I have been made aware that, since leaving all forms of higher education, it has become solely my responsibility to feed my brain and quench the thirst for knowledge in a continual search for more and more valuable information. Instead, I shirked my obligation, and turned to daytime television.
Waking up late allows me to miss any news shows or culturally relevant programmes and head straight for the good stuff, and what better way to kick-start the day’s mind numbing entertainment than to head over to PickTV and into the dirty Hawaiian underbelly patrolled by Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman and his wife, Ric Flair. This of course is the long-running series ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ where the audience can witness a leather clad, chain-smoking lionesque bounty hunter, accompanied by his extensive bounty family, hunt down and arrest the constant supply of reoffending criminals. Not only can viewers be entertained with the thrill of the chase and little scuffles that break out between the bear mace toting Good, and the crystal meth toking Bad, but as an additional treat get to be parley to the life lessons and teachings doled out by the Dog as he escorts the captured bail jumper to jail. He does deliver the dog gospel in a nice and meaningful way though; he always takes his sunglasses off and screws one last cigarette into the offender’s trembling mouth before leading them to the big house. You couldn’t hope to be caught by a nicer guy, once he’s finished pushing you to the ground, cuffing you and celebrating your capture in your grazed face with his ponytailed family that is.
Once the hour of the Dog has passed, we journey in to the realm of the unexplained and the disturbing. Yes it’s Scouse medium Derek Acorah and his band of believers in Most Haunted. Here we follow a troop of susceptible and terrified explorers as they wander around old houses and repeatedly soil themselves as floorboards creak, wind blows and generally things happen. Basically think a group visit to a National Trust house with the lights off and sinister string music playing. The highlight of the show is invariably when Derek’s body is used as a host for the distempered, and surprisingly all Liverpudlian ‘spirits’ which inhabit the ‘haunted’ houses which feature in the ‘programme’. Embodiments range from friendly old ladies lamenting their ability to protect children or something, to the more menacing, aggressive male characters which particularly love to get in our hostess’, Yvette Fielding, face or look directly in to the camera. It’s amazing to think that these centuries old spectres, who had only candles for light and fires for warmth, are fully au fait with the concept of electricity, I mean, who would have thought it? What’s best is that after an hour of misinterpretation, coincidence and abject terror for the participants, the show invites on a parapsychologist to examine the ‘evidence’ filmed on the night. Unsurprisingly, the footage of Yvette shitting herself rarely satisfies the expert and yet another episode is archived under the heading: lies and deceit.
A relative newcomer to the world of daytime TV, but instantly worthy of recognition is Lizard Lick Towing. This is one of those reality hybrid shows which manage to, by their very nature, entertain and appal simultaneously. For those who are not aware of this miracle of television allow me to summarise it for you in a selection of keywords; redneck, towing company, guns, fighting, more rednecks. Now if that doesn’t get you googling instantly then I don’t know what will. Despite the obvious dramatization, it is impossible to not be amazed by the lengths that these people will go to prevent their beloved cars being towed. Best of all, after the Lizard Lick boys, Ronnie and Bobby (what else would they be called?) cunningly trick the dim-witted car owners into somehow allowing them to remove the vehicle, it is practically guaranteed that the angry party will follow them back to the lot, backed up by a South Parkesque rabble. In fact, so regular are the ruckuses in the Lizard Lick office, that Amy (Ronnie’s powerlifting wife) took to gluing the furnishings down after repeated attempts to use them as weapons. One thing that this show has taught me while siphoning the remnants of IQ out of my wilting brain is that, when a redneck says he’s going to tow your car, you can be damned sure that’s what is going to happen, especially if that’s what it says in the script.
So there you have it, instead of using my spare time to further myself, to learn and expand my mind and my world, I sit glassy-eyed and half comatose while PickTV and Dave spoon feed me no-thought-required, easy watching programmes while my mind crumbles and erodes through the sheer lack of stimulation. I best be going now, I’m sure there’s a programme starting somewhere involving some kind of law enforcement and/or law-breaker to hold my dwindling interest at least until the next advert break.
Music is one of the most powerful forces in modern culture. A soundtrack to life, accentuating highs and lows, elation and sorrow and providing that extra tug on the heartstrings whenever reality fails to satisfy. This knowledge of the raw power of music has been readily accepted by television; and none more so, than the creators of South Park. Yes that’s right, you might not have thought it from the opening statement, but here is the top 5 musical works by Pop Cult Assault idols; Trey Parker and Matt Stone. And just in case you were worried, of course there will be videos.
