Ban on All-Male Writing Teams – Just What Comedy Needs…

comedy
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

British television network ITV has banned all-male comedy writing teams from its shows.

This follows an insight by the network’s Head of Comedy, Saskia Schuster, that “an awful lot of my comedy entertainment shows are made up of all male-writing teams.”

Truly this is an aperçu to rank with the Pope being Catholic, bears using woods as their toilets, night following day, etc.

Read the rest on Breitbart.

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The Genius of This Country

What make it are the tiny, beautifully observed details and its emotional heart.

This Country: BBC
This Country (image: BBC Pictures)

Sometimes — really not often but sometimes — a programme that’s good and honest and true slips under the wire of the BBC’s jealously guarded PC agenda and makes a home run. The latest to do so is a deadpan comedy series called This Country (BBC3).

It’s so deadpan that it’s easy to see why an earlier pilot episode for ITV crashed and burned. If you were channel-hopping and lingered on it for five minutes, you might easily mistake it for an earnest, worthy, achingly tedious fly-on-the-wall documentary series about the poverty and despair of left-behind rural England. This impression is enhanced by screeds that occasionally appear on screen giving you, say, statistics illustrative of the funding crisis in healthcare outside the big cities.

But it is, in fact, a mockumentary. A rustic variant, if you will, on Ricky Gervais’s The Office. (Another of those rare BBC home runs. And, incidentally, do you know how long ago that was? 2001 it started. In fact, it predates 9/11.)

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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.

 

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ITV’s Victoria Is Silly, Facile and Irresponsible – I Blame the Feminisation of Culture

Taking the odd liberty with the facts is one thing but doing so with such brazen shamelessness feels like one giant upraised middle finger to those of us who value history.

Did you know that Queen Victoria might never have married Prince Albert had it not been for an amazing stroke of luck on a woodland walk in Windsor Great Park, involving the queen’s beloved spaniel Dash.

Dash, as good fortune would have it, managed to break his leg on a handy knife that someone had left lying around. And the hitherto remote and stuffy German princeling, carelessly ripping yet another of his shirts (the second in about a week) to create a makeshift bandage, splinted Dash’s leg with such tender care that flighty Emma knew at once that cold, disapproving Mr Knightley was the man for her.

And that, I’m afraid, is why I’m not going to be watching another minute of this silly, facile, irresponsible series. Yes, of course I see why Victoria (ITV, Sunday) continues to do so well in the ratings, pulling in a very respectable 5.2 million viewers. Jenna Coleman looks gorgeous (more so than the dumpy Victoria ever did); Rufus Sewell smoulders so tastefully as Lord M he makes Cap’n Poldark look like a dirty old tramp; and, lawks a mercy, what characters they all are below stairs. But the problem is, it’s all made up bollocks, isn’t it?

Making stuff up seems perfectly reasonable when it’s fiction: Poldark can do whatever he likes within the vague realm of plausibility, because he never existed. But when you’re dealing with the life of an historical character, especially one as relatively recent and well documented as Queen Victoria, I think you owe it to your audience to cleave as close as you reasonably can to the known biographical facts.

Rats, for example. There was almost certainly never a moment in young Queen Victoria’s life when she was frightened into hysteria by vermin suddenly materialising on a giant cake, thus causing onlookers to speculate that she might have inherited the Madness of George III. Nor, I don’t think, was there an occasion where her favourite maidservant stole jewellery in order to satisfy the needs of an audience which still hasn’t quite got over the demise of Downton Abbey.

There are a lot of viewers, I’m sure, who appreciate this fluffy escapism and who would not enjoy Lord Melbourne nearly so much if he were shown as he really was — a portly gent in his late fifties, 40 years Victoria’s senior; very much a father figure — rather than, as Sewell portrays him, twinkling with but barely sublimated desire.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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Brexit Might Actually Win This Referendum. Here’s Why…

I’m reluctant to talk about it because I don’t want to jinx it. As I was saying to Toby Young on our podcast the other day, it feels as deliciously unlikely as going to a bar and accidentally picking up a supermodel. There she is laughing at your jokes, playing footsie with you under the table and you’re thinking: “Bloody hell! This is unreal! In just a few hours from now I could be romping naked with this vision of outrageous loveliness.” But you also know that if the Fates catch you being too cocky they’ll punish you for your hubris and do something awful, like revealing that the person you’ve actually pulled is Bruce Jenner.

Problem is, as a professional journalist, it is rather my duty to report the facts as I see them. And the facts as I see them seem to be pointing tantalisingly towards rampant sex with that supermodel. Possibly not just with one but with several, every day for the rest of our lives.

Yes, it’s still improbable – at least so far as the bookies are concerned. But whenever I nurture any doubts, all I have to do is open a newspaper or turn on the TV and see for myself just how incredibly badly the Remain campaign is screwing this one up and how well the Leave team are winning over the hearts and minds of the undecided.

What strikes me most is the difference in mood and tone: Remain sound shrill, petulant, pessimistic; Leave come across as amiable, reasonable, optimistic. And which of those sides would any open-minded person prefer to be on?

