Saturday, 6 June 2009

Saturday 6th - Friday 12th June

The Mayor's associates soon learned to wear numbered crotch-guards, so that he could identify them without attempting to sniff their genitals.

Pretend-International Edition

This week, while Googling the whole of human culture for something relatively irrelevant, I came across a page from an old edition of the Randomness Times which seemed to have been badly-translated from another language. I immediately assumed this to be some new BabelFishy service from the Blogger company, and it took me a few moments to notice the flaw in my logic (I can just about believe that someone might want to translate the text into French or Arabic, but not that they might want to translate it back again afterwards). More puzzling still, the title of the page identified it as being a fan-site about Nadine from Girls Aloud. Not even one of the two-and-a-half attractive members of Girls Aloud, you'll notice, but the one who looks as if she's been hit in the face with a skillet and is still waiting for her head to regain its proper shape.

Curious, I looked a little further, and found that almost every edition written in the last two months has received the same treatment. "The crotchet chances, of praxis, is that this is a sitcom on all sides lasting men on the threshold of expiry"… "this month aphorism the exhorting of a preclude who killed her diabetic invalid"… "you wouldn't dig your dishes in an unclean stoop". We might guess that this is part of an elaborate auto-spamming procedure, whereby some disreputable company pads out its ad-sites with text harvested from other people's blogs, machine-rewritten in order to avoid potential lawsuits. After all, we still remember the site which combined its catalogue of hardcore porn with text stolen from an inventory of 1970s Doctor Who novels, and thus listed "Terrance Dicks" immediately after "Monster Dicks". Yet the cannibalised RT sites have no adverts attached, and nor does a viral scan reveal them to be crawling with inter-prions. Which means there's no apparent motive. (Oh, and my search also discovered a blog in which an entertainingly angry American described The Randomness Times as "the least funny thing I've seen on the internet". I'm not sure I can argue with that, since it's got to be said that even the "badly-translated from another language" version is funnier than the original.)

But without any definitive explanation for this pretend-international text-cloning, I've decided to treat the whole thing as a radical language experiment, in the style of Burroughs or Burgess. In this week's issue, some of the "regular" listings from the RT will be accompanied by their Interzone translations. If '60s-era textual analysis techniques still hold true, then this may reveal something about the underlying neuroses of a global hyperculture; if not, then it may at least help the RT to become the second- or third-least funny thing on the internet.

And remember: exploit your mind's eye, while even so not miss up to the poop measure.


From Saturday, 6th of June

18:45. Robin Hood

10/13. Deliberately commissioned to interfere with ITV's Primeval. But which is best, dark-age outlaws or prehistoric monsters? There's only one way to find out… read books, use your imagination, and stay away from jizz-awful filmlook serials on Saturday nights. Yet here, in this bleak and joyless televisual space which can best be thought of as "Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Matt Smith", we can see the simplest expression of what CGI has done to TV. Thirty years ago, a bowling alley was the best possible place to hide a terrorist nuclear device (The Professionals), but it's now the most likely location in which to be attacked by dinosaurs (Primeval, again). Wouldn't it be great if it turned out to be the same bowling alley? I imagine an old and wheezing janitor who was there when Bodie and Doyle had to defuse an atom bomb in the 1970s, and who can't believe that he has to go through the same kind of life-threatening experience all over again, but this time with velociraptors. That said, there is something profoundly prehistoric about a bowling alley: for years, bowling was the male-bonding experience of choice for working-class America, an environment in which men could get away from the womenfolk while still not facing up to the fact that they didn't have anything to say to each other. 'Ug throw shiny rock at sticks! All sticks fall over. Ug the best.' It's apt, then, that many Britishers of my age only learned of the existence of bowling from The Flintstones. The Primeval team faced the velociraptor menace with newfangled armaments that CI5 might have given their perms for, but if the authorities had been thinking clearly, then they could've trained these carnivorous reptiles to perform useful bowling-related or domestic tasks that would normally be done by machines in the modern world.

