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Dear Jim

Dear Jim, (1926-2011)

Please please please please please please please please please please please could you fix it for me to return to the simple days when your show was one of the highlights of my weekend?

Your death, whilst terribly sad, was not a complete surprise – I have never once seen a photo of you without a cigar on the go, and once even saw you jogging while smoking a fat one – but it drew something in to very sharp focus for me: Kids today are utter bastards.

'The Chair' allegedly nine immigrant workers were killed in its 3 year construction

I think back to the letters that you used to get. You’d be sat there, decked out in your finest gold like a bleached anorexic Mr T, sat on that giant chair with all the secret compartments where you’d hide cigars, gin, your gun and of course those famous ‘Jim Fixed It For Me’ medallions, and you’d read out a letter from little Kevin in Withernsea asking if you could get him in to London Zoo to see if elephants really are scared of mice; or if him and his mates in the cubs could go to Alton Towers and eat a Wimpy meal on the rollercoaster. You’d make some delightful quip and then we’d meet the little scamp. They were generally agreeable enough, polite and clearly delighted to be there. These, let it be perfectly clear, were not spoilt little bastards – even I could see that through my haze of envy as they got to be a passenger in a stunt car doing a wheelie, throw a million pounds into a fire or press the button that demolished a tower block – they were just normal kids with the dreams of normal kids i.e. silliness, messiness and a bit of destruction. And you made them come true. And they got a bloody medal at the end of it. Jammy bastards.

Do you know what Jim? Even without your incredible charity work, your pioneering radio endeavours or your unrelenting service to Elizabeth Duke and the struggling British shell suit market you’d be a shoo-in for a spot on the good side of the afterlife. I have no idea who you’ll meet there, Jeremy Beadle’s a 50/50 shot, as is Rod Hull – mostly thanks to Emu, but I would imagine Bamber Gascoigne’s going to be there – he’ll be great for Trivial Pursuit. Did you two get on? I digress, the point is that you made so many kids happy that your spot is assured (we won’t mention that you did introduce some kids to Gary Glitter – how were you supposed to know?).

You could, of course, have made a lot more kids happy had your show not been cancelled, and while many will argue that your time was up because you were a relic of a bygone era, those people are idiots barking up the wrong tree.

The writing was on the wall for the show when Jimmy fixed it for this little boy to have a free go on 'Miss Swallows' at the local knocking shop

The problem was the kids Jim. In your heyday in the 80’s the kids had simple dreams – dancing The Locomotion with adorable teeny pop temptress Kylie or driving a locomotion with gruff giant Northerner Keith – they were fun and, importantly, achievable. Then the kids changed. The bastards. No-one wanted to be a train driver any more, they wanted, neigh demanded to be famous – talent optional. No longer would they be happy smashing a fake priceless vase on Antiques Roadshow (that was a brilliant one by the way) no, they ran out of imagination and into the shopping mall, wanting expensive things like computers, they wanted the moon on a stick – and they wanted it now. If you’d carried on you’d have had to have a budget of several million a show,  and giving in to them would have just compounded the problem Jim. You were best off out of it.

One lucky git meets the legend that was Roger Hargreaves, this kid changed his name to Mr Spawny

You never answered my letter but I forgive you, you were a very busy guy. It was probably an unreasonable request any way, I wanted to have a go in a fighter jet. It was a lot to ask, especially bearing in mind the rapidly collapsing Communist bloc subsequent political upheaval and increased demands on the military, not to mention the vast costs that would be involved in taking a child far too unattractive to appear on modern television (but perfectly acceptable then – in your face ugly present day kids) on a ten minute joy ride that would inevitably end with vomit filling the control panels. Regardless, you prolonged my innocent wonder at the world for a bit longer, and I thank you for that. It saddens me to think that in order to have watched, understood and properly enjoyed an episode of Jim’ll Fix It you’ve got to be over 21 – that’s a whole lot of people who missed out on something really special. No wonder they rioted.