Consider last night’s referendum debate on ITV.

It pitched – for the Remain camp – SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon; Labour Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle; Tory Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd against – for Leave – Labour MP Gisela Stuart; Tory MP (and Rudd’s junior minister in her Climate Change department) Andrea Leadsom; and a token blond male former Mayor of London called Boris Johnson.

The Leave team were plausible, dignified, positive, level-headed. Stuart – a German speaking with soft persuasiveness for British values and sovereignty: yay! – may well be the most effective weapon in Leave’s armoury; Leadsom marked herself with her eloquence and passion as a potential future Tory prime minister; Johnson reined in his flamboyance, played it straight and gallantly left the ladies to steal the limelight.

Read the rest at Breitbart.

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I’m a Celebrity is like The Simpsons: Good If You’re Thick; Even Better If You’re Not

The interplay between celebrities in extremis offers such endless dramatic variety and tension you could almost be watching Shakespeare.

The best bit in I’m a Celebrity… Get Me out of Here! (ITV) will be when the prisoners finally revolt and turn on their evil captors, Ant and Dec. The sparky Geordie comedy duo will be imprisoned in a semi-submerged, rat-infested cage like the one in The Deer Hunter, fed on a diet of liquidised kangaroo bottom and wombat testicle, and released only to participate in a series of amusing challenges, such as a recreation of the “Lemmiwinks” episode from South Park, involving two giant funnels, a bunch of inserted eucalyptus leaves and a pair of ravening koalas.

Though it hasn’t happened yet I’m going to keep watching every night, just in case. I wish it weren’t so. It’s such a terrible waste of life. But I’m afraid that, for whatever reason, I’ve become an I’m A Celebrity addict. Now I’m going to try to justify it by ludicrously and implausibly arguing that it’s the most brilliant thing currently on TV.

I think it probably is, though. This is the 15th series — the first was in 2002, when it was won by Tony Blackburn — and it really ought to have run out of steam by now. But though the set and challenges are indeed looking a touch overfamiliar, the interplay between celebrities in extremis offers such endless dramatic variety and tension you could almost be watching Shakespeare. Well, Webster, at any rate.

I’m particularly intrigued at the moment by the burgeoning alliance between former world boxing champion Chris Eubank and former white Jamaican boy (till her parents discovered they’d got her genitalia confused and she was in fact a girl) Lady Colin Campbell.

It didn’t get off to a good start. Mincing, fastidious, softly-spoken Eubank proposed that celebrities who failed in any of their challenges should be punished by their fellow group members as a disincentive to further weakness. Lady C (as she’s known) had just failed a challenge at this point, so naturally she took umbrage.

And rightly so. This was one of those moments where Eubank — who has spent a lifetime cultivating an image of groundedness and gentlemanly decency — let slip his inner control-freak weirdo. (I love this about I’m A Celebrity. You can maintain your mask for a few hours. But never with the cameras on you 24/7 over a period of weeks, with hunger pangs playing havoc with your mood.) As any sane person understands, the punishment for failure is already quite bad enough — short rations; the misery of having let down your comrades — without having some tinpot fascist in a fake monocle piling on additional forfeits.

Read the rest at the Spectator.

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BBC Goes for It

Which is the worse crime, would you say: eavesdropping on celebrities’ answerphones? Or hosting and covering up for a ruthless predatory paedophile ring — led by your biggest, most heavily promoted star — over a period of four decades?

Mm, me too. In fact, I’d say the Savile affair is as close as we’ll ever get to proving that God really hates the BBC. I mean, the timing is far too perfect to be coincidental, isn’t it? First we get Leveson — essentially a stitch-up by the BBC and the Guardian to entrench the power of the bien-pensant establishment, increase regulation and destroy the free market (especially Rupert Murdoch). Then, just when the tofu-eating turbine-huggers think they’ve won — zing! — a lightning bolt from heaven in the form of a scandal so sordid, so vast, so compromising that it makes Leveson look about as inconsequential as gossip overheard at the laundrette while waiting for your smalls to finish their tumbledry.

Full marks, obviously, to ITV for setting the ball rolling earlier this month with Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile. But full marks, too, to Panorama (Monday) for a belated follow-up as hard-hitting and brutally frank and riveting as any documentary I’ve seen. Some anti-BBC types on Twitter seemed to think that this was just another weaselly exercise in BBC face-saving. Really? I thought it was savage: utterly, grippingly, almost unbearably so, like watching a once-revered pack leader suddenly stumbling and being torn to pieces by the junior wolves.

Usually when the BBC does self-criticism, it’s just an exercise in faux-openness and pretend accountability. On Radio 4’s Feedback, for example, listeners are permitted to be heard raging about vital matters such as the use of intrusive background music on documentaries; then a producer comes on to respond that intrusive background music is a matter of taste. Meanwhile, the issues where the BBC is seriously, dangerously at fault — its ingrained political correctness, its grotesque institutional bias on everything from Israel to ‘climate change’ — continue to be swept under the carpet.

Read the rest at the Spectator.

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