Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Fleshy Bits

Well, here we are on December 31st and what a year it's been. I've loved writing p0pvulture every day (mostly), and I hope you've enjoyed reading it. So I thought I'd mark the end of the year with The Fleshy Bits - p0pvulture's highly coveted awards for the people who helped to make 2009 so special...

The 'I'd Prefer to be Illiterate' Award goes to the champion of bad writing, the Daily Mail

With more factual inaccuracies than a Katie Price autobiography, and a glossy veneer of hate that would make Nick Griffin wince, the Daily Mail didn't just kill the respected art of journalism, it dug up its corpse and paraded around a farmyard wearing a suit made out of its skin.

During a particularly vintage year, Jan Moir got herself crossed off Ronan Keating's Christmas card list, and Amanda Platell replaced Grange Hill's Imelda Davies as the nation's most frightening female bully.

The 'Call the RAC' Award goes to non-stop car crash Kerry Katona

With a woeful taste in men to rival Eva Braun, unhappily married Kerry spent most of the last twelve months like a long-running collision, and the bonnet is still buckling. From the blow to the bipolar, there's not a bad decision Kerry didn't make. Having sustained her 'luxury' (tbc) lifestyle for far too long, Iceland finally cut their losses and ditched the Twizzler-munching half-wit. And you know you've hit rock bottom when one of the Nolans becomes a better bet.

Kerry's now on the processed white breadline, and has even been turned down by producers of Celebrity Big Brother. Maybe they prefer their breakdowns to be a little more drawn out, rather than taking place on the stairs of the compound.

The 'Hollowed-out Volcano for Rent' Award goes to uber-villain Simon Cowell

It's been an amazing year for the king of pap music. He's helped transform Cheryl Cole from a poorly written Viz character into Vera Lynn with better hair. He found a sartorially-challenged frump and turned her into the Second Coming, inspiring a generation of lonely, middle-aged cat-ladies to believe in themselves. And he lost the battle for Christmas number one.

He didn't even realise there was a battle to be fought, until a bunch of internet rebels took exception to his arrogant assumption that the top spot was his to bestow. But just like Keyser Soze, who convinced the world he didn't exist, Cowell will have the last evil laugh. He may have pretended to lose the battle, but there's no denying he'll win the war.

The 'Ignore Them and They'll Go Away' Award goes to ubiquitous bucket and professional fantasist Katie Price

Wherever you looked this year, you were certain to see a picture of Katie Price falling out of something - whether it was love, a nightclub or her outfit. For a while she'd convinced a good percentge of the population that 'Jordan' was her slutty, foul-mouthed and uncontrollable alter-ego. But if you're going to claim 'multiple personalities', there needs to be more than one discernible character.

The divorce from singing ironing board Peter Andre was only the beginning. Amongst this year's highlights were the claims that she may be suffering from swine flu, was a kidnapping risk, and was genuinely in love with a pug-faced cage fighter who looks less convincing in women's clothes than Anne Widdecombe.

She also continued to flog her equestrian accessories range, in the process distressing more horses than the lead in Equus. Ultimately, Katie proved that she would do anything to stay on the front of the papers, and the media were only too willing to comply.

The 'Most Over-used Tool Since Ron Jeremy' Award goes Photoshop

Newspapers and magazines have been feeling the pinch ever since the internet came along, leaving them more and more desperate to snag readers with any old tripe. And in the absence of actual news, they applied the pressure to already overworked graphic designers, in order to fill the extra space in their publications. As a consequence we've been treated to the pleasures of doctored film posters, creepy child pageant participants, and pictures of Kelly Clarkson, with enough flesh removed to create a spare American Idol winner out of the left-overs.

The 'I've Still Got A Crystal Set In the Attic' Award goes to flavour-of-the-month Twitter

In the good old days (according to Joan Collins) celebrities relied on a team of well-trained publicists to keep their darkest secrets from public scrutiny. These days, we're more likely to get real-time updates from our favourite stars as they tuck their feet into the stirrups and take a deep breath. Twitter has made it possible for people to give their 'followers' access to their innermost thoughts, even whilst navigating a tricky underwear hole or fending off a troublesome ex.

I could go on, but it's now 2010. So good luck in the new year, may all your dreams come true. Even the dirty ones...

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

*Battery not included

An ugly pair of socks. Nothing but green triangles left in the Quality Street tin. Noel Edmonds. Everyone has something that pushes their buttons at Christmas.

For Charlie Sheen, it's the threat of divorce. His wife Brooke Mueller threatened to leave him, to which he responded by breaking her glasses, pinning her down by the throat and threatening to kill her. Allegedly.

I say allegedly because, as with all matrimonial disputes, there's going to be an element of he said she said.

Some might say there's no smoke without fire. After all, Charlie is the poster boy for mis-spent youth/adolescence/middle-age, and has established a worse reputation than "Cha-Cha" DiGregorio.

As well as the prolific drug habit, he's gone through more tarts than Mr Kipling. He even made an enemy out of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, when he gave evidence against her, despite having used her services often enough to subsidise his own wing of the brothel.

And yet, despite his hell-raising ways (even Pinhead is taking notes), Charlie somehow landed himself a smash-hit sitcom, one which successfully blends the highbrow comedy of The Odd Couple with the equally sophisticated humour of My Two Dads.

So now, America's favourite TV comedy star is facing charges of second-degree assault, menacing and criminal mischief - which makes it sound as though the most appropriate punishment would be a good slippering by his dad. But this isn't The Beano, and these are serious charges.

Still, it is party season in Aspen, so perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised that Brooke was able to put her trauma behind her and hang out at the Caribou Club. Nor should we be too shocked to hear from Charlie's ex-wife Denise Richards about her own ugly experiences.

What is weird, is the fact that she took to Twitter to do it, and chose to tease the story, saying " day..I will spill my guts about EVERYTHING,". Apologies if this seems overly cynical, but it all smacks of a forthcoming magazine exclusive rather than the painful recollections of a abused wife.

As for Charlie, he's keen to resume filming on Two and a Half Men, and there are no signs that the show will be affected. But although Charlie's character is based on his own 'bad boy' reputation, I can't see that its producers will be rubbing their hands together with excitement about all the new material he's giving them.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Shine like a star

What a coincidence! Within hours of my last post, about the Daily Mail attacking ageing celebrities, they ran another story that turned the subject on its head. This time though, they commissioned an ageing celebrity to attack other people - namely the 'sub-lebrities' who she feels are muscling in on her carefully composed limelight.

Demonstrating a talent for writing matched only by her acting skills, Joan Collins has thrown up a wonderfully condescending piece about her glory days - which you'd be forgiven for thinking would be around 1350 AD.