The world was a better place with you in it, so (lights cigar) now then, now then Sir Jim, you Rest in Peace now, you were a proper legend.

From

R (aged 34)

PS – If you still get the letters wherever you are I would still like that flight

PPS – Or a go on a hovercraft

PPPS – Or a go on Kylie. I’m not fussy.

 

 

 

Dear Columbo

Dear Columbo, (Loads of Channels, 1968 – 2003)

This is something of a first for me, a letter that is both entirely heartfelt and somewhat posthumous, I hope you don’t mind if at times it’s a little bit less than serious.

Basically I just wanted to say how saddened I am that Detective Columbo has now shuffled off this mortal coil, to know that the next time I see a detective he (or indeed she, for these are the times we are living in) will almost certainly have two functioning eyes fills me with both trepidation and an intense sensation of boredom.

Columbo - f**king ace!

In the last forty odd years there have been so many cop shows that it’s impossible to count. Actually that’s nonsense, it’s perfectly possible to count them, but it’s Friday night and I can’t be bothered. The point remains, however, that you can count the number of cop shows that lasted longer than you, Columbo, on the fingers of a dolphin. Or a jellyfish. Or a budgie. Basically you can count the number of cop shows that have lasted longer than the 35 years you have managed on the fingers of any creature that doesn’t possess fingers. It’s zero. None. Nada.

I should maybe acknowledge that I haven’t researched this, so it actually might not be true – I can’t think of a cop show that has lasted longer and do you know what, I don’t care. Columbo’s just died, if I want to say his was the longest running cop show in history I will. You can’t stop me.

Excuse my waffling, I’m emotional.

I’m one of the three billion people in the world (again not researched, sue me) who were born after your show began, so I feel like I’ve known you all my life. In a huge sea of cop shows that came and went, everyone knew Columbo and everybody, at least on some level, loved you. Yes we had our passing dalliances with others: the pastel shaded speedboat excitement of Miami Vice, they offered a glamour you simply never attempted; the tropical intrigue of Magnum who sported a moustache you couldn’t match; and the hokey old school warmth of Jessica Fletcher – who was also blessed with impressive facial hair. We fooled around with them, even loved them, but when they were gone we came back to you Columbo. We came back not just because you were there, but because we loved you.

Thomas Magnum - Sexy and undoubted owner of impressive lip upholstery, but a bit of a show off.

Why did we love you? How typically modest that you should ask you scruffy one-eyed midget. Well let me tell you why:

  • You possessed a natural charm that other shows simply couldn’t match, and trying to match it would have been a fool’s errand – because they didn’t have Peter Falk.
  • You drove a battered old car that looked ready for the scrap yard. Whilst Magnum and Miami Vice tried to engage the Yuppie audience with their flashy Ferraris you were realistic about your main audience: stoners and the unemployed. They don’t care about Ferrari’s, they don’t particularly aspire to own them – seeing a successful detective drive the sort of car they could afford was all they ever needed – and you supplied it!

He drove the sort of car that no-one ever aspires to. He was one of us.

  • Mrs Columbo. We almost never saw her, you made sure of that (we certainly never watched the ill thought out show that was Mrs Columbo), but boy we loved her – we knew all her little foibles you see, Columbo used to tell us all about them. The best character never to appear? Quite possibly.

Mrs Columbo. Yes, it was a real show.

  • The dirty Mac. Maybe my memory’s playing tricks on me, but whatever the weather, be it chilly (what’s that in LA? Low teens Celsius??) or if it was sweltering heat, you were wearing that Mac. I believe I’m right in saying that this also means you’re the only man ever to wear a Mac that often and never be caught masturbating in a public place. Bravo for that.
  • You had a glass eye! That’s cool enough, but the fact that you never got drunk, popped it out and dropped it in your bosses drink? That puts you a class above.

And they are the reasons I love you, I believe they are the main reasons that we – a couple of generations right around the world – love you, and why we’re very sad to see you go. The world is a poorer place now, but I will leave you all to your grief.

