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Category Archives: Comedy

Dear Him & Her

Dear Him & Her, (BBC3, Tuesdays @10.30pm)

Well, Tuesday nights eh? They used to be rubbish. I’d come back from my Mad Lizzie exercise class (think Zumba but with big hair and neon leotards) via some form of fried chicken emporium (every action needs an equal and opposite reaction) and sink into both the sofa and a greasy state of self-loathing. Like I say, Tuesdays were rubbish. Then it all changed, because along came a show so fresh, inventive and funny that it quickly became ‘must watch’ TV. I stopped going to Poultry Bungalow and started enjoying a salad or quiche on my return home. I stopped hating myself and life in general. In short I stopped and smelled the roses, and they smelled wonderful. Tuesdays at 10.30 no longer represented everything that was wrong in the world – it was a time for us all to gather on the sofa and laugh our respective socks off – and it was all thanks to one show, Wilfred. Simply brilliant television.

Wilfred - made Tuesday nights something other than an orgy of chicken grease and onanism

Why am I telling you about how great I thought Wilfred was? Well I’m hoping that you’ll feel suitably shamed, because by comparison you make the greasy self-loathing look like a two-week all-inclusive holiday in the Algarve, local alcohol included. To go from the quirky, original and genuinely funny Wilfred to the seen it all before, stilted, awkward, puerile laugh desert that you presented me with was akin to going to bed with Angelina Jolie and waking up with Dom Joly. In fact it’s even worse than that, because whilst that scenario would be massively disappointing there’s still an outside chance you’d get a laugh out of it. I think you get my point though, I loved Wilfred, and I loved it precisely because it was everything you are not.

"No, he thought he'd gone to bed with Angelina Jolie! What? Of course I let him!"

In fairness to you I should have known what was coming as I had already subjected myself to the horrors of watching half of series 1 (a feat for which the medal I should have been awarded never arrived) and struggled to raise anything beyond a stifled obscenity and a look of sad bemusement. However, the powers that be saw fit to grant you a second series – “It must have picked up in the second half!” I thought to myself, temporarily forgetting that ‘the powers that be’ at BBC3 are the same people who kept re-commissioning 2 Pints of Lager until even the cast and crew hated it – so, I figured I’d give you a second chance too. Mistake.

I don’t know what it is I like least about you. Well that’s not true, it’s the fact that for a ‘comedy’ you’re not what I like to call ‘funny’. Not even vaguely. However, that’s

Pete Burns - pop star, pin cushion, primate

obvious, any old fool with a sense of humour and opposable thumbs could write to you and point out that you’re not funny, like you don’t already know it, but what’s the point? Like if Pete Burns asks “How do I look?” responding  “You look like a monkey that’s been in a car crash. A really bad one. Whilst not wearing a seatbelt. And carrying a box of nails.” isn’t going to help, he knows this so it’s a worthless and pointless observation that isn’t going to help you one bit. ‘Be funnier’, while great advice and certainly something you should consider (alongside ‘stop altogether’ and ‘sod off’) is too vague, and one could argue too easy – being funny at all would achieve that goal. So, setting the obvious aside what are my gripes?

Well, I think I’ll limit myself to the top three, and to make it feel exciting I’m going to start at three!

3) Charm

You haven’t got any and it’s a vital part of comedy. You don’t need it by the bucket load, just a smidgen here and there, but it

Remove the charm from this beauty, go on, I challenge you. Oh you have? Already? Oh...

feels utterly absent throughout – like with Ed Milliband (in fact I like that analogy better – you are Ed Milliband to Wilfred’s David). You’ve even managed to somehow clinically remove the charm from the bewitchingly sexy Sarah Solemani which should not only be impossible, but should be punishable by imprisonment. How have you done this? Well I think it’s in your efforts to…

2) Mimic Reality

Doing this is all well and good, if you actually do it, but you’ve got all the ‘real feel’ of Ricky Gervais’ humility or Amy Children’s breasts. I’m assured that I’m supposed to feel like I’m peaking through the window on to a couple going about their everyday lives, so why do I actually feel like I’m watching a highly contrived effort at commonness, crudeness and banality? It’s not because of the performances of Tovey or Solemani because these two are actually alright – though the supporting cast could turn to appearing smoked, sliced and glazed in honey at the local Deli such is their hamminess – no, it’s because whilst aiming for the position filled by The Royle Family you’ve fallen well short, and that’s partly because of the…

