Tag Archives: TV

A Love Island live blog!

Welcome to this special edition of Striving for Apathy: a Love Island live blog! With a difference!

The difference is it’s not live: it’s Tuesday morning, I’m in the office blinking at ITV Player, and in the unlikely event some fucker gives me work to do this shite might bleed over into Wednesday. There might be the occasional uncharacteristic exclamation mark beneath, in case some OK magazine-reading twat stumbles across this, thinks it’s a seriously fresh insight into their vacuous world and shares it on Instagram where, as you and I both know, I truly belong.

So, a little background before we begin! I’ve never seen Love Island and I don’t know what it is; I assume it’s some sort of hyper-randy Blind Date. Morons are obsessed with it. I know that a pair named Amber and Greg won it last night, because the front page of a moron’s Metro said so just now.

Let’s go!

Continue reading A Love Island live blog!

Entangled in Elstree

The round involved a board of photos of famous people as they had looked in the 1980s. Big hair, moustaches, Gary Lineker looking the same. And very clearly Steven Spielberg. It couldn’t have been anyone but Spielberg.

Up steps Steve, a civil servant from Poole in a shirt that the geese have been at. Steve used to be a national level trampoline gymnast. Tell us Steve: who’s the chap with the beard?

“I’ll go with…Jeremy Beadle?”

Continue reading Entangled in Elstree

Of course a dragon

It’s official – Game of Thrones is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread.

It has more blood and guts than American Horror Story, more familial rivalries than The Sopranos and more zombie legions than The Walking Dead. It has more flashes of sideboob than Eurotrash and such a fondness for our favourite word it might as well be called Game of Cunts.

It’s also high time to put it out of its misery.

Continue reading Of course a dragon

The pride of Tom Daley

Recently I endured the painful experience of being forcibly pinned down by my best friend.

He isn’t usually given to violence, or sexual deviance with older women but, in his defence, he had discovered me throwing the contents of my handbag at the television. On reflection this was probably quite a disturbing sight for him. He had recorded several episodes of his favourite programmes on the Sky box and was in imminent danger of not having a screen to watch them on – again.

He didn’t seem particularly surprised to find me in such a rage. This was probably because he’d presumed that I had been watching the Chelsea match and was suffering from a serious bout of indignant rage following Diego Costa’s late winner against West Ham. I wouldn’t normally give a shit about West Ham’s result but I had placed a small wager on them winning the league this season (lunacy I know) and anyway, I fucking hate Diego Costa.

Continue reading The pride of Tom Daley

My career as a ballroom dancer

I’ll tell you what’s been grinding my fucking gears recently: ski jumping.

The other week I was channel hopping when I stopped on a trailer for the Eddie the Eagle film. This was followed by the show The Jump.

Now, for those of you who don’t know much about the sporting history of England, especially on a social level, until the 1950s you were not allowed to be a professional sportsman. It was seen as unbecoming for a gentleman to be trying too hard; for example, if you worked on the dock yard, you could not participate in the shot-put as you had an unfair advantage. Even to this day, the English prefer the plucky underdog to the consummate professional.

So the story surrounding Eddie the Eagle befits the English sensibility. For those who don’t know it’s basically Cool Runnings (the story that is, I haven’t seen the film so couldn’t comment on it) and Eddie couldn’t jump for shit.

And then there’s The Jump.

Why the hell am I being made to watch a bunch of over-paid, under-talented leeches have an all expenses paid winter vacation? They can go skiing any fucking time they like, or at least could when they had money and didn’t need to flog their carcasses to pay the plastic surgeon.

I mean, seriously, why do celebrities get to do so many amazing and sometimes life-changing things? In the Jungle, ballroom dancing, they even help them find love. Let’s say I wanted to use the medium of reality TV to boost my career as a ballroom dancer. I’d be forced to slug it out with quite potentially thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of other people. On Strictly it’s about a dozen. It’s like everyone wants to win the Champions League, but celebrities start in the last 16 whereas you or I have to start from the bottom of the Ryman’s.

