Saturday, 20 September 2008

Prostitution and anthropology

Last night, in the spirit of anthropological discovery, I decided to watch an entire episode of Two Pints of Lager and A Packet of Crisps. Readers in the UK (and I'm assuming that's pretty much all of you, but still) will be well aware of how easy a task this is, to begin with at least. Watching Two Pints is like shooting fish in a fucking barrel. Every night of the year you can guarantee at least two episodes will be shown on Freeview digital broadcasts, the most basic and commonly available British digital service. So there's no DVD buying, sly recording or immoral downloading to be done. In fact, the hardest thing is to get through a night's viewing without seeing Ralph Little's gurning Alice the Goon face.

Now, for those of you lucky enough to have achieved this, it should be mentioned at this early stage that Two Pints is absolutely appalling and without any discernable positive aspect. It's ubiquity on British television cannot be explained other than by my assumption that it's cheap to make. Yet, during the course of researching this rant, I discovered there have only been 63 episodes. If I'd been asked to guess, I'd have gone for 730, making two for every night of the fucking year. Either that or one, because every episode is the same. Perhaps part of its economic viability comes from the fact every episode uses the same script (although, one of the show's GIMMICKS is that the word "fuck" is spoken once per series, in the last episode. For example, 'thank fuck for that'). This said, the concept of series-based TV is rather lost by the BBC's blanket scheduling policy for the programme.

The other fascinating thing for me was to find out about the woman who writes this filth, Susan Nickson. I've seen this woman's name written down so very many times thanks to this programme's grinding inevitability that I honestly believe I only see Queen Elizabeth II's likeness more during an average day. And that's just because she's on the stamps. Yet, despite this, I know next to nothing about her. Apart from the fact she can't write TV comedy for SHIT. That link at the start of this paragraph, for example, contains a photograph of her which represents the first time I've seen her mush. Well, what I have discovered is that she's been groomed for this business since she won a competition aged 14, and began writing Two Pints aged 18. She was born, therefore, in 1982, making her 2 years younger than me. For heaven's sake.

The BBC do not share my rather negative view. Aside from the fact that they repeatedly recommission series of this hoop, Nickson has also produced (ostensibly following a request from people who make TV programmes happen) one other series for the Beeb - Grownups - which was also terrible. I also assume she has a hand in the upcoming BBC 3 series which (for some reason) trumpets proudly the credit "from the makers of Two Pints!". Sadly, I can't remember the name of this, and can't be bothered to look. So I will assume it's called Crap Salad.

But here's my question. I read the credits at the end with something approaching a gimlet eye. There are some big hitters in there. Ralph Little has been in all sorts of things, a lot of them critically acclaimed. The two ratbags who were in Hollyoaks can at least point to the fact they were in Hollyoaks before it turned shite. And the series is directed by Gareth Carrivick, who was the hand behind much of Lee and Herring's BBC output during the 1990s, as well as The Smoking Room and producing episodes of A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Surely, a man who has spent a large part of his professional career in and around TV comedy must realise that what he's doing is bloody terrible. I am horrified by the fact that these people must have all just have turned off the part of their brain which is - with the wonderful opportunity and forum they have been given - endorphin-fuelled by the prospect of leaving a wonderful creative legacy, and instead just focus on raking in the pay cheques. It troubles me. Possibly because it's a glimpse into my future.

By the way, I almost watched the entire episode, but I couldn't quite make it. Sorry.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Rhetorical questions cost lives

I live in a small seaside town. It's actually a village, under strict technicality, which should offer some insight into the levels of inbreeding and unpleasantness which pervade the atmosphere. Regardless, it means the majority of my fellow man I see on a day-to-day basis are likely to be of a very specific type.

This is all the more so considering the times when I'm normally out on a weekday. Most outside ventures revolve around stationery shops for art equipment or the Post Office for everything else. Yes, I spend a lot of time in the Post Office. There I pay bills, buy stamps, post solicited drawings I have done, post unsolicited drawings I have done, file speculative, frivolous and contrived personal injury lawsuits, the normal things. This means I tend to be out during business hours, either in the morning or in the afternoon (our Post Office closes for lunch). In little seaside towns, this means you will either encounter elderly people (a.m.) or horrible schoolchildren (p.m.). The third possibility is manual labourers, but I bear them no malice. They have important, functional jobs to do in society and besides, unlike the young or the old, they tend to have some modicum of social conscience and present no problems to me.

The foul, wrinkled elderly scroate or the sprout-faced little brat have much in common. Firstly is the way that they tend to mill around aimlessly, seemingly out with no other purpose in mind but to loiter around the Cancer Research shop (elderly) or the newsagent (everyone). Secondly, they are all of a certain height, which tends to bring their face and my crotch into direct territorial combat. Finally, they both teach us much about the danger of rhetorical questions.

Let's start with the elderly. Here, the danger is one of Potential Energy. The rhetorical questions in this case tend to be mine, and muttered under my breath. Such as, "why don't you just meander in front of me when I'm in a hurry and then stop without any conceivable reason?" or "are you some sort of cunt?". The danger here is, of course, that one day I will snap and vocalise my griping complaint and end up with a walking stick up the hooter or worse.

With the young, the danger is a problem of Kinetic Energy. Here, the rhetorical questions are most often posed by their parents, guardians or court-appointed social workers. They all begin with the child in question being referred to by name. This being a working class community of not particularly bright or attractive people, and this being Britain in the 21st Century, these monikers are almost always risible in the extreme. No complaint there, I enjoy a laugh as much as anyone. This is followed up by the rhetorical question.

I am pretty sure there has been some sort of parenting manual brought out since I was young which informs today's parents to never make a definitive statement of any kind to children. So, "Edward, get out of everyone's bloody way, you idiot" has become, "Petruccio, are you looking where you are going?". It is a dangerous strategy, because children are all rat-faced and very stupid. Now you have an errant child wandering into the path of oncoming traffic faced with the prospect of having to consider the answer to a question as well. This is exactly what happened to me today. A child, distracted by the undeniably exciting sight of a manual labourer getting into his van, was wandering straight into my crotch's path and closing in fast. "Louis, are you watching where you are going?"

Well, naturally, with all that was going on in his eyeline plus the internal mental percolations, young Louis could not possibly have gotten out of my way in time. Normally, a quick swerve on my part will be enough to diffuse the situation. However, today I was carrying curtain rods, javelins and splinted cobras. Louis didn't stand a chance, as they went straight through his eye and into his brain, killing him instantly. I hereby predict that the next time one of Louis' mother's prodigious litter is wandering into the path of some only-slightly-moveable object, she will phrase her utterance with a lot more assertiveness. Still, you live and learn.

Obviously, Louis doesn't.

N.B. In case you are very stupid, I did not kill any children today, accidentally or otherwise. OK? Good.

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