‘Unfunny, boring and utterly unrelenting,’ says the Guardian’s one-star review of Chris Lilley’s new sketch series Lunatics (Netflix). And if that’s not incentive enough, our woke critical chum goes on to declare the series ‘problematic’. That’s a weaselly way of saying ‘this triggered all my snowflake sensitivities’ but in such a way as to make it sound like a loftily objective judgment.
In truth, Lunatics is only problematic if a) you have no sense of humour and b) you’d prefer all comedy to be politically correct, inoffensive and utterly devoid of satirical edge.
Plus: was Fleabag really profound and true? Or sententious, hormonal, millennial drivel?
If you liked Triumph of the Will, you’ll love this latest masterpiece of the genre: Our Planet. The Netflix nature series exploits the prestige, popularity and swansinging poignancy of Sir David Attenborough to promote an environmental message so relentlessly dishonest and alarmist it might have been scripted by the WWF.
‘Walruses committing suicide because of global warming.’ That was the nonsense from episode two repeated uncritically by all the newspapers, none of which seems to have been much interested in questioning the veracity of the claim. You’ll never guess what it was that really drove those walruses over the edge of the cliff… Ironically, the likely culprits were polar bears — that supposedly threatened species whose population has grown exponentially in the past 50 years to the point where they are now beginning to become something of a pest.
Plus: congratulations to Peter Jackson for one of the most superb pieces of trolling I’ve ever witnessed on TV in They Shall Not Grow Old.
Narcos is back on Netflix, set in Mexico this time, with a cool, world-weary, manly voiceover swearily lecturing us at the beginning that if we smoked sensemilla in the 1970s, then we were partly responsible for the bloody, endless drug wars that went on to kill more than half a million people.
Oh really? Sensemilla (derived from the Spanish for ‘without seeds’) is the kind of product of human ingenuity and free markets we should be celebrating, not decrying. It’s more compact than bog-standard weed, making it easier for entrepreneurs to ship, thereby increasing their profit margins. It affords a sweeter-tasting hit and a more euphoric high, thereby giving greater pleasure to the consumer.
Of course I empathise with the victims of the drug wars, such as the 43 students kidnapped and massacred in Iguala, Mexico, in 2014.
How long do the state authorities think they can get away with it?
I wonder if Wisconsin has any idea what an international embarrassment it has become? By rights it ought to be an unexceptionable place, little more than the quirky answer to the occasional trivia question: ‘Where is the Badger State?’; ‘Whose state governor shares a name with the singer of “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)?”’; ‘Which US state makes more Swiss cheese than Switzerland?’
Sadly for this unassuming Great Lakes state — pop. six million — it has instead become an exemplar of the kind of official corruption, mendacity, hypocrisy, bovine incompetence and rampant injustice less often associated with the leader of the free world and the beacon of democracy than with Islamofascist republics, equatorial African kleptocracies and other third-world hellholes.
This is all thanks to the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, which holds the state’s apparatus responsible for one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in recent history.
You don’t get quite the same production values in things like C5’s How the Victorians Built Britain but you don’t get the PC bollocks of Bodyguard and King Arthur’s Britain
What a load of utter tripe Bodyguard (BBC1, Sundays) was. Admittedly, I came to it late having missed all the sex scenes with Keeley Hawes and Robb Stark, which may have dazzled me in the way they seem to have dazzled many impressionable viewers.Sex scenes in TV drama are a bit like the chaff used by fighters to distract radar-guided missiles. You’re so busy feeling simultaneously awkward and embarrassed and half-titillated, covering your eyes with your fingers, wishing your other half wasn’t watching with you because then it would be proper porn and you could enjoy it, that you sometimes forget to notice what convoluted, implausible tosh the surrounding drama is.
For too long the leftie-dominated entertainment industry has been ignoring the truth about our world
This week’s guilty pleasure is Tom Clancy’sJack Ryan (Amazon Prime). It’s trash, of course, but very well done, high-octane, watchable trash. And if you want to feel better about your lowbrow tastes, make sure you read the finger-wagging critique by one Sonia Saraiya in Vanity Fair first.
