Sky One’s comedy drama is an x-rated Last of the Summer Wine but the lead character’s mental illness is sadly what excites most reviewers.
Brassic (Sky One) feels like the sort of TV comedy drama they last made about 15 years ago but would never get commissioned now, certainly not by the BBC. Almost all of the main characters — apart from love interest Michelle Keegan — are white, male and heterosexual. And it’s set in the kind of Lancashire market town surrounded by rolling sheep country where the opportunities for plausible diversity casting are really quite limited. So how come it has been getting such glowing notices from all the previewers and reviewers?
Now that my youngest has got her A-level grades, I’m finally free to say just how much I have loathed the past 20 or so years I have spent helping my children with their English homework.
This is a sad admission. After all, I studied English at university and still love reading classic literature and learning poetry by heart. But when I read that the number of 18-year-olds taking English A-level has plummeted to its lowest level since 2001 I wasn’t at all surprised. If I were that age, I’m not sure I’d choose to do English either.
The artist’s BBC4 documentary Everybody in the Place: an Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992 was a plea for tolerance and understanding
Jeremy Deller’s Everybody in the Place: an Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992 (BBC4) began with some footage of kids queuing up outside a warehouse rave in Stoke-on-Trent in 1991. It was at once banal and extraordinary: everyone was white; nobody was overweight; none of the clothes were designer, expensive or branded; nobody wore facial hair. This was the England of my late youth and I remember it vividly. But it feels so remote from the present that it might just as well have been a lithograph of extravagantly side-burned men in stiff woollens captioned: ‘The Camp before Balaklava’.
Deller is probably a bit more left-wing than me — how could he not be? He’s a conceptual artist whose most famous work is a meditation on the miners’ strike — I do agree with his thesis that the birth of acid house was the revolutionary moment that changed Britain forever. He illustrated this with scenes of Northern ravers clubbing in disused factories, marking what he called the ‘death ritual transformation of Britain from an industrial to a service economy’.
Though autumn is happily still some way off, we’ve already reached that stage in the shepherd’s calendar when full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn. In fact they now look bigger than their mothers. The easiest way of differentiating the ewes from the lambs is that the latter still have their fleeces while the former are shorn and look thoroughly careworn and knackered from having to feed their demanding and needy adolescents long after it’s strictly necessary.
What’s rather spoiling my nature notes at the moment, though, is the nagging fear that next time I venture out into the fields on my morning walk with the dog, our pastoral idyll will have been reduced to a bloody shambles of discarded entrails and severed heads.
Some of the killings are so heartbreaking you half-wonder how decency could possibly allow such horror as TV entertainment.
My favourite epithet about my favourite TV series was the headline in a review by the Irish Times: ‘Gomorrah. Where characters die before they become characters.’
The review appeared to suggest that this was a bad thing. But I disagree. What made Game of Thrones so original and compelling, especially in the early seasons, was its refreshing willingness to break convention by murdering key players at the drop of a hat.
Halfway up the back stairs on a ledge is the body of a wasp so big it’s either a queen or some kind of hornet. I’ve left it there as a warning to other wasps and also because I enjoy the weird effect it has on me. Even though obviously I know it’s there, every time I pass it its shape triggers in me an involuntary shudder: the sinister curve of its abdomen, articulated like plate armour; the warning yellow and black; the horrible sharp black stinger which you can just imagine jabbing into your skin. God I hate wasps!
Plus: season three of Stranger Things is self-indulgent and twee – more Scooby-Doo than Alien.
Losing my comrade Christopher Booker the other day didn’t help. Nor did turning to the once robustly sceptical Sun newspaper this morning to find a spread on how to cut your carbon footprint and recycle. The final ‘reeeee!’ moment (fans of the movie will get the reference) will no doubt come when I next bump into Matt Ridley and he tells me: ‘We really must heed the wise things the Prince of Wales and Greta Thunberg are telling us about climate change!’
Magaluf — Shagaluf as the kids all call it — is the post-A-levels destination of choice for what seems like every school leaver in the country. If you’ve seen The InbetweenersMovie you’ll know what it’s like: charmless, garish avenues of overpriced bars and clubs with pushy greeters, expensive party cruises, grotesque drunkenness, epic hangovers, sunburn, STDs and gallons of vomit.
My plan to cut the BBC out of my life entirely is working well. Apart from the occasional forgivable lapse — that excellent Margaret Thatcher documentary; Pointless and Only Connect because they’re the only programmes we can all watch together as a family — I find that not watching or listening to anything the BBC does is making me calmer, happier and better informed.
I’m also learning stuff about myself that I never imagined possible. Like the fact that I have a massive man crush on the rap star Kanye West. Though I’ve long been a fan of his albums, I went right off him as a person a few years ago when he headlined Glastonbury and played quite the worst, most self-indulgent, dreary set I have ever had to endure: no decent tunes or hook, just Kanye the egotist and some glaring white lights shining full in your face as if to show how much he despised you.
‘An attempted improvement which actually makes things worse.’ The Germans have a name for this — Verschlimmbesserung — and I ran into a perfect example the other day when my power suddenly failed in the fast lane of one of those so-called ‘smart’ motorways.
These are the new breed of motorways so clever and advanced that they don’t have hard shoulders on to which you can retreat in emergencies. No: instead, if you can’t make one of the safe haven pull-ins supposedly spaced every mile and a half, then you get the thrilling (and, you pray, never-to-be-repeated experience) of grinding to a halt in the live lane of a motorway, with lorries thundering towards your rear at 50mph.