1) Dialogue

The number one sin in trying to be realistic. Don’t feel bad, loads of much bigger budget productions make a far bigger hash of it than you have (see The Shadow Line). In fairness a lot of your dialogue is really quite good in this respect; at times I found myself believing I was listening to actual conversations – but my God those conversations were dull. If the News of the World hacks had listened in to these conversations for all those years they’d be heading to an asylum, not a prison. Sure, some people probably do talk like that to each other, and conversations of a similar ilk probably happen up and down the country on a daily basis – but that doesn’t make them good TV. Unfortunately when the dialogue isn’t dull it dives headlong in to ‘heavily contrived’ territory – I mean what’s all that ‘apple rubbing’ thing about? It felt like it was trying to be Quentin Tarantino. It didn’t work.

A middle class couple having a dull conversation about guacamole and loft insulation. I don't want to listen to this either. Dullness is not limited by class.

Look, you’ve got plenty of people who think you’re great just the way you are and that all that occurs is ‘wryly observed’, the poor bastards, their lives must be painfully dull. My point is though that this is just my opinion – it’s right, obviously – but you’ve got plenty of easily pleased idiots you can turn to if you want to feel better about yourself. And no, I’m not just talking about the BBC3 Commissioners.

So don’t go changing (though you probably should)

Tatty Bye

R x

PS – If you missed Wilfred then I’d seriously suggest getting the box set.

PPS – And then watching it on Tuesday nights at 10.30pm

PPPS – It’s good to be back!

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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 Show Me The Funny

Dear Show Me The Funny, (ITV1, Mondays @9pm)

First of all I’d like to say welcome, and thank you for trying to bring stand-up comedy back to the fore on mainstream British TV, the idea of it is very welcome and it’s so nice to see comedy presented in some way other than a panel show. So yes, thank you for trying. Sincerely. Now on to the multitude of reasons why you’ve already failed.

Enough about the Merengue, did you find the fluffy dice?

You know the bit in Strictly Come Dancing where the contestants go around Cheltenham on a scavenger hunt – desperately scrambling around trying to find a wooden leg, a ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hat and a rape alarm – and the first team back with all the stuff gets to choose between the Bolero and the Lambada (yes, the Forbidden Dance!)?

You don’t?

"If dreams were wings you know, I would have flown away from you, you bitch"

Well surely you must be familiar with the show ‘A Place in the Sun’ where couples who are desperate to flee Britain seek property abroad hoping to get away from their mentally unstable exes and believing, wrongly, that being in a sunnier climate will somehow rescue them from the misery their sham of a marriage has become? Yes? Excellent. Well you know the bit right at the beginning where there’s three couples and only the pair who manages to give the best performance of Kylie and Jason hit ‘Especially For You’ gets the free trip to Greece where they almost certainly won’t buy any property?

No?

I don’t know what to say. Oh yes, that’s right. You don’t know of these because they’re fictional. You see, for some reason the producers of these incredibly succesful formats have kept things simple. I know, buffoons eh? They’re under the impression that someone tuning into a show called ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ is, primarly, interested in seeing what the celebrities are like at dancing, sure they throw a bit of a training montage in there, but the general theme remains on the dancing. Likewise ‘A Place in the Sun’ tends to focus on the properties, with only a small dose of the general dismay at the route of the fleeing couples flight of fancy – there’s quite literally no mention of any of their duetting prowess.

Why am I waffling on about all this you’re probably thinking, well it’s because you lack focus. If you were focused the point I was making would have been obvious about 150 words ago.

Yes, so I tuned in, excited to watch ten working comics fighting tooth and nail to deliver the best five minutes of new material they could muster for their specific audience. “That…” I thought to myself whilst making a pre-broadcast cup of tea (white, one sugar) “…is a strong format. This…” I continued to think, having accidentally poured water from the kettle straight into the sugar bowl because I was thinking too much about your show and, ironically enough, not focusing on the matter in hand “…should be good.” then I stopped thinking and cleared up.

