Thursday, 30 December 2010
2010 nearly done 2011 nearly here
Speaking of annoying noises in 2010, my number one annoying sound this year or even this decade past, had to be the mind numbingly annoying Vuvuzela. At one point some child had got hold of one and was blowing into it in the car park of the blocks of flats across the street. Should have seen him run when we came out and one of us almost caught him. Haven't heard it since then. The other annoying noise from around that time I'll not soon forget was the sound of England collapsing on the football pitch yet again. I've reconciled myself to never seeing us win the World Cup in my lifetime. It's a good strategy as it worked when I gave up on a free Poland and the fall of communism in Central Europe. Maybe if I pretend I don't care about an England win till after Sepp Blater falls down a sewer, it may just happen. Oh, I could even pretend Mike Ashley is a cucumber and that Joey Barton is a finishing school graduate, and pigs fly and that this time that e-mail from Nigeria will be for real. Having the simple optimism and faith of a house cat does work, as occasionally the desired tin of fish or new toy does come around and you might even get a pleasant surprise when you least expect it.
It's not all doom and gloom. Newcastle United bounced back and have settled firmly into the mid table trap, several teams are much worse than we are and the TOON are playing that kind of heart attack footie where they beat Arsenal one week then go down in flames to Stoke the next. Joey Barton still gets yellow cards and we all still hate the owner and the board. Nowt new cept for the manager of the month. Enjoy the ride Mr Pardew, I give you till next May tops, then it's time for the next mate of Lambias to have a go at running the Mags. The government is a coalition that seems to be dissolving with every secret recording and leak. Senior Lib Dems are suddenly looking for the get out of town clause and the previously bleak prospects for Labour and the Miliband I didn't support, are sooo much ( pardon the pun) rosier. We could if we're lucky, see the end of Son of Thatcherstein before they get too stuck in and uproot all the stuff they missed first go round. Fingers crossed people. If the smell of tear gas and the sound of breaking glass was getting too familiar again, if the dulcet tones of the odious Jeremy Hunt who suckled at the teet of the White Witch of Narnia do not fill you with confidence, peace may be just around the corner. Then again Labour austerity may not be much better, but one hopes it will at least be harder on the bankers and the tax cheats who started the mess in the first place. Another bit of good news saw the collapse of the BNP and the identifying of the EDL as a source of trouble that needs sorting before it all gets out of hand. I'd much sooner spend the money on security for a Royal Wedding than see it all go to stopping hateful yobs intent on causing trouble in the name of the fictional pure Briton. This Briton was last seen when Boudica died or maybe when the Normans finally got settled in. Since then it's been a buffet of people from every corner of the world who have contributed equally to the good and the great (and sometimes the bad) to come from Great Britain. Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Poles, Irish, Romans, Normans, Arabs, Italians, Blacks, Asians, Vikings, and Germans etc... have come, stayed and brought ideas giving the world the steam engine, trains, social reform, industry, the NHS, football and fruit cake.
The greatest gift created in 1922, is however the BBC. This year we saw the 47th birthday of the brilliant Doctor Who, the continued success of Qi, Mock the week, BBC4 and it's arsenal of arts, science and history programmes that populate 80 % of the English speaking world's speciality channels, and several foreign language stations that have translated the prodigious output for the edification of their viewers. The iPlayer has come into it's own. I find myself using the VCR/DVR wotsit much less and appreciate the comfort of just watching what I want, when I want. So what gems have the BBC given us this past year? A few deserve special mention.
Mongrels brought back the sense that comedy had been missing for some time. Till then the best we could hope for was a few admittedly great panel shows and the seemingly endless stand up comedians and comediennes. The Sketch programmes have apparently gotten stuck in a rut where you could draw a direct line from the Armstrong and Miller two Types speaking "disreputable youth" to it's origins in the Python "Banter sketches". While I have no criticism of hommages and evolution, it sometimes was more a case of unfunny copying that was getting tired. What Mongrels did was wrap jokes in several layers and bring back the song and dance routine. It still can't do middle class or Upper class, but it least it wasn't afraid to step outside of the PC boundaries many comics had let themselves fall into.
Armstrong and Miller, have given us new and fresh characters the two best pairing being the posh old vampires and the not Hairy Bikers. Having got the fresh material in it's once again pushing boundaries and tackling more than the charv youth perspective.
The Bubble. What I thought was going to be complete and utter faeces, turned out to be one of the best things on telly for it's short run. A panel show predicated on the idea that three people would be isolated for a week, then fed fake headlines by a man who seems to have missed out on girls, sport and pop music,... you know, David Mitchell. In other words the average Sky news viewer , Sun reader, ipod addicted glake.
