Thursday, October 16, 2003

In the ongoing attempt to provide reading matter for you, the casual visitor to my site (that’s only according to my casual publishing rate of course), I again signal my prior intention to pass you off with not-quite-meaningful-enough Internet fodder. What follows is the online equivalent of an unexpected Women’s Page in a daily newspaper, or a five minute television feature on old men and their domestic steam-driven machines. Happily at this site, we do not throw the equivalent of manipulative and bastard loan commercials at you. Nor shall we patronise you to the hilt in the style of Good Morning, who would spend fifteen minutes of valuable airtime explaining how to send text messages from one mobile phone to another. At which point I would weep.

But please do not imagine for a moment that I am to embark on such an undertaking wielding only the most bluntest of pens, oh no. I shall be as sharp as a diamond coated porcupine, dressed in Armani’s most fashionable of clothes, delivering previously unheard witticisms written especially for the occasion by Noel Coward in an especially spiky mood.

Actually I still haven’t figured out a topic for today. Which is admittedly a problem, and a persistent one at that. The basic reason for a weblog, one might feel, is that it can be used as a chronicle of one’s life. Unluckily however, I’m a fairly private bloke and don’t want to publish my life story for all and sundry to read. My most regular topic it seems is the difficulty in writing this weblog of nothingness. Mainly these pages serve as a template for writing experimentations and the odd rant. So you could say that this site provides merely a diary for my mood and creativity. Which is a bit shoddy really from your point of view.

Nevertheless newspaper columnists write comparable and original pieces at least as regularly as I do here. So why should I struggle to find topics? Well, basically, newspaper columnists are cunts (with a very few exceptions – Bernard Levin in The Times always wrote an enjoyable half-page) and I don’t intend to be (much of one). I genuinely use the following example as the nearest columnist I have to hand as I write, so it is therefore a randomly chosen cross-section: “ShelleyVision” in Tuesday’s Mirror; Jim Shelley’s column on television.

To be fair to Mr Shelley, he is writing in a popular tabloid about a medium that has the potential to be unbelievably superficial. Would he keep his job if he took a realistically scathing view of many of the programmes on, say, television’s Lowest Common Denominator Channel (that’s ITV for all of you who don’t know the industry slang)? Well, probably, but then perhaps a real newspaper might employ him. Sad really that the only decent newspapers are broadsheets. Perhaps the advent of the Independent in tabloid format will change this forever. More sadly still however, the Independent is about as exciting as dry toast.

Before I continue here is my view of the three national dailies that I hate the most:

The Daily Mail: Bastion of middle class suburbia, the Mail prides itself on always being anti-government and ridiculously moralistic. If the Daily Mail were a person, it would be Mary Whitehouse. The Daily Mail knows its main audience: White Anglo-Saxon, usually female, upper or middle class, over thirty, suburban or rural. It always loves to have a go at the asylum seeker: “The way stateless Jews from Germany are pouring in from every port in the country is becoming an outrage.” - The Daily Mail, 1938. This newspaper is evil. You couldn’t pay me to read this divisive vat of toss.

The Sun: With the editorial seemingly always in line with the views of a certain Rupert Murdoch, only an utter fuckwit would take the news stories and opinions contained within seriously. Sensationalist, celebrity obsessed pap, the Sun has a penchant for chasing sales, which means it’ll fuck over anyone it can to achieve them. Add to this the inconsistent views from one day to the next (depending on public mood – i.e. England team are scum on Friday; heroes on Monday) and a disgusting level of nationalism that occasionally breaks into xenophobia and you will realise why I never buy this rag. Besides, Murdoch doesn’t need my money and he’d much rather manipulate my opinions anyway so fuck buying that.

The Daily Express: Much like the examples above, the Editor of this rag knows fully well that a good old asylum seeker story on the front page will add up to forty thousand sales (sad indictment of our society that. A Beckham headline has exactly the same effect in terms of sales increase. This may or may not be even more distressing). So on goes another irresponsible and morally bankrupt line of thinking written especially to stir up the pot even more. Luckily however not too many people read the Express: it is laughably shit. Really it is an absolutely awful read, covered from front to back in tepid worthless trivia (rather than news). Whilst I hate the Sun and the Mail, I regard the Express like a domestic cat might regard a scratching post bought for it by its owner to stop it ripping up the sofa. I ignore it, I think it takes up valuable space, I would consider wiping my arse on it.

