Saturday, January 31, 2009

Let’s Get Naked?

Last year seemed to see an explosion of shows on TV which aped nakedness as a cure for most of life’s insecurities. Of course setting the ball rolling we had the camp crusader Gok Wan, with his self-confidence boosting charade which was How to look good naked, and it looks like a few TV execs had a free night that night as they saw this and immediately started to approve naked themed shows. Naturally all these shows have only shown tasteful nudity (well as tasteful as getting naked on TV can be to be fair), and start bragging about how being naked in public can be a life-changing event.

Anyway to cut a long story short, these kinds of shows kept coming as we saw the crusade of tele-journo Dawn Porter, trying to take on the fashion industry and single-handedly save femininity in one fell swoop in Dawn gets naked where funnily enough Dawn actually doesn’t get naked (not in her final crusade anyway). We were also treated Then came the final nail in the coffin for this trend as Trinny and Suzanna, the well known fashion it-girls who are well known for their disparaging comments about people wearing different clothes to them, suddenly took on an agenda (namely to try and save their flagging careers) to celebrate the British body. This culminated in a quite frankly pathetic publicity stunt where a load of naked people made a big naked model of a person. No one was that impressed…

I have to say I feel sorry for all the nudists, streakers and flashers of the world, as they’ve been banging on about getting naked for years, and more often than not have got a criminal record for their trouble, or generally have just been shunned by society. They must feel pretty stupid now that it’s cool to get naked in public, or elated depending on the person. I still think that perhaps the whole fad is a little bit short-sighted as getting naked in public is a big step into the unknown, but we all know the chances are that isn’t as positive an experience as people make out, but then sex, or nudity in this case, sells doesn’t it. We haven’t seen a flourish of public nudity yet either thankfully, as the message is so diluted in pulling in the punters to see a bit of flesh that none of the rather superficial ‘crusade’ aspects are taken much into account. It seems more like another form of the TV freak-show, probably followed on the same channel by a show about where a man now has a rubber head, from an unfortunate tyre factory accident.

In reality I am not going to suddenly take a walk around town throw off all my clothes for the purposes of self-esteem, as I expect the police may have other ideas about my rebellion against the fascism of clothing. Will the Gok Wan’s, Trinny and Suzanna’s of this world run to my rescue in an altruistic frenzy of saving my self-esteem and not stamping on my expression? I doubt it as not much in TV is ever altruistic.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Better times ahead I hope

This week saw the historic inauguration (both of them as it happened), of President Obama, which is a step forward perhaps the world has needed. I have to say that I saw Mr Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday, and I was impressed and somewhat relieved by the message which preached, tolerance, responsibility and hope.

The feeling is that America is now redeemed somewhat in the eyes of the world now that warmongering joke that was the George W Bush era is consigned to history. There is certainly a lot to be done to fix America’s position in the world and I have no doubts that this week is only the beginning of a long process of change, but it makes you feel good to know that an intelligent and tolerant leader is now at the helm of one of the most powerful countries in the world.

This week also saw what I thought was a rather dubious democratic decision. That is the public vote which awarded Ulrika Johnsson the victory of this year’s celebrity big brother. I suppose I didn’t really watch it but I still don’t understand why we would congratulate a rather unsympathetic (try as she might to be seen as sympathetic with her high profile train-wreck of a life) character such as her but then the world doesn’t always make sense does it. Maybe Ulrika really does have a sympathetic side that I didn’t see but personally I was rooting for Terry Christian to win, as he seemed like the most genuine character in the house. Then again considering I didn’t watch the show who am I to comment.

Still whilst democracy isn’t perfect, and is highly reflective of the attitudes and prejudices of a population, with Obama in charge of the USA let’s hope that things will run more smoothly in the world once again. Who knows we could even be seeing the dawn of a new more enlightened era. We can only hope.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

LOLOMGROFL! Skins is back...

Yes kids it’s that time again. That is time for you to see just how wrong you were, when you thought your teenage years were crazy and wild.

I am of course talking about the über-cool, gratuitously explicit mess that is Skins - well I say über-cool - as the show seems to be self consciously oozing that kind of feel. It deals with issues of teenage life like, alcoholism, sex, death (?), parties, A-Levels, addiction and mental illness. Fair enough, some of these were issues I had to deal with in my teenage years and I’m sure many of you reading have too, but the fact that this is all shoved down your throat by a load of brightly clothed (seriously is that how teenagers dress?) wide-eyed, quirky, nu rave fashion-school/performing arts wannabes makes it a little hard to swallow.

