Friday, 28 January 2011

If you are sixteen and need to spice up your sex life, you are doing. It. WRONG.

Dear Channel 4. I’m not a prude. Well, I hope I’m not. I like to think I’m enough of a bleeding-heart liberal wimp that I can justify most non-mainstream behaviours by flagellating myself with the nearest copy of the Guardian. But ‘The Joy of Teen Sex’; what the hell were you thinking?

For those yet to see it, imagine ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ but only with teenagers, only sexual problems and hosted by James Corden’s sister. I never got the extreme voyeurism of shows like these, except when an ex-housemate I really never liked went on one once. That necessitated a viewing party and the development of a drinking game. The problem with this show is, despite whatever it pretends its intent is (‘To save innocent kiddies from bad things by showing you their wobbly bits to educate the world about er…. Oh look, it wobbles!’) even the title screams exploitation. There is NOTHING to see here in the Channel 4 pop-up sex shop that you couldn’t go to a GP or a GUM clinic for.

That’s not to say I’m against televised sex-education or shows that get families talking about sex. That’s healthy. But there’s no discussion here about emotion, connection, relationships or trust. It treats sex like you’re troubleshooting a problem with your computer. There’s an awesome turn it on/turn it off again joke there that I’m not going to make. And also a ‘have you made sure it’s plugged in?’ one that I will. If, for example, your boyfriend doesn’t want to go down on you and you’ve been going out for five years, maybe talking about your commitment and other things you can do might be more mature than essentially stuffing his face into her vagina screaming ‘LIKE IT! LIKE IT!’ until he pretends to. Honestly, that smile to camera afterwards made me want to throw up my fish supper (Not a joke, but some very lovely salmon).

Sex is nice. People are talking about it more. This is good. But let’s not pretend this is actual sex education. Hell, sex education professionals are even live-tweeting the show just to correct it (see @DrPetra). This is barely even Eurotrash.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


For the UK, the second season of the saccharine and sour combination of pop and sarcasm that is Glee returned to our screens this week. (9pm, Mondays on E4). For the cool kids, however, we're 10 episodes in and awaiting a Superbowl special that if it were to be anymore hyped would only join a coalition with a lesser show, say One Tree Shitting Hill, and just piss us all off.

After a somewhat uneven first five episodes, Glee finally got back into its stride and recently has been delivering pretty decent episodes, good character moments and fun song choices. Still, lest we forget last year Glee's hiatus (Madonna aside) gave way to a fair few sub-par episodes culminating in a truly terrifying version of Quinn singing 'It's a Man's Man's Man's World' accompanied by a pregnant lady dance routine that reminds me to this day of the swimming hippos in the old BBC1 idents. Or the Dance of the Hours in Fantasia. Something mildly sexist and anthropomorphic anyway.

So as Glee gears up for the half of the season that will, in all likelihood, define whether it will genuinely last for a good run or get so absurd its audience loses patience, let's look at some lessons the show needs to keep in mind:

Make Your Fucking Mind Up About Finn and Rachel!

Nobody's that invested in them anyway. In the space of the last 12 episodes of the show they have gone through an innumerable amount of Facebook style relationship statuses from 'single' 'its complicated' 'in a relationship' and 'tonguing the fit Jewish one instead'. Pick a play. Stick with it. Allow them to develop as a couple, cos' sure as hell when solo all they do is pine for each other. To an extent, that's OK, it allows Rachel to belt something awesome out but man angsty Finn is crap. If he isn't using pejorative words for homosexual, he's singing Bruno Mars or murdering The Doors. Enough. Satis.

Ease up on the GaGa

There was a GaGa episode. Hardly any time later 'Telephone' was featured. Now Glee has first dibs on 'Born This Way' to be used a freakishly short time after that single hits. We love GaGa, we do, but her overexposure doesn't need to be reflected in Glee. They have Journey for that.

You can have more than one plot at a time

Season 1. The Glee club aimed for Regionals and there was a teenage pregnancy
Season 2. The Glee club aimed for Nationals and there was homophobic bullying

Not to say these plots aren't done well, just that other by-lines that aren't necessarily relationship driven are perfectly fine to have as well. When you've got such a massive supporting cast, a few short-term B plots couldn't kill and could actually round out talent we don't get to see that much.