‘Jack Ryan feels like a machine designed to turn us all into the sort of viewers who disappear smiling down jingoistic Fox News rabbit holes,’ she says, enticingly. And: ‘Both its protagonist and its plot are based on the foundational, unquestioned notion that American-military might — the best-funded killing infrastructure in human history — is helping to save the world.’ And: ‘Its other primary story objective is proving that Jack Ryan deserves his white male entitlement…’
Not so much a guilty pleasure after that little lecture, then; more a bounden and sacred duty.
Plus: what the hilarious documentary about the New York Times really shows is progressives in crisis.
Even though I don’t watch much football I love the World Cup because it’s my passport to total freedom. I can nip off to the pub, slob indoors on a sunny Sunday afternoon, leave supper before we’ve finished eating, let alone before the dishes are done. And where normally that kind of behaviour would at the very least get me a dirty look, during World Cup season it actually gets me brownie points.
Why? Because it’s a sign that I’m being a Good Dad. It worked in the old days with the Rat. And now it works with Boy. Mothers are absolutely potty for their sons and will look fondly on any activity that makes them content. So whenever I slink off to the TV, wearing an expression that says, ‘You know I’d really much rather be strimming the nettles/scouring the roasting tray/clearing up cat poo but the boy wants me to watch with him’, I don’t merely get away with it. I’m viewed almost as a saint.
What kept you watching was the desperate hope that a whole group would get away unharmed. Too often they didn’t
There were 1,500 punters in the audience when Eagles of Death Metal played their fatal gig at the Bataclan theatre in Paris in November 2015. By midnight, every one of those fans would either be dead, bereaved, in hospital with gunshot wounds or so traumatised that the horror would haunt the rest of their lives.
But obviously none of them knew this when they woke up on that sunny autumn morning (though it was a Friday 13th). One remembers that his first thought that day was to make sure he wore some nice trousers. Another recalls being puzzled when his father — ‘a typical Chilean dad’ — embraced him, asked him anxiously where he was going that night (‘I’m 23!’) and then said what now sounds eerily prophetic: ‘No one can steal your soul.’ The son replied: ‘I’ll be careful.’
EIGHTY per cent of English identify strongly as English, says a survey on The English Question commissioned by the BBC. The BBC seems to find this fact embarrassing – on which more in a moment – but I don’t one bit.
I think it’s something we should all celebrate, preferably with a nice proper cup of tea, brewed for four minutes.
Or better still, with a viewing of that marvellous wartime propaganda film I caught on TV the other day, “Went The Day Well?”
Adapted from a story by Graham Greene, with a score by William Walton, made, of course, by Ealing Studios, the film perfectly evokes what England, Englishness and English culture mean – and why we’ve fought so hard through the centuries to preserve them.
It is set in the sleepy English village of Bramley End (in fact Turville, Bucks), where every cliché is duly realised: long shadows across the green, the benign, elderly vicar, the manor house, spinsters on wobbly bicycles, the cheery postmistress, the crafty poacher…
Then the Nazi paratroopers arrive (disguised as English soldiers), only to give themselves away with their arrogance and the suspiciously continental way they write the number seven.
The villagers unite as one to repel the invaders – even if it means having to bludgeon them with a hatchet (as shocked Mrs Collins finds herself doing) or sacrificing their own lives for the greater good.
Though much has changed in the 80 years since – housebuilding, the decline of churchgoing, a less rigid class system – it’s still impossible for an English man or woman to watch that film without a shiver of pride and a smile of recognition.
What’s amazing about Jeremy Thorpe is that it genuinely didn’t occur to him that murdering someone might be illegal or immoral.
Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little, so you can imagine how sickened I was by the magisterial TV adaptation of John Preston’s A Very English Scandal (BBC1, Sundays).
I’ve known Preston for years. It’s him I have to thank for the compendious collection of CDs rotting in my attic, from the ten years or so I spent working under him (he was the arts editor) as the Sunday Telegraph’s rock critic. But though I’ve hugely enjoyed all his quirky, low-key, sardonically amused novels — loosely on the theme of ‘quiet desperation is the English way’ —I never imagined he’d luck out quite so spectacularly as he has with this truly splendid all-star production.