5. Baseketball – The Car Song: Everyone gets that feeling once in a while where a song comes on the radio or your mp3 player and it just perfectly sums up the feelings you have at the time. Well in this instance, the relevance of the music in Trey Parker’s car goes a little bit further than most. As well as the super-personal lyrics, the song also perfectly encapsulates that moment in all terrible films when the protagonist thinks about giving up and everything starts becoming too much and then they receive a pep talk from a wizened old man or close friend. Luckily, this protagonist had his radio on otherwise he could have missed his life affirming rallying call and the whole film would have been about forty-five minutes long!
4. South Park: The Movie – Up There: Well where to start with this one? How about that this heart wrenching ballad of loneliness and longing is sung by the devil? Or the fact that said devil is slight doppelgänger of George Michael? Or how about that the entire score for this film including such timeless classics as ‘Uncle Fucka’ and ‘Kyle’s Mom is a Big Fat Bitch’ has won numerous gongs and had been nominated for many more? In fact, if it wasn’t for Phil Collins of all people, the song ‘Blame Canada’ would have won an Oscar! For me though it is this song that stands out the most, it’s easily the most overblown (this normally constitutes greatness in my eyes) of the bunch, and the juxtaposition of Satan, and his incredibly homo-erotic dream of life above ground is just mind-blowing. You’ll think you’ve been enjoying the song though, but wait until 1:33 when Satan gets down with his bad self and takes it to the next level.
3. South Park –Somewhere, Out There: Have you ever stopped and thought to yourself: If a penis could sing, what would it sound like? I know we’ve all been stuck with this quandary but thankfully South Park yet again provide the answer. In a heartfelt duet with a runaway mouse, Mr(s) Garrison’s genetically engineered… erm…johnson opens up (gross) and showers the audience (sick) with a golden (this is too easy) voiced rendition of the ‘American Tail’ hit. Now in Disney films we’ve seen some strange duet partners, like a candlestick for example, (not really sure what happened there) but I’ve haven’t seen a penis being made to sing since that one really weird party I went to a few years back, but you don’t want to hear about that! Anyway I’m getting off topic, if you want the answer to what a penis sounds like when it sings, the answer in this instance is…slightly like Stevie Nicks.
2: South Park and Team America – Montage Song: The song so good they used it twice. I’m not sure how they do it, but Parker and Stone’s ability to completely sum up and ridicule huge sections of popular culture in a few short lines is a joy to behold, and this time their victim is the constant stream of recycled action/sport films which insist on re-using the same exhausted script over and over again and cramming it into the heads of the foolish cinema goers.
It’s got to the point where I now feel that in order to achieve anything in life like getting a new job, or learning a new language, I’m going to have to get my ass down the gym and learn some hard-hitting truths while lifting consecutively heavier weights. So here it is anyway, a toast to the hugely clichéd montage which hopefully will spell the end of the ever-present, unerring, terrible action/film script.
1: Orgazmo – Now You’re a Man: If I made a list titled greatest songs of all time, this would still be number one. From this mock-action film comes a theme tune which acknowledges the rules of tough guy film music and twists them into a hilarious blend of hyperbole, epic rock, base level humour, and pop culture satire. Also, as a little added bonus, I can’t help hearing a bit of Metallica as Trey Parker powers his way through this track. As a warning, after hearing this song, it may well be stuck in your head for the foreseeable future so remember, shouting ‘No it’s probably the titties!’ in your best James Hetfield voice, is not acceptable, unless the other person has heard the song and then they’ll just think you’re the coolest kid in town!
So that’s it, I hope you enjoy my list. I’m sure there could be quite a lot of debate around this one so any comments are welcome. Enjoy!
Well we’re nearly there; the whole nation holds their breath in anticipation for the most exciting event in Britain’s recent history. Yes the time has come, for the BBC’s montage marathon.
It started innocently enough, at the end of sporting contests to summarise the course that the tournament took and the high and lows along the way. But from these humble beginnings, the simple montage’s stature has grown to become an ever-present feature before, during and after each athletic feat.
To me it’s as if the guilty TV companies are saying that real life is no longer appealing enough for the average audience. That reality is doesn’t incorporate the excitement that the typical, reality-TV loving viewers thrive on. No, life needs to be dramatized to really get the point across, to really manufacture that sense of power and intrigue, or people might switch off!