Create a new litmus test

This test should be 'Would they do that on the Disney channel?' If the answer is yes, don't do it. This would cut out over 50% of the inspiring speeches and make room for more Brittany and Sue.

More Tina and Mercedes!

Girls have been sidelined this year! Tina had one of the best moments of last season with her Asian vampire schtick and Mercedes could do with an actual plot. Preferably not one to do with her body image or to do with her desire for fried potato. Again.

Fix Mr Schue's multiple personality disorder

I don't get Will. Half the time he's being inspiring, ab-tastic and genuinely marvellous. The rest of it he's swanning around like a randy peacock with an engorged proto-penis. I have never disliked him more than in the Rocky Horror episode where he took advantage of the Glee club to try and get some clunge. It makes him so much harder to take seriously when he tries to teach them actual lessons.

Only one tribute episode per half of a season

Yay Britney. Yay Rocky Horror. Having two such episodes a mere three weeks apart murdered your momentum.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

My top er... 11 songs of 2010.

Hello peoples. This is a post about music. Music is a things that is similar to sound except more tolerable than listening to others around you talk about their lives. This list is a little bit more butchered than I would have liked and a few artists who made some amazing Pop music this year (Kelis, Alphabeat, Joe Worricker and Sky Ferreira, I'm sorry) were just squeezed off the list. Yes, I am also aware it's November but I doubt the new Westlife album or Susan Boyle's spoken word edition of 'The Very Hungry West-Lothian Caterpillar' will shake anything out of place when they're released.

11. Kate Nash - Paris

Probably the best thing on her sophomore album 'My Best Friend Is You'. Shame her choice of singles was a little odd to say the least. Kudos to her though for not simply writing another albums worth of 'Mariella' and 'Foundations'. She was also supported on tour by the hilarious and amazing Brigitte Aphrodite who's 'Dance With A Stranger' EP is worth your attention.

10. Fiona Apple, the Punch Brothers and Jon Brion - So Sleepy

This is some sort of charity thing where established artists sing the songs of young upstarts. Well done young upstarts. Fiona is back in earnest early next year.

9. Avi Buffalo - What's It In For?

This song and this band are so hopelessly cool you should feel utterly inadequate to click the play button. They're so laid back that they have no concept of acts so contrived as clicking.

8. Sia - Never Gonna Leave Me

Sia's 'We are Born' is one of the best albums of the year. This is a fact. All you may have seen of it is the cover art on the adverts for that absurd new iPod nano. 'Never Gonna Leave Me' is vaguely reminiscent of Motown girl groups if they were a bit more bisexual, Australian and had a rocket shoved up their arse.

7. Tunng - Hustle

One of those songs that sounds really happy but is about something utterly awful. I mean not 'Jenny, Again' awful but still not very nice. Thank you very much to my mate Paul for dragging me to see them live. Yes their female vocalist really is that short.

6. Evelyn Evelyn - Elephant Elephant

Amanda Palmer is doing a side project eh? She's going to become a faux-Victorian circus conjoined twin act with another singer/songwriter? What could possibly go wrong? Result: Possibly the catchiest little ditty in ages and a live show that has to be seen to be believed.

5. I Blame Coco feat. Robyn - Caesar

Angry. Pulsating. Masochistic. And it has Robyn in it. Brilliant.

4. Hurts - Wonderful Life

A hyped band who are actually as good as people say they are. 'Wonderful Life' sounds like exactly the kind of stuff you'd expect Tears for Fears to be doing in 2010 if they were,... um.. Mancunian and mates with Kylie Minogue.

3. Joanna Newsom - Good Intentions Paving Company

I've still probably not listened to all of Joanna's TRIPLE album 'Have One on Me'. There's 3 discs and her average track length would make James Cameron impatient. Still, this is likely the best thing on it.