You see, Joan remembers when the word 'star' meant a gloriously untouchable luminary of stage and screen, rather than a dimly-remembered newsreader negotiating her dentures around a marsupial's testes.

These 'nonentities', as Joan so kindly refers to them, haven't put in the hard work to attain their celebrity. They're 'nobodies' and 'wannabes', "devoid of talent, beauty or charm". Which is a little rich coming from someone who sustained her own jet-setting lifestyle by allowing Leonard Rossiter to throw his Cinzano down her front, like a contestant in the world's least appealing wet T-shirt competition.

Come to think of it, the word 'wannabe' deserves a little more interrogation. I've always assumed it refers to a performer aspiring to be something they're not, which must be completely alien to a woman whose career only really took off when 20th Century Fox signed her in 1954 as their answer to MGM's Elizabeth Taylor. Or when she signed up for the woeful Flintstones sequel playing the role originated by Ms Taylor.

Missing the irony in her ugly rant, Joan continues: "Their instant fame had absolutely nothing to do with dedication to a craft, talent or even hard work. Instead, it was: 'Look at me, I'm famous' - and that's all they wanted."

Fame through association turns Joan's stomach. Unless, of course, it's her father Joseph publishing his own autobiography "A Touch of Collins" in 1986. Or her daughter, Tara Newley, and her ill-fated attempts at TV presenting and pop music. And the fact that Joan's most successful output in the 1970s was a pair of tacky sex romps, based on books by her sister, is neither here nor there.

Equally troubling to St Joan is the fact that these so-called (copyright Daily Mail) celebrities sustain their fame through reality TV shows aimed at the lowest common denominator. You know, shows like 'Joan Does Glamour', where the scathing septuagenarian bullied poorly-dressed proles for not wearing vintage Halston and a mink stole.

Scoring highly on Joan's sub-lebrity scale is Britney Spears, who was tacky enough to endure a psychological meltdown in the glare of the flashbulbs. Sympathetically describing Britney's various cries for help as "bizarre and outrageous antics", Joan blames the young singer for causing "paparazzi chaos whenever she ventured out of her house". Never once does it occur to Joan that the problem here lies, not with the celebrities themselves, but with the avaricious press that go to increasingly intrusive lengths to wallow in every aspect of these people's lives.

Bring back the good old days, says Joan. When homosexuals like Rock Hudson had the decency to hide themselves away. And when one of the most famous people in the world was Jackie Kennedy Onassis, a woman whose only notable talent was snagging a couple of powerful husbands.

Joan's got it wrong. The world of celebrity has always attracted fame-hungry, grasping, talentless whores. And people who live in glass houses need to clean their mirrors occasionally.

More than just a number

Ageing is an ugly, unforgiving process. Especially in Hollywood, where the concept of a biological clock has been replaced with a gender-neutral 'fuckability' clock. Past the age of forty, you need Harrison Ford's charisma or Susan Sarandon's voodoo priestess if you want to keep working.

Despite the fickle nature of the entertainment business, there are some stars out there who are happy ageing in the public eye. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be to everybody's taste.

Ironically enough, the Daily Mail has spent the last decade supposedly championing the rights of victimised pensioners. They pay too much council tax, they're intimidated by hoodies, they innocently shoot fleeing teenagers in the back with a shotgun. But give the editorial staff of the Mail a picture of an ageing celebrity enjoying themselves and suddenly they're happy-slapping the old folks like it's buy-one-get-one-free on ASBOs.

Christmas day is supposed to be a time for kind thoughts, family togetherness and goodwill to all mankind. Sadly, not for William Shatner, who found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of insults, because he still bothers to exercise at the age of 78.

According to the Mail, "William Shatner's waistline that has a warp factor. The Star Trek actor looked decidedly rotund as he strolled along the beach in a large pair of red swim shorts." Amazing, William Shatner is no longer the same shape he was forty five years ago. Is anyone?

Today, it was Paul Hogan's turn. He was also on the beach with his wife, looking happy(ish), relaxed and active. In a 'stop-the-presses' demonstration of the power of journalism, the Mail reports "Hogan revealed a slight paunch in his bermuda shorts".

He's seventy. We should be happy he's able to dress himself unaided. Again, the headline "From Crocodile Dundee to old croc: Age finally catches up with Paul Hogan at 70" suggests we should be surprised, and maybe a little disgusted, that these people age and deteriorate like the rest of us.

Maybe this is all research for the next time the Mail launches a campaign advocating for greater respect for the nation's elderly. In order to understand the problems afflicting our society, this represents an extensive investigation into the psychology of bullying. By attempting to uncover the fear that younger generations have towards the elderly, the Mail's output is manifesting itself in aggression and name-calling.

Or maybe I'm old enough to know better?

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Cameron's blue period

Well, James Cameron finally delivered his gigantic blue baby, and it looks as though he'll get to keep the roof over his head. With a budget of around $300 million, everyone knew that Avatar was a big gamble - Cameron has even deferred his own profit participation options until the investors have recouped their contributions. But with the news that Avatar has claimed its second consecutive week as box office champion, with only a 2.6% drop (compared with the industry average of 40-50%), it's clear that Cameron knows what his fans want.

If you haven't seen it already I do recommend you seek out the biggest screen you can find and immerse yourself in a truly incredible 3D experience. The world of Pandora springs to vivid life, even though at times there's so much neon on display you'd think the characters were stuck inside an Essex nightclub.

As for the story (which I've dubbed Last of the Bluehicans since Dances With Smurfs was already taken), well, it does what all good science fiction should do, taking contemporary issues and exploring them in a fantastical way. More specifically Avatar addresses the conflict between technologically advanced invaders and primitive indigenous people.

Rather predictably, not everyone's so happy with Cameron's kick-ass comeback. Over on Big Hollywood, the right-wing movie blog for the mentally malnourished, critics are lining up to condemn Big Jim's opus for "being a "big, dull, America-Hating, PC Revenge Fantasy". You see, they don't like the idea of the military being portrayed as aggressors (an argument so ironic it makes my head hurt). Likewise, they think it's propaganda to question the ethics of genocidal imperialism.

And don't even get them started on the environmental concerns, as conservative hate-bucket Ann Coulter once said: "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'"

Cameron has never denied the fact that Avatar is a parable, claiming "what this film ultimately does is hold a mirror to our own blighted history, where we have a culturally advanced civilization supplanting more “primitive” civilizations... And this country we’re in now was taken from its indigenous owners. And it’s kind of owning up to our own human history."