I wouldn’t mind so much if they’d properly hurt themselves once in a while. But no. It’s just another lump of dirt kicked in our faces, proving that the sole point of such shows is to attract larger and larger audiences by seducing us with a glimpse of these demi-gods of modern society.

Why can’t Joe Bloggs do all that cool shit?  What better way to ensnare an audience than by showing relateable people? I’m not Dean Caine, I’ve never been in a cereal advert or played one of the most iconic characters in all 20th century fiction. I do not relate to those people, it merely stokes my ire.

Surely we all remember The Crystal Maze – which has returned to our lives, albeit as a pay-and-play experience – Fort Boyard and the Krypton Factor? Real people, doing real shit. Since Big Brother and the explosion of celebrity culture and reality TV, we’ve somehow all been lulled into thinking that it’s actually interesting watching these vacuous souls.

Fuck, at least if I watch a soap opera, I’m watching paid professionals, expressing themselves through their vague approximation of art and talent. When I peer into the toilet bowl, I do not find myself spellbound. I am not willing to live my life based on what these ridiculous people say and do. Fuck ski jumping.

When cattle played darts

Don’t spend Saturday nights in, that’s the lesson. Go out, make yourself insensible on Disaronno, bang your head on something and wake up with an empty wallet and a sore arse on Monday morning ready for another five days of absurd life-wasting, but for Christ’s sake don’t stay in.

Because if you stay in, you’ll end up watching a programme called Can’t Touch This. Here’s the premise: scattered about an assault course made largely of foam is a collection of circular panels with hands stamped on them. As you navigate the swinging punch bags and garish stackable blocks, your goal is to touch as many of these hand panels as you can – each one wins you a specific prize – while also attempting to get through the course in as quick a time as possible to qualify for additional rounds.

People fall over a lot and make themselves look ridiculous. This in itself is not a problem; seeing someone fall over is one of life’s genuine treats. No, it’s not what Can’t Touch This is that bothers me – it’s what it’s not. It’s not Total Wipeout.

What we have here is a prime example of why the BBC must be lauded and protected by all British citizens, with the type of ferocity usually associated with a mob outside the house of a man whose name is spelt similarly to that of a paedophile. If you’ve ever recycled a single Coke can, walked a few extra yards rather than use the disabled parking bay, held open the door for a stranger or in any way exhibited a modicum of fellowship with the people alongside you on Earth, you must defend the BBC from circling vultures and use Can’t Touch This as Exhibit A to back you up.

Total Wipeout was the same show, but off its tits. Idiots would gurn a brief USP at a sceptical presenter before charging off around a monstrous assault course where they could fully expect to hurt themselves. They would slip and crash into unnecessarily hard obstacles, fall headfirst into pits, be spun into sickening dizziness by fiendishly rotating machines and be shoved by unexpectedly movable scenery as they tried to negotiate a ledge beside a mud bath. It’s a wonder there were no blades involved.

Many moving obstacles were clearly not random – the people behind the scenery, in easily the best TV job they will ever have, waiting for the optimal moment to jam a massive boxing glove into the face of a hapless 19-stone middle-aged man. The show’s crowning glory was a series of giant red inflatable balls over which a contestant would attempt to run. They would usually make it to the second, be pinged face first into the third before spinning wildly off into a swimming pool below in a state of panic, bewilderment and the odd dislocated vertebra. I could watch this scene for countless hours and haven’t laughed so hard since Compo went down the hill in Howard’s cast iron bath.

Total Wipeout was cancelled a year or two ago, but the touchpaper had been lit: people wanted to see cretins colliding with things and making that ‘oof’ noise that always sounds so satisfying when coming out of someone else. But Total Wipeout was filmed outdoors, in Argentina, and the BBC has to make ‘efficiencies’.

Thus was born Can’t Touch This. It’s filmed indoors, probably in Birmingham. The first ‘obstacle’ involves being thrown by a pneumatic chair into a container of foam cuboids, from which the contestant must get out, which proved tricky for the big-boned Jo from Hartlepool. Next we have a travelator, against whose direction they must run – if you don’t judge it right, you’ll fall into a tub of cold water! After that there are some blocks to stack up to reach a suspended prize-hand – careful, it’s a bit unstable, don’t fall off onto that safety mat!