2. Manic Street Preachers feat. Ian McCulloch - Some Kind of Nothingness

Every time the Manics seem to be about to drop of the radar of popular culture, they do something utterly brilliant. Last time it was a return to Holy Bible melodrama, this time it's their new, bigger, busier take on Stadium rock. And there's a lot of gospel choirs. In an awesome way, not in the X Factor way. Actually, I bloody love an X Factor gospel choir.

1. Robyn - Dancing On My Own

A heart, covered in glitter and blood, being trod on in the depths of a club. Robyn effortlessly mixes personal tragedy and a banging tune so well, you'd have to stop dancing for five seconds just to deal with how epic the emotion behind the rhythm is. A career high.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Suggestions to Improve Question Time

All hail the mighty Dimblebot ( seriously, check out @dimblebot)

I love Question Time (BBC1, Thursdays, 10:35pm). It's an institution. Like the Queen's speech. Or a mental hospital.

The problem with Question Time, is it's a little entrenched in itself. A few party politicians will come out with varying levels of eloquence. Some very good (Caroline Flint, Ed Davey, William Hague), some very bad (Tessa Jowell, Susan Kramer, David Willetts) and some so unabashedly in love with the party line they seem to lack individual personality or capability past that of a Dictaphone (Baroness Warsi, Sarah Teather and far too many Labour ministers for my liking). There might be a token comedy historian, such as Starkey with his odd facial expression like Doc Brown witnessing a newt molesting the delicate earlobes of Prince Charles, a random celebrity who will almost always be useless (Will Young's 'Leave Right Now' became increasingly appropriate over his hour on air, and some 'professional' who has 'insight' and by 'insight' we mean 'is usually an arrogant bellend'.

This cycle continues with varied levels of blandness and is only usually offset by a truly barmy panelist going off on one. A good example of this is the Apprentice's resident mare, Katie Hopkins, then standing as an independent MEP, going all Tea-Party and calling for elitist, free-market higher education. The Lib Dem on the panel, if I remember rightly, was horrified. How shit changes. One could also mention Nigel Farage, a man who, if he was any more sure of himself, would have to go around dressed as a textbook or Mary Beard who seemed to be channeling a Hogwarts divination professor.

So what can be done to 'mix it up' and make politics all exciting for the kiddies? Here are a few of my suggestions but feel free to leave your own.

1. Based on twitter reactions to the debate, halfway through the show, the least popular panelist is taken to stand in the middle of the studio. David Dimbleby then pours a bucket of slime over their head. Everyone returns to their seats and the show continues as normal.

2. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have to share seats, OR, their seats are taped back to back so only one can speak at a time. They must then fight for dominance.

3. Background dancers. Everyone loves them on the X Factor.

4. When David calls on audience members he should use vicious personal attacks. No more 'You there, in the purple sweater!' and a bit more 'You there, with the hideous acne and last season's River Island cardigan behind the woman with the bad 80's perm!'

5. One edition every year to take place in an aquarium, so even if the debate is dull we can still comment on the marine life in the background. Magnificent.

6. If the show falls on Halloween, or the 13th of any given month, Paxman gets to host it.

7. If tuition fees are going to be brought up over and over, maybe get a Student representative on the panel for a bloody change! (Yes, that one was actually serious. I'm shocked too.)

Anyhoo, those are some ramblings. I am off to go do useful things like... read up on European Law. Because I hate myself.

Monday, 25 October 2010

10 Minutes in Heaven?

WELCOME TO HELL, my name is Monica and I'll be invading your personal space whilst pulling increasingly off-putting faces

I love Masterchef: The Professionals more than all its other incarnations (except for Australia) aside. This woman is why. Despite resembling Halle Berry's much homelier sister, inside her beats the heart of a true sociopath.

Monica rules over the first 10 minutes of any given episode with her 'skills test'. A 10 minute challenge of technique before a chef is even allowed on the same continent as Michele Roux Jr, let alone to cook for him. These challenges used to be sort of.... reasonable. Fillet a small fish and cook a bit of it. Butcher a chicken and make a mayo. Then they went ever so slightly bizarre as Monica demanded 10 minute souffle and for entire pastry concoctions to be presented to her. For spatchcocked chickens, for tempura ortolan, for entire salmons to be pureed into an ice cream and for someone to make a leprechaun jus.