That's not how they see it over at Big Hollywood though. Taking it in turns to miss more points than a blind tennis player, these professional movie critics make inane comments like "Why couldn’t Cameron have left his agenda at home and crafted a non-political story in which Americans could be heroes..." I guess Carl Kozlowski missed the point that it's an injured US marine who heroically leads the Na'vi into battle. Or maybe he just didn't like the idea that the lead was played by an Australian.

Ultimately though, it's fascinating that all of these rhetoric-spouting imbeciles see the film as anti-American. They're seeing all the worst elements of human nature - greed, violence, aggression - and thinking "Yep, that represents me." More worringly, they're proud of the fact. But then, it's clear that Cameron was never going to win over someone who believes "Cameron’s... tribe is boringly perfect and insufferably noble … I wanted to wipe them out."

The funny thing is, I don't remember the same arguments erupting 26 years ago when another visionary science fiction film-maker told a similar story. Even though die-hard Star Wars fans hated the Ewoks, no-one looked at Return of the Jedi and said "Why does everyone insist on seeing the Empire as the bad guys?" I guess that's progress for you.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Clueless about death

Following the sudden, shocking death of Brittany Murphy, it's nice to see that certain customary traditions have been observed.

First off, the celebrity community has taken to Twitter en masse to express its heartfelt and meaningful condolences, in 140 characters or less. Amongst them, Brittany's ex Ashton Kutcher, who must have inadvertently raised the hopes of countless thousands of people when he tweeted "See you on the other side kid.”

Meanwhile, the press did their bit and upheld another long-standing tradition - turning uninformed conjecture, idol gossip and speculation into news.

Otherwise respected news source NBC claimed that 'what many people who knew the actress noticed most was her recent severe weight loss.“She looked painfully thin, even sick. She looked like she hadn’t eaten in who knows how long, her skin was terrible,” said one person who observed Murphy in recent weeks'. That certainly sounds like expert testimony to me.

The Daily Mail, however, prefers the drugs angle - presumably because it's easier to blame on somebody. Even though the article's four writers admit that 'LA chief coroner Ed Winter, insisted that Miss Murphy's death was not caused by drugs', they tellingly refer to a 'Huge haul of prescription drugs' in the headline of the article. Of course, they could have used the word medication instead, but that wouldn't have been nearly as salacious.

Finally, there are the conspiracy theorists who are finding spooky significance in the fact that Brittany's most recent DVD Deadline has a cover that depicts the actress slumped unconscious in a bathtub - not too dissimilar from the circumstances in which her body was found. Needless to say, the DVD has been pulled and some poor art-worker will be clocking up the hours over Christmas to come up with a less poignant alternative.

It's true that 2009 has claimed a number of people before their time. But the sad truth is that their passing is just as random, pointless and inexplicable as when it happens to us mere mortals.

Death comes without reason or explanation. So rather than scrutinising your tea leaves or booking seats in the audience for Derek Acorah's next seance, enjoy your loved ones while they're here.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

George wants back in the Big house

You've got to feel a little bit sorry for Boy George this Christmas - he had only one wish this year and now a nasty old judge has taken it, and the £200,000 fee, away.

In case you hadn't realised, or the aversion therapy was working, Celebrity Big Brother returns next week, for one last attempt at capturing a full blown career meltdown from 13 different angles.

As before, some of the housemates will test the very definition of the word 'celebrity'. Others will attempt to project an aura of untouchability by talking about the genuinely famous people in their address book - even if they only met them because they happened to shampoo their Lhasa Apso.

Sadly though, it looks as though Boy George won't be amongst them. The problem is, he's still in a spot of bother after handcuffing a Norwegian rent boy to the wall (which is a shame because that sounds like it would make a great shopping task in week two). More importantly, the Probation Service doesn't like the idea of George making a fortune while he's still technically serving part of his sentence.

Having reviewed George's appeal (sorry, too easy), the Judge commented: " offender serving the non-custodial part of a sentence of imprisonment should not be allowed to take part in a high profile, controversial television production, promoting his status as a celebrity and with considerable financial gain."

I think it's also important that George stop promoting his status as 'Boy'. George, you're 48 - that makes you about as much of a boy as Jeanette Krankie.

I'm sure George is sitting somewhere, wearing a ridiculous hat and licking his wounds, wondering about what might have been. It's funny though, after a four month custodial sentence, I would have thought the last thing he'd want is another three weeks of imprisonment, being scrutinised around the clock and made to suffer a series of humiliating indignities. Like sharing a bathroom with Tina Malone.

But then I guess it's like Red always said, after a while you become institutionalised. And if fame takes less than fifteen minutes, maybe institutionalisation can happen even quicker.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Mission: Impossible

It looks like three successful outings as superspy Ethan Hunt have started to rub off on Tom Cruise. Don't worry, he's not hanging around in the IT room or wearing prosthetic masks that miraculously make him a foot taller. But he has been embracing some tried and tested spying techniques, and they may be getting him into hot water.

Back at the start of the decade, Tom found himself once again battling accusations that he'd done more than just star in a few good men. This time however, there was supposedly filmed evidence of Tom making all the right moves with another guy.

This sensational revelation came about because Michael Davis Sapir, the one-time editor of Bold magazine, had offered a $500,000 reward offer for "videotape evidence that Cruise was gay." I guess the volleyball scenes in Top Gun were inadmissible.

Tom responded with a preposterous $100 million defamation suit, which ended up settled out of court when Bold published an official statement that no such video was in its possession (here's where legal thriller fans make a note of the difference between existence and possession).

With another troubling accusation firmly locked back in the closet, Tom was free to break Oprah's furniture, laugh maniacally and criticise Brooke Shields for having post-natal depression. But this is one story that's come back to bite him in the ass, and not in a good way (you know, like if a real live lady did it).

It turns out that, as well as hitting Bold with a lawsuit that would net enough money to dig Dubai out of debt, Tom wanted to know what else the magazine's staff had got on him. According to a new lawsuit that has been filed against Cruise, Anthony Pellicano, former "PI to the stars" and currently serving time in federal prison, was promptly contracted to wiretap Sapir's phone. So now Tom's being sued for $5 million for "invasion of privacy, disclosure of confidential information and intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Tom's heavy-hitting lawyer Bert Fields has already responded, saying “We did not even hire Pellicano to work on the Sapir case.” In the end, it's not really for us to speculate who did what and to whom - that's for the courts to decide. Although it's interesting that one of Pellicano's favourite new business techniques was to plant damaging stories himself about the stars he wanted on his books. Maybe he was the one who shopped Tom to Bold in the first place?