The show’s answer to the big red balls is a tipping pole vault, which they must cling to in order to reach the other side of a 3-metre divide. The platform on the other side is so high there’s no chance they’ll make it – no-one does – but as they slide hopelessly down there’s a chance the men might split a testicle. Oof!

While Total Wipeout was presented by an engagingly mischievous Irish woman, Can’t Touch This is fronted by a curiously wizened Zoe Ball, who appears on the verge of tears throughout. The prizes hark back to the golden age of television, when cattle played darts – an exercise bike, a weekend in Berlin and what seemed to be a mandatory food mixer that you had to claim in order to stop the clock. The final contestant had the chance to win a car if she touched it, but they suspended it from the roof and flung her at it some distance beneath so there’d be no fear of the Director General being hauled before a committee to explain why the corporation’s throwing Nissans at the poor in a time of austerity.

If you’re one of those people who thinks the BBC overreaches and should be cut back, let me lay out your alternative reality. The Night Manager is now a fly-on-the-wall at Skipton Travelodge narrated by Matthew Wright. The One Show is now just its hateful theme tune played over and over for 30 minutes, one, one, one, one, ooooh, yeah. Davidson and Virgo have taken over at Pointless. Happy Valley is set in Taunton and stars Su Pollard. Panorama investigates the Welsh steel industry every single week. Noel Edmonds is Doctor Who.

Obviously, the BBC is imperfect. Citizen Khan somehow remains on our screens, and straight after Can’t Touch This I saw a trailer for a new Michael McIntyre ‘comedy’ vehicle that had me flexing my trigger finger. It can probably save money, by focusing less on the financial well-being of Dermot O’Leary and Clare Balding and by spending zero on sporting rights. ITV, the perfect three-letter response to anyone bemoaning the BBC, is shit anyway so sport might as well go on that.

But I would pay the licence fee many times over to spend an hour each Saturday night watching berks being hurled around a terrifying South American Krypton Factor, and not grimly stacking oversized footstools in a warehouse in the Midlands in a bid to snag a 3D printer. The BBC is not some awful throwback to a time of state ownership that we’ve outgrown, but the last best hope to demonstrate that if we all chip into something without complaint we can reap benefits many times what we deserve. For what it does for the British people on a daily basis we should be tipping the contents of our bank accounts into wheelbarrows and carting it round to W1A personally.

And that’s without even mentioning its glorious radio output. The BBC has been a vital part of our lives for decades and there’s not one person in this country who would deny it’s produced some wonderful shared memories. The more we let opportunistic dickheads like the current Culture Secretary bleat and whine that it’s outdated – on the bloody BBC itself most of the time – the closer we move to Nicholas Lyndhurst as Sherlock, Derek Griffiths as Luther and the 10 o’clock news read by the bald one off Masterchef.

Can’t Touch This? Leave it the fuck alone more like.

Playground training

Every year I vow I won’t put myself through it again, every single year. But without fail I still watch it. It’s event TV for the unimaginative, it’s infuriating and it makes me shout angrily at the screen as idiots in expensive suits make fools of themselves.

The Apprentice, Alan Sugar, and naked capitalism – a trilogy of things I hate, but still put up with annually. The producers are particularly savvy in their selection of candidates, as are the editors who tweak the narrative for maximum impact. It’s a parade of stupidity, and it makes me genuinely angry.

My girlfriend hates The Apprentice too, but she loves my apoplectic expressions, my consistent assumption that if I were on the show I could do better. The advertising slogans they coin, even the names they give their shitty and short-lived ‘teams’, lack even a simplistic sense of creativity.

Like a sycophant, I assume that if I made it onto the show I could win Alan Sugar’s favour, and his measly investment in whatever half-assed idea I sold him. The Apprentice sells the narrative that we all need a benevolent and wise mentor to guide us through life and it both appalls and entices me.