Sincere Condolences, and much love

R

Peter Falk - Legend

Oh, and just one more thing – you’re a one trick pony, but what a f**king trick! We knew who did it, we knew that you knew who did it, we knew exactly how you were going to pin them down but it was exciting every single time you did it. Just as you were getting to the door, or into your car, or as they were about to leave – it didn’t matter – you’d just toss it out there, all casual, like it was an after thought, like it meant nothing “Just one more thing…” and they were nailed, you had a piece of information, evidence or just a bloody hunch that they couldn’t escape from. Like Chris Waddle with his shoulder drop, it was the only trick you had, but you forged an incredible career out of it. It was brilliant.

That one more thing is why we loved, sorry love, you Columbo, and a big part of the reason that we will miss the awesome actor and human being that was Peter Falk.

RIP Columbo and Grandad out of The Princess Bride, you will be missed.

Dear The Shadow Line,

Dear The Shadow Line, (BBC2, Thursdays @9pm)

Are you trying to make a mug out of me? You know I’m only one week from retirement and you lumber me with this new maverick cop show that  just won’t play by the rules? I’m getting too old for this sh…

You see, I’ve also got the “Big Book of Cop Show Cliche’s” and, whilst it’s a riveting read, I read the disclaimer at the beginning that warned against basing an entire big budget series around these feeble and predictable bits of nonsense. If only you’d bothered to do the same eh? Of course I know you better than that, you’re not going to read something that might engender you with an element of self-doubt (which is why I know that by this point you’ve stopped reading and I’m talking to myself) however one thing I know that you’ll have read (probably many many times) are those reviews and previews that compared you to ‘The Wire’. I have to say that I agree with them. You’re exactly like The Wire in that you have a cast which also features several English actors. Your show is also an hour-long. Your show is also on BBC2. Your show is shot with cameras and features some cars. I’m sorry, I really can’t do this. I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m struggling to find any actual reason why anyone would ever make this comparison, and here’s why:

Freaman got annoyed when the rest of 'The Wire' gang kept interfering with his game of Minesweeper

The Wire is one of the finest pieces of drama – of any form – that I have ever seen. It’s excellence in every single department is genuinely quite humbling and the experience of watching it is something that’s difficult to explain to anyone who has never seen it. In short it’s so good – so mind blowingly wonderful – that I would never compare any TV programme, film, book, play, scientific concept, miracle, sandwich, pizza topping or real life experience to even its weakest episode. It simply wouldn’t be fair.

You, by contrast I’ll happily compare just about anything to. It’s not because you’re not as good as ‘The Wire’ – I think I’ve made it quite clear that that’s not really achievable – it’s because you’re not as good as ‘Wire in the Blood’, a programme that’s set its sights on mediocrity and hit the target with aplomb, ‘Wires’ – the heart-rending Athlete song, or even ‘Bird on a Wire’ the rubbish 90’s movie featuring  Mel Gibson before he became obsessed with the Hebrew types and a pre-huge amounts of cosmetic surgery Goldie Hawn. You’re not even as good as wire, actual metal wire, that at least has several uses whereas you have just one – irritating me into a state of utter despair. If that seems a little harsh then I apologise, I was aiming for being really very harsh indeed.

So what’s made you this bad? I mean Hugo Blick’s been involved with some fantastic telly (Marion and Geoff for example), and you’ve got a cast featuring the admirable and unpronounceable Chiwetel Ejiofor, intense goggly eyed ex-Doctor Who type Christopher Ecclestone (who looks like he’s lost a lot of weight, is he alright?) and current Pete in Pete vs Life, Rafe ‘son of Timothy off Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ Spall – you can’t go wrong with that lot can you? Well yes, you’ve proved quite admirably that you can.