A nice cup of tea - surprisingly easy to mess up.

You can, I’m sure, imagine my surprise when the first part came and went without any stand up whatsoever. Fair enough, or at least it would be if you’d spent any time at all introducing these ten comedians to me (for the sake of accuracy I’m going to presume that I’m the only person in Britain that watched the entire show, so ‘me’ = your audience), but you didn’t do that did you? No, you paired them up and sent them on a series of dull and meaningless fools errands around Liverpool. Don’t get me wrong, if there was a show called “Shitty City Centre Shit Search” I’d Sky+ the bastard faster than you can hilariously say “Are you called Michelle?”, I’m sure that show would be an unending rollercoaster of excitement, lurching from one dull hunt to the next and looping the loop of banality.

There isn’t a show called that. There isn’t a show like that – and do you now why? It’s because even for those doing these ‘tasks’ it’s an exercise in utter futility, a waste of time and energy almost beyond compare. The fact that this shit storm took up the whole first half of the show was, at best, bewildering and at worst a cry for help from the producer. The fact that it was so arse clenchingly bad that I kept jabbing myself with a compass just to make sure I could still feel something – anything – is unforgivable. “When are they going to show the stand up? For God’s sake when?” I found I had carved into my forearm, losing quite a lot of blood in the process.

Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long for the answer: Never.

Your human senses might not be sensitive enough to detect it, but this is actually the film we saw of Alfie Moore's act

Yes, technically you showed a bit of each of them: An intro from the opening act that clearly was not ‘all new material’; nearly a minute from the pretty woman; the opening line from police officer Alfie (who I’ve seen, and I know is funny) and a few lines here and there from others – some clearly written for this audience, others clearly not – and then a long and painful stint from the Fred and Rose West of comedy (i.e. they spotted comedy on the street, took it home, made it watch whilst they performed unspeakable sex acts on one another, killed it, buried it in the garden, and somehow got away without capture for years) Prince ‘being London-centric is funny, apparently’ Abdi and Ignacio ‘couldn’t gauge the mood at an autopsy’ Lopez. I’d like to say that these two were comfortably the worst, but I don’t know because:

a) I didn’t see enough of the others to make any kind of judgement

b) I actually heard more from Jason ‘can’t believe he used his own twitter account’ Manford, and

c) I’m not prepared to take Alan Davies word for it when it comes to stand-up

So before I knew it the stand-up had come and gone, two we didn’t really see got praised, two we didn’t really see got chastised and marginally the lesser of two evils got given a belt, a stool and was sent back to his cell to ‘have a think’.

That was it. I looked everywhere, fully expecting there to be something more, and found nothing. A whole TV hour about stand-up comedy, featuring 10 of the best ‘undiscovered’ comics in the country and it featured about five minutes of people standing up and telling ‘jokes’. Look in the mirror and tell me that you’re proud of that. Seriously.

Jason Manford (pictured here as the more talented Peter Kay) is surprisingly quite good as a host

ITV have given you a big pot of cash and (I think it’s fair to presume) a pretty blank canvas and said “Go forth, brave Chief Big Talk, and bring me some comedy!” and this stinking, confused pile is what you manage? Pardon my French, but how fucking pathetic is that? You had not only an amazing opportunity, but a responsibility here and you blew them both. Here are your faults and their solutions. It’s nothing insightful, it’s all obvious, and how you managed to miss them is a mystery to me.

Fault – The Tasks – nobody cares. They’re pointless. People did not tune in to this show to see a shitty watered down version of the worst episode of The Apprentice.

Solution – Just let them draw straws to see who goes where. Or take it in turns. Nobody cares. Immediately I’ve freed up about 25 minutes that you could spend letting us get to know the people or, I don’t know, making us laugh.

Judge Alan Davies in his stand-up days

Fault – The ‘Specific’ Audience – this one’s two fold, because firstly we don’t actually get to learn enough about why the comics are going to find it difficult (we get snippets, but that’s not enough) and secondly because it would seem that some of the comics can just choose to ignore the “Write a new 5 minute set” and just regurgitate old stuff.