Watching this show makes me realise that my character isn’t as strong as I thought it was. I know that I should just ignore it, and let myself breathe more easily. The competitiveness, the backstabbing, and the anger that the candidates display is absurd, and frequently childish. The whole process makes these apparent professionals regress to their playground training, pulling hair and refusing to share the toys.

For me, there are some principles in life that we should defend rather than attack. There are some higher ideals that we should strive towards, instead of letting shitty human nature take over. We should aim to collaborate, and work together with others. And we should know that what we do collectively is always going to be better than what we do by ourselves.

But The Apprentice doesn’t aim for anything higher than naked profit. It champions those who squash, lash out, and venomously attack others. And it sucks us in with its logic.

Years and years ago, in the mystical dark ages of the 1960s, a sage called Richard Alpert discussed the legacy of LSD on the free market system. He claimed that if we all killed our egos, and if we all became mindful of the fact that we’re one consciousness experiencing reality subjectively, the world would become a healthier, happier, and more peaceful place.

It seems that if Alan Sugar, along with his business advisers and his yearly cohort of hopeful candidates, understood that life had more meaning than the arbitrary financial boundaries they believe in, The Apprentice could have a better legacy. It could be a TV show that highlights the positive aspects of humanity, rather than its ugliness.

Perhaps we should dose them all with LSD, we could watch consciousness expand, and we could realise together that there is no they or other, there’s just us, the collective. We could share in the candidates’ joy as they overcame the need to compete, and we could revel in the understanding that to be good to others is to be good to yourself.

There’s magic and beauty in the world, and sometimes we need a healthy dose of mindfulness, and we need to step outside of what we know and the ideas of self that define us to find it. But The Apprentice doesn’t allow for that kind of thinking. It’s an experience that makes everyone poorer. The candidates hurt each other, Alan Sugar watches on like the worst kind of prophet, and everyone celebrates wealth, opulence and greed.

If we don’t partake, if we don’t join in, and if we do it deliberately and vocally, then bad things stop. We don’t need to feed the beast; I could just turn the TV off. My girlfriend would lose out on some entertainment, but my mind would be better for it. The noise, the squabbling, squawking shrieks of anger and irritation, would be silenced. 

But what would I do instead on a Wednesday night? I could read a book, maybe explore my understanding of my own place in the universe. I could come to realise that by analysing the candidates on Alan Sugar’s shit show I become just like them. I could take a breath and realise that by judging others I’m judging myself; that our collective consciousness is harmed by the divisive them and us philosophy espoused by wealthy establishment figures like ‘Lord’ Sugar.

But I don’t have time for all that. The fuckers are naming a shampoo brand and they’re shit at it.

Four weeks earlier

Blood and tears clash on the face of the terrified and bewildered man on screen. He’s cradling a woman’s body in a burning building, fighting the realisation that he cannot save who we understand is the love of his life, and that he has dwindling seconds to get himself to safety before the floor collapses. The fear and fury of the scene is visceral. This programme is going to be pretty thrilling, clearly.

The screen goes black, and next we see an idyllic scene of a child flying a kite by a stream on a sunny autumn day. An adult couple sits on a nearby patch of grass, looking on with a mixture of happiness and mild concern that they may soon be drying off little Alfie who’s already getting in a tangle close to the water’s edge. They laugh together contentedly. They are deeply in love.

We recognise them as the couple from the burning building. On the screen, words emerge: four weeks earlier.


Scripted television drama is one of the crowning achievements of human entertainment. Bountiful joy can be had piecing together the dubious motives of dodgy coppers in a three-part BBC drama, or marvelling at the machinations of Francis Underwood in the remarkable remake of House of Cards (or indeed those of Francis Urquhart in the British original). Quality acting and well thought-out scriptwriting are hallmarks of a species that understands baking shows, and people watching people watching television, are the swiftest route to mental bankruptcy.