One thing's for sure though, it must be hard for poor old Tom to know who he can really trust. Apart from the Thetans of course.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Ain't nothin' goin' on but the rental

Next time you're in Blockbuster, or you're choosing something on Sky Box Office, keep in mind what your film selection says about you. If you're watching Brokeback Mountain it could mean you're gay, if you go for Love, Actually it might indicate that you're a woman, and if you prefer Big Momma's House it might mean you require an in-home carer and plastic cutlery.

Actually, that's not true at all. Despite studios' squeamishness over releasing gay-themed titles to a mainstream (i.e. mostly straight) audience, most people are happy enough watching whatever they like, without any fear that their selections might disclose a little too much personal information.

Actually, that's not true at all either. It turns out that an "in-the-closet lesbian mother" is suing online movie rental service Netflix, for publishing personal data concerning her film preferences that might indicate her fondness for flannel.

To cut a long (and astonishingly complicated) story short, this controversy all came about when Netflix attempted to find a way to improve its recommendation system. It works a little like the one on Amazon. You know the type - customers who bought 'Lark Rise to Candleford' also bought 'The House of Eliott' DVD boxset, the 'Alan Titchmarsh Potting Shed Calendar' and a ten-pack of Tena Plus Odour Control Incontinence Pants.

But in order to make the system more effective, they made available the viewing data of 480,000 Netflix customers as part of a competition to find someone who could design a better recommendation algorithm (told you it was complicated). The problem is, this same information was the sort of stuff that Netflix had promised to keep private.

Apparently, this precious data included such incendiary information as rental titles, genres, dates and viewer ratings. And the 'closeted' plaintiff is concerned that these hugely telling details could lead to her being publicly outed. As the lawsuit puts it: “were her sexual orientation public knowledge, it would negatively affect her ability to pursue her livelihood and support her family and would hinder her and her children’s ability to live peaceful lives.” These would be the same children who've already been subjected to repeat viewings of 'Personal Best', 'The Hunger' and 'Showgirls'. Haven't they suffered enough?

According to the lawsuit, it's a classic case of guilt by association - "The member’s movie data exposes a Netflix member’s personal interest and/or struggles with various highly personal issues, including sexuality, mental illness, recovery from alcoholism, and victimization from incest, physical abuse, domestic violence, adultery, and rape."

This utterly illogical conclusion suggests that, based on this year's big box office winners, we've all found ourselves stuck in a love triangle between a moody vampire and a buff werewolf, attacked by skyscraper-sized robots, and forced to live out the rest of our days in the body of a nine-foot tall blue cat. Hooray for Hollywood eh?

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Smell you later

Have you been into a Perfume Shop recently? It's like reading the index page of OK! Magazine - major and minor celebrities battling for supremacy on the shelves, in a cacophony of gaudy packaging. Celebrity fragrances are big business these days. You're nobody until you've got your name on a tacky bottle that looks like a zirconia-encrusted spleen.

Although she didn't invent the concept of celebrity fragrances, Elizabeth Taylor was definitely a pioneer, if only in terms of proving what a fantastic money maker they could be. Since launching Passion back in 1988, Liz has conjured up ten other best-selling nose-botherers, each one said to reflect her "famously indomitable spirit".

Regrettably, not all the celebrity fragrances that followed could boast such legendary heritage. Jade Goody, Katie Price and Colleen Rooney have all achieved huge sales from their personal brand of stink.

It's tempting to assume that the main reason for their success was that they had little or nothing to do with the creation of the scent itself. After all, who'd want a perfume that actually made them smell like Kerry Katona? Kebab meat, special brew and desperation is a pungent combination.

Speaking of unpleasant smells, Sarah Jessica Parker is planning another assault on your olfactory senses, having already given the world Lovely and Covet. This time around she's planning something a little unconventional, rather than the usual floral and vanilla notes you might expect.

In a recent interview, the long-faced shoe fetishist claimed: "It has taken me three years to decide on the scent because I really like BO and I think it's sexy. I wanted to figure out a way to make it palatable to everybody. I was like, 'How do you get BO in a bottle and make an atomizer of it?' Then it was all about trying to capture the sense of naughtiness in a bottle that it would be good for a man and a woman."

There you go - BO in a bottle. Because nothing says delicate romance and feminine sensuality like the stench of an amateur football team's locker room. Thanks to SJP, women all over the world will bathe, moisturise and get all dressed up, only to spritz themselves with the scent of three-day old gym shorts.

I suppose it could be worse. After all, it's only a month ago that Sarah was telling Elle Magazine that one her favourite smells in the world is a dirty nappy: “I love the smell of diapers; I even like when they’re wet and you smell them all warm like a baked good." If that's what she thinks cakes ought to smell like, she really needs to find herself a new patissiere. And maybe lay off the chocolate frosting.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Eat your greens, before they eat you

"I see dead people."
"We all go a little mad sometimes."
"When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth."

Let's face it, the horror genre has given us some memorable quotes over the years. But the BBC's big-budget spooker Day of the Triffids, has what may well become my favourite quote of all time: "Do not enter the orchard without back-up."

OK, so it may mistakenly imply that there's a bushel of apples brandishing a flick-knife waiting for our intrepid heroine, but it still manages to evoke the timeless essence of John Wyndham's classic tale - when vegetables attack.

Wyndham's story of sinister salad has already been filmed twice - as a 1962 movie starring Howard Keel, and a BBC series in 1981. Both adaptations were hampered by less-than-stellar special effects, which is presumably why the BBC has decided to invest heavily in this new version.

They've also managed to rope in some major A-list talent, including Dougray Scott, Vanessa Redgrave and Eddie Izzard, who will hopefully be convincing enough to distract the audience from the implausibilities of the story. As a result, the clips that have been released so far certainly look the business, with impressive visuals, moody lighting, and lots of shots featuring creeping tendrils of doom.

If the intention was to make the mini-series look like a Hollywood movie, the producers should be congratulated - particularly for the way they've managed to show the cataclysmic meteor shower, that blinds most of humanity, occurring over every major landmark around the world. Independence Day, Armageddon, The Day After Tomorrow - they've all proven that, if you want your audience to understand that there's a global threat, you can cover it off in about three seconds using stock footage of the pyramids and the Eiffel Tower.

It makes a pleasant change for the BBC to be spending their holiday schedule money on a genre title, rather than yet another re-do of Jane Austen - there are only so many consumptive women of 'reduced circumstances' I can stand over the Christmas break. Apocalyptic meteor showers and a revenge attack by your five-a-day may not seem particularly festive, but at least it might help frustrated parents finally coerce their stubborn children into eating their sprouts.

Thursday, 17 December 2009


If you're ever tempted to take a long look at your life and you find yourself wondering where it all went so wrong, here's an instant feel-good solution.