The characters in the show are detestable and the one saving grace about this new series is that the original (annoying) cast has all but been traded in for another batch of fresh-faced young pill-poppers. I don’t know what we can expect from these new faces, but I do anticipate it will be more of the teenage caricatures we hate and loath. Pretentious jack-the-lad, know-it-all’s who go to crazy parties which seldom actually happen in the real world (and when they have they tend to make national news). The parties these kids go to are very similar to the illegal raves of the early 90s, but somehow they manage to concentrate this mayhem into an average Bristolian Victorian semi and without anyone calling the cops. I was never aware this kind of teenage life existed during my own teens (I think the police in my area were too effective), and I wonder if it’s all just been cooked up by the writers to glamorize the awkward and often unpleasant developmental years we all are faced with between the ages of 13 - 19.

Another problem is that the show doesn’t know what exactly it is as it flits between pretentious artsy pictography, an issue-based soap opera, a sitcom/drama, all out surrealism and then overt pornography. I have to say this edgy and at times annoying mix of everything works in the occasional episode but, it quickly gets irritating and you feel like the lives these kids are living are on one hand too idyllic, whilst on the other they are too shambolic. This all just adds to the growing problem of the show that it is not AT ALL representative of how life is as a teenager. All you get is a glimpse of what you missed.

If you want a real look at what life is like as a teenager watch the Inbetweeners instead, where you aren’t bombarded with lots of topical teenage issues (I wonder what the chances are that the new series of Skins deal with knife crime, hey we can all dream) and lots of annoying alpha-teenagers presenting their world as the representative reality. Also the Inbetweeners is genuinely funny whilst Skins isn’t!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Back to Reality

It truly is January. It feels like life is returning to normality at the moment. The decorations are down, the festivities are over and the grim realities of life once again fade into view. It is also absolutely freezing, and as I look out of my window I see the trees have become a very wintery white. The final nail in the coffin for me is the start of the Reality TV year which ended with ‘Strictly Come X-Factoring’ or something of the like, and has begun again with Celebrity Big Brother. Or Celebrity cash and fame grab as I like to call it.

The house contains the usual array of has-beens, who-the-hell-are-they’s, oh-no-not-hims, and Coolio (you know the Rapper…). Now normally this simultaneous celebration and degradation of fame would usually piss me off, and I would argue “why do we dish out the term celebrity to anyone who has been on TV for five minutes,” but that is not what bothers me about the charade. What annoys me more is the over exuberant, screechy, hyping host of the eviction show. That’s right it’s Davina “THIS IS GREAT TV!!” McCall. Thankfully this year she isn’t pregnant, and putting on a false air of professionalism, that the show MUST go on, like she usually does (although considering the rapidly expanding McCall family, I’m sure it won’t be long before the next spawn comes along and Reality TV is guaranteed another generation of annoying over-excited idiots for presenters). We all know it’s for show, and to prompt the will she won’t she give birth on air question, which just about sums up society’s ills.

However whilst Davina isn’t with child this time, there’s still the small problem that she is there at all. Watching Davina is kind of like having a younger relative around, the kind that wants to play ALL the time and seems to revel in celebrating the mundane or the underwhelming as if it is a cure for cancer. I realise this is all part of the job for a presenter, but really can she just calm down a touch and for once not pretend that she’s better than the people she’s mocking on the show.
The point of Davina I guess is to be one-of-us, you know one of the “sane” people who watch the “insane” housemates and laugh at them as one would have laughed at a loony in the insane asylums of the 19th century. Now I love a laugh at a loony (especially a loony who has effectively committed himself as the housemates have) as much as the next man but what makes Davina one-of-us? She clearly is deranged after all. Before the first show, she bounds around the Big Brother house twittering with glee at the fixtures and fittings (I have never seen a woman so excited by a sink in my life), and then on the day of evictions she screams “I’m coming to get you!” at the top of her lungs. I can see why Charlie Brooker used this line in his zombie horror serial Dead Set as there is something sinister about that sentence. Also could I just point out that its bullshit saying that, as really she doesn’t come to get the housemates at all but rather they come to her? Of course it has to be all about her, we wouldn’t want the viewership forgetting Davina is there, as pleasant relief as that would be.

The thing is also that she seems to try too hard and tries to be our “mate” to the point of it being patronising. I can tell you if Davina was my mate I would probably move to Alaska or Siberia or anywhere as remote and inhospitable as possible so I wouldn’t have to suffer this idiot on a regular basis. Can you imagine going to the pub with her? First of all she would react with excitement at the presence of the beer towels (and let’s not even talk about what will happen when she discovers the IT-Box) then she would start gleefully laughing when the pub runs out of salt and vinegar crisps, as it would remind her of the shopping tasks on the show. Then for the grand finale she would probably shout “I’m coming to get you!” when it comes to kicking-out time. I wonder if she used that line on dates or when she’s picks up her children from school?

A better idea is to infect the house with rabies, either that or show them what Davina has been saying about them, or prompting the public to say about them, and then throw Davina to the baying, snarling housemates to be ripped to shreds whilst screaming about “how great it is”. Now that would make good TV!