Solution – Spend some of that extra time with a bit of a tutorial on why audiences are difficult to write for, how routines get written and worked on and so forth. On the second point, any comic who doesn’t show sufficient focus to new material should get a yellow card – three yellows and you leave the process (I went to the Graham Poll school of refereeing)

Fault – The Performances – surely the main point of the show? No, clearly just a minor inconvenience to you, showing – on average – about 20 seconds of each routine.

Solution – Lose all the superfluous crap that litters your show like dog shit pn a football pitch and show more of the routines. Show at least one in it’s entirety and actual highlights (at least a full minute) from each of the others. It’s why we tune in. It’s what we’re interested in. It’s what will have people at home picking their favourites and caring in the slightest about tuning in again. Mores the point it’s what the show is about. Stand up. Comedy. People telling jokes. Jesus, this is simple stuff.

Judge Kate Copstick seems strangely familiar

Fault – Jason Manford – normally this would be followed by some snidey comments about how he annoys me, which he does, but there is no question that on this subject he knows his onions, and his insights on the process were not only interesting and informative but also very welcome. So why have you made nothing of them? Why is he lurking by the stage door like a middle aged Take That fan hoping to stroke Gary’s crotch as he hurries passed?

Solution – It’s a simple thing that you might have heard of, it’s called structure. Throw a VT or two into the show where Jason and/or Alan and possibly even old Chopsticks tells us a few of the tricks of the trades or some of their anecdotes from their many years as professional comedians. That’d be brilliant.

So it’s either do some of that, or change the name of your show to “(We’re Not Going To) Show You The Funny, Here’s Some Pointless Crap Instead”

I deserve better, stand-up deserves better and the nine remaining giant balled bastards who put the very centre of their being on the line every time they get up on that stage? Well they deserve a hell of a lot better than you’re giving them.

Seriously, get your act together.

R

PS – I had a Ploughman’s lunch the other day. He wasn’t very happy. (Tommy Cooper)

 

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 Marriage Ref

Dear The Marriage Ref, (Saturdays, ITV1 @9pm)

Or should that read: Oh dear, The Marriage Ref? I was going to write a letter proclaiming that it should; decrying you for being such a shambolic waste of talent, money, time and oxygen; expressing my shock and awe that no matter how low I place the ITV bar you simply scoot under it like a limbo champion on roller skates. Yes, I was ready to rip you to shreds, eviscerate you and throw you to the dog – then take you away from the dog because I like the dog and I wouldn’t want to poison it with this dross, maybe I’d put you in the recycling, I don’t know. What I’d do with your remains is unimportant. The important thing is that whilst not considering you a worthy way to spend my time, I would ‘do time’ in order to prevent your continuance, such was my disappointment.

ITV Commissioners are yet to meet an expectation to low to stoop beneath

Like I say, I was going to write all that.

Then I saw through the matrix.

You see, I’ve sussed what’s actually happening. You may have pulled the wool over the eyes of everyone else, but not me. I’ve spotted you for what you are Marriage Ref – a red herring. You’re a fool’s errand, a smoke screen – you are a spy sent by ITV to confirm what we all know – namely that no bugger’s watching. ITV, the network that brought us such cultural delights as ‘Kerry Katona- This Time I’ll Hurt The Kids’ and ‘Jordan – Marrying a Gay Vicar? Why Not!’seems to be, bewilderingly, having a

ITV have refused to scotch rumours that sexy poster girls Jordan and Katona will have sex changes and then marry each other for new ITV2 show 'My Transgender Best Friend's Gay Wedding'

bit of trouble getting viewers. I’ve even heard whisper that even those who have ITV on the box aren’t actually watching it, instead playing Connect 4 or thinking about what they want for Christmas. The big wigs wanted confirmation of this, and I’m afraid they used you, Marriage Ref, as bait. “Surely” they pontificated “if anyone sits through this crap they’ll complain.”. Well, glutton for punishment that I am, I did, and now I am (complaining that is).