And, true to our species’ habit of fucking up anything good before we get too used to it, there’s a man-made virus spreading through our TV dramas. Why do producers, for I suspect it’s producers rather than writers to blame for this, feel the need to extract a scene from the middle of the programme and jam it at the front, before spinning us back a number of weeks or months to the ‘start’ of the story? Can we not begin at the beginning? Is linear storytelling a sin now?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t find it overly taxing to follow a story from the beginning to the end, provided it’s not shit. It’s not vital that I understand that there will be a scene involving death and flames at some point in the future in order to keep me glued; I’m no longer a teenage boy, desperate for explosions. I don’t need you to tell me that the wife’s going to snuff it later in some bid to soften the blow of her demise. I want the blow – that’s half the bloody point.

More programmes do this than don’t nowadays, I’m sure of it. It’s as though a directive has been handed down that dramas must Sam Beckett the hell out of a timeline in order to be taken seriously, because shows that doggedly stick to forward-only plotting go by another name: soaps. You don’t see Dot Cotton taking a circular saw to her latest victim before it spools back ten days to when that victim refused to bow as he walked his dog past Ethel’s grave, and that’s because soaps are shit.

The biggest concern in any programme that leaps back early on is that it’ll be stuffed with flashbacks, which is where blame probably shifts to the writer. The writer decides the average viewer is too dimwitted to follow a plot from beginning to end, connecting the threads with their own imagination and understanding the actions of the characters in the order they happen.

The solution is to gambol back and forth to explain to the simple minded how the scene they just watched came about. You just saw Sam shoot Dave, but you’re not sure why? Let’s go back two years to when Sam comes home early to find a dripping Sheila bent over the workbench in the garage as Dave wipes himself on the towel Sam uses to polish his fishing trophies. The guilty couple don’t see him, Sam creeps out, lets his resentment brew over 24 scheming months, but obviously if we’d shown you the shag first you’d have wondered why Sam bothered. Could have kicked him witless there and then Sam – why the wait? Keen eye for the dramatic, mate. Oh, righto.

Of course, they can’t keep putting ‘six months earlier’ on the screen every time they hurtle back to fill a plot hole. This is where special effects come in. Perhaps the flashbacks will have a certain glow around the edges, suggesting happier times involving John Lewis picnic hampers and carefree penetration. Maybe they’ll apply a sepia tone to the lens, making it clear that this is THE PAST you’re looking at, when everything was a little more brown. If the budget’s more Channel 5 than HBO, they’ll have to go with wigs, beards and youthful clothing to make it plain these are scenes from a long time before the limbs start coming off and police in pairs are sent solemnly to elderly parents’ doors.

Of course we find out that the man in the burning building leaves his wife’s body there, but it turns out she didn’t die, she burns a little but never forgives him for legging it. She turns up years later as the girlfriend of a powerful Norwegian business tycoon with a murky army of security contractors at his beck and call and our hero ends up scarpering from bears on Svalbard before eventually meeting a mysterious stranger who helps him get the girl, kill the baddies and save the entire planet.

But that’s the end and you can do what the hell you want with that. All I want is a return to start-middle-end TV before producers, writers, directors and the bloody ‘key grip’ started getting cocky and buggering about with the formula. If it’s done cleverly in a way that changes the story then fine, but randomly plonking a later scene at the beginning needs to stop. You wouldn’t like it if I told you at the start that Gazza will be the fourth evictee from the celebrity jungle and will proceed to go on an alcohol-fuelled rampage that ends the lives of both Anne Robinson and Flava from Blazin’ Squad, would you?

All right, bad example.

Cashing out

Paul Kaye lives in the same part of London as I do. You’ll know him even if the name isn’t familiar – he was Dennis Pennis, that red-haired red-carpet terrorist who used dubious press privileges to ask Wolf from Gladiators if his Nobbies itched on set and whether Eamonn Holmes had ever shat on a glass table.

I see Paul at the tube station from time to time, on his way to film another intriguing character role in that niche he’s etched out for himself in shows such as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and Humans. He plays long-faced, greasy-haired, gurning minor villains who inevitably get their comeuppance at some point. He plays them well.

It turns out these roles have been little more than prep work for his finest creation yet. I speak, of course, of ‘Morris’.