In cookery, Masterchef and the utterly brilliant Raymond Blanc and the understated but God like Nigel Slater made us drool all the way into our kitchens and aspire far more than the ludicrous Miss Dahl or Nigella ever did. We need to eat to live, we may as well eat well too. These chefs take us by the scruff of the neck and force us to look at old tried and tested methods and regional recipes and ingredients we have apparently fallen out of love with. I for one never did, but some of you haven't eaten tripe in years or beets or even mutton. Check out the recipes section, it has a few canny links guaranteed to keep you in calories for the next 100 years.
Which moves us nicely to the sometimes flawed but well intentioned Turn Back time , the high street. Gregg Wallace and his chamber of commerce guided a likely group of merchants through the eras when the High Street still meant something. I hope the show was the kind of kick start some needed to go back to the butcher and the baker. The upshot of the whole thing was that given the choice, most people will always choose cheaper over quality, but enough people do care to seek the previous norm and know where their food comes from. It's these people who are raising children who won't be vegans because they don't want to hurt bloody Bambi. It's these people who will raise a generation of healthy children who know where their food comes from and how they are connected to it. And of course there is no reason why we can't buy British and pay less than the dreck from China costs us. If you can't shop locally shop European, if you cant shop European shop sustainable and safe. As for the straw men of Peta and the World Wildlife Federation, seals aren't all cute, they eat fish and kill the livelihood of fishermen be they Inuit or European stock living in Atlantic Canada. If you really care, stop the Spanish and Portuguese and the Icelandic fleets from stripping the resources bare. I've about had it with the bleeding hearts at Peta and all, We cannot afford to pretend we are somehow immune from the laws of nature and can divorce ourselves from the food chain entirely. What's the harm you ask? Seals and foxes and squirrels and rabbits run amok. Squeezing the natural balance that used to exists to the breaking point. Man and nature have had a hard relationship. Sometimes we've taken it for granted stripping the planet till the resource was gone, then swinging the other way where we go all saintly and ascetic forgoing all fleshly needs. Where man and beast have worked together we have got on well and the balance has been preserved. Left to the devices of the veggies who think we can all just stop and it's great we will come to as much harm as when we follow the lead of those who think we can continue being wasteful and acquisitive as we are now.
And who better than the BBC to tell us how it used to be and why old isn't always bad or outmoded. Edwardian Farm has been entertaining and instructive in a way a dry proff telling us the theory of life on a farm isn't . Ruth Goodman and her merry band of enthusiasts have regaled us with this sort of thing going back to Victorian Farm and other programmes of the sort. What comes out of these programmes and the previously mentioned High Street, is that much of the old ways were only let go of in the 1950's and could be easily re-learnt. The ultra comfort plugged in easy peasy world of the flying car and the super suburb has come and gone and we have growing trends showing we are abandoning the most wasteful of these gifts from the post war, world dreamers. Not content to show us recent history, the BBC gave us a bumper crop in Norman week, Blitz week and the entire Georgian-Victorian reform histories from the navy to the civil service through to the do gooders with Ian Hislop.
What was the all time best ever thing this year on the BBC, nay on telly anywhere??? Luther? The Chilean Miners on BBC news? Doctor Who? Top Gear Bolivia Special? All great but you'd be nowhere near the best ever programme. Give up? The final series of Ashes to Ashes. The all time best ever pay off for a television series and as it's sci fi fantasy, the best ever ending of a cult classic I've yet to see. The respect shown for the viewers and the cast was immense, the drama and logic that kept you on the knife's edge right till the end was spectacular. They then went and made you cry ! The bastards!!!! Not sure what hurt more, the murder of an innocent Quatro or the continued sad job our Gene Hunt had to go back to? Where Lost went wrong, Ashes was a master class in telly writing. Second place has to be a highly respectful standing ovation to the makers of Sherlock, who took a time honoured story and respectfully brought it into 2010 without ever once compromising on who our Sherlock Holmes is. Fall 2011 we're told it's back with three new films. Make sure you don't miss them.