Trust me, it works everytime.

Courtney Love has never been a role model of exemplary parenting - having clearly graduated from the Candy Spelling/Kerry Katona school of motherhood. But this week, things went from bad to worse, as Frances Bean had herself successfully emancipated from Courtney so that she could live with her grandmother Wendy O'Connor.

The legal decision to make O'Connor the girl's temporary guardian was hardly surprising, given that Courtney's struggle with sobriety is almost as troubling as her ongoing battle with cosmetics - too much, too often, always ends up a mess.

What surprised more people was the fact that, as a response to the ruling, Love decided to take the opportunity to condemn her own daughter on Facebook. The posts may have been removed, but quick thinking bloggers managed to capture the juiciest nuggets of Courtney's free-form ranting. For example: "[Frances] thinks she has all this money, [but] the point is I have all the money she has ... I don't care really, I hate to sound cold, but any kid of mine who pulls this shit has lost her position."

When Facebook and Twitter first came along to capture the public's imagination, the world was thrilled at the prospect of more direct interaction with its favourite celebrities. Real-time updates, the chance to feedback, and a 'follow me' option that wouldn't necessarily end up with a restraining order - what's not to love?

But I wonder how fans of Courtney Love (assuming such creatures exist) must feel when they see the object of their affection ranting about her own daughter on a public forum. It's like the drunk girl at the party who insists on taking her top off. No-one's encouraging her, and they secretly feel mortified for her, but they can't help but watch to see what might happen next.

*Too Much Information

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Predicting the future

They say imitation in the sincerest form of flattery. Still, I can't imagine that the producers of US sci-fi mystery show FlashForward will be feeling too proud of the fact that British teen soap Hollyoaks is planning a 'flash forward' of its own. Hollyoaks is, after all, a show that makes Emmerdale look like The Wire.

In fact, the only glimmer of hope from all this, is that the tribute may restimulate the audience's rapidly fading interest in the one-time smash hit series. When FlashForward first aired, its hot cast of familiar faces and write-it-on-a-post-it high concept plotline saw audiences flocking to the show. With fan favourite Lost just one series away from ending, viewers were crying out for a new mysterious sci-fi epic to help them through the Sawyer and Sayid-free years ahead.

But initial excitement soon faded, as the intriguing premise was overpowered by awful dialogue, dodgy special effects, and the erratic pace of a cardiology monitor. By the time we were introduced to the least convincing lesbian since Lindsay Lohan, audiences had already lost the will to tune in.

But that hasn't stopped the producers of Hollyoaks declaring their intention to steal FlashForward's central premise, and apply it to the Chester massive. By taking a look at its characters' lives six months down the road, Hollyoaks claims it will be making "UK soap history when when it becomes the first serial drama to break the time continuum."

Perhaps the show's makers have forgotten how often the genre has seen characters pop up to their bedroom or visit relatives in Canada, only to return a decade older, with a completely different face. Soap opera characters tamper with the space time continuum more often than Doc Brown.

The justification for this flight of fictional fantasy is the fact that, according to series producer Lucy Allan, "Hollyoaks is the only soap that can tamper with time and give our audience the opportunity to look at events that haven't yet taken place." She has a point, since most of Hollyoaks primary audience consists of hungover twentysomethings who only watch it because it enables them to focus long enough for the room to stop spinning. That and the fact that its cast are marginally more appealing to look at than what's lying in the U-bend. They wouldn't notice if the show's characters were suddenly replaced with crude cartoons scribbled onto an ironing board.

Ultimately, if they want to give viewers an insight into what's happening six months down the road, I can save them the time and effort. One character will be on Dancing On Ice, one will be on Celebrity Big Brother, one will be preparing to go into the jungle, one will be training for Strictly Come Dancing, and the rest will be trying to drunkenly hail a cab outside Mahiki.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Raging against Simon's machine

Well, the numbers are in and it turns out that Sunday's result was nowhere near as close as everyone expected. Joe McElderry, the definitely heterosexual winner of X-Factor, was clear favourite for a month before the final - Olly never stood a chance.

But despite the judges' confidence, it's possible that the other predetermined outcome of the X-Factor isn't quite so guaranteed. A Facebook campaign to beat Joe to number one is now in full swing, and it may end up crushing Joe's dreams of festive chart-topper.

Established by imaginative rebels Tracy and Jon Morter, the Facebook group "Rage Against the Machine for Christmas No 1" was created to teach Simon Cowell a lesson about monopolising the charts. Lots of people, including regular readers of this blog, have been quick to join the group and pledge their commitment to keeping Joe off the top spot. But what will it really accomplish?

For a start, the Rage Against The Machine track is on the Sony BMG record label, the same as Simon Cowell's ever-expanding menagerie of pop puppets. So you may be attempting to convince yourself that you're sticking it to the man, but you're really giving him a reach-around - in essence, robbing Peter to buy Paul's download. Either way, Simon's getting a nice fat bonus this Christmas for continuing to drive up record sales.

Maybe it's all about making the point that Simon's acts are just temporary blips on the overall musical landscape? As if Rage Against The Machine can look forward to a resurgence of interest, given that 'Killing In The Name' only managed to scrape its way to number 23 when it was originally released in 1992. It's doubtful that the O2 will be holding any of its Michael Jackson vacancies for their big comeback tour.

But "it's a victory for proper music", they'll cry. Forgetting that Christmas Number One is traditionally the place where music goes to die. If a vote for RATM represents a vote for anti-establishment rock rebellion, why stick them in the history books alongside Bob the Builder, Mr Blobby and St Winifred's School Choir? It also doesn't say much for the song itself, given that these same 'music fans' would download the sound of Su Pollard hammering rusty nails into her own shins, if they thought it was rebelling against Simon Cowell's empire.

More to the point, if these 'fans' are so determined to fly in the face of convention, why do they even give a shit about who's Christmas number one anyway? It's possibly the most trite, meaningless accolade in music - the sales equivalent of being damned with faint praise.

And is it really a victory for real music, if the reason people are buying it is to cast a vote against something else? In an article on the Guardian Blog, Tim Jonze argues that this campaign is an example of democracy in action. If so, then it's the same kind of democracy that treated us to four extra years of George Bush. John Kerry hardly won any votes on his own merits as a candidate. In fact, a broken suitcase full of fish heads could have scored almost as many votes, simply by virtue of not being George Bush. That's not democracy - that's conscientious objection.