The challenge itself is the least of the contestants' worries. Whilst they try to retain their dignity Monica starts gurning and she never really stops. This woman redefines the reaction shot with all the grace of a barn owl with electrodes attached to its nethers. Wide eyed, head tilted and utterly bemused.

It still isn't over for the poor contestants. Oh no, the poor bastards still have to have their 10-minute slow-cooked shoulder of lamb tasted and judged. Whilst lovely Greg tries to be reassuring and talks about flavour, Monica has invented a whole new scale for culinary judgment: how close she would allow any given dish to get to Michele Roux Jr.

Examples may include:

'I would show that to Michele but not let him eat it.'

'I would never show that to Michele unless forced to by some demonic order.'

'I would allow Michele to gaze upon your dish from afar with binoculars and to smell it.'

'I have made a restraining order for your cooking against the proximity of Michele.'

'If Michele was on holiday in a different continent, I would allow him to become aware of the existence of your dish'.

In summary. This woman is a genius. Or evil embodied. The jury is still out.

Next week, Nick Clegg will be a flying monkey

You may cut our hospitals, our schools, our councils and our charities. You can take benefits from the needy, put education out of the reach of thousands and gut the industry that forms the core of our communities. But know this, you will never take the sky from us.

Oh shit.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

In defence of Katie Waissel and some other peons

I hate 'controversial' TV talent show contestants. They rarely live up to their end of the bargain and the reason they are usually such 'hate figures' is because of utterly nonsensical tabloid campaigning and often bizarre levels of sexism. Case in point:

Katie 'totally bloody evil' Waissel

Breathy voiced chanteuse Katie has been much maligned for her, vicious, evil ambition which is currently set at 'pop' but may well be adjusted to 'wipe out Senegal in a nuclear holocaust' at a moment's notice. Oh, don't get on the wrong side of this one... she'll rip your spleen out, force-feed it to Louis Walsh and sexually assault the nearest budgerigar. Hell, the Daily Mail even published an article claiming she may in fact be of a satanic origin.

Katie's crimes seem to be the following:

  1. Being a bit kooky and therefore hard to relate to than say, the damp moppet of personality that is Rebecca Ferguson
  2. Having actually tried to get into music before and having made heinous 'career steps' such as minor record deals, doing gigs or writing songs
  3. Daring to have a panic attack when set upon by dozens of gurning X Factor fans, clutching their Heat magazines and monster munch grab bags, in an overly crowded Top Shop.
  4. Wearing a fucking awful colander on her head in week 1 of the live shows (actually, that one there is NO defence for)
So, essentially for having tried to get into the 'biz' before and being a bit odd, Katie is a hate figure.

Let's now look at this man.

Matt 'home cooked dinner' Cardle

Matt has also been in a band. His band have released material. He has painted and decorated things. He is a 'lad' and seemingly the under-seasoned love-spawn of James Morrison, Jamie Oliver and a dog whistle. He is as ambitious as Katie but not slagged off. This could be because he likes to wear a hat on his head and not a colander. Some part of me can't help but wonder that a guy trying to 'make it' is an ambitious, hard-working bloke. A woman trying to make it must be some sort of sharpened harpie. Yes, I know that this is hardly a complex feminist ideology but it sure as hell makes for some easy headlines...

Anyway, before we forget other controversial folks, the Jedwards and Anne Widdecombe's of this world, we must not forget the few contestants who brought it on themselves. Par example:

Emily 'I'll cut your eyes out, yeah?' Nakanda

Ah yes, the tweenage songstress with a passion for hyper-violent happyslapping who was kicked out of X Factor in 2007. There's a hate-figure (though according to UN reports the UK is awful for stereotyping children in the media as thuggish little ASBOs so I am aware I am not currently being part of the solution, though I am illustrating a wider point about hate figures) if you need one, who might actually deserve some of the hate.

Ambition is not a crime. Being weird is not a crime. Assault is. So is wearing a colander on your head.

There. Context. Lovely.