I understand that this is a lot for you to take in, after all you were just trying your level best to be an entertaining show. That you failed miserably is neither here nor there, you tried – and against horrible odds – but you were merely a pawn in a game that few can play, most don’t understand and nobody cares about.

Confused? Me too, a bit. Let me explain the clues that should have enlightened you as to your role as ‘sacrificial lamb’

  1. The Title – ‘The Marriage Ref’ is a dead give away isn’t it? I mean it’s fine as a working title, but if they wanted you to stand even the vaguest chance of success they’d have given you a proper name before going to air – it’s not a phrase in common usage, it’s not a play on words, it doesn’t mean anything. To anybody. It’s like parents calling their daughter ‘Cristal’ and not expecting her to grow up to be a lap dancer/prostitute/porn star or possibly a combination of the three. If you’re called Cristal then your parents ambition at your birth was that one day you might gratify rich men for money, if you’re called ‘The Marriage Ref’ they don’t expect even that much.
  2. The Opening Titles – I know, we’re not even in to the show yet and the evidence is mounting. Ignore the fact that it looks like it was concocted by the lowest bidder, in a rush, after a heavy night. Ignore the fact that it actually uses the term ‘mullet’, the biggest clue is that if you rearrange some of the words used they say: “If you don’t stop watching this you’re a complete idiot. We hate you.” this is almost entirely true.
  3. The Concept – Whilst it’s true that some of the best ideas are written on the back of a fag packet during a heavy session (see The Million Pound Drop) there’s a very good reason why this isn’t standard procedure (see Don’t Scare the Hare). You fall very firmly in with the latter. The whole show has the feel of a half thought, the start of an idea that was, for some reason, not followed through. Don’t get me wrong, I like hearing about the banal problems of dull but slightly quirky strangers as much as the next man, but unfortunately the next man doesn’t give the slightest shit. To Do Lists? Pickles? A man-child? Come on, how about a second family or selling crack? Jeremy Kyle should be your benchmark.
  4. The Concept, Again– The judgement of the refs carries absolutely no weight – this is a problem. If we’re going to have a kangaroo court lets at least have their summary judgements mean something awful and humiliating happens immediately – think your husband makes too many pickles? Well we don’t, so now you have to sign a legally binding document that states upon your death you will both be preserved in vinegar in giant pickle jars and the whole process will be covered live on ITV2- this is a show I would watch.

    "My husband won't stop being racist." vs "My wife complains about my racism"

  5. Time, My Concept Of – Maybe it was the interminable VT’s, perhaps it was the excruciating bit where the hapless couples came on, I don’t know, but somewhere along the line my entire concept of time went out the window. How long is the show? 3, 4 days? It certainly felt like it was never going to end.
  6. Dermot – Lovely Dermot. He’s lovely, a genuine talent, and he’s clearly lovely, but when he’s phoning it in – as he was with you – then you know something’s a miss. Never has the term ‘Contractual Obligation’ been more apparent on-screen. he looked unprepared and deeply unmoved – can you confirm that the idea was thought up late one night and then filmed the following day? That’s how it felt.
  7. Gerri Halliwell – Gerri Halliwell? Seriously?
  8. The Audience – Who exactly would you be aimed at if it’s not people who you’re certain aren’t watching? Not families because you’re post watershed. Not young adults because you’re incredibly dull. Not the elderly because they’re all asleep. Perplexing.
  9. The Execution – What you lack in so many ways. A literal execution would be an extreme but entertaining way of punishing a spouse for some trifling habit like drinking milk from the bottle. Likewise it would be a fitting punishment for the execs in control of your production. ITV are past masters in making silk purses out of assorted pig bits, yet with you they just put a bit of lipstick on the pig, shoved it on stage and told it to dance. Pigs are not good dancers.

Beautiful woman or pig in lipstick? Clue to ITV execs, it's a f**king pig.

So tell your bosses at ITV Towers that I, Instantly Forgotten, have rumbled their little ruse. TV this bad doesn’t happen by accident, and it’s wrong to use Dermot O’Lovely, Jimmy Carr and Sarah Millican to play your silly little games. It is, however, fine to use Gerri Halliwell in this fashion.