Interzone Translation. Deliberately commissioned to lap with ITV’s Primeval. But which is most satisfactory, dark-age outlaws or Noachic monsters? There’s distant select people mode to find improper improper. interpret books, exploit your mind’s eye, and defer away from jizz-awful filmlook serials on Saturday nights. Thirty years ago, a bowling alley was the most satisfactory reachable advance to carcass concealed humble a incendiary atomic artifice, but it’s any longer the most inclined to locale in which to be attacked away dinosaurs. That said, there is something really Noachic on all sides a bowling alley: fitting for years, bowling was an mise en place in which men could entreat away from the womenfolk while even so not miss up to the poop measure that they didn’t sooner a be wearing anything to asseverate to each other. ‘Ug squander fulgent lull at sticks! All sticks lacking in every nook. Ug the most satisfactory.’

ITV makes a play for that all-important Sunday Night audience. (Incidentally, does anybody know who drew this...? It arrived in my in-box without a credit.)

19:30. Totally Saturday
New series. 1/7. Graham Norton hosts the live show in which the audience members are the stars, with celebrity guests on hand to… no, it's no good, I'm going to be sick again.

21:30. Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow
New series. 1/6. Interesting fact: Michael McIntyre only entered the universe in February this year, but reality immediately began remoulding itself around him, which is why he's regarded as one of Britain's best-loved comedians even though nobody can remember hearing his name until about four months ago. But I know how things used to be. Oh yes. Because I'm that sensitive character with dimly-realised psychic instincts, who somehow remembers alternate timelines even though it's against all scientific reason. According to the "real" RT, this programme sees McIntyre introduce a showcase of "the stand-up circuit's brightest talents", which is even rummer: I'm really quite familiar with the stand-up circuit (i.e. the London stand-up circuit, i.e. the only one which isn't full of comedians who consider the Wurzels to be at the cutting edge), and the names on this line-up are exclusively in the bracket of "comedians whose agents are likely to get them work on Radio 4 panel shows" rather than "comedians I'd bother to see if they played the upstairs room of a nearby pub". On the other hand, this Thursday sees the launch of Channel 4's latest let's-put-a-man-and-a-woman-in-a-studio-together-to-do-topical-jokes-and-hope-it-doesn't-turn-out-like-that-thing-with-Ben-Elton-and-Alexa-Chung series, The TNT Show. Which features Holly Walsh, whom I know in passing, but who may be familiar to digitally-motivated geeks as the woman who used to talk to a severed brain before The Sarah Jane Adventures on CBBC. And you can expect me to remove this part of the paragraph from next week's Randomness Times if she turns out to be rubbish on it. Or maybe I'll just make a sardonic and self-referential comment about the fact that I'm simultaneously talking to you from both the past and the future, who knows? For I am capricious.

21:45. Arena: T. S. Eliot

We should explain to foreign readers of the RT that Arena is the name of the BBC's long-running arts strand, so disappointingly, this isn't a programme in which T. S. Eliot has to fight the Gorn in single combat. Another offering from the BBC's Poetry Season, which ponces onwards over the next six days with A Poet's Guide to Britain [Monday, BBC4, 21:00], and My Life in Verse: Cerys "Yeah, I Know She Isn't, But I Still Would" Matthews [Friday, BBC2, 21:00]. Oh, God, now I've started trying to fit Eliot's work to the combat theme from Star Trek. "We are THE HOLL-OW MEN WE are the STUFFED men…"

19:00. D-Day Remembered

Naturally, I don't remember D-Day, although I do remember the elaborate fortieth anniversary programmes in 1984. So I'm experiencing a form of third-generation nostalgia, and feel I've earned the right to tell young people about the days when we had interviews with living veterans rather than CGI reconstructions of the battlefields. It were all stock footage round 'ere when I were a lad. We've got to celebrate D-Day every five years, of course, because it's the only proof we have - within the memory of our oldest citizens, at least - that Britain used to be important. For the same reason, it's against all polite protocol to mention Germany without making a joke about Nazis, even though the current English-speaking generation is so badly-informed about political ideology (which is, after all, a downright nuisance in a consumer democracy) that it now believes fascism and communism to be interchangeable. A bit like A View to a Kill, where Christopher Walken turns out to be both a Nazi and a Soviet agent. As Santayana said: those who fail to learn from history are doomed to watch Mel Gibson movies and actually enjoy them.