And only because of the exalted level of excellentness of the previous two, the also rans are in any other years massive winners. In no particular order, we have Doctor Who that this year saw the full taking of control of the lord Thy God Mr Moffat and the wonderful Mr Smith and equally beloved or hated "Our Amy" or "the Time Tart" Karen Gillan and her husband. Under Moffat, DW has recovered the magic and humour that was lost in the dark and somewhat revisionist RTD days. The Time Lords are back, Smith is as manic as Throughton or Tom Baker and the old morality of the pre cancellation Whoverse is stronger than ever. The other winner of great achievement above and beyond the call of Top Gear has got to be Captain Slow. James May with his Toy Stories and Man Lab, scored huge points and separated himself from his three amigos with special limited runs that gave our inner little boys a day out and reminded us that while some real men eat quiche, we are all still men and we forget it our own peril. He gave us comedy, information and a feeling that it's ok to be the complete man or boy. Toy Stories was on another level an eye opener to young and older alike. We got to see what was cool when daddy was a boy and that maybe just maybe , the x box isn't the only toy anymore. Along with the series Games Britannia , we learned that games and toys are not just time wasters but teachers, companions and soothsayers. Interestingly, Meccano has moved it's production back to France from China, aside from the fear of lead, surely James May has to share in the responsibility of this happening. Danger concious parents and children now increasingly trying Meccano and other older toys systems are asking the basic questions, are you made near me, are you going to poison me. But most importantly , they are buying those toys again. Well done James May
Not to pretend the sainted BBC can do no wrong.... there were a few mistakes. For every established hit like Outnumbered. Top Gear, Luther or Larkrise to Candleford and the new Upstairs Downstairs. Yes , even the history people get it a bit wrong like with the Kibworth thing or verrrry wrong with At Home with the Georgians hosted by historian Amanda Vickery. This was an abomination worthy of the " If romance novel readers presented history" genre. This woman assumes that we know nothing before the 80's and that nothing worth knowing or doing was invented before 1985. This woman takes great care to find the writer of a journal to walk away in failure having found only a portrait of the man in advanced middle age. In the House of the family, rife with photos and portraits, surely a future or past young male of the house could have stood in for the now old man???? But no she not a proper historian or she would have thought of that yes??? Then there's the dropping in and out of the reverie she does that wanders a bit too much into the idealised fantasy world of Harlequin and books for good girls. It's so annoying you will not last long enough to get to get to the good bits where she reads the excerpts of contemporary journals, some even very salacious and revealing of the feelings both men and women had about romance, security and marriage. Another wasted effort where the professionalism was lacking and the assumption was that most viewers hadn't ever watched any history before and were too stupid to figure out we might, as a society, been house proud long before the 1980's or EVEN the 1950's. Enough to make you want to toss the antique '70's fake leopard print nylon pillow at the telly!
The sitcom division also seemed to lay one stinky rotten egg after another. I could mention them, but then I'd have to dredge up memories of The Pursuisonists, almost anything Amanda Holden , Miss Dahl and a few others touched. I cannot understand how the same network that gave us The Trip, Ideal, Just William and Miranda can get it so wrong so often. Please stop it, I'm sure there are plenty of great ideas out there that aren't being flogged by the same tired old writing teams.The other great disaster was/is Giles and Sue take the piss out of the Good life. If they were looking for two people to make a hash of what is by now a perfectly reasonable choice for millions of people, they got the right hosts. But what a disservice. Matt Baker and the Countryfile folk could have given us just as many smiles and been far more respectful. As it is those who watched learned nothing and continued to think it's hard and the ones who were looking for a clue had to go somewhere else. Such a colossal waste money and talent. But then what do you expect from this pair who think their shit doesn't smell sometimes. If they had added Jimmy Carr, they could have sorted the pretentious little twat and his smug atheism out of our view for at least few weeks.
Don't get me wrong, these same people in small doses on shows like 8 out of 10 cats and Qi can be plenty fun, but when they get a full on attack of full of themselvesness, it's all a bit much. ITV which seems to have forgotten about how to make money AND good programmes, seems to have with some small embarrassing errors regained some of the lost ground with Downton Abbey and Poirot on the Orient Express. Corrie celebrated 50 years, stopped being un watch-able for a few weeks then promptly brought back Tracy Barlow. Some people never learn. No bother, I have C4 and the small list of gems they have allowed to bubble along in the comedy, history , cookery and overseas content like Big Bang Theory. It crowd, The In betweeners, Peep Show and if you have the stomach for it...Frankie Boyles Tramadol Nights. Still haven't seen any real reason to tune in C5 but I might give it a shot soon, heard there was something, ok ... wait, that was K9. On second thought, I don't watch Sarah Jane interferes, so why should I watch this even cheaper pile of droppings.
Oh what a year 2010 was and thank you again to all those of you who read, made comments and let me know through facebook or Galibase what you thought. Remember support your national birthright and don't let the politicians ruin our BBC! And if you must watch that other network, make sure you're watching the good stuff.
Happy New Year and may all your scheduling problems be solvable!