The thing is that it doesn’t matter about the heritage of your writer/director if they produce utter nonsense right now. I mean when I spent the longest 90 minutes of my life watching the unadulterated shite fest that was ‘The Happening’ it was scant consolation that I’d enjoyed ‘The Sixth Sense’ ten years before. Likewise the fact that Germany had given us Beethoven didn’t seem to cut the mustard with Churchill (again the tubby Prime Minister/cigar fan, not insurance selling dog) when Hitler started stomping around picking up countries he liked. You’re only ever as good as your last piece of work and I’m afraid that for Hugo this means he’s a hack who should accept defeat and head for the bright lights of Chester village Hollyoaks. Go to the Dog in the Pond, ask for Carl Costello – he’ll set you up with something more at your current level.

You’re probably thinking “Well, it’s easy to criticise.” and you’re absolutely right, it is easy – and you made the task so very much easier by not including a single character who talked like a, what do you call them, you know, that’s it – human being. The whole script stinks of trying way too hard to win awards, but the thing is you don’t win awards by creating unbelievable characters who each have weird ticks, peculiar habits and strange speech patterns (The Kings Speech excluded of course), you win awards by creating believable characters who people start to think of as ‘real’ and you do that by having them say things real people say, just better, funnier, cooler. I’m sure you aimed for this, but you missed – and you missed by a distance. To have one or two characters with quirky turns of phrase and speech patterns can add colour to a scene or act, to have every single character talking in an inexplicably unique fashion makes you wonder if the writer’s had a stroke.

An awkward silence fills the car as DI Gabriel tries to decipher Officer Honey's last insult. It's been 10 minutes.

Problems I had in episodes one and two included (but were certainly not limited to):

The bent copper who spoke like he was reading from a Sam Spade novel. He set the tone very well, very well indeed.

Officer Honey who, despite being obviously filled with rage and certainly being all edgy and what not can’t speak. When she’s delivering one of her (clearly intended to be legendary) insults she’s less convincing than Miss Autocue herself Anne Robinson – I mean seriously, “…the first syllable in country.” no-one, and I do mean no-one would ever say that. It’s long-winded and makes you sound like a ‘the first syllable of titular’.

DS Patterson – ooh, now there’s an interesting chap, better give him a peculiar quirk – how about he’s unaware of the smoking laws that have been in place for a few years, and so he very deliberately picks up pencils and stuff and sucks on them – yeah, that’ll do. I reckon that could come in handy further down the line – a clue that he’s been somewhere he shouldn’t have perhaps… Also, get him to speak really staccato – and in riddles – it’ll make him seem very deep and intelligent and not at all like a tool.

Rafe Spall as Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast – yes, he’s an utter mentalist, and actually quite a convincing one at times, but he’s so one-dimensional I reckon a tough guy could probably fold him up a couple of times and slip him under the door like Flat Stanley.

The dead coppers mum saying “It’s in this room isn’t it…the bullet that killed him.” Worst. Dialogue. Ever.

The amount of exposition – I assume that the people involved in the story know what’s going on, so I wonder why they feel the need to constantly explain what’s happening to each other. Lazy, Shadow Line, very lazy.

The fabled 'Staff of Ra' came free with everything purchased in Ikea

That briefcase full of cash. Okay, fair enough, maybe it means he’s bent, maybe not, but what it certainly tells us is that Mr Blick had serious difficulties figuring out how the shot in the head copper might find it. An allen key in a shoe box? Come on. I mean it’s a bolt, not the 9th Chevron of the f**king Stargate – if you’re keeping that amount of dodgy money in a secret little compartment in your suspiciously large walk in wardrobe in your small house then why on earth would you keep an allen key in an otherwise empty shoe box right on top of it? Why not just buy a giant neon sign that says “The Cash is Here” or hire one of those people with the Golf Sale signs to stand next to it? Everyone who has ever bought anything at Ikea has a draw filled with those bloody things and know exactly where to get one if the table leg comes loose (again) or they need to get access to their stash of cash. Not, however, our intelligent detective, oh no. To him this allen key is a mystical thing like Harry Potters wand or the Staff of Ra and it must be kept close by, lest it be lost and the cash will be entombed forever in it’s MDF prison. Ridiculous and implausible.

