did modernity spring from the Middle Ages?
TV’s Medieval Season reminds us that, from the Middle Ages to the Daily Mail Age, the battle between Reason and Superstition never ends.
"I knew BBC4’s Inside The Medieval Mind was going to be interesting when the Daily Mail preview pronounced that the programme would ‘remind us of the danger of modern scientific arrogance’.
The Mail has long been a propagator of anti-scientific and anti-modern hysterical polemics, providing its witless readers with an endless diet of health panics and stories about how we are all going to die thanks to telephone masts, GM crops, food additives, an excess of vitamin tablets, or what-have-you. It may be referred to as the ‘Bible of Middle England’, but the Mail should more accurately be called the ‘Bible of Middle Ages England’, such is its unrelenting and hypocritical opposition to scientific progress: show me a typical Mail reader whose life has been saved by a surgeon or a doctor – those ‘arrogant’ professionals who ‘meddle with nature’ – and I’ll show you a hypocrite..."
Sunday, 13 April 2008
Back to the Dark Age
From celebrating the earth-loving Celts to the myth of Robin Hood as a merry old cove with loads of mates: medievalism is on the march.
"Medievalism is an affectation of Western societies in the process of transition, specifically for those uneasy about the direction in which this transformation is taking them. Since the certitudes of modernity began to collapse in the 1970s, and as we entered an age of postmodernity in the 1980s, medievalism has become increasingly fashionable. Meanwhile ‘modernity’ itself has become a dirty word along with ‘progress’ and ‘civilisation’, words one seldom sees written without those snide, contemptuous inverted commas..."
Saturday, 23 February 2008
What daytime TV ads reveal about Britain
Forced to move in with my parents in Kent, I’m slowly turning into a Daily Mail reader – helped along by some depressing intercessions on TV.
‘Everyone’s talking about car insurance.’ So proclaims one particularly annoying advert on daytime TV at the moment. Really? Have you met anyone who has ever talked about car insurance?
I bet you haven’t. I’ve never met anyone who has talked about car insurance. The truth is that no one ever talks about car insurance. The only people who are obsessed with car insurance are the companies that advertise on Channel 4 and ITV3 during the daytime.
read on at http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/4625/
Thursday, 17 January 2008
by Patrick West
"According to the American comedian Joy Behar we have precious few saints these days because of modern medicine. Speaking on ABC’s The View programme last Wednesday, Behar put forward the opinion that “you can’t find any saints any more because of psychotropic medication. I think that [in] the old days, the saints were hearing voices and they didn’t have any Thorazine to calm them down. Now that we have all of this medication available to us, you can’t a find a saint any more.”
Naturally, her remarks have caused something of a stir in that famously religious country. Yet the kerfuffle is all rather strange, because the comedienne’s theory that saints and those who have experienced divine visions were merely mad is not a new one. Materialists have attributed Teresa of Avila’s divine visions to malaria. Epilepsy, migraine, tuberculosis and schizophrenia have all been put forward to account for the voices that Joan of Arc heard. Braver academics have also questioned Muhammad’s state of mind; certainly the Prophet’s visitations by the Angel Gabriel disturbed him so much that he once contemplated throwing himself off a mountain. Other holy figures’ sanity has been questioned – St Faustina, for instance, who claimed to have visited Purgatory. And many people initially thought St Bernadette was just making it all up..."
Read the full article in the Catholic Herald. Available at all good churches. And some rubbish ones, too.