Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Reader Writes…

Dear Sir

I have spent the past week watching soap operas on the TV set – and may I say there’s no wonder the country is going to rack and ruin if this is what passes for prime-time entertainment!

One show entitled Hollyoaks is currently running a hilariously acted comedy storyline about date rape and that particular topic is not at all funny if you ask me. On the plus side, though, it is addressing the very serious issue of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD!), a very hot potato in sixth form common rooms up and down the land, so it’s not all bad.

I also chanced upon EastEnders and saw the Sonia Jackson dumpling get a slice of girl-on-girl action. I was very upset at the preposterous nature of the storyline – and the appalling acting resembled no girly kissing scene featured in my extensive hobby cabinet.

Come on C4 and BBC. Pull your socks up!

Colonel Dwight Micklewight
Pall Mall Club

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Culture Vulture

My long weekend with the missus didn’t get off to the best of starts. I wanted to go to Paris or Brussels and she wanted to go somewhere in the UK. Even worse she wouldn’t allow me to sulk in bed for not getting my own way on Friday morning. Some people! So we stayed in London and did stuff and it turned out pretty good…

First up was The Constant Gardener, which is an engaging film about a couple who get involved with exposing a medical company exploiting Third World citizens to test drugs. Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Wiesz are the marrieds caught up in this plot but it’s very much an ensemble piece, which even Bill Nighy camping it up as a high-profile politician can’t spoil. Brain food in movie form.

Next up was a trip to Soho Theatre (probably the most ambitious theatre in London in my humble opinion) to see a play by the ATC (Actors Touring Company) entitled A Brief History Of Helen Of Troy.

This was by an American writer called Mark Schultz and it was a rites-of-passage drama about a teenage girl coming to terms with the death of her mother, the grief of her father and her own changing world. Tightly written with razor sharp dialogue and not overly sentimental, it was the sort of play I imagine most writers would quite like to write (if they were honest). The ATC cast were also right on the money too.

Last up was a trip to see the ballet Edward Scissorhands at Sadlers Wells. Now ballet like opera hits all my inverted snobbery buttons as it's heavily subsidised and I always feel the money could be better spent on more deserving causes in the arts, but the Matthew Bourne production was stunning and won my prejudices over.

To be fair it was onto a winner from the start as I adore the Tim Burton movie and I love the gothic fairy-tale elements of the story but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer beauty and heart of it. It’s perfect first date material and I am toying with divorcing the missus just so I can start dating her again and take her to see it all over again.

But then I’m a new man – or maybe I’m just becoming a bit of an arts ponce…

Monday, November 28, 2005

Brought To Book…

I’m currently reading a scary book called Web Of Deceit by a journalist called Mark Curtis. It essentially charts the role of the UK government as the point man for US barbarity all over the globe. It’s the sort of book every voter in the UK should read to counter-act the endless lies and spin-doctoring that has become the main legacy of the Blair government.

Ahh Blair… I remember sitting knackered in a pub in 1997 after spending an enjoyable night watching the Tories get booted out of office and hoping it would get better. There was such optimism… But how wrong we were…

‘Education, education, education’ soon became an empty slogan and Blair’s major concern soon seemed to be making chums with big business after big business rather than helping out all the poor buggers who put their faith in him.

But after two terms of disillusionment he soon found a way to top all of that – namely sending British soldiers to war to fight for US business concerns in Iraq.

What a first-class coward. Bottling out of his election promises when he had a huge mandate for change, bottling out of his supposed socialist principles and finally bottling out of his duty to only commit British soldiers to conflicts where Britain was under threat.

Anyway, Mark Curtis’ book charts this far better than I ever could and it’s definitely worth a punt. Probably won't be popular reading at No.10 though...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Giving Good Head…

There was a wonderful headline in The Guardian this week. Sunderland were apparently involved in a violent game of football at the Stadium of Light and the story was titled Malice In Sunderland.

This newcomer has now entered my list of top headlines but it has yet to beat the Mirror headline during the BSE crisis. A spread in that newspaper featured a massive picture of piles of burnt cow carcasses and the accompanying banner headline read Apocalypse Cow!

Sadly, both of these made me laugh more heartily than the new series of Little Britain. This started last Thursday and amid the usual characters was the addition of a freaky bachelor and his ugly Thai bride, plus an oh-so-polite woman who urinates everywhere while conducting everyday business such as chatting in supermarkets.

While there were a few funny moments in the opening episode, it did have a feeling of going over old ground. But like the other 9.5million people who tuned in to watch it, I’ll probably stay with it to see if it improves. It does make you respect Ricky Gervais more for not mining the seam of The Office to death with another series, though…

I may also give the new BBC sketch show Man Stroke Woman another go too. This is the new series from Ash Atalla, the producer of The Office. It’s pretty formulaic stuff but it had its moments, namely a scene with Daisy Haggard of Green Wing fame playing a woman who can’t play pool despite her boyfriend’s most encouraging efforts.