The dim lighting? Is there some kind of economy drive going on that I haven’t been told about? Never before have so many people intentionally lived and worked in conditions that make it very difficult to see properly.

That press conference. No, sorry, not having any of that at all. Not a bit of it.

The driver’s girlfriend – stop answering the bloody door love. Seriously, pigeons learn faster than that.

The driver’s mum – house by council, hair by Supercuts, script by William Wordsworth. Talking about looking in to the abyss? Come off it.

That bit before the interview with the drivers mum, a scene so earnestly determined to establish Gabriel and Honey as the Holmes and Watson of the Met but actually came across as a GCSE drama piece – “When you go into a bar do you sit down straight away or scope the place out?” personally I go to the bar and order a drink, rum and coke if you don’t mind. Large. Then again, I’m neither Jason Bourne or Tony Soprano like you Chiwetel and I’m certainly not whatever Honey’s supposed to be. It was a scene that could have come straight from Mitchell and Webb’s ‘Lazy Writers’, except some of their stuff is more believable.

And the gleaming dew drop on the tip of the steaming pile: the interview with the drivers mum. Her with her talk of ‘the abyss’ and she might have mentioned Avatar as well, I’m not sure. Insinuating that unless you have kids it’s impossible to comprehend that a mum would do anything for them was another favourite. Her solicitor doing a very good impression of an actual solicitor who really wasn’t comfortable with the idea of ‘acting’. And Detective Gabriel with his intriguing little speeches and bizarre mood swings, going from whisper to screaming frenzy in the blink of an eye. It was like a roller coaster in so many ways – I certainly felt a little sick afterwards.

God I’m exhausted!

In fairness episode two was slightly better than episode one but that’s a no brainer really, you’d made it almost impossible to plumb lower depths – I mean I remember the day I was in a car crash, it was pretty nasty, but it was better than the day when my dog died.

You can do better.

You must do better.

In the meantime, please have a watch of episode one and think to yourselves “I did that.” and be ashamed.

Yours in Disappointment

R

PS – I won’t start on the whole ’24 style’ phone call tracking chase nonsense

PPS – I should really have said that I thought Eccleston was quite good. His script’s still bloody awful though.

Dear The Kennedys

Dear ‘The Kennedys’ (History, Thursdays @ 9pm) (BBC2, Fridays @9pm/9.45pm (if you make it to ep2))

How are you? I know most of you are dead, but how are the rest of you? I’m fine, been doing the usual, you know, this and that, keeping busy. I’m not sure I ever told you how much I enjoyed your film – JFK, and your airport of the same name. Both provided excellent entertainment, and now that there’s laptops and stuff I hope that one day I can watch JFK whilst sat in JFK, it’ll be a riot. I’m not sure where best to sit? Back and to the left perhaps?

Sorry, I’m being both silly and waffley and I know you can’t abide either, so I’ll press on with the matter at hand – your latest drama/mini-series thingy. First of all, well done on getting it made – getting anything made these days is a difficult thing so you should be very proud of yourselves. I thought the casting was excellent, though Barry Pepper sounds a little more like Mayor Quimby than Bobby Kennedy, you make up for that though becausea that young scientologist that keeps going out with Pacey and Dawson, Dawson and Pacey, you

Katie wonders whether Tom will be gone long enough to make a bid for freedom

know, the one that talks all the time and is really holier than thou? Any way, she is a dead ringer for Jackie O. I also particularly enjoyed the ice cream I had whilst watching the first installment – raspberry ripple, delicious. However, aside from my frozen sweet treats I must say I’m left feeling a little unsatisfied.

I’ll start, as is traditional, at the beginning. So, the title sequence, what happened there? I’ve seen shorter Operas (I haven’t, I’ve never been to the opera actually, but operas are generally considered to be quite long winded affairs – hence the comparison), it just goes on and on and on and then, just when you think it’s finished it starts off again.
It’s like the six different endings to Lord of the Rings but without the homo-erotic overtones.