From Sunday, 7th of June

20:00. Hope Springs

New series. 1/8. A programme from the creators of Bad Girls and Footballers' Wives, in which Alex Kingston and Ronni Ancona play semi-inept female ex-cons who end up in a Highland village and find themselves being chased by gravelly-voiced gangsters while attempting to deal with broadly-accented Scots yokels. This is described by the BBC as a "drama". They just don't understand what English words mean, do they?

Meanwhile, Channel 5's idea of a crime series is The Mentalist. Every smartarse in the kingdom has pointed out how inapt this title seems to a British audience, and yet… here's a photo of the lead character. His eyes may be raping you, but his smile is already storing your head in his fridge.

21:00. The Apprentice
12/12. Long-term readers of my nearly-blogs may recall that I've spent a lot of time dwelling on the origins of surnames, if only because so many of them seem so unlikely. We're told that it's normal for surnames to indicate the profession of someone's ancestors, hence the proliferation of Smiths, Bakers, and Masons. But if this is true, then why do so many people bear names like "Monk", "Bishop", "Priest", and - oddest of all - "Pope", vocations whose members weren't technically supposed to breed, and who certainly didn't have the power to pass on their titles from father to son? Why doesn't everyone called "King", "Prince", or "Lord" immediately qualify as an aristocrat? Why do we think of Helena Bonham-Carter as posh for having a double-barrelled name, when a bonham is a small pig, and a bonham-carter is therefore someone who drives pigs to market? Why are there people called "Warlock", a word that originally meant "liar" rather than "magician", which is why American actor Billy Warlock is more properly known as "Billy Liar"? Was that name originally given to a family of con-artists as a form of censure, and if so, then at what point in history did it cease to be a social embarrassment and become "quite cool"? And by the same logic, we can conclude that Laurence Fishburne's family worked in a very unsatisfactory chip shop. So… Alan Sugar. Named after a commodity that didn't become popular in Western Europe until the 1600s, by which time surnames were already becoming fixed. What happened there? Incidentally, "Miles" is Latin for "soldier", suggesting that I've got a Roman legionnaire somewhere in my family tree. Yeah, that's right: my people were learning how to do the testudo (AKA the Sexy War-Tortoise) when your pagan, animal-worshipping forebears were still dressing up as… well… four bears.

The formation was originally developed as an ancient Roman form of cottaging.

20:00. South Pacific

5/6. Absolutely true fact: in this new documentary series, we learn that natives on the island of Pentecost encourage their crops to grow by building a huge, ominous-looking wicker structure, then leading a chosen member of the tribe to it and… getting him to bungi-jump off the top. Yes, honestly. They believe that the closer to the ground he gets, the better the harvest will be. Are all pre-Christian pseudo-sacrificial rituals going to become extreme sports, then? Anyone half-reasonable should now be either (a) imagining a radically different cut of The Wicker Man, or (b) thanking the Pagan Jesus that the remake didn't end with Nicholas Cage escaping the islanders on a skateboard. Or maybe it did, it's not as if anyone with a soul has ever seen it.

23:00. Family Guy

In the "real" Radio Times, Mark Braxton - always the worst possible person to ask about any "cult" series, and apparently the only man on Earth who liked "Planet of the Dead" - summarises it as a "ruder version of The Simpsons", which is (a) the telly-journalistic equivalent of saying "have you noticed how the Germans always get their towels on the beach first?", (b) exactly what Family Guy isn't, and (c) the sort of thing that makes so many people refuse to watch it. Most crucially, the two programmes come from very different traditions of animation. The Simpsons is a highly-developed descendant of the Hanna-Barbera Flintstones line, nailing itself to a fake-sitcom format which could almost have been designed as a way of training children to watch The Honeymooners (or nearest modern equivalent). Yet despite having a big fat idiot at the gravitational centre of the programme, Family Guy's roots are in the '40s Warner Brothers tradition, where the rules are in a constant state of experimentation and it's reasonable for Daffy Duck to go from twentieth-century comedy foil to twenty-fourth-and-a-halfth-century superhero in the space of a single narrative. Which is why Family Guy is clearly better. That, and its lack of nauseating, self-congratulatory smugness.