Morris has lately been seen bouncing on ridiculous springed heels up a tall building and jet-packing alongside a high-speed train, in his bid to gain the attention of his apparent mentor, a man named Victor. This Victor, no stranger to the Costa Blanca one suspects, is the owner of a popular betting company that has made him a considerable fortune; he presumably had some degree of sign-off of the adverts in which he appears alongside Paul Kaye. And if ever a more infuriating set of commercials has been made, well, they probably star Ray fucking Winstone don’t they?

Adverts are atrocities at the best of times, but the modern scourge of television must surely be betting ads. As proven by the imminent return to our lives of vital, crucial and epic football matches – up first, Leicester City versus Sunderland – sport is more important in every way than every other aspect of your being, but it’s just not enough is it?

It turns out sport’s even better when you’re not actually there watching it live surrounded by man-babies screaming hateful abuse at a player they hadn’t heard of weeks ago, but instead sat at home betting on it. Four lads lounge about on sofas in a living room watching a match, wearing the type of generic, no-logo-no-sponsor shirts not seen since Billy Meredith was in his pomp. Something happens in the game and they guffaw and groan and roll about in shared ecstasy in a way not witnessed at a football stadium since John Terry got kicked in the head that time. The camera cuts before we see their eyes lock and someone make an O with his mouth.

Do you? Don’t you? I do yeah, I really do fucking hate betting ads. The famous Winstone ‘have a bang on that’ ads are, remarkably, not quite the most despicable of the betting ads out there. That series of eye-straining adverts with blurry footballs and diving goalkeepers flying all about and a Tesco version of Block Rockin’ Beats behind it; Betfair, possibly, and it’s the pinnacle of inhumanity. It seems to be making the point that it’s one thing to win a match, it’s another to win a bet on the result, but you’ll enter a whole new world of fascinating glory if you manage to get the number of yellow cards in the second half of a League Two play-off semi-final right.

If you consider yourself a punting genius when you get (that is, guess) the number of corners right you might want to blank Stan James next time he asks you if you fancy a flutter on the Netball World Cup. If you’re falling for Victor’s lines, delivered peculiarly grim-faced by a man who milks every punter for what amounts to free money on his part, you deserve to be locked in a room with Morris on a pogo stick shouting ‘VICTOR! VICTOR!’ into your face, while the disembodied head of Ray Winstone rotates about you intoning menacingly: ‘Balotelli to score next, eight to one, Balotelli to score next, eight to one, you cant’.

The latest wheeze from the marketing boys in the betting industry is ‘cashing out’. At just the moment you might finally be about to recoup some of your losses, claw back a little of the dignity lost at the hands of Mr W Hill over years of failed sure-things, you’re given the option to take less of your winnings than you’ll be due if you simply stick to the original agreement. Guaranteed money now, for giving up the bet halfway through. Do you? Don’t you? Of course you do, because you’re a man who knows his own mind, and that if you don’t recoup a tiny bit of your daughter’s marriage fund you’ll be home tonight to find your clothes ablaze on the lawn. The kindly bookies must have introduced this for our benefit. They must have. They must have.

Betting is already screwing up sport in all manner of ways, most notably cricket where the Indian house of cards seems likely to flatten the entire sport before the next round of ‘player auctions’ involving teams called things like Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders, like some terrifying re-run of the 1980s. Does that stop Paddy Power plonking Graham Swann in an armchair in what seems to be a field, surrounded for some reason by expectant members of the public, while no lesser figure than the saintly Henry Blofeld is forced to laugh uncontrollably at an unamusing remark from some rugby cretin who’s wandered onto the wrong set? Of course not.

And now it’s wrecking individual lives too – not just of the mugs who fall for these heinous ads but also that of Finchley’s finest comic actor since Terry-Thomas. Paul: you have a sadness in your eyes as you stand at the tube station that few of the genuine greats of your profession could ever hope to emulate on Broadway. Either you are our finest actor or you really need to diversify. Extricating your self from the clutches of the evil Victor may be the first step on your return to greatness. And, helpfully, I won’t have to push you in front of the 10.15 to Kennington via Charing Cross.