Aug 18

Pop-up Churchill

If that article title doesn’t get me a few additional clicks from the lonely perverts out there, there’s no justice. ANYWAY – if you happen to be a fan of no-doubt-going-to-be-shortlived, bad, one-note Tumblr blogs with bad photoshop (and who isn’t?) head on over to my new project: Pop-up Churchill.

WHY? I hear no-one ask. Because in the generally poor, steaming heap of what-the-fuck-were-they-thinking that made up the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony, the image of Timothy Spall as Churchill popping out of the top of Big Ben’s clocktower stands out as an unintentionally amusing high point for me. More so because the fact is that it looks like a really ropey Photoshop job, BUT SO ISN’T.

You can make your own, you know. Just head on over and do better than me (won’t be hard).

 

Sep 28

Outsourced - now with added smug grin!

For a while now I’ve been toying with the idea of reviewing a TV show, just to see if it’s something that I enjoy doing. After all, I like watching TV and am unfortunately very talented when it comes to being judgemental and passing comment on the efforts of those more creative and driven than I am, so it seemed like a good area of overlap for me to explore. Then the question of what to review arose – a show that has been running for a while? Random episode of something? A show I am a fan of? Something completely new? When I read about “Outsourced”, a new sitcom starting in the US, it seemed like a good opportunity to get in at the ground floor on a new show. So here I am.

The premise is simple: young, up-and-coming, handsome all-American salesman Todd Dempsey (Ben Rappaport) works for a company that sells complete and utter tat – sorry, novelty items – to the good men and women that people the United States of Merka. Said company undergoes a bout of downsizing and Todd’s entire department is outsourced to a call centre in India. Instead of being fired, Todd is offered a promotion if he will go over there to run the operation. Can you see the comic potential? Anyway, Todd makes the move, finds out that India is chock-full of brown-skinned people with funny customs and hi-la-rious accents, and gets to show that Americans are the best. Fuck yeah!

Believe me, I wish I was joking or exaggerating in some way. This is my first review, after all. I’m not. I’m really, really not.

This is a show so offensive, so full of lowbrow, obvious jokes, so lazy in its frankly insulting ethnic caricatures that if he were alive today even Bernard Manning would be squirming in his seat and looking a bit nauseated. Hell, I think that even Nick Griffin would probably wait until the commercial break and turn over, his wonky eye spinning wildly like the Fourth Reich’s version of Mad-Eye Moody. The overall impression that you get from watching “Outsourced” is that a stray signal from a TV station in 1973 has somehow slipped through a time-space wormhole to emerge in 2010. This is a show that would have to tunnel upwards for three days through bedrock to hit the bottom of the Jim Davidson level of humour. Now I know how Sam Tyler felt having to deal with Gene Hunt.

What’s that you say, entirely made up voice that signifies one side of a fictitious conversation to enable me to move from one section of the review to another, you think I must be exaggerating? Oh no, gentle fictional person, I am really not, trust me. Examples abound:

  • When he first moves to India, Todd looks out at the busy streets and comments that the roads are like “…Frogger, but with real people.” Ha! Ha!
  • Todd’s assistant manager Rajiv (Rizwan Manji) introduces the staff and explains that he has hired a woman of a “lower caste” in order for Todd to fire her, thus demonstrating his fearsome power. Ha! Ha! Because caste systems are something to laugh at, aren’t they? Fear him, tiny Indian woman! FEAR THE POWER OF THE AMERICAN! Ha! Ha!
  • When Todd meets one of his salesmen, Manmeet (Sacha Dhawan) he can’t help but laugh that his name sounds like “Man meat”. You know, like “penis”, right? Ha! Ha! They say a week is a long time in politics? It is nothing to 14 seconds of that joke being rolled out on screen*. If you close your eyes, you can almost see the writing on the page that says, “Wait for audiences to stop laughing.”
  • This is the same Manmeet, by the way, that later has to have it explained to him by Todd that in America, land of milk and honey, you’re allowed to date a girl before you marry her. A prospect that Manmeet treats as unbelievably fantastic. And who wouldn’t? This is America we’re talking about here! Ha! Ha!
  • Of course, Todd makes a hilarious joke about all the funny hats people wear in India. Man in Turban immediately stands up and leaves. Woman wearing head-dress just looks uncomfortable. Can’t say I blame her. But Ha! Ha! Because they all wear funny stuff over there, don’t they?
  • In that same meeting, of course there’s a cow looking in the window. The cow, Todd has explained to him, is sacred to the Hindu religion. To which Todd, of course, asks what time lunch is. Because he’s thinking of burgers! Ha! Ha!
  • At lunch, Todd meets fellow American Charlie Davies (Diedrich Bader) who runs a call centre in the same building. He warns Todd not to eat the Indian food because “…if you eat that, you’ll be crapping yourself for five days.” Because all Indian food is poisonous slop, isn’t it? Ha! Ha!
  • The above happens seconds before Charlie calls over a member of his sales team and makes him speak in an American accent, to show he is one of the “A team” – that is, a desirable employee because he can sound like he’s American. Because who wants to talk to an Indian guy, right? Ha! Ha!

