Presenting a Quiz Is Far from Easy

Why the Detectorists is the most subversive sitcom on the BBC.

Pointless
Pointless (image: BBCpictures)

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.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

Paul McCartney Calls Donald Trump’s Climate Change Skepticism ‘Madness’

Macca
PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Image

Paul McCartney has called out Donald Trump, claiming that the president’s refusal to believe in man-made climate change is “madness.”

Tofu-bothering, meat-shunner Macca – responsible for inflicting on the world such platitudinous dirges and twee excrescences as Ebony and IvoryWonderful Christmas Time and The Frogs’ Chorus – was promoting his new vegetarian propaganda video.

According to the BBC:

“[Vegetarianism] not the total solution, but it’s part of the solution,” McCartney said. “A lot of people have been saying this for a long time but there’s resistance.”

“Particularly when you’ve got someone like Trump who says that [climate change] is just a hoax. A lot of people like myself think that’s just madness so it’s maybe a good time now to try and focus people’s attention and say ‘look, forget about him we can do something.’”

In the video McCartney, two of his daughters, and the actor Woody Harrelson preach the virtues of going veggie just for one day a week.

Read the rest at Breitbart.

Despite Being Anti-English, Republican Propaganda, Gunpowder Is Absolutely Gripping

What upset James Delingpole far more this week was the miscarriage of justice in Netflix’s The Confession Tapes.

Gunpowder
Gunpowder’s Robert Catesby (Kit Harington), Thomas Winter (Edward Holcroft) and Faulkes (Tom Cullen)

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.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

No One Likes Al Gore’s New Movie

Al Gore
Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

Al Gore’s new movie – An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – is going down with audiences like a cup of cold sick.

It has bombed at the box office:

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which follows the ex-VP’s continuing attempts to raise awareness of global warming, made $900,000 across 180 screens on the weekend of August 4-6, according to Box Office Mojo.

But the original made $1,356,387 across just 77 screens at the same point in its run in 2006, leaving Paramount’s confidence in the movie’s appeal looking misplaced.

(And this weekend was even worse…)

It has been slated by his (natural ally) the Guardian. “Desultory and surprisingly vainglorious”, says the two-star review.

Read the rest at Breitbart.

Netflix Is Great Because (Unlike the BBC) It Doesn’t Ram Its Politics Down Your Throat

Its documentary Daughters of Destiny, about a remarkable free school for India’s untouchables, doesn’t steer you to any conclusions but lets you think for yourself.

Netflix
Daughters of Destiny (image: Netflix)

All this week I have been trying, with considerable success, to avoid being bludgeoned by TV programmes telling me in various sensitive and imaginative ways just how brilliant, heroic and historically maligned homosexual men are. I achieved this by sticking to Netflix.

One of the great things about Netflix (whose annual subscription costs just half the BBC licence fee, by the way) is that though it’s probably run by lefties it doesn’t try to ram its politics down your throat. Maybe this is one reason why its 100 million-plus subscribers are so much less resentful than BBC viewers: they’re being offered choice, variety, entertainment — not worthiness, race, gender quotas and compulsory indoctrination.

This week Netflix helped me catch up — under Girl’s instruction — with an addictively trashy series from 2012 about spoilt rich kids in New York called Gossip Girl; and also with a gripping documentary series — Captive — about how horrible it is being taken hostage. Best of all, though, was Daughters of Destiny — a four-part series telling the delightful true story of the Shanti Bhavan school in India’s Tamil Nadu province.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

Breitbart Is Like the Nazis’ Newspaper Claims Ex-BBC-Man/University Chief

gavin esler
Ben Pruchnie/Getty

Here is what the Chancellor of Britain’s University of Kent thinks about Breitbart.

Völkischer Beobachter was, of course, the house newspaper in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s of the NSDAP – aka the Nazi party. So what Esler is doing here in his not-so-subtle way is accusing Breitbart of being a Nazi publication.

Yes, part of me thinks: so what? Angry leftists are forever accusing people who disagree with them of being Nazis; and of course in Breitbart’s case the charge is especially absurd given that Breitbart’s founder and CEO (together with several senior editors) is Jewish, that the site is pro-Israel, pro-freedom-of-speech, pro-property-rights, pro-free-markets, pro-civil-liberties, pro-democracy – none of which policies would have found much favor with the Nazis.

Read the rest at Breitbart.

The £147 BBC Licence Fee Is a Tax on the Poor to Pay for Chris Evans’ Latest Ferrari

In order to protect the £2.25million salary of an irritating millionaire, squads of bullies are paid to hunt down those who don’t pay the unfair fee.

WOULD you rather go to prison than contribute to Chris Evans’ next vintage Ferrari?

Preposterously, this is a genuine choice.

Chris Evans
GOFF PHOTOS. Is it fair that people can be thrown in jail for refusing to pay for Chris Evans’ next luxury car?

Suppose last year you accidentally watched his brief, disastrous stint as ­Jeremy Clarkson’s replacement on Top Gear, and suppose in disgust you had refused to pay your £147 BBC licence fee.

First you’d have been given a fine of up to £1,000 — and if you still couldn’t, or wouldn’t, cough up then next you’d face a stint behind bars and a criminal record.

Is this fair? To anyone outside Britain, it’s not just unfair but sheer insanity.

The marvellous thing about our ancient justice system, we’re always told, is that it protects rich and poor without fear or favour.

Yet here we have a situation in which, in order to protect the £2.25million (approx) salary of an irritating millionaire, squads of bullies are paid to hunt down defaulters with such aggression and zeal you’d think they were hunting fugitive serial killers.