Jim Shelley then, and our Jim, who stares pleadingly over his sunglasses at us from the top of the page, has a piece on the acting faculties of Ray Winstone in ITV’s made-for-celebrity ratings chaser “Henry VIII”. His headline is “King Ray Axe His Socks Off” which sits atop an argument stating why Ray Winstone’s performance as the portly Henry VIII ranked high in the TV echelons. Luckily, or perhaps I should say unluckily, I saw said performance and I sadly cannot agree with the statement that the casting of Winstone “worked so brilliantly.” What in fact was provided to us by the soon to be defunct Granada was Ray Winstone playing, well, Ray Winstone whilst all around him (including ITV drama stalwart David Suchet, or Poirot as he his better known – has he ever appeared on any other channel?) attempted to act as if they actually were in the 17th century. Perhaps it’s just my warped opinion here, but the father to Queen Elizabeth, the pointy nose Monarch who saw off the Spanish Armada, probably did not have an East End London accent and is unlikely to have ever clinched his fist and gruffly whispered “Yeessssss!” when things went his way. Still, one must admire Ray’s photo-realistic belly.

Like me you may have spent the last 201 words of this piece asking yourself why the published picture of a television critic should depict him wearing sunglasses. Good question that. Perhaps they serve to disguise a face weathered by the prospect of having to watch, nay, closely follow and understand, our culture’s many utterly shit soaps, dramas and feeble attempts at situational comedy. I think I might prefer to read the Daily Mail than sit through that torment. Poor fucker. I have seen young to middle-aged women from Hampstead sitting around trying to work on sitcoms for the BBC. These women have a similar but still worse sense of humour than my mum and her friends. Sorry Ma, I give with one hand, I take with the other. If you are wondering why we are failing to produce even half-passable sitcoms, come to my work. See how BBC staff culture influences the comedy that everyone else thinks is substandard filler material. It is really amazing how television created to induce mirth can actually bring on depression. People will write theses about that one. And I will weep.

Of course one of the reasons we were so frequently able to hear our Mr Winstone raucously explaining, “I’m the King of Engerland!” was because the production was partly funded by American broadcasters and who may well change the title from “Henry VIII” to “Henry VIII: The eighth English King named Henry not the eighth part of a drama called Henry” in an attempt to further patronise their audience. Presumably the American’s got the drama at a cheap price seeing as the staff at ITV will soon be under their employment now the government has practically made it inevitable by merging Granada and Carlton.

If ITV does become American owned, don’t expect an end to sickeningly superficial pop programming in addition to the shoddily produced “public service” programmes as legally required in the ITV license. Also, expect continued shameless self-promotion within aforesaid mentioned “public service” programming such as news stories telling you about a ‘great weekend of sport’ on the Friday before a weekend of live events on the channel. And don’t give to hope the prospect of finally seeing an end to the insultingly appalling policy of producing programming based on (talentless) “stars” rather than, say, a good script or a fine idea. Try praying for an end to Ant and Dec – it cannot do any harm – but expect the pair, who are as inseparable as testicles in a ball sack, to continue sucking the black worm jism direct from Satan’s cock on live network television. Also continue to expect dramas to be shamelessly written only as vehicles for well-known faces in the hope that as many people as possible will tune in. And then you can weep.

These viewers are of course the very same people who give the Sun and the Express their circulation figures. You can here the chatter of their television sets at night along with the flickering glow in council estate windows up and down the country. As their baseball-hatted stepchildren hang around in groups on street corners, the ITV watchers continue to build up their massive reserves of fat by shoving Big Macs and TV dinners down their throats and dream of an appearance in the studio audience of Stars In Their Eyes. These are the silent majority. The people who think that the Beckham’s wedding reception wasn’t incredibly tacky, who plan their social life based on the TV schedule, who think that wearing any clothing with a well known label emblazoned on the front is the height of style. These are the overly fertile buffoons who bring their young and impressionable children to protests outside of a court of law and hand them placards advocating death to a person yet to be tried.

And I weep.

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