Ultimately, these newly converted RATM fans are simply trying to find a movement that gives them a sense of connection and togetherness. New Facebook groups pop up all the time, but here's one with half a million passionate followers. Could this be the key that we're all missing? For all its sweary, counter-culture rebellion, this song represents a coming together of people from all walks of life in a shared act of community. Now that's what I call Christmassy.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Armageddon comes early

Pack your bags, defrost the freezer and cancel the milk. The end of the world is nigh and there's nothing you can do about it.

Despite their decades-old war on the 'homosexual agenda', the Daily Mail ran a story this weekend about a gay soldier and never once criticised his sexuality or the army's acceptance of it. They didn't even drag Anne Widdecombe out from her cupboard under the stairs to wag a judgmental finger.

Describing 21-year old trooper Ben Rakestrow as 'brave' and 'open', rather than 'sordid' and 'sleazy' (where's Jan Moir when you need her?), the Mail's article talked about the young soldier's six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan which ended last week. Before deployment, Ben had taken the courageous decision to open up to his fellow squaddies whilst on a training exercise last year.

Ben was unsurprisingly apprehensive about coming out to his colleagues, but was pleasantly surprised by their tolerance and understanding. Apparently, there's plenty of banter, "but it's all good banter... they all ask a lot of questions." It's all a far cry from the state of affairs ten years ago when, prior to the ban on gay personnel being lifted, 298 people were dishonourably discharged for their sexuality.

But if you really want proof of how much things have changed, check out the picture that accompanies the story. Rather than standard military issue bedding, Ben tucks himself into a pink Zac Efron duvet at night. Suddenly that Kitchener poster takes on a whole new meaning.

Before we get too carried away though, it's important to note that Ben has clearly been carefully briefed by the PR department that arranged this story. According to the Mail's article, Ben 'insisted he would never look to start a relationship with another soldier. He said: "I wouldn't let my personal life clash with my professional life."' Still, small steps...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The winner is...

Now it's Joe's turn to struggle through The Climb. Only he's making it sound easy - which is why he really needs to win this. Simon looks much more interested in this version (he's actually watching it). Here's the choir, and here's the key change. It's all coming together - Hannibal Smith couldn't have planned it better himself.

The judges are falling over themselves to tell Joe how great he was. Cheryl's also doing her amazing voice wobble - nothing gets those voting fingers working like seeing our National Treasure on the verge of tears. She hasn't had much luck in her life, we'd better hit the phones. Oh dear, seeing Joooooooo's sassy old Nan has tipped her over the edge, it's a make-up catastrophe.

Now say 'hello to George Michael who's popped up to do his cheesy Christmas song. He gave it away for free last Christmas (along with his heart), but this year, rather than give it to someone special, he's charging for it. He's singing it very nicely. It's all about Jesus coming to stay - he's probably a better houseguest than the extended family, and less likely to complain that the sprouts are underdone.

The next guest "practically invented pop music". Amadeus?. Elvis? No, it's Sir Paul McCartney. The man who gave us Wonderful Christmas Time. Thanks for that. He's tried to recapture his Beatles look, but would be more at home on the 'men who look like old lesbians' website. Of all the great songs he wrote, he's decided to open with Baby You Can Drive My Car. Now he's doing Live And Let Die. It's better but his voice is wobbling as though his piano stool has been set on vibrate. Someone also needs to have a word with the guitarists, it's not their show.

Lines are closed, ads are finished, shouting lunatics placated. Ten million votes have been counted and the lights are down. Joe's giving prayer-face and Cheryl looks more nervous than he does.

And the winner of the X-Factor is... Cheryl Cole. Oh, and Joe. I'm guessing that those stories about Cheryl leaving the X-Factor may be a smidge premature, don't you? Joe can't stop grinning, but that could just be the teeth. Insincere air kiss between Dannii and Cheryl, but then she's too busy nestling in Simon's burly chassis. Rachel just grabbed Joe's microphone to give him a shout out, but it was all about her.

Now, who's up for a live blog about Susan Boyle? Kidding!

Showing them how it's done

JLS and Alexandra Burke are here to do a weird mash-up of their big singles. Alex is singing live this time - so it sounds very different to the last time she performed in the guest slot. It's a very strange duet but it sort of works, in a "we figured this out in our bedroom this afternoon" kind of way.

The boys really don't have strong voices at all, but they look so happy to be pop stars with ridiculously large boots that it's hard to begrudge them their success. Alex kept thumping Aston's chest with her fist a little too vigorously, he looked like he was ready to slap her back. They're all being so nice to each other, it's quite sweet. They're hoping for even more success next year, so let's keep our fingers crossed that Pete Waterman's predictions of pan-flashery don't come true.

To remind everyone what can happen when you're genuinely incredible, here's Leona Lewis doing her epic version of Stop Crying Your Heart Out. She's spending a long time in her low register, but she's gonna rip it up in a minute, so hang onto your hat. If you're wearing a hat that is. The background VT of the girls rushing to embrace Dannii has been cropped to remove Rachel's hilarious pratfall. Shame.

Her song's finished but they're leaving her standing on the coffee table - probably just as well. She's fantastic at the singing but I think we've all heard her say "It's been amazing, thank you so much" enough to last a lifetime. Simon gave her the thumbs up, as if to say "That'll shift another 50,000". Which is his way of showing he cares.

Olly's here to sing The Climb and it sounds shaky - it doesn't help that the song is a Miley Cyrus album track, and therefore about as low as music gets. I don't think Leonard Cohen wrote this one. Simon's giving it a bit of face-palm. Is he genuinely worried or faking out the audience? Nice addition of some clanging Christmas bells deep in the mix, to remind people that they're going to be hearing this right through the festive period.

Twist and shout

Olly's favourite song from the whole series is Twist & Shout. Seriously. It's fine if you're Ferris Bueller, but a little bit lightweight for an X-Factor final. Simon still hasn't picked up on the percentage joke - hopefully he can enroll in a remedial maths course when the series is over.

It's an Olly performance, so that means glib vocals, silly footwork and twenty dancers - the producers are certainly getting their money's worth out of them. They're doing the Thriller dance (again) which seems even more incongruous this time around. Louis is wearing his little bow-tie, bless. He couldn't look more like a tit if he had a giant nipple on his head. Simon says Olly was so good that their could be an upset tonight, which is his roundabout way of saying that he's backing Joe too. Trying to follow the live VT in Colchester is rather like having a phone conversation in the doorway of a nightclub - not a pleasant experience.

This li'rally could change Joe's life forever. So he's changed his hairstyle and he's belting out Don't Stop Believin' which sounds great but its lyrics don't really suit an 18-year old from South Shields. The judges have all risen for Joe (no jokes about Louis here). "Small town boy", "You've never let go", are the judges all speaking in song lyrics tonight? That would be fun. The mayor of South Tyneside and his wife look like they broke down on the way to the golf club, but they're yelling along with the great unwashed, so it's all good.