23:20. American Dad!
On the other hand, even I don't watch this.

Interzone translation. In the "real" Radio Times, Mark Braxton - again the worst reachable child to about a invite on all sides any cult series - summarises it as a ruder rendition of The Simpsons, which is (a) the telly-journalistic of article of saying "have you noticed how the Germans again entreat their towels on the skim noodle?", (b) beyond question what Family Guy isn’t, and (c) the ownership of fashion that makes so myriad people deny to observant of it. [That settles it: from now on, Mark Braxton will officially be known as "The Worst Reachable Child".]

21:00. Storyville: Blind Sight - Everest the Hard Way

Lately, I've spent a surprising amount of time thinking about sex. "Surprising" because the antidepressants have made me increasingly floppy, and because I seem to have less interest in actually having sex than at any time since my thirteen-year-old self rolled over on his bed and discovered what ensues when a male member inadvertently comes into contact with the solid, hard-edged cover of the Eagle annual. (In a sense, then, I lost my innocence to the Mekon's face.) But increasingly, I find myself dwelling on the minutiae of the sexual process, especially when it involves pure theory. Though I've always enjoyed this as a form of fantasy - as, for example, when the aforementioned Newly-Pubescent Me spent long hours wondering how it would actually feel to cop off with Butterbear out of the Wuzzles - it's now become more intellectual than arousing, and I'm currently engaged by CBeebies' Nina and the Neurons. Although presumably not on anyone's SkyBox "favourites" list, this is a series for younger viewers in which lab-coat-and-bunches she-boffin Nina answers children's questions about science, with the aid of five computer-generated characters who live inside her head and can be drawn out with the appropriate ritual (q.v. the ceremonial summonings of Teletubbies). Though we presume that Nina has more than five in total, these neurons represent the five classical senses, and each query requires the specialised knowledge of one or another. I'm fascinated to know what it'd be like to desecrate this woman. The actress who's attached to her is by no means unattractive, yet a bigger question is whether the sexual act would activate all five neurons at once, or - if not - then which of them she might consider appropriate for the occasion. Alternatively, would different neurons respond to different sexual approaches? Would taste be invoked for oral pleasuring, or would taste specifically not be invoked for oral pleasuring? Would it be wise for a male lover to specifically provoke Nina's sense of smell, in the hope of triggering a manifestation of Ollie the nose-neuron, who's described by the official literature as "a bit of a goth" and looks as if she might be up for a threesome…? The wider issue is that although Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex may have introduced the whole what-do-Numbskulls-do-during-coitus question, it barely scratched the surface. Modern woman are so much more complex. I'm mentioning this now because I'm obviously not going to have anything to say about blind people climbing Everest, although there's a clear Freudian subtext here that operates on at least three levels. Wait a minute… is the BBC trying to say that goths smell?

These days, I find him cold and unresponsive.


From Monday, 8th of May

20:30. Panorama

Oh, I've just remembered why I started talking about the modern generation's lack of political acumen [see D-Day Remembered, Saturday]: it's because I've recently been looking at message-boards on t'internet, which sadly means that I've been exposed to more right-wing Americans and Simpsons porn than ever before (because these are, as we've already established, the two ugliest things on the world-wide web). You may recall that during the recent bailouts of US insurance companies, car manufacturers, and other forms of manifest evil, those citizens who are otherwise known for their erotic attachment to firearms protested that any state intervention was a form of "socalism". Leaving aside the obvious point that sheer bloody-jawed capitalism and a lack of government interference was what caused the mess in the first place, the most contradictory thing here is that the same people are now referring to state intervention as "fascism" as well. In fact, I've been known to lurk on a forum - entirely apolitical in every other respect - where one of the regular contributors urges us to fight this form of "fascism" in his sig-file. Typically, though, he's spelt it "facism". Isn't that an irrational prejudice against people with faces? Quite a specific form of bigotry, although its British supporters could probably win a few local council seats by claiming that discriminating in favour of these "lousy stinking faceys" is the worst form of political correctness. "Vote for the Man from That Episode of Sapphire and Steel, and keep our country nice and anonymous."