You know what, enough with the examples. You get the idea. Surely the fact that I have been able to put together a bulleted list should point to some fairly glaring problems.

The thing is, there is genuine comedy potential in a sitcom that examines cultural differences. One that pokes fun at both sides of a divide (be it ethnic, social, religious, class based or cultural) and finds things to both send up and admire in both. However, where potential exists, it is counterbalanced by the temptation to be lazy, to not stretch and to rely on stereotypes. This is the trap “Outsourced” doesn’t so much fall into as jump, eyes wide open, shouting “Geronimo!” Instead of finding something funny to say the writers instead settle quite quickly into a tired old groove that mainly rotates around laughing at Indian people because they’re Indian, have funny accents and say things like “You are most perceptive. As they say in America, your elevator goes to the penthouse.” ** Oh, and they eat funny food that gives you the shits (which is the final joke of the pilot – yes, the final joke. The last joke of the premier episode, and that’s how they choose to bow out.)

As a genuine fan of American comedy this show annoys me – American TV sometimes gets a bad rap and is immediately dismissed as appealing to the lowest common denominator, which is rubbish. Look at “Seinfeld”, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “Arrested Development” or the US version of “The Office” to see what good American writers can do with comedy. As a human being living in a multi-ethnic society, this show just made me plain uncomfortable. Poking fun at ethnic differences is one thing. Showing the American swanning around with a shit-eating grin condescending to the natives is quite another. As a fan of TV in general it positively enrages me, because something that might have been actual quality probably got bumped to make way for this dross.

So all in all, I think I could probably have picked a better show for my first go at this whole reviewing lark. Just one final point, a little bit of advice should you ever have the misfortune of having to watch this crap: at the end of the last scene, when the screen fades to black, you’ll probably notice that you have a nagging sense of something being missing. No, it’s not the ability to get those 22 minutes of your life back. It’s because you’re half expecting a reedy voice to start singing out “Land of Hope and Glory” in an Indian accent before Windsor Davies bellows out “SHUUUT UUUUP!” You’re welcome.

“Outsourced”. Give it a miss. I wish I had.

* Believe me, 14 seconds. I timed it. And cringed.

** Word for word quote. Honest.

Apr 13

Right, how many modern TV shows adhere to the format below? How much of the output from how many stations starts at step 1 before plodding the weary, well-trodden path to the end? And how many of us, just looking to relax after a hard day at work, are caught in the gradient of inevitability that surrounds such televisual masterpieces? Ten points and shiny prize* if you can identify some yourself.

Modern TV flowchart

So, how many did you get? With some slight variations in format, I can pick up the following just off the top of my head:

Parenting: Supernanny

Makeup / dressing: Snog, Marry, Avoid

Cleaning: How Clean Is Your House?

Cooking: Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares

Work: The Business Inspector

Hotel: The Hotel Inspector

Surviving: Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum

It’s late, I’m tired and am about to go to bed, but those just flew off the top of my head. I’m a massive Star Trek fan so am no stranger to formulaic TV that elevates “variations on a theme” to an artform (Enterprise visits planet, encounters threat, Kirk kicks the crap out of alien man / pumps** alien woman, Enterprise flies off with bridge crew enjoying hearty laugh) but this assembly-line TV is just insulting. And boring. Boring boring boring boring boring***.

