Ignore the PC nonsense – this telly Western is well acted, gritty, dusty, uber-violent and clandestinely old-fashioned.
Boy came to me the other night in a state of dismay. ‘Dad, I just turned on Match of the Day to watch England vs Kazakhstan and guess what: they never mentioned this, but it’s the women’s game.’
What bothered him was not so much being forced to watch a slower, less athletic, duller version of real football — though obviously that too — as that the BBC was being so utterly disingenuous about it. This policy of pretending there’s absolutely no difference between men’s and women’s international sporting fixtures has, I know, been operational for some time. But for those of us living outside the PC metropolitan bubble — i.e. most of the BBC’s actual audience — it still feels insulting, hectoring and dishonest.
But you can’t escape it. Even really good drama series that you might actually want to watch have been infected. The new Netflix cowboy drama Godless, for example.
The Trump and Brexit phenomena are the same: the revolt of the masses against the elite.
How do you defend Donald Trump without coming across like a rabid lunatic? This was my challenge as the only ‘out’ Trumpophile on a panel at the Dublin Festival of Politics last weekend. What made me especially trepidatious is that Ireland is even more painfully right-on than we are these days. It has ditched most of that Roman Catholicism and Cúchulainn and Yeats malarkey and become just another compliant satrapy of the ahistorical, cultureless, communitarian Brussels empire.
Happily there are still one or two Irish who feel just as strongly as I do about what has been done to their wonderful country. There were about a dozen of them in the audience. Some sported red Make America Great Again baseball caps — an act which would probably have got them lynched in more sophisticated parts of town, such as that trendy hotel, the Clarence, that is part- owned by U2.
Why the Detectorists is the most subversive sitcom on the BBC.
It’s a weird sensation getting your child back for an extended period when for the previous decade you’ve been packing him off every few weeks back to boarding school. Obviously, it’s quite pleasant, amusing and enlightening to study at close hand and at length this alien thing that you’ve bred. At the same time, though, they don’t half become a discombobulatingly overbearing presence.
For example, in the old days I would definitely have reviewed Howards End, even though I can’t stand E.M. Forster or the ghastly pinko Schlegel sisters. But now that the Fawn and I no longer have the house to ourselves, we have to fall in with Boy’s viewing schedule, which is largely comprised of quiz shows.
Any quiz show, pretty much. His tastes extend from the most intellectual of intellectual — the painfully abstruse Only Connect, with its horned vipers and twisted sheaves and Victoria Coren with her Sphinx-like smile — to the veritably brainless (but horribly addictive) Tipping Point, where the skill owes less to general knowledge than to judging when to release the disc that pushes all the other discs over the edge, as in that cascade game they have in penny arcades.
I reflect bitterly on how much richer I’d be if only I’d had the courage of my convictions.
Every time I write about Bitcoin you can probably take it as a major sell signal. The last time I did so was in January 2014, at which point Bitcoin was trading around the $935 mark. Had you been inspired by my golden words and invested immediately in BTC (as we aficionados call it), here’s what would have happened: within a few months their value would have more than halved. ‘Bloody hell!’ you might have said. ‘This is an idiot’s game. Clearly there is no future in this stupid crypto-currency malarkey.’
But investment’s all about timing, isn’t it? Had you hung on a bit, watched it drift to its 2015 lows of around $216 dollars and at that point splurged your pension savings on, say, 200, you would now be a millionaire. I shan’t try to quote the current price. Perhaps, as you read this, it will have soared above last week’s record high of $7,879. Perhaps it will have continued the subsequent correction when its value fell by nearly 25 per cent in a day. What’s certain is that if you want to make or lose money very quickly, there’s nowhere more exciting than the ludicrously volatile cryptocurrency market.
This week I want to put the boot in to Gogglebox (Channel 4, Fridays). Not the mostly likeable, everyday version, whose stars include our very own and much-loved Dear Mary, where ordinary-ish people are filmed reacting amusingly to the week’s TV. I mean the recent celebrity special, featuring former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher, a cricketer, a footballer, Ed Sheeran, Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne, the actress formerly known as Jessica Stevenson and Jeremy Corbyn.
The last couple were filmed together sitting on a yellow sofa at a smart-looking terrace address in Edinburgh. No explanation was given as to what the leader of the Labour party was doing with the former star of Spaced — Jessica Hynes, as she’s now known. Perhaps the producers were hoping we’d go: ‘Oh, how nice. Two old, old mates, probably, hanging out, as you do.’ But to me it all seemed very rum.
Corbyn didn’t exactly help himself. Though he’s clearly had a lot of media training in the past year — his dress is snappier, he’s less tetchy and defensive — he still comes across like an early-model replicant where the programmer couldn’t quite get the ‘normal’ function right.