Jackie O Post 'fingers and tops' with Dawson down at the creek


Seriously, I put episode two on when I started to write this letter and now, more than a hundred words in, the titles are only about halfway through. It’s a farce Kennedys, stop it. Everyone knows who you are – that’s why we’re watching the bloody thing – so get over yourselves and just have a black background with white writing that says “The Kennedys” on it. To avoid confusion you might want to add a subtitle such as “The Kennedys: The American Political Family, not the ones off Neighbours with the fit mum. Not the band either.”. That’s all we need.

So, believe it or not I actually managed to stay awake through the interminable titles and then came the drama. Except there really wasn’t any was there? How you’ve managed to take one of the most compelling political figures of all time and make his story so uninvolving I have no idea, but kudos to you for doing so, it’s quite the feat. Maybe you could try doing the same with Mandela or Churchill, making them all beige and stuff would be quite the achievement! That’s not to say the performances are bad – except for the mum, she’s bloody awful, reminiscent of the debacle that is the old bird from Upstairs Downstairs. Every time she came on the screen I

Captain Hook was an unsuccessful auditionee for the role of Joe Kennedy, but wasn't quite 'villainy' enough

wanted to find the casting agent and punch them in the face, but then I realised that it’s not her that’s the problem. No, you see, because when you can make an actor the quality of Tom Wilkinson seem spiritless, wooden and more drab than an evening spent trying to explain basic maths to Katie Price there are clearly darker forces at work. According to IMDB (a source I trust) Tom is playing Joe Kennedy, one of the most influential political figures America has ever seen – and a complete and utter bastard. According to my eyes (a source I also trust, except when in the presence of sleight of hand magicians or under the influence of scrumpy) and ears, however, he was playing a cross between Fagin and Phil Mitchell, taking only the worst aspects of both and portraying him entirely as a pantomime villain. I spent much of episode one waiting for someone to cry “He’s behind you.” when Evil Joe entered the room, accompanied by boos and hisses. Get him a cape and a cane – then he’ll at least look the part. He’s mean – we get it!

I digress – it’s not the actors, it’s the acting – and that means it’s the directing. For a show that’s had so much money thrown at it you’ve really let the side down Kennedys! Yes, the script is at best melodramatic and at worst completely unrealistic, on the nose and, well, shit, but you knew that when you took the job on. You have money, that’s obvious. You have decent actors – I know they’re decent, I’ve seen them in other things, like The Full Monty and Dawsons Creek. You have cracking set design, blah blah blah blah blah. You’ve got all that so how come what you’ve produced is so…so… m’eh? It’s because you’ve figured that it’s such a good story and you’ve got such good actors it’ll take care of itself. Big fat sack of wrong for you on that front.

Sorry, I’ve wittered on for quite long enough. You, The Kennedys, are perfectly reasonable ‘Movie of the Week’ fodder, but this isn’t a movie of the week. This is an expensive and large scale drama and you’ve made a proper balls up of it. It reminds me of the day I lost the big ‘V’. It felt like I’d spent years building up to this moment and indeed building this moment up. I was expecting something earth shatteringly magnificent but in the end was left on the sofa, with a dissapointed partner wondering just what went wrong. Thing is though, popping your cherry is the precursor to a life of excitment, passion and sexual fulfillment that dulls the memory of such dissapointment. I suspect and fear that the remainder of your show will be more akin to that sensation I suspect people get immediately after having sex with their cousin – you can’t put your finger on precisely what, but something about it is wrong. Very very wrong.

I hope this helps. You did say to “Be honest” so be careful what you wish for!

Love and kisses to all,

R

PS – With Ted, and that girl in the car, did he kill her, was she already dead or did she drown? Come on, you can tell me. I won’t tell anyone…

PPS – I can’t believe you’ve coaxed cash out of the Beeb

PPPS – You really didn’t improve, which brings me back to my sexual performance.

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