Friday, 19 December 2014

This Week In TV Land

Russell Brand doesn’t like drugs.
He really doesn’t like drug policy.
He wants people to understand drug addicts.
He finds it difficult to understand people who don’t understand drug addicts.
He speaks for drug addicts, which not many people do, and the ones that do are almost never listened to, and are never ever the inexplicably famous and successful and popular with The Ladies (you know, the ones that don’t do smack).
Brand’s rise to ubiquity must have happened during the filming of this programme because it features a snapshot of his recent interviews with Paxman and the like. The show, Russell Brand Fights For A Better Drug Policy While Dressed As A Cartoon Pirate, was on BBC3, a channel known more as a dustbin for the very worst new/ish British comedy than thought-provoking documentaries on the failure of government policy and the attendant lack of compassion for social outcasts. Maybe it’s an experiment. If so, I hope it works, because there are already several channels that show nothing but comedy for people with no sense of humour, and relatively few that show anything for people with compassion, or an interest in the way the world is run.
It’s good that Brand, the Jesus-styled self-publicist is a recovering addict, because it means that (just for once) he has some knowledge of the subject he addresses. Not every 1st year Politics student gets to go on TV to discuss the global economy or revolution (whilst actually mostly talking about themselves), but it seems like people are willing to give him a bit more time and see where he’s going with this.
It’s good that he’s using his current high profile to Talk About Things That Matter, because (as is the way of these things) in three months he might be consigned to Talking Head status on 100 Best Moments of the 21st Century As Remembered By Stuart Maconie and Other “Celebrities” We Paid No Attention To At The Time (a show more at home on BBC 3 than this one).
So, if this lad intends to use his platform to talk about drug policy and other Things That Matter, good luck to him. The programme itself raises interesting points, and if he takes as informed and measured a view on everything, he’ll be a far better and more interesting commentator.

On the same evening as the above was shown, I accidentally watched thirty seconds of a programme called Steph And Dom Meet Nigel Farage, in which an attention-hungry, newly-famous, smarmy gobshite with a drink problem went to the pub with the posh bloke off Gogglebox.
It’s entirely appropriate that they sneak off The Local, because Noel Faraj wants everyone to think he’s just a Normal Bloke. More to the point, it’s entirely apposite because Farridge is The King Of The Pub Bores – those knobheads who will adamantly tell anyone who’ll listen that 90% of British law is made in Brussels, or that immigrants get a free car on arrival at Dover, and a new house every time they have another child. Or that you can’t talk about immigration, even though the papers have been full of it for the last forty years or more.
I’ve met clowns like this before, and it can be quite entertaining in person, if they have some personality to go with their News International-sponsored ignorance (not for long, mark you. Pub-goers in small towns in the South East are, I’m sure, totally sick of them). But to put it on telly is mental.
Of course, it’s on Channel 4, the standard-bearer for giving a platform to minor irritants who already have an undeservedly large platform to waste.
“Changing the country, changing the debate, that’s what interests me” drawls Lionel Farridge, having the same debate pub bores have been having for thirty years, bemoaning a government almost entirely the same as the one from thirty years ago.
Farij is like Clarkson, that other paragon of frightened male middle-class gobshitery; if you take his nonsense seriously, it can be infuriating. If you see him as a boring prick going through an extended mid-life crisis, in public….well, it’s the same – except for the comforting assumption that he’s a deeply unhappy, unfulfilled person.
Apparently, Brand and Farage were on the same programme last week. I can’t imagine why that would be of any interest to anyone, but c’est la vie innit. To each their own.

And then, to a programme I watched on purpose: Black Mirror, White Christmas, a one-off special following on from two short series of dark, satirical dramas. It’s also on Channel 4, so they do interesting things sometimes. Which actually just makes it all the more unforgiveable that they show such a massive, steaming pile of brainless guff most of the time. Good job nobody watches TV anymore.
This one was billed as feature length, which, it turns out, means 60 minutes stretched to 90 with the addition of seventeen fucking advert breaks, all of which feature several adverts for perfume (just in case you were wondering what to get for presents and have more cash than imagination).
(These perfume ads are everywhere at the moment: have all the Hollywood stars got shockingly big tax bills at the same time…? One features Scarlett Johansen and Matthew McConaughey – who has decided to use his new-found credibility to flog posh rosewater – arsing around Paris or some apparently empty city looking extremely smug and saying things like
“We weren’t such dicks back then…”
-“We were total dicks back then”
Then there’s Natalie Portman, at a camera angle which makes it seem she’s naked, wearing loads of make-up. And shades. What an arsehole.
And Gerard Butler, who has inspired the most preposterous-yet-true sentence ever written: “The Hollywood Heart-throb from Paisley”, who is striding around purposefully and saying important-sounding things, because selling perfume is Serious Business.
Maybe Hollywood blockbusters just don’t pay as much as they used to.
Get a proper job, like pretending to be a man-eating alien. Twats.)
If you missed it the other night, there are probably several places to see it on a screen which is not a TV. It’s worth a look, and without the ads, will probably be a lot better.
The film, written by Charlie Brooker, is set in a dystopian future. As opposed to his Guardian column, which is set in the dystopian present. The opening is set a long while after the important action, which is then told in a series of chronological flashbacks, bringing us up to the moment we started on, as in every film ever.
Like most of the previous series, the film deals with technology and its effects on behaviour and human relations, usually taking the most entertainingly dark and pessimistic view imaginable.
It’s also suitably misanthropic, like the other Black Mirror offerings (that’s the kind of word you see in upmarket newspaper reviews of good TV, isn’t it?). And the slow reveal at the end worked like they’re supposed to, building the tension gradually. By the time it was revealed, I had a pretty good idea what the twist was – but wasn’t absolutely sure. Which is to say, I was wrong, but not by much.
The end was properly chilling, and made me even more wary of a certain Christmas song I already hated.
Hopefully I won’t hear it again this year. I’ll just have to avoid TV. And radio. And shops. And other people’s houses. And any place of work. And pubs. And outside.
Happy Christmas, y’all.

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