Also tell them I have an ultimatum: You are to improve (including an immediate change in title) or go off air, or both – else I shall go to the papers with my findings.
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Sorry for your pain,
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R x
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PS – Alternate Name – Mum Was Right – I Should Never Have Married You!
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PPS – Or – I Gave You The Best Years of My Life
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PPPS – Or – I Hurt You Because I Love You, It’s Your Own Fault
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PPPPS – Gerri Halliwell, seriously?

Dear In With The Flynns

Dear In With The Flynns, (BBC1, Weds @8.30pm)

I’m just writing to welcome you, the eponymous Flynns, to the neighbourhood and to tell you how much I enjoyed your first little romp on that box in the corner of the room I stare at way too much. In the interests of clarity I should really tell you straight away that I didn’t enjoy it because of what was happening on-screen – that was far more akin to how I would imagine farmers feel when having to slaughter and burn their cattle amidst a foot and mouth epidemic: Namely their cattle (in this case BBC comedy) who they love and rely on for sustenance, being killed off because a virulent disease (in this case contagious ineptitude) has affected others far away (BBC commissioners) and I was having to pay the price. When farmers lose an entire flock or herd to the whim of government officials they are at least compensated. There is no such compensation for me, I have to pay the price – and what a price it is – for the folly of others year on year. Regardless, thrill me it did and, if you’ll bear with me for a little while, I’ll explain precisely why.

Coward or realist? Okay, coward, but something of a role model for me.

Ever since ascending from childlike innocence and it’s connected indestructibility I have been something of a coward. That’s not to say that i shy away from confrontation – far from it, someone as opinionated as myself must thrive on it or surround themselves with lackeys who agree with every word they utter – I have neither the charm or good looks required to achieve this, and even if I did I would probably end up so desperate for an argument that I’d make statements impossible to back up without appearing either bigoted or insane. I believe that’s how The Daily Mail began. Any way, the point remains that when faced with a physical challenge I am prone to massive cowardice: In a fight I’m the fastest runner; if playing cricket I’m scared of the ball (and the bat for that matter, and don’t get me started on the boundary rope…); and my idea of an ‘extreme sport’ is watching football whilst also needing a wee. I think you get the point. I’m a wuss.

What on earth does this have to do with you though Flynns? These gibberings of a lily livered jellyfish? Well I’ll tell you.

You see, like many other cowards I get many of my thrills vicariously. I watch The X-Games, Deadliest Catch and America’s Most Extreme Mentalists and marvel at the bravery of all involved as they risk their lives for their own excitement, filthy great wedges of money and the entertainment of others, hiding behind my fingers as some dolt who’s already lost a hand to a snow blower or some such attempts to do a back flip off a mountain and land on the rail of a helicopter hovering in the valley below. These people impress, amaze and bewilder me in equal measure as they throw themselves undaunted into these incredible feats – they talk of a lust for life that I can only dream of, and they will undoubtedly die quickly from massive ‘failed parachute induced squashing’ whilst I will die slowly and miserably from Butterkist induced diabetes. Basically these people are better than me. I know it, they know it and now you know it. Thanks to you, however, I moved a step closer to their world of daredevilry.

You see whenever you watch some bronzed God called Chad leap from a moving train onto the back of a passing lion and then onto a half-pipe they always say the same thing: “Every cell in my body was screaming at me not to do it, but I just had to.” and up until last Wednesday evening I didn’t know what they meant.

I do now.

All the signs were there for your show:

  • It occupied the cursed ‘Nicholas Lyndhurst’ week nights at 8:30 slot, a place where comedy goes to kill itself and piss poor scripts provide plentiful ammunition.
  • It was a BBC ‘family’ comedy, meaning it was both about families and for families, putting it immediately in such company as the started well but outstayed its welcome by about 6 years My Family, the didn’t even start well so how has this debacle made it to three series Life of Riley and the too awful for any words to do it any sort of justice final nail in Jasper Carrot’s comedy coffin that was All About Me
  • It was based on hit and miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, glancing blow US show Grounded for Life which itself rarely scaled beyond the dizzying heights of mediocrity
And finally, most compelling of all:
  • It starred Jambo from Hollyoaks.