Most of the cast may currently be second-string comedy actors (that fat bloke from Sean Of The Dead, that bloke who was sometimes in Nathan Barley, a kooky Canadian bird, etc) but so were most of The Fast Show until that series really took hold.

This could be a slow burner. It could also be shit. The jury’s still out...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Reasons To Be Cheerful…

The problem with success, even modest degrees of success, is that you can take it for granted. It’s what I refer to as Leslie Grantham Syndrome.

One day you can be happy with the world and your part in it and the fact you’re back in the limelight with a few quid on the hip. But next thing you start to want a little more excitement as you think you’re on a roll. So you dress up as Captain Hook and start masturbating in front of a webcam– only to have your fun and games plastered all over a tabloid newspaper.

This, of course, has never happened to me (it was a Batman costume for a start) as I tend to value far too many people and interests in my life. But I had started to treat one of the great loves of my life, namely playing pool, as a mistress that I visited when I got a bit bored. So not surprisingly she started treating me like an unappreciative lover and rewarded her favours on people who treated her with far more respect.

Realising that this relationship was going to shit I started courting her again by putting serious time in on the practise table in an attempt to recapture that first flush of love and it’s currently working as I’m enjoying playing again and am now no longer playing like an idiot. Well not a total one at least…

I was reminded why I actually played the game again on Sunday when the county team I represent won its regional championship to go forward to the national finals next April.

The team needed to win by a big score and put in a huge performance to snatch the title away from the defending champions. There were several points in the afternoon where the match could have swung either way but the opposition missed a few shots and we just didn’t let them back in.

So with my enthusiasm totally restored it was a moment of serendipity when today I got a call to say that a new cue I had ordered some time ago was now ready for collection.

Even the writing is back on an even keel at present with my sitcom about a postman-turned-pornographer sent out to Channel 4, a few ideas in with the BBC and a stage play in with a new theatre company.

I am not, of course, going to be excited about all of this or take any of it for granted. But that’s only because I look shit dressed as Captain Hook...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Second Time Around…

Woody Allen once said that if reincarnation was real he wanted to come back as legendary Hollywood lothario Warren Beatty’s fingertips and, while I can see the plus points of this argument, there were always other contenders for me.

There was the pre-cancer Alex Higgins (breath-taking talent and real beauty while in his twenties), the pre-Aids John Holmes (lots of women and a cock THAT big – and paid to shag. Brilliant!) and Ross Kemp (but only so I could put on a tutu, pay somebody to tie me up and ram oranges in my mouth and up my arse then help me top myself and then give the pictures to every newspaper in town).

The newest contenders for this list, though, are Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, the writers behind Peep Show, and I would quite happily come back as both or either of them as they have created the funniest and most consistent comedy on TV at present.

The third series started on Friday and it remains a work of utter joy – from Jeremy trying to finish with his girlfriend only to end up having a threesome with her and a woman with a gammy foot, to mugging victim Mark explaining to his now girlfriend Sophie why carrying a large knife is actually a time-saving device and not a concealed weapon.

Peep Show inhabits the world of grating social faux pax and devastating social and personal embarrassment and its past triumphs are plenty. My favourite is probably the episode where Mark befriended a colleague at work and found himself going on a weekend dressed as a member of the Third Reich but there are countless others too.

I’m pleased to report that series three hit the ground running and it looks like there’s been no let-up in the quality of the scripts – or the acute pain experienced by its two central protagonists. Cue anguished internal monologue from Jeremy after he’s been shagged by his girlfriend wearing a strap-on ‘I suppose these are the indignities we accept to avoid being lonely…’

It’s worth spending Friday night at home for. And that’s pretty bloody good indeed…

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Coffin Fit!

Our household is currently in a state of transition. Rooms are being changed, our decorator is in doing his thing and my pool room will soon be no more.

The eventual battleplan is for me and the missus to move back into the large bedroom (now the pool room), then we'll have a proper guest room (our current bedroom) and this obviously means goodbye pool table. Bizarrely it is a move that has my blessing as it means I'll have to go out to practice and play against proper opposition rather than just stay in and play with myself (insert rude joke here).

So it's all go on the domestic front and I've very much entered into the spirit of this (apart from having a major strop when I had to also sacrifice my office for three months for an unexpected houseguest) and the campaign of refreshed domesticity has seen me set out to finally finish clearing the two loft spaces in the house.

Our house was originally owned by a man who can only be described as a major lunatic headcase and it was only when he left that the missus discovered he'd filled the two loft spaces with all manner of utter shite.