And so it begins again...

Hello, good evening and welcome. Thanks for coming back again. I thought it was important to cover tonight's show otherwise the job would only be half done.

Looks like the pyrotechnic team are using Dermot's introduction to practice, and someone seems to have left the dramatic backing music playing while he's trying to get the studio audience all wound up. Dermot's promising "world class surprises" - which can cover a multitude of sins. Speaking of which, Cheryl's wearing a long gown loving crafted from a murder of crows.

The X-Factor final twelve are back - they're looking fresh faced. I jest of course - it's a kiddy choir, because Louis needs someone to be mean about. Miss Frank are sounding good, although the rest are a bit nondescript. Jedward are using the whole show's autotune allowance, and they keep rocking up on their toes, as though they're being goosed from behind. Louis, stop that.

Boring recap of all of last night's "action" - they do have two hours to fill after all. Joe headbutts the wall and says "I just sung with George Michael - does it get any better?" Skin up and meet him in the dressing room if you really want the answer to that. Well, that's the first fifteen minutes done, wonder what other pleasures await...

Saturday, 12 December 2009

It's the end of the road for...

Who needs Tiny Tim and his polio-ridden festive cheer, when you've got Robbie William shouting out "God bless you X-Factor"? The problem with Robbie's songs is that even the good ones just sound like a song you already know - it's familiar but strange, rather like Robbie himself. Prince Harry's in the audience and gave Robbie a standing ovation. I surprised he knows how.

Here we go - who's made the final two? Stacey looks like she's glad they left the back on her dress - she's carrying a load. Joe's inspecting his shoes. Dramatic...................... pause from Dermot. Now Joe's looking for his contact lens down Cheryl's top.

Well, it's the end of Stacey's journey. She's grinning like a lunatic - maybe someone needs to explain what just happened. Bless her, she's actually very gracious in defeat, and I'm sure we'll be seeing her again. Maybe she can follow Will Young onto the panel of Question Time?

That's your lot. Thanks for reading tonight, hope you enjoyed the show.

We're on the home straight

Stacey (I decided to spell her name correctly for a change) has just belted out 'Who Wants To Live Forever' which was one of her better performances from earlier in the series. She looks like she's been raiding Cheryl's wardrobe, with a long flowing dress that's been cut away at the front to show off her legs. Must be cold up there with the wind machine turned up to 11. She'll have quite a draft up her gusset.

Quick, let's go back to Dagenham and hear a bunch of BNP voters screaming Stacey's name. These location visits are really painful - surely we could lose them and shave a bit off the unnecessary running time.

Despite the fact that Robbie Williams joked about Simon's poor grasp on percentages, King Flathead has just introduced Olly with the promise of 150 percent. Louis has admitted he finds Olly sexy. Now there's an image that'll be scorched onto my retinas for aeons. The judges don't seem particularly convinced that Olly will be in the final. Maybe it's because the performances are bigger than the voice, and we do like a belter on these shows. 

Joe is really working the Elton John songbook tonight, but if it ain't broke don't go jamming a screwdriver in it. The falsetto isn't really working, but the rest of it is so good I doubt anyone will notice. It felt a little downbeat, perhaps the choir got stuck behind that malfunctioning door. I hope they're alright.

Part 3 - in 3-D (may not work with some older models)

Welcome back to part three of tonight's live X-Factor coverage, thank you for reading. Stacy's 'Feeling Good' and she's wearing a much nicer outfit this time. Her bits were a bit flat, so here's Michael Buble to show her how it's done. It seems to have worked because she's doing much better now that he's given her something pretty to look at. All things considered it was a pretty good performance, but all her sophistication went out the window when she stopped singing to introduce La Bubble to the stage. 

Now it's Olly's turn, and he's singing Angels. I can't for the life of me imagine who the surprise guest might be. Anyone got any ideas? Gosh, I'm on the edge of my seat wondering who it might be. Oh my god, I can't believe I'm saying this (sarcasm) - it's Robbie. His eyes are regular sized this time, which is a relief. Olly just said "Go on mate" as though Robbie needed his permission to continue. Their voices are similar. Not necessarily a great thing, but then taste is subjective. Robbie has a touch of the pinkeye, and needs to go easy on the fake tan, but he seems happy enough. 

Joe doesn't want your the son sun to go down on him. George Michael has dragged himself away from the heath long enough to belt it out with the Geordie wunderkid. The harmonies are working well, and if Joe doesn't win, then it's clearly a global conspiracy and the authorities need to get involved. 

There's more, there's more

Simon's dad is from Essex, so it was like going home for him. Except not into a gated community I imagine. Olly's old school looks a lot like a juvenile detention centre - in the middle of nowhere with screaming inmates behind a ridiculously high fence. Simon loves to take his time when saying "incredibly", spelling out each syllable, but he can't bring himself to 'love' when it comes to Olly. 'Like' is as good as it gets.

Simon looks a little frightened on his way to Olly's gig, but that might just be the Butterscotch Angel Delight repeating on him. Olly's been reading up on his cliches - he doesn't want this dream to end. But we all have to wake up sometime.

He's doing Superstition - he does love his Stevie Wonder. We can guarantee some embarassing dancing at some point during this performance. Although I'm not sure why the dancers are all dressed like flappers - this song was recorded in 1972, not the 1922. Olly just did a nice slide along the floor under the dancer's legs, like a child who pretends to drop a handful of change (i.e. John Candy in Splash) for a glimpse of a woman's coin purse.

Cut to Michael Underwood in Colchester. They're really bringing out the big guns for these 'on location' reports - ITV3's schedule must be empty tonight. 

Cheryl 'National Treasure' Cole is proud to introduce her little brother Joe. She's headed back to the north wearing a strange skull scarf and cardigan combo. Joe promises to "do it for the Geordies" because this show is all about the regional voting. Joe's dad is propooooosing a toooost, and his Grandma has got everyone in tears, despite being alive and well (sorry Pete). 

Joe is performing Dance With My Father and as always he's doing it perfectly, with a nice little trill before the chorus.  He needs to put a bit of oomph into it though if he wants Simon to give him 'round one'. And that's exactly what he's done - key change, dry ice and a choir that seem to live behind those sliding doors. Hurrah for our little Geordie dynamo. 

Louis predicts Joe's future is going to change. That's Mystic Meg out of a job then. Cheryl's crying, which is a bit of a worry because those eyelashes look like they cost a fortune. Joe looks a little too pleased to have Dermot's arm round his shoulder, but then who could blame him.