Jambo was as perplexed as the rest of us when told he'd make a career in comedy

To describe Will Mellor (for he is the artist forever to be known as Jambo) as a comedy ‘star’ is to demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of the cosmos, you see our Jambo is a massive star, but one that has collapsed in upon itself to form a singularity – a stellar even more commonly known as a black hole. From the comedic black hole that is Will Mellor nothing can escape, no laughs, giggles or titters – his pull is so strong that even smirks are quickly turned into scowls of pain and derision. The man is a comic vacuum almost beyond compare – I say almost because to the best of my knowledge Andi Osho, Andy Parsons and Patrick Kielty are all still alive and stealing a living in ‘comedy’. I would have thought that you’d have known about this. He’s ‘starred’ in approximately sixteen thousand episodes of the Beebs perpetual humour void Two Pints of Lager and a Packet

Never seen Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps - this photo is equally funny and far less time-consuming

of Crisps and then there was the recent reminder in the form of clearly they’ve reached the point where they’ll commission anything shitcom White Van Man, a show so devoid of comic moments it made you yearn for the good old days of Two Pints. It’s probably unfair to focus on him, because despite his lengthy experience with the laughably titled BBC Comedy Department he’s never been given a script anywhere north of God awful to work with, but equally after this latest deposit in the bank of work you can’t really want to tell people about it’s probably fair to describe him as ‘The New Nicholas Lyndhurst’ – only he lacks the saving grace of starring in one of the best sitcoms ever. He aspires to be as bad as Nicholas Lyndhurst. Dear God.

I digress. There I was, 8:29pm Wednesday evening, sat on the sofa, TV on BBC1 (HD), remote in hand. Every cell in my body screaming to me to turn it over, turn it off, turn away – anything but carry on watching – and do you know what I did? I ignored their screams, I ignored their pleas – I ignored common sense and I watched. I watched every last second of you, as you filled my screen, my living room and my weeping, despondent brain.
.

Free Climbers - too scared to watch 'In With the Flynns'

As you well know, you were not good. You certainly fell some distance short of funny (despite the mysterious and unwarranted laughter track), but that’s hardly the point. I knew it was going to be a painful experience and I went ahead with you all the same. I faced my fear and won! You, In With The Flynns, may be a shameful excuse for a sitcom, but you’ve introduced a whole new dimension to watching TV – a thrill factor, adrenaline junky attracting new brand of extreme TV! You’ve made me a braver man and for that, if nothing else (it’s definitely nothing else), I thank you.
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I realise I’ve said very little about you in this letter, but what is there to say really? Everyone knew you were going to be naff, you’ve proved us all right, no-one’s surprised, no-one’s disappointed and no-one’s wondering what might have been. How better our licence fees might have been spent? That’s another letter all together.
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Enjoy the neighbourhood, it was ruined long before you got here. Please don’t stay for long.
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R

PS – Seriously, how many licence fees have gone directly to Will Mellor?

PPS – I only ask because it seems like a lot

PPPS – You know, like sufficient to fund an entire new series of sketch shows starring really promising comedians

PPPPS – Or a series of sitcom pilots written by people who haven’t already had multiple opportunities. Just a thought.

Dear Funny or Die Presents

Dear Funny or Die Presents, (Sky Atlantic, Mondays @ 10pm-ish)

How has it come to this. I was one of the first to visit you at your place in Cyber Space, do you remember? I came over quite a few times by myself and then I invited a few friends over, they all seemed to like you because before I knew it they were heading to you without me. I don’t have a problem with that, we’re all grown ups after all, but then they started telling their other friends about you and not even mentioning me. I’ll be honest with you, that hurt. Not just being excluded – I’m quite used to that, it comes with being massively opinionated and always right – no, the real pain came from the fact that when I did come see you again you’d stopped making the effort.

When we first met - I can't believe how young you look!