So clearing them became my job and from one loft I have so far cleared out the following:
One car bumper
Three car seats
Various lengths of rotting wood
Copper piping
The wing of a Morris Minor
A car engine
A toilet bowl
A car's brake system
A broken bed
A suitcase with newspapers and dental magazines

So I didn't think anything else in the other loft space could surprise me when I climbed up to rescue a spare bed for our new house guest. But the sight of a coffin as my light flashed over the roof rafters made me realise how wrong I'd been...

On closer inspection, of course, it turned out not to be a real coffin but some MDF version of one that had been done for a school play of some description. But there was a split second where the missus saying 'I wouldn't be surprised to find a dead body up there...' came back to haunt me.

At one point I was genuinely contemplating climbing back down the ladder to grab my Bible and some garlic from the kitchen. Sadly we only had garlic paste and I wasn't sure that would have worked...

But, thankfully, there is no dead body. But then again I haven't cleared all the lofts out yet...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Ross Camp!

Not that I'm one to gloat but yesterday The Mirror reported that:

'EastEnders hardman Ross Kemp, who plays leather-jacketed Grant Mitchell, ended with a cut lip after being belted by his wife, Sun editor Rebekah Wade. He called police, who arrested Wade for alleged assault, and was later sent home from filming because he was so "distressed".'

So the telly thug is an utter girl and his wife's about to face the type of press witch hunt that she dished out to all and sundry while on The News Of The World and still does as editor of The Sun. You reap what you sow.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, etc...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Empire Strikes Back!

A few things have annoyed me about the pre-amble puff for the BBC/HBO epic series Rome which started last night. So much so that I thought I may have to install my own vomitorium next to the telly when it began.

The first offenders have been the press/magazine industry who all seem to have thought it would be a jolly hoot to headline any feature on the series as No Place Like Rome. Geddit? Send for a medic to sew up my splitting sides… This proves one of my long-held theories that most journalists are utterly unimaginative and very lazy – or maybe just one dullard writes headlines for every paper and magazine on the planet. Could happen if Mr Murdoch gets his way…

It also shows how utterly they’ve missed the point of the show. The whole raison d’etre of Rome is that it’s a sex-obsessed culture of power and politics keen on foreign invasion which masks a world of squalor and sleaze – thus proving that there are several places like Rome (UK, US, etc) and how relevant the series supposedly is today.

The Beeb’s adverts for the show have also wound me up…

When the Beeb does something good it plugs it to death. Remember the clever ads for House Of Cards with Francis Urquhart talking direct to camera or the EastEnders ads surrounding the Steve Owen and Matthew Rose murder of Saskia Duncan? And they had a right to be smug because everybody was talking about it… But sometimes Auntie is so bloody smug showing off her latest baubles that you feel like mugging the old cow down a dark alley to bring her back to earth. And Auntie loves Rome and is shoving it under the nose of every viewer at every possible opportunity…

So how good is it? Well the answer is pretty good actually.

Kevin McKidd (Private Cooper in Dog Soldiers) plays a strait-laced soldier named Lucius, Kenneth Cranham looks every inch a sussed Roman politician in Pompey and James Purefoy looks to be having a hoot as the brash Mark Antony. The sets are stunning, the extras budget must have been huge and the script seems genuinely engaging. I even spotted Jez Quigley (actor Lee Boardman) from Corrie getting his leg over at one point as a horse salesman. It’s that bizarre but it also that good.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hard Sell!

I was introduced to pornography at the age of nine by an older cousin who’d located a secret stash of magazines in the garden shed of a relative. ‘Let’s go look at some nudey magazines,’ he’d suggested, reassuring me that if I kept guard I’d also be able to have a look.

Sadly I misheard and thought he’d said ‘Noddy’ magazines so I was somewhat confused as to (a) why he’d want to look at this sort of kids’ stuff and (b) why he thought I’d be in the slightest bit interested. I was nine after all and Enid Blyton was old hat!

So I was quite stunned when I eventually saw what he was leafing through – and there wasn’t a picture of Big Ears or PC Plod in sight!

Now, though by no means an expert, I am more au fait with the world of ‘adult entertainment’ having lovingly crafted a bleak sitcom about a postman-turned-porn-star called Chunky Shaft (the Prince Regent of Adult Entertainment in the UK and owner of the Chunky’s Clean Sheets laundry chain).

I did, however, see something funnier than my mishearing story or even Chunky last week when I went to the Hustler sex shop in Brewer Street in London to make a purchase. I’d long admired the Hustler t-shirt line and decided it would be fun to own one as I am also a keen pool player so it would provide me with a clothing item possessed with double meaning. Brilliant!

So after choosing my t-shirt (Hustler: hardcore since 74) I went to pay and noticed the display of Hustler covers on the wall behind the till and one boasted a cover headline of ‘Good news for gonorrhea sufferers!’ Genius!

I only hope that in my life I will be able to write something that is brilliant as that…