Kimberly Walsh just interviewed an unintelligible Geordie who sounded like he was yodelling with a mouthful of Primula cheese spread. I don't have a clue what that was all about, but it's very exciting. Phone lines are open - you know what to do. 

Everything's at stake - apparently

Here we go. Get ready Britain. I do hope that voiceover man has stocked up on Strepsils - his throat must be red raw. They're going crazy in Dagenham - but then how much else do they have to be excited about? Certainly not the fact that their guest host of Jeff Brazier.  Cheryl's looking a bit bemused about being here, like she wandered through a giant wardrobe and found herself on the X-Factor stage.

Tonight the performers will be kicking things off by singing the song from their first audition. Dannii is working a Greek goddess look with her hair, part Athena, part Medusa. And Stacy's still talking like a hyperactive idiot, as though she needs to complete a sentence before the oxygen runs out. She's going back to school, the same school she was allegedly kicked out of when she got pregnant. Here's hoping the homecoming is warmer than her departure.

What a wonderful world, and she's doing it beautifully, although the key change was a little bit ropey. But at least this week she's sitting on a chair rather than trying to walk across a row of them. he's also taken a leaf out of Westlife's book by standing up for the final chorus. Louis loves everything about Stacy (except for her lack of penis perhaps). Simon's steering clear of the percentage references, and Dannii's eyes are twinkling with tears. It's gonna be an emotional night.

Your Saturday night starts right here

That's right folks. After what seems like an eternity of Cheryl sulking, Dannii waggling her eyebrows (just to prove that she can) and Louis being so in denial that even creationists would tell him to go with the flow, we're finally at the end of series six of the X-Factor. 

p0pvulture will be going live tonight to capture all of the excitement, unimaginative pyrotechnics and tediously. Drawn. Out. Announcements. But before we kick things off, I wanted to honour one man who won't be taking part -
Pete Waterman, pop impressario and steam train enthusiast.

Those who've been following TV talent shows since the first
Pop Idol will remember that Pete was the originally a regular face on the judging panel. He was there when Popstars: The Rivals created Girls Aloud, when Will Young first backchatted Simon Cowell, and when Michelle McManus put down a jumbo mince pie long enough to romp to victory.

Playing the silver-haired voice of reason (well, compared with
Doctor Fox at least) the former Hitman was always on hand to dispense largely indecipherable words of encouragement, But the format soon soured for him. As a fan of pure pop music, he favoured Gareth Gates over Will, he famously backed 'vocal harmony group' One True Voice over Girls Aloud, and rivalled Marjorie Dawes in his distaste for plus-size women.

But despite his long absence from the judges' bench, he can usually be relied upon for a testy, back-in-my-day soundbite, and this week's finale is no exception. He's
boldly stated that none of the contestants can expect any kind of longevity in the music business.

Proving that you don't need to know anything to be a self-appointed expert, Waterman bellowed: "I haven't ever seen any of the finalists. I haven't heard them sing. But I can guarantee they all have decent but unremarkable voices, no discernible personalities - and some heart-rending tale to tell about a granny who's died, a distant cousin with a drug habit or some other such sob story."

Which means that he's basing his judgement solely on the jokes that Peter Kay worked into last year's
Britain's Got the Pop Factor and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice, in which Pete starred as himself. 

Then again, I'm not entirely sure that Pete's telling the truth. Summing up his feelings on the matter, he claims "So whoever wins on Saturday - whether it be Olly, Joe or East London's sweet-voiced Stacey - they'll be permitted to release their album. Then they'll retreat into musical oblivion." It sounds to me like Pete's been following the show very closely, but can't bring himself to admit it - like the people who claim they hardly ever watch TV but know the difference between Roxy and Ronnie Mitchell.

It's also funny that Pete can criticise the show for not guaranteeing longevity in the music industry - given that he gave the world Sonia, Sinitta, Hazell Dean, Big Fun, Brother Beyond, The Twins, The Reynolds Girls and Pat & Mick. Pete's basically like the cantankerous uncle who turns up at Christmas and spoils it for everyone else. Someone just needs to give him a nice cup of tea and a copy of the Daily Mail, so he can quietly tut himself off to sleep in an armchair. 

Friday, 11 December 2009

The people under the stairs

OK, so you're lonely, lovelorn and maybe even a little bit sad. That's not an accusation, just a hypothetical scenario. Once upon a time it was considered astonishingly brave for a lonely-heart to sign up with an internet dating site in the hope of meeting their perfect partner.

These days, web dating sites are ten-a-penny, even taking out TV ad space to shout about all their HOT NEW MEN at the top of their lungs, like a pimp with a PA system. To put it simply, web dating is yesterday's news.

The love of your life is out there, but if you want to find them you have to be prepared to look a bit harder. And you have to be willing to do it with a full camera crew in attendance, and a furry boom mike picking up all your best flirty banter.

The Bachelor, The Bacherlorette, The Farmer Wants A Wife, Joe Millionaire - the hits just keep on coming. In fact, Wikipedia currently lists
86 different dating reality shows, all of them filled with no-hopers too shameless to even make the grade on Big Brother. And now there's a new one to add to the ever-growing list.

Having already appeared on two awful-sounding dating show called
I Love New York 2, perennial bridesmaid Frank 'The Entertainer' Maresca has now been granted his own show. This time, instead of competing, Frank will be the ultimate prize for fifteen women with low standards and even lower self-esteem.

The 32-year old beefcake still lives at home with his parents, so they'll be playing a key role in the new show, as they help Frank determine which high-class hottie will finally entice him out of their home and into a place of his own. The big twist is hinted at in the show's name -
Frank the Entertainer In A Basement Affair.

That's right, the girls are all moving into Susan and Gary's
conveniently spacious below-stairs living space, and will battle it out to win the heart and mind (tbc) of the handsome hero. One glance at the line-up of talent suggests that the show's location is spot on, since Melodi, Christi et al might best be described as 'Bargain Basement' beauties. Their headshots suggest that the show's entire make-up budget amounted to little more than what could be snatched from a hooker's purse while she used a public bathroom.

According to the rules of the show, "The girls will have to compete for Frank’s love, and follow Mom and Dad’s house rules if they want to stay in the house. Each week at elimination, Frank will give the ladies keys to his basement, and those locked out will have to pack up, and move out."

Is anyone else feeling a little creeped out by this? Coming so soon after Josef Fritzl's home improvements hit the headlines, the idea of a bunch of young women being kept in a basement for one man's pleasure takes on a particularly unsavoury angle. I know about the old saying that "Love is blind", but this is like poking its eyes out.