So as we welcome the Olympic Games to London, with the BBC promising extensive coverage of every sport, athlete and queen-loving patriot exploding with national pride directly into the camera, expect to get familiar with a few of these summation traits.
Music is the key factor in making any run-of-the-mill montage into something on the scale of summer blockbuster epicness. Basically there are two options; the overblown chanting and drumming option which offers the ‘going to war’ semantic, you know, like they always do with the Welsh rugby team, or the acoustic cover of a previously famous option, you know, like they use on all those clever and heartfelt adverts where you watch someone get old in half a minute. There are a few ground rules that the editors have to follow when deciding between the two options; any rivalry or chance of violence = epic war music, individual sporting competition and lots of shots of relaxed athlete = acoustic cover. There are also the factors such as race, stature and sex; any Eastern European competitor falls into the bracket of war music as well as anyone bigger than us, whilst the majority of female athletes will get lumped into the acoustic cover category, or maybe, if they’re really lucky, the current pop song bracket, because girls love dancing and that don’t they?
If anyone can remember back to their English GCSE days then you will already be aware of our next trait. The phrase is pathetic fallacy, and it has nothing to do with erectile dysfunction. This is the montage maker’s mantra and is basically when the weather reflects the mood in a film or a book. However, in the case of montages, it can quite often be the reverse. You can often find that if there has been rain at an event (with tennis and cricket being the obvious exceptions, you can’t make a montage out of nothing , although I’m pretty sure it will be tried soon) then the mood will be set as a battle with lots of slow motion shots of bedraggled competitors and rain lashing down past a scoreboard of some kind or a symbolic piece of equipment. If the weather is sunny then everything takes on a jovial mood (despite the athlete clearly sweating their nads off) and the montage will be laden with footage of ladies in sun hats and children eating ice creams and maybe someone will have been slipped a tenner to get into a fountain somewhere, you know, to really get the message across. Even the typical British cloud, the most boring type of weather possible, gets manhandled into meaning something, usually as a sense of impending doom or loss for the home team.
So as the whole nation is plunged into a slow motion world of tears and smiles, pain and adrenaline, defeat and success, all condensed into a minute and served up with a helping of emotive music, just remember that this emotion is already there in reality, not just in this Hollywoodisation of life, created by the BBC and Sky. These feelings are being felt, in real time, in real life.
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Take one volatile perfectionist, blend with a dozen hugely over-confident aspirational chefs, throw in a handful of increasingly ridiculous and degrading tasks and watch as the whole thing boils over with hilarious consequences.
Season ten of the most outrageous “reality” show kicked off a couple of weeks ago on British screens and so far, it hasn’t disappointed. So far we’ve been witness to sheep rustling, testicle eating, and scallop-related blood drawing, on top of the base level of egos, square-ups, and meltdowns which have become the constant theme of the show.
The catalyst for the success of the programme is of course the contestants, each of them instilled with the belief that they have what it takes to win, despite their fundamental inability to cook food which you would have thought would make them think twice before entering the world’s most embarrassing cooking competition. But no, they appear on our screens undeterred, ready to shout meaningless American catchphrases such as ‘I got this one baby’ and ‘I’m all over this’ as they start to decimate the fifth New York strip in a row. And of course, with every delayed entrée, and appallingly cooked main, more and more of Gordon Ramsey’s famously short fuses are lit. Now all us viewers have to do is sit back and wait for the fireworks.
I can honestly say that when one of the contestants timidly sneaks their dish on the hot plate and you hear Ramsay’s words, ‘who cooked that?’ I genuinely feel a pang of nervous excitement as the guilty chef turns, clueless to whether they’ll be praised or publicly crucified by the angry caricature that they call ‘Chef’.
The programme’s status as a reality show surely has to come under question though. I’ve worked in kitchens before and you never come across the numerous sackings each night and the food punching that occurs in this infernal canteen. And just in case it was possible that, for just a minute, this programme might regress back to the monotony that is reality, they edit it in such a style synonymous with a Hollywood action film. Honestly, I haven’t heard that many rising strings since I watch The Shining whilst listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No.5.