21:00. Ashes to Ashes
8/8. See Ten Genuinely Defining Things About the 1980s [side-column].

20:00. Springwatch
I mean, I like Kate Humble, but she's no Alice Roberts. You know? She's sitting there next to a bunch of otters, and she's talking about their mating habits, and… I've got to be honest, I'm actually looking at the otters. Kind of misses the point of natural history programming, don't you think? Showing Monday to Thursday.

21:00. Who's Watching You?
3/3. [See article at foot of page.]

22:30. Ideal

5/6. The oddly-flavoured goodness to counteract the foetid horror of every other comedy on BBC3, a bit like finding a box of Peak Freans from a parallel universe in which there's only one biscuit that isn't a pink wafer. Even so, this isn't an easy programme to trust. A sitcom starring Johnny Vegas as a Mancunian dope-dealer sounds so poisonous in principle that it can take a while to recognise Ideal as one of the least predictable things on television, its characters wholly absurd while still avoiding all the screeching and catchphrasery of Little Britain or C*th*r*n* T*t*, its set-pieces not quite like anything else on TV. It's been said that the essence of good sitcom is "people who don't really like each other, trapped together in a small space", and Ideal takes this to claustrophobic new extremes by never, ever showing us the world outside the dealer's flat: we went up on the roof once, but that's the furthest we've ever been from his sofa. Yet this tiny bong-hovel has seen more surprises than the rest of the channel's output combined, so the fourth series brought us - amongst other things - a sex scene between people with animal masks permanently superglued to their faces, and a guest appearance by Mark E. Smith of The Fall as the manifestation of Christ. No, I agree, I'm a lot less entertaining when I have to be nice about things. But in the Randomness Times, Monday night is niceness night.

19:30. Cardiff Singer of the World

In the days when Wales was known only for its insistence on confusing the f*** out of English people (Cardiff Station has a Platform Zero, a tactic blatantly engineered to frighten and bewilder those travellers who've just come across the border), the title "Cardiff Singer of the World" seemed even more absurd than the Yanks staging a "World Series" of a sport that's only played by Americans and Canadians. Or, to put it another way… it was as if the Fattest Man from Wolverhampton contest had arbitrarily decided to up the stakes by calling itself the Fattest Man from Wolverhampton in the Universe contest. But now Doctor Who has shown us a version of the cosmos in which Cardiff really is the centre of all existence, it seems to make a lot more sense. Oh, and on that subject? For those of you with access to the Corporation's iPlayer, the Randomness Times' drama pick for this week is the repeat run of Caesar! on BBC Radio 7. I could try to sell it to you by explaining that it models itself on Suetonius' The Lives of the Caesars without resorting to any of the more improbable splatter-myths of the Claudian dynasty, but you'll probably be more interested if I just tell you that in episode three, David Tennant plays Caligula. As David Tennant.


From Tuesday, 9th of June

21:00. Living with Monkeys: Tales from the Treetops

New series. 1/2. More anthro-chickery, as primatologist Julie Anderson spends five weeks occupying a tiny treehouse in the canopy of the Gabon rainforest as part of a mission to observe the rarely-seen red-capped mangabey monkey. Doesn't she realise how dangerous it is to invade another creature's habitat this way…? She's clearly intruding on the territory of Alice Roberts, and when you remember that Dr Alice has mysteriously left her usual Sunday-night nest this week, it begins to look like a serious challenge to the environmental niche. Now, as you know, I'm fiercely protective of the current alpha female. So d'you know what I'm going to do? Whenever this Julie Anderson appears on the screen, I'm going to pull my pants down and show her my arse. Yeah, let's see her primatologise that. Or maybe I'll just ignore her completely and start grooming myself on the sofa. Concludes on Wednesday.