The nastiest person on Twitter has quit Twitter. Because I’m so generous I shan’t mention his name. All I’ll say is he that he co-wrote one of the 1990s’ warmest, funniest, daffiest sitcoms — which is possibly what made his attack-dog vitriol so especially hurtful. It was like being stabbed with a fork by Gyles Brandreth, kneed in the groin by your vicar, given the middle finger by the Queen. What, you kept wondering, could possess someone you were predisposed to admire to make them behave like such a dreadful heel?
Because social media makes monsters of us, unfortunately. Some people, at any rate. We discussed this at the weekend at the Battle of Ideas festival in London at an event called: ‘We need to talk. The vices and virtues of social media.’ One of my fellow panellists, Alex Benson, a club promoter, described the terrifying sensation of having once been caught in a Twitter storm and feeling so universally hated that he scarcely dared venture outdoors. But when he did so he discovered something odd: in real life (IRL) everyone was as perfectly affable as ever they had been. All that rage had been confined to the social media bubble.
As Benson noted, people say things on Twitter that if voiced in a pub would get you a punch in the face. This is partly because the 140-character medium encourages you to be pithy, provocative and nuance-free in order to grab other users’ attention. And partly because taking out someone when you can’t hear them squeal is much easier than killing them with your bare hands.
What upset James Delingpole far more this week was the miscarriage of justice in Netflix’s The Confession Tapes.
The opening of Gunpowder (BBC1, Saturdays) was just about the most knuckle-gnawingly tense ten minutes I’ve ever seen on TV.
It’s 1603 and James I is on the throne. At the Warwickshire great house of Baddesley Clinton, a group of aristocratic Catholics, including Robert Catesby (Kit Harington) and Anne Vaux (Liv Tyler), are celebrating Mass illicitly when a party of armed men begins hammering at the door.
Quickly, the various guerrilla priests — a senior Jesuit Henry Garnet and two young acolytes — are bundled into hiding, two in a priest hole set behind some panelling, one in a chest. The search party enters, led by an implacable witchfinder-general type who pursues his task with sadistic relish and grim efficiency. As the priests cower, their terror palpable, the search party sets about measuring the house within and without to see if there is any discrepancy in the dimensions.
Its policy of eco-imperialism forces renewables on a reluctant but largely helpless developing world.
What is the point of the World Bank? You probably think of it, if at all, as a benign institution, a kind of giant, multilateral aid agency, whose job it is to bring liquidity to developing nations and help them grow out of poverty.
Until not so long ago, that was indeed its function. Created alongside the International Monetary Fund at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, the bank did sterling work in its early years helping countries like France recover from the war; and later, giving mostly third world countries the vital seed money needed to help attract investors to risky capital projects. Its multiplier effect on investment can be extraordinary. In 2013, the World Bank gave Kosovo $40 million towards building a lignite power station. This sent out the positive signal needed to encourage the private sector to complete the funding with another $1,960 million.
Amazing. Except that’s not what the World Bank does now.
‘Nearly always when you find a place as beautiful as Positano, your impulse is to conceal it. You think: “If I tell, it will be crowded with tourists and they will ruin it, turn it into a honky-tonk and then the local people will get touristy and there’s your lovely place gone to hell.” There isn’t the slightest chance of this in Positano.’
John Steinbeck, 1953.
Yeah, right. The sad truth is that like so many classic destinations, Positano, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, has long since been overtouristed almost to the point of ruination. Even as early in the season as late April, when the Fawn and I visited, the tiny beach area was almost unbearable. Boatloads of day trippers swarmed across the promenade, funnelling into the steep narrow alleys on a near-impossible quest to find somewhere to eat. At which point you might wonder: ‘Why bother?’
I know I keep saying that in Decline of the West terms we’re all currently living in Rome, circa 400 AD. But now, on TV, there is actual proof of this in the form of a truly appalling reality series called Bromans (ITV2, Thursdays).
Bromans is like a cross between Love Island and Carry On Cleo, so shamelessly low, tacky and brain-dead that it makes Geordie Shore look like Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation. Basically, a bunch of ridiculously buff lads strip off and participate in crap gladiatorial contests in which no one dies (thus entirely defeating the object), while their hot blonde girlfriends smoulder pointlessly in scanty outfits, and say stupid things like ‘I’ve gone 2,000 years back. I’ve never lived that far back.’ Then they have a typical cocktail party, just like used to happen in Imperial Rome, and — we are led to assume — shag one another.
What I like best about Bromans is its rugged integrity. There’s none of that relentless PC hectoring that Rod Liddle was rightly bemoaning the other day: it’s probably the most accurate reflection anywhere on TV of what young men and women are still really like; and because it’s all done ironically, clumsily and on the cheap it slips under the Guardianista outrage police’s radar.
Obviously, though, I’m not suggesting you should waste time watching it. Instead, what you need is your new favourite Netflix series, Suburra.