Those first few times were magical, it was like I was the only person in the room and all you wanted to do was bring a smile to my face, then you became more and more popular and my smile faded away. My laughter – that had once seemed like a drug to you (in that it’s addictive and gives you a buzz, not that it makes you soil yourself, talk incessantly and resort to prostitution to fuel your habit) – was now merely a distant memory to both of us. Sure, you could still make me smile but I wouldn’t read too much into that – I smile when I see a midget, a squirrel or a child struggling to put its coat on – the magic was gone and I had to look elsewhere for my chuckles. You don’t have to say it, I know that you neither noticed nor cared, I just wanted to let you know that I was hurt by your ambivalence. It made me sad.

I moved on, I was young, free and single. I was hitting up different websites for my laughter needs, some I formed relationships with like failblog and 27/b – they made me laugh so hard, harder than you ever did, those laughs were so good. I’m sorry, I just said that to hurt you. They made me laugh, let’s leave it at that. Other sites I’d just use for the night and be gone before they updated in the morning. Sure it was shallow, cheap, degrading even, and maybe it didn’t even make me happy, I don’t know. What I do know is that I was laughing again and it felt good.

Then, after a long and exhausting laughter filled night with the Onion  do you know what, it doesn’t matter who it was – it wasn’t you, that’s all that matters. I was knackered and spent the day on the sofa watching old episodes of ER and 24 on Sky Atlantic and there you were, sandwiched between John Carter saving lives and Jack Bauer ending them, Funny or Die, coming back into my life on the tellybox. Funny or Die Presents – just hearing your name made me giddy. I allowed myself to dream a little dream – maybe we could re-capture that initial magic, I mean you’re bound to be making more of an effort if you’re going on TV aren’t you? I was only going to have to wait a fortnight to know for sure.

“Never go back.” my so-called friends told me. “They’ll only disappoint you again.” they all said, but what did they know? Nothing, they were just jealous that you were back. Back for good. Back for me.

So, I watched the excellent Game of Thrones and did my traditional pre-laughter warm up exercises (don’t want to split my sides – I know that’s supposed to be just a saying, but I’m sure it’s happened) and sat there, ready for your return. The first part of episode one raised a couple of laughs –  some lengthy and uncomfortable silences too, as you would expect after so long apart – but there was just about enough to suggest that maybe you were the same Funny or Die I fell in love with. I decided before the ad break I’d go on a second date, and it’s a good job I did, because after the break it was the same old you. The familiar you who acts like you just don’t care. You made practically no effort to make me laugh – maybe some of the floozies you met online find that whole angry drunk friend thing funny, but I just don’t get it. Still a second date was my promise and I never break a promise (unlike some websites I can mention).

The writers room at Funny or Die Presents doesn't lend itself to comedy...

The second date? Well, hopefully you don’t need me to tell you what an abject failure that was. The stilt thing, that was weird, but those twins in the Hall of Mirrors? It was like Twin Peaks but with fewer jokes. I don’t know whether you remember Twin Peaks but it wasn’t funny. Or good. Or in any way comprehensible. It was almost like you were trying to freak me out – and if you were then congratulations, it worked. I won’t be asking for a third meeting.

It’s my own fault, I can see that now. I built you up into something that you’re not. Those early days that I’ve idealised, they weren’t all laughs – in fact you were pretty hit and miss – but because there was no committment, because we’d only grab fleeting moments together, often during work, it made it somehow feel forbidden, it made the whole thing seem more fun and, and this is going to hurt: It made you seem more funny than you really were. Spending more than a few minutes in your company is now difficult to the point of excruciating. The rare smiles you manage to put on my face are quickly gone, replaced by expressions of utter confusion and bewilderment. I wanted you to be so much more, but you are what you are, and that’s an occasionally amusing but far more miss than hit sketch show – seemingly incapable of consistency or the sort of attention to detail that might foster any kind of relationship between us. I don’t hate you, I don’t even dislike you, if anything I pity you.

I genuinely wish you all the best, but it’s over between us – and I think we both know it has been for some time.

So, if it’s Funny or Die? I have to say it’s Die. sorry.

Good Luck (you’ll need it)

Rx

PS – I fear that you’ll have to think about your audience more if you ever want to be truly happy, making yourselves laugh isn’t enough.

PPS – Weird does not necessarily equal funny

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