22:00. Gerry Robinson's Car Crash

The creativity-crunch worsens, with a programme that's about the recession and about cars. The irony is that while Ian Hislop kicked off the new series of Have I Got Footage of Gordon Brown Looking Moderately Uncomfortable for You with a sarcastic comment about nothing much happening in the news (because we're in an economic crisis and the headlines are full of corrupt politicians, d'you get it?), the truth is that there really isn't anything significant in the press, at least not in the UK. A recession makes even the British branch of al-Qaeda feel too glum to do anything explosive, and when the big scandal of the week involves MPs admitting that they fiddle their expenses and smear their opponents, you find yourself longing for the days of embassy sieges and Liberal politicians hiring assassins to kill their gay lovers. Just ask the BBC's current-affairs producers, who no longer have anything to make programmes about except rich people being awful and poor people having to eat their own pets. A year ago, I would've been devastated to think that any celebrity-related side-story could be of more interest than the national economy, yet now there's no denying it: this month's best headline, by some considerable margin, was "Horse Headbutts Leona Lewis". Proving that animals really do do the funniest things.

'My husband didn't fight in two World Wars so that our country could end up being run by faceful bureaucrats. That's why I'll be voting for the British Facist Party on the 4th of June.'

20:00. Make My Body Younger

You're not the boss of me.

21:00. Blood, Sweat and Takeaways
4/4. That's not fair! For BBC3 to commission a "sensible" programme - which challenges whelps of the iPod generation to go to borderline third-world countries, and slog along with natives who work twelve-hour days in appalling conditions to supply us with the fast food we leave half-finished in taxis - goes against everything we know to be right, proper, and awful about modern British broadcasting. Hah! Good, the next new programme on this channel is…

22:30. Bizarre Animal ER
3/8. Those who've tried playing the Randomness Times' BBC3 game, in which the titles of a single evening's schedule are scrambled together to make an even more BBC3-sounding title (How to Avoid Britain's Really Disgusting Crisps, Bizarre Fags Snog My Animal Bride, etc), will notice that the channel itself is now using the same technique. You'll also note that this programme is pitched in such a way as to suggest that we're going to see footage of a man walking into an Accident and Emergency department with a horse stuck halfway up him, although it's more accurate to think of it as a version of Animal Hospital in which Rolf Harris is obsessed with damaged genitalia. Assuming he isn't obsessed with damaged genitalia. I mean, he probably wouldn't tell us about it even if he were.

21:00. The Great British Sunday

Another documentary in the Timeshift mould, this time focusing on the… actually, can I stop for a minute? I'm still wondering whether Rolf Harris is obsessed with damaged genitalia.

23:30. Make 'Em Laugh
4/6. The history of American comedy continues, this week with a look at… actually, since we're talking about comedy, I've got a joke. It's just… I was thinking about Rolf Harris being obsessed with damaged genitalia, and… d'you remember that gag from the late '90s, when he played a set at the Glastonbury Festival? There are these two roadies standing backstage, y'see, just before he goes on. And one of them looks at a piece of paper and says: 'I see from the set-list that he starts with Two Little Boys, then goes on to Tie Me Kangaroo Down.' And the other one says: 'That's not a set-list, that's the rider.' Yeah, I liked it. Still doesn't tell us about the genitalia thing, though.


From Wednesday, 10th of June

20:00. Celebrity Masterchef

New series. If it doesn't involve Julia Bradbury ripping the kidneys from a she-goat with her bare teeth, then I'm not interested. Many commentators have compared TV cookery to masturbation, and at the risk of turning everything in this week's RT into a form of fetishistic inquiry, I'd say that it's not an unreasonable point: proper food is as astonishing to the senses as proper sex, but just as boys watch porn because they know they're never going to couple with anything as attractive and / or willing as the Polish nurse with the highly-specialised surgical modifications, BBC viewers watch the preparation of fine cuisine because they know they're never going to make anything more complex than a Spanish omelette. I was originally going to describe MasterChef with the word "GastroWank", but it just reminded me of that lumpy white mushroom sauce you get in Tesco's. Incidentally, am I the only one who feels uncomfortable using the phrase "bare teeth"...? As if it's meant to suggest barbaric, animalistic teeth who frolic naked in the woods, rather than those well-groomed Victorian teeth who wear little waistcoats and always ask before leaving the table. Showing Wednesday to Friday.