But what really makes the programme great, is its bass line of foul language, and how this has somehow become acceptable to air on the TV. Post-watershed or not, there is still a fuck-load of swearing in this fucking bastard of a programme. See it’s even got me going! So great, in fact, is Ramsay’s reliance on curse words that the programme recently got in trouble with Ofcom because Chef dropped the f-bomb no less than forty-seven times in a one hour show. Taking out the three advert breaks that evens out to about once a minute, and that is just him alone! Combine that with the competitors and the dialogue becomes nearly as vulgar as the Terry vs Ferdinand court case. It’s no surprise that they don’t show a repeat with the sign language lady in the corner, I think far too many people would get offended by all the gesticulating and switch over.
From now on, for your bi-weekly dose of excitement, anger, tears, and of course, effing and jeffing, tune in on Mondays and Tuesdays and watch Chef Ramsay verbally beat the shit out of the sorry bunch in front of him, in case you needed any more persuasion just watch this clip:
Top 5 Programmes That Put You off Food
We’ve all been there, it gets to dinnertime and you’ve got to root through the cupboards to find a few ingredients that will hopefully go well together. What you really should be thinking of however, is the more important partnership of food and television. What’s the point of putting the effort in and making something nice to eat if you’re not going to be able to keep it where it belongs? You can’t run the risk of flicking through the channels when you’ve already sat down to eat, so here is a short guide to the most off-putting programmes (in handy Top 5 format) to save you unsuspecting souls who don’t have the common decency to eat at the dinner table!
5. Man Vs. Food: This one has managed to sneak on to the list purely because of the amount I like to watch it combined with the variety of times it is shown throughout the day. I’m not certain but I reckon you could stand to get put off by this show at every meal of the day, and that includes brunch and afternoon tea. There are a lot worse programmes to eat to, as you will soon see, but something about seeing an already obese American force feed himself horrifically spicy wings or gargantuan portions of deep-fried awfulness doesn’t really do much for my appetite. I just can’t help but feel sorry for the guy’s digestive system and that ain’t the kind of mental imagery you want to have while trying to finish you’re comparatively pathetic meal. On the flip side though, I do find that I sometimes experience an unfamiliar feeling of pride over my body and diet when watching Adam sweat and gag his way through his own body weight in burrito, but still, there’s only so far I’ll go to feel good, and watching this whilst eating is a step beyond.
4. Anything Charity Based: By this I mean programmes like Comic Relief or Sport Relief or anything along those lines. They might seem like a good idea when perusing the listings; an opportunity to see all your favourite stars doing embarrassing things for a good cause, maybe a chance to see a football team…do something embarrassing for a good cause, and of course, you’re guaranteed to find James Corden pretending to piss off a room full of famous faces. It’s often quite embarrassing, but don’t worry, it is for a good cause. But wait, don’t start hurling all over the place just yet. The worst thing you can find yourself chowing down to is obviously the appeal. Nothing hits home harder than moving on to your last (and completely unnecessary) slice of overly-indulgent Domino’s and having footage of starving children and famine stricken countries come up on-screen. You can’t quite shake off that guilt once you’ve seen the pictures and you sit and wait for minutes (you’re way past the point of changing the channel by now, seriously, you have to do it before the first image comes up and the voiceover starts, fact) for John Bishop to come back on and tell you it’s alright to eat again now. They’ll soon lighten the mood anyway; they’ll probably get Phil Tufnell to do something he’s not very good at.
3. Supersize Vs. Superskinny/ The Biggest Loser/ Anything about Massive People: I maybe stating the obvious here but just so everyone knows, programmes featuring morbidly obese people don’t make the best mealtime accompaniment. There are so many variations of these programmes now that the experts are running out of matter that has been expelled by the subject to rummage through and use as a barometer to their fatness. These programmes rely on shock value for their popularity and it has been decided that the best way to do this is to confront the embarrassed food addict with their weekly intake, all blended together like a terrible, ambiguous milkshake. Suddenly the realisation of their monstrous intake hits them, and they overcome by the ungodly (and completely irrelevant) sight of their diet in a mixed-matter state while the host tells them how fat they are. If The Mega Blender wasn’t enough, the body-fat free presenter then accentuates his point by sifting through a variety of bodily fluids and excretions to find evidence that…well I’m sure there is some reason for it. Anyway, incredibly overweight people, disgusting junk food cocktails, and in-depth examinations of faeces, don’t make for a palatable mealtime accompaniment.