Read the rest in the Sun.

Why Braindead Filth Like Love Island Is Such a Breath of Fresh Air

Love is all you need (Photo: ©ITV Plc)

In BBC2’s The Box That Changed the World, Melvyn Bragg presented a Whiggish view of TV history so full of bien-pensant drivel that I had to switch over to ITV2

Melvyn Bragg on TV: The Box That Changed the World (BBC2, Saturday) was just what you would have expected of a critical appreciation of 75 years of TV, filmed at Bafta and presented by one of the BBC’s pre-eminent house luvvies. As an antidote I had to switch over to ITV2 to watch Love Island.

Yes, I hate Love Island too — every episode leaves me feeling soiled. It’s a mating game show, in which couples compete to shag one another in Majorca for a £50,000 prize, and, with ratings of around 1.7 million, it’s probably the most talked about programme on TV, which fashionable people are pretending to enjoy to show how down they are with popular culture. But I only watch it to keep Girl company and to reinforce my prejudice that we are fast approaching the end of western civilisation. Had reality TV existed in Rome in the late 4th century, I’m sure they would have made programmes exactly like this.

All the boy contestants are heavily worked-out lummocks who wouldn’t have a clue what to do with an aubergine unless it was something quite disgusting; all the girls wear revealing costumes, often with skimpy briefs that ride up their bottom cracks. But though there’s lots of talk of sex — rude charade games, naughty banter, plus some actual bonking (twice so far, though by previous series’ standards this is apparently quite abstemious) — it’s all weirdly unerotic.

Read the rest at the Spectator.

 

Hippies Gave Us Wonderful Things, but They Left an Evil Legacy Too

BBC4’s new two-parter, How Hippies Changed the World, makes me wonder whether it was all worth it.

There’s an incredibly addictive old iPhone game called Doodle God where you effectively invent civilisation from scratch by combining basic elements. So, for example, water plus lava creates steam; the steam, in turn, can be combined with another more advanced element, I forget which, later in the game to create steam power; and so on and on until, from the primordial ooze, you have, through continual experiment, created nuclear weaponry and computers and aeroplanes and all the things we take for granted today.

I was reminded of it while watching part one (of two) of The Summer Of Love: How Hippies Changed the World (BBC4, Friday). Hippiedom, it argued, emerged from the random collision of three disparate movements in the late 1960s San Francisco Bay area — the Nature Boys, the Truthseekers and the Political Wing.

We now take it for granted that organic carrot juice, psychedelic drugs and virulently left-wing politics go hand in hand, but by the documentary’s account this was an accident of geography and fate: it just so happened that the radicals from America’s most left-wing university, Berkeley, lived next door to the acid-taking sophisticates who’d all read Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception and also to the back-to-nature freaks — such as Gypsy Boots, founder of America’s first health-food store in 1959 — who in turn had been inspired by the Lebensreform movement of late 19th-century Germany.

 

Read the rest at the Spectator.

In Rock ‘n’ Roll You Need an Accountant More than Talent

The music industry’s reputation for being full of bloodsucking parasites is spot on, if this BBC4 doc is anything to go by.

Birds have been giving me a lot of grief of late. There’s Tappy — the blue tit who has built his nest just underneath my bedroom window and makes rat-like scuffling noises that bother me at night and wake me early in the morning. And Hoppy, a mistle thrush fledgling who can’t quite fly yet, which means we have to keep the cat indoors, which means I have to deal with its horrible shit in the litter tray every day before breakfast. And the rookery in the big ash, whose inhabitants are very vocal, especially when one of their babies falls out of the nest and gets devoured by the dog.

I may be only a couple of dawn choruses away from losing it altogether, as my fellow Brummie Ozzy Osbourne once famously did with a pair of white doves. He had brought the doves into the offices of his record company, supposedly as a peace gesture to show that there was still life in his career now that he had left Black Sabbath.

The story — Osbourne gets drunk and, bored, bites birds’ heads off — is usually told to indicate just how dangerous, unhinged and metal Ozzy is. But actually, it tells us much more about the dark, calculating genius of his manager (and now wife) Sharon. Instead of trying to suppress the ugly story, which threatened to finish what was left of Osbourne’s career, she promoted it everywhere. His album, Blizzard of Ozz, went on to sell millions.

Sharon was an interesting choice to present Rock ’n’ Roll’s Dodgiest Deals (BBC4, Friday) on how rock stars are ripped off and exploited, given that that’s largely what her dad Don Arden — also a manager — did to bands such as the Small Faces. After the boys had had a string of hits, their parents went round to confront Arden, asking why their kids still had so little money. ‘They’ve spent it all on drugs,’ lied Arden.

But at least they had pocket money, accounts at Lord John of Carnaby Street, and a nice flat rented for them in Pimlico next to Honor Blackman’s. The Animals, who clearly would have been better off with a manager like Arden, got almost nothing for their ‘House of the Rising Sun’. According to singer Eric Burdon, when they went out to the Bahamas, where the $4 million they’d made was being held for their safekeeping, the holding bank— if it ever existed — had disappeared.

How accurate were these stories? Hard to say given that this was more an exercise in nostalgia than a properly forensic examination of how rock stars make their money. What’s clear is that the music industry’s reputation for swarming with bloodsucking parasites has not been overdone — and that bands really do need their Ardens, their Peter (Led Zeppelin) Grants and their Miles Copelands if they’re not to end up in penury.

Read the rest at the Spectator.