* Prize may not be shiny. Terms and conditions apply once I make them up.

** Yes, pumps. I could have said “shags” or something else, but I went for pumps. Blame Irvine Welsh, my recent re-reading of “Glue” and “Porno” has obviously warped my innocent mind.

*** Boring. Booooooring. And I don’t mean entertainingly boring, like Last Of The Summer Wine for the last billion series. I mean Nick Clegg boring.

Mar 04

Lovely spam, wonderful spam spammity spammity spam

So here’s a funny thing – just at the end of last year, I wrote about how I managed to completely mess up a WordPress installation and lose my blog’s database, posts, comments, the whole shebang. I quickly rebuilt what I could but the damage was done. In that post (you can, if you’re interested, see it here) I whimsically used an image of an angry Malcolm Tucker for two reasons: to illustrate my mood (not good) and because it actually mirrored the expression I had on my face when everything went so terribly, badly wrong.

Since that fateful day all the comments I have received here at the Boiled Egg Of Infinity have all been spam and all but one have been directed at that single post. Now, assuming that spammers haven’t all been charmed en masse by my writing skills, what could explain the attraction? Seriously, all the spam for my blog has been going to that one, single post. I have come to the conclusion that the spammers have all been attracted by the image of Malcolm Tucker who, as we all know but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s my blog and my rules, is played to perfection by Peter Capaldi. Or, to give him his full title, Peter Capaldi, Lord of Spam.

Now, to follow that bombshell in a logical and sensible manner, there are a number of possibilities to explain this link, all of which have worrying implications for us all:

  1. That Peter Capaldi has achieved this level of devotion because he is responsible for sending all of those emails that plague us so much (“Please help, I am the unwanted stepchild of the King of All Oil and Gold and want to smuggle money out of the country using a total stranger’s bank account.”).
  2. That Peter Capaldi’s spammer legions owe him fealty because he spends all of his money from the BBC on phishing scams, thus making him their “go-to” guy on the internet. Did his wages from the excellent 3rd series of “The Thick Of It” get wasted on paying expenses for having won the Internet Lottery?
  3. That Peter Capaldi has in fact managed to upload his consciousness to the internet and has become a transcendent data-based lifeform, existing only as a pattern of energy moving from network to network, and the imprint of his thought patterns on the ever-flowing stream of digital information has inadvertantly brought about this Capaldi-Spammers connection.

Now I’m just one guy, no expert and have never once met Peter Capaldi (who seems like a lovely man / physical-avatar-of-a-next-evolutionary-level-distributed-artificial-intelligence) but accepting the terms of my argument one of those possibilities has to be true. That’s just logic, that is*.

* Please note this is not logic. Terms and conditions apply.

Feb 09

Huw Edwards

Okay, just had a frightening moment watching the 10 ‘o clock news on BBC 1. There’s Huw Edwards, introducing a piece on whether the Conservatives understand the British public* and if they can win the coming General Election**. He says something along the lines of “To win, the Conservatives will need to win in seats that the Labour Party have held since…” *noticeable pause, look at monitor* “…1997.”

Proud moment there, Huw old boy, proud moment. Yes, 1997. Not like you had a chance to rehearse that or anything.

* They don’t.

** Worryingly, they could. Get your fucking finger out, Brown.

Jan 05

Right at the back of my local Tesco, up the moving walkway that does that scary locking thing with the wheels on the trolleys, sits a large bank of televisions that just happen to annoy the hell out of me whenever I happen to go there. Before I go on I know that the most obvious solution to this particular conundrum is just to ignore them and not go to that particular section of the store, but they’re right next to the section that sells DVDs and video games. I am, for those of you who either might not know or have forgotten, a huge couch potato and geek that is easily annoyed at stupidly minor things. So it’s a perfect storm, really, and not one of my making.