2. 24 Hours in A and E: An utterly horrendous programme to casually flick onto, although really, you should’ve had your dinner by now, shouldn’t you? This is one of those programmes where I don’t understand why anyone would watch it at any time, regardless of whether they’re eating. It’s basically an hour of the worst kinds of pain and emotion that I can imagine, complete with the harrowing realisation that everybody dies and some people do so in huge amounts of pain. Surely there’s some reality that TV doesn’t need to go near, and death and pain has to be one of them.
1. Embarrassing Bodies: Awful. Just awful. Again, I don’t understand why anyone would choose to watch a programme which is more of a gross-out than a Dirty Sanchez special starring Tom Green with the humour drained out of it. Last time I came across it flicking through channels, a woman was complaining through a web cam about having massive poos. To make sure we took her seriously though, she’s wrapped one up in cling film to show the sceptical audience. I mean, what the fuck? I don’t need that shit, literally. The whole programme is nauseating tightrope walk between repulsion and pity as the depressed victims of misfortune (and carefree sex) are somehow convinced to show their ailments to an audience of millions, despite being previously too scared to show to anybody. Whatever you might be unlucky enough to be caught eating to this programme, I guarantee that somewhere within the show you will find something on someone’s body that resembles it. That is why this programme is number one, and why I will always have my dinner at the table.
So there you have it, a helpful guide to the stomach-churning minefield that is the TV listings. Enjoy!
I’ve been a little busy lately, mainly with work related things so I thought I’d make this post a bit of a short one. However, it has been one of my favourites to write and will hopefully be fun to read as well. It’s about Nic Cage for God’s sake how could it not be totally awesome!?
I’ve had a theory for a while that the worse the Nic Cage film, the more overblown and incredulous his character’s name has to be. This list can be seen as a reserve store; we all hope that a Cage film can’t be so bad as to warrant one of these statements of obviousness, unless there is a Snake Eyes sequel on the way that I don’t know about.
Anyway, this list is here should you ever to need to spell out exactly your character’s patriotism and love for your family, or if you are under the impression that the audience won’t be able to determine your role as a misunderstood good guy through all the gun firing and explosions. Enough talk, here it is, sit back and think of America:
Will N. Tact
Laura Biding (disguised as a woman)
And, my personal favourite:
I would like to thank Mr. Cage for the endless amusement and inspiration to write. Without this man’s extraordinary talent, I would have many blank pages, and ITV 2 would be screwed. Just take a look at this:
More music variety. A simple enough statement. Not inflated by hyperbole and superlatives. Not brash or gimmicky. Just a statement, in a succinct form.
But it’s also a lie. Not a little lie. A big one.
If you’re like me, and have a job which constantly has the radio on, blasting out incessant, obtrusive crap then you’ll know how important variety is. Surely the cornerstone of any successful radio station is keeping the audience interested with a wide selection of new and old songs for them to enjoy. Heart FM agrees, even going so far as to use this as their selling point, and then unashamedly and wholeheartedly ignores it, and plays Adele, on repeat, forever.
I know Adele is huge at the moment, she’s easily Britain’s brightest star all over the world right now, selling obscene amount of records with her powerful voice and catchy songs, but just once, just one shift, please Heart, can I not hear those three songs. You know, the two about fire and, of course, the sad one.
Yes I understand how emotive that Brit’s performance was, what with the tears and everything, but surely a song might start to lose some of its power and effect when you play it every day for half a year. You know when you say a word over and over again until you can’t make sense of it anymore and it has no meaning? That’s what you’ve done to Adele, Heart FM.
So why not take a break on the Adele front for a bit? Put it down for a year or so and then bring it back in a blaze of reminiscent brilliance? Why not take a risk on something new and stop berating your valuable audience with endless repeats of everything by Rihanna, and the soulless abomination that is ‘Moves Like Jagger’.
So Heart, please take this on board, for the good of music and the future of radio. You have the power to choose what makes it big and what is forgotten. You can control popular culture, you can shape what Britain loves. You have all this but you give it all up for an easy solution. Your repetitiveness and lack of adventure convinces the audience that this is what they want to hear, and in return they ask you to play the songs over and over again until we all die from lack of excitement. You have created a horrible circle of safety and a fear of anything different that encases the nation. You have given us more music variety, in the tightest constrictions possible.
Ah well, what does it matter anyway, I’ll listen again, everyone else will listen again, Adele will make even more money and all of our diversity and imagination will drift away on the vapid airways. Sorry, turns out this was a bit of a depressing one, wasn’t it?