Unbelievably, that's it for Wednesday's "new programmes" listings, although we do at least get a repeat of last week's The Incredible Human Journey on BBC1 [see side-column]. So to fill time, here's that picture of Julia Bradbury again.


From Thursday, 11th of June

21:00. Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire

New series. 1/5. If I were to point out that this whackingly over-budgeted fantasy parody only lists two female characters in a cast of 26 (one of them an FHM model in a chainmail bikini, the other described as "Cute Girl"), then would I be suggesting that it's driven by the same stinking nerd-masculinity which leads to pasty-faced geek-boys in "Smeg Off" T-shirts and the homoerotic worship of Simon Pegg? Or would I just be suggesting that it's true to the stinking nerd-masculinity of the source material? Then again, even the Lord of the Rings movie tried to pretend that Arwen was a proper character, rather the world's first blow-up doll / action-figure hybrid.

22:00. That Mitchell and Webb Look
New series. 1/6. ...because there are times when TV comedy just doesn't seem smug enough.

21:00. When Diets Go Wrong

Further proof that BBC3 is a failing power, so overawed by rival Channel 4 / Channel 5 productions like The Transsexual Who Gave Birth to Her Own Skin that it can't even make exploding stomachs sound catastrophic. When Diets Go Wrong? Is that it? Not even When Diets Make Buildings Collapse, or When Diets Cause Your Labia to Lock Together and Form the Face of Ray Milland? Oh, let's be honest: you're not going to watch this, and neither am I. So while we're waiting for something more interesting to turn up, I'd just like to point out that since I wrote the entry on Panorama [Monday], an advert has appeared on the Guardian website which urges us to "Stand Up and Stop Facism" after the BNP's recent election victories. Funnily enough, my local branch of the British National Party held a celebratory function in a nearby church-hall on Saturday night, and I could hear the buggers from my bedroom. And, yes, they really did sound like a hideous faceless mass. Especially when they started dancing. Don't skinheads even know how to moon-stomp any more?

22:30. The Real Hustle on Holiday
4/10. Hold on, you mean… the BBC is using our License-Fee money to pay a group of professional confidence tricksters who've spent their adult lives swindling people out of house and home, and who now get their own TV show (plus travel expenses to Barbados) as a reward? Oh, I see: they're reformed. Well, fair enough. I mean, if that's what they've said. They seem quite credible.


From Friday, 12th of June

21:00. Have I Got News for You

8/8. The worst thing, the very worst thing, is the Radio Times' glib, deluded claim that Have I Got News still has "satirical teeth" and somehow qualifies as on-the-edge television. In fact, there's never been a clearer demonstration that satire no longer functions: this is an exercise in attaching the appropriate names to stock comedy material, so that any mention of John Prescott will be followed by a joke about fat people, any mention of Charles Kennedy will be followed by a joke about alcoholics, and any mention of Bill Clinton (Bill Clinton…!) will be followed by a joke about oral sex. For the most part, it now exists as a platform for intolerant right-wing snob Ian Hislop, while any serious political point will immediately be exploded by Paul Merton making a joke about Bagpuss. And the series may treat it as a running gag, but the fact remains that Boris Johnson's election as Mayor of London really was a direct result of Have I Got News establishing him as the "harmless" face of inept bigotry. Angus Deaton was removed from the chair of this series because, according to the producers, a man who makes the news can't present a panel show about the headlines. But this programme isn't just making the news, it's dictating the political direction of the country, which is why it can safely be considered the most hazardous thing on television. Even the bits about Bagpuss. No, especially the bits about Bagpuss, they're the most deceptive of all. They lie to us! They lie!!!

22:00. The Book Quiz Poetry Special

I stopped watching this halfway through the first series, out of a sense of sheer disgust, when one of the questions was: "Which book series has been written by authors including Kate Orman and Terrance Dicks?" My contribution to modern culture has clearly not been recognised.