What is it that annoys me so much? Well, it’s the whole setup that Tesco have trying to sell the HD experience. They have all these TVs with a split-screen, showing what a movie or show looks like in HD and what Tesco want you to think it looks like on a normal TV. It looks something like this *:

On the left, normal, on the right, HD?Above: see, you need to buy HD! Look at that old shite your TV puts out! Buy HD now! DON’T THINK ABOUT IT! DO IT NOW! **

Except of course that it doesn’t look like that at all, does it? *** I’ve got a normal TV, and it doesn’t look like someone smeared Vaseline all over the screen after punching me in both eyes and stealing my specs. HD TV might well be the best thing ever, but every time I see those televisions in Tesco I always get annoyed at the underhanded way they seem to be selling the experience. They even did it once with Iron Man, and when that white line passed over him Robert Downey Jr. became Robert Indistinct Blob Jr. I’ve got no problem with them selling something, but they should at least try to do it honestly. And yes, I know that sounds daft but I thought I might as well start 2010 as I mean to go on.

* That is, by the way, an image from one of the films that they actually use in Tesco. I had to go and do research to find out what film this was, and get a screenshot. I put in the effort for this, I really do. I don’t even like Keira Knightley all that much.

** Sponsored by Tesco. Every little helps.

*** Of course the possibility always exists that I just happen to have a very specific type of stroke that affects the vision in one eye whenever I happen to step into Tesco. Mind you, I would need to recover from this episode every time I leave the shop but I suppose it’s not impossible. ****

**** Yeah, I suppose it is. Sorry.

Oct 20

Fresh from a nice bit of twisting the knife about a young man’s death, the Daily Mail has seen fit to write an article about how the X-Factor is…now, you might want to sit down for this one, take a deep breath and prepare to be shocked…staged. Faked. Not actually a talent competition, but a polished, edited, made-up-in-advance product. I know, I know. When you’ve stopped crying and your ears have stopped ringing from the sound of your world collapsing around you, here’s the article itself. Be strong.

Thermians from Galaxy Quest

Above: What the Daily Mail thinks TV viewers look like.

Was there ever, in the entire history of human civilization, an article that needed to be written less than this one? Are we really so stunted, so stupid, so unable to see the plain facts in front of our noses that we need some journo from a sixth-rate rag to tell us that the X-Factor is fake? So you’re telling me that Leonard Nimoy has normal ears? What about that spherical robot on Terrahawks, did he steal Windsor Davies’ voicebox or not? Is Salma Hayek a vampire? It’s a world gone mad. Who knows what is real and what isn’t? Here’s a hint – generally, what you see on TV isn’t. It’s edited. It’s perfected. Usually, it’s scripted in advance so they have some idea of what they’re going to be broadcasting (I don’t think “Surprise TV” is going to be the next big thing – will it be an episode of Casualty, or someone reading Heat magazine for an hour?).

Honest to god, it annoys me that people can be so dumb. This is why we have adverts that have to stress that parts of what we are seeing IN AN ADVERT might be made up to make the product look good. Anyone who’s not a blithering halfwit knows that when you open a jar of face cream a cloud of particles don’t come flying out like hyperactive nanobots to be smoothly absorbed into your cheeks. You just get a slight smell of face cream that reminds you of your gran. In the adverts, though, we need to be told that bits have been dramatized, enhanced in post-production etc. Oh, really. Thanks.

While it annoys me that some people can be so dumb as to fall for this tripe, what really gets to me is the manufactured outrage when they do, and the pandering that’s done to avoid it happening again. Do I think the X-Factor is a genuine talent competition? No. I think it’s a very heavily edited show that’s about as realistic as an episode of Mork and Mindy. It’s entertaining, don’t get me wrong, but if you think it’s about talent then you’re…well, wrong is about the most diplomatic thing I can think to say. I also don’t think that women phone one another up and say “Hut?” once they’ve dropped the kids off at school, that Cheryl Cole’s hair is really worth it or that fitting a ninth blade to the Gilette Slashatron 2000 will give me a better shave than the razor I have now. Why is that? Because when you take into account all the autonomic functions my body needs to stay alive, I have at least one brain cell left over for thinking duties.