Saturday, 17 September 2011

Mo' Better Blues


Ever since The Sopranos showed just what could be achieved with a weekly TV show, the standard of drama coming out of the States has been nothing short of miraculous. The schedules might be littered with asinine reality shows and celebrity reboots of long-past-their-prime formats, but there's still enough quality broadcasting to warrant turning on the idiot box every now and then.

One of the benefits of this ongoing renaissance is the fact that TV shows are able to attract top-drawer talent, rather than having to scrape the bottom of the B-list barrel. As well as film actors willing to commit to a multi-season contract, well-loved stars of yesteryear are also being coaxed out of semi-anonymity to headline new shows. The latest example is New York-based police drama Blue Bloods. Created by a pair of Sopranos alumni, and aired on Sky Atlantic earlier this year, the multi-generational story of the Reagan family (who are as conservative as their name would imply), was the breakout hit of 2011 and is released on DVD this Monday

In spite of the show's slick production values and the compelling conspiracy at the heart of its debut season, the biggest draw is Tom Selleck, who plays the patriarch of an extended family of flat foots and lawyers. Looking back now, it's easy to forget that Selleck narrowly missed out on an A-list film career, having originally been cast as Indiana Jones. Unfortunately, he was already committed to speeding a red Ferrari around Hawaii in a series of UHF-bothering shirts, leaving Spielberg to look elsewhere for his whip-snapper. 

So seeing Selleck back on the small screen after all this time feels like a homecoming of sorts. Unlike the glib private investigator of yesteryear, Frank Reagan demands gravtias and authenticity. Thankfully, the one thing both characters do have in common is that big, lustrous moustache. A true icon of pop culture history, the 'tache hasn't aged a day in over 30 years, and it still boasts bristles so thick they could scrub the front steps of a Manchester terrace. The space under Tom's nose is a prime piece of facial real estate - the kind that women want to get lost in, and men want to catch soup in.

Over the years, other pretenders to the throne have come and gone, but none have ever laid claim to Selleck's rightful title as the King of face-fuzz. So in honour of his second coming, let's pay tribute to the mo's that came so close.

Ned Flanders

The surprising manliness of Homer Simpson's perpetually feminised neighbour has been a long-running joke in Springfield. Although this was only made explicit when we first saw the rippling yellow abs that lurk beneath his natty green sweater, the clues were always there. After all, that upturned segment of Terry's chocolate Orange that keeps his nostrils warm is a sure sign of virility. He may scream like a girl, but he trims and combs like a man.

Burt Reynolds

It's hard to believe, but for a few years Burt Reynolds was the biggest star in Hollywood. Then again, we're talking about a bunch of films that managed to position Sally Field as a sex symbol. Despite an on-screen personality that would make Robbie Williams look like the model of humility, Reynolds scored hit after hit, with little more than a giant cowboy hat and full-bodied porntache to his name. By rights, he should have been limited to roles involving him turning up at the homes of sexually frustrated housewives in a pair of loose-fitting overalls and offering to unclog their pipes.

Wilf Lunn

A comic inventor familiar to anyone who grew up on kids' TV in the mid-eighties, Wilf boasted a spectacularly curly waxed masterpiece that added to his 'mad inventor' persona. Unfortunately, since only master villains have twirly moustaches, it's likely that the hapless creations he presented on Jigsaw were designed to misdirect the authorities from the true nature of his research - a gruesome eugenics experiment intended to clone the terrifying Noseybonk.

John Waters

The celebrated 'Pope of Trash' has done for moustaches what Fred West did for patios, being the first to admit that his own pencil-thin lipliner makes him look like a paedophile. But what he doesn't realise is that he's also inspired the eyebrow stylings of a generation of X-Factor hopefuls.

Mr Bronson

Stalking the corridors of Grange Hill like a ginger F├╝hrer, Mr Bronson struck cold, clammy fear into the hearts of a generation. When Danny Kendall's body turned up in Bronson's car, his untimely demise was blamed on a neurological disorder. But rumours persist that the young grafitti enthusiast had, in fact, unwittingly caught sight of Maurice's naked top lip. Seven days later, he was dead. Forget about your lank-haired Japanese tweens, this is one character you don't want to see clambering out of the gogglebox.

Wilford Brimley

Star of The Thing, Cocoon and The Firm, Wilford Brimley is part man, part walrus and all moustache. His distinctive grey handlebar looks not unlike a past-its-best croissant, and is perhaps the most chameleonic of all the flavour savours featured here. With a twitch of his whiskers, Brimley could convey the warmth and wisdom of a kindly grandfather, or the gruff intensity of a brutal killer. Still, you have to question the wisdom of hiring a man with that much facial hair to eat oatmeal for a long-running Quaker Oats campaign. He must have been rinsing porridge out of it for weeks.

The Chuckle Brothers

The funniest thing to come out of Rotherham since back-fat, these moustachioed mirthsters have been hitting each other with ladders for 25 years. Having originally started out as the Chucklehounds, doing the same lazy slapstick but in giant dog costumes, their hairy top lips demanded a turn in the spotlight. So off came the spaniels' ears, and out came the trimming scissors. It's widely believed that the lads' taches are the source of all their comic powers, like Samson's ponytail, so the shaving foam is kept safely out of reach.

Sean Connery

Sean's been showing off a distinguished grey piece for several decades now (and I don't mean the lovely Micheline). But his furry philtrum wasn't always so well-regarded, particularly in John Boorman's pretentious Wizard of Oz retelling 'Zardoz'. In much the same way that a well sculpted set of obliques might direct the eye groinwards, Sean's spectacular whiskers appeared to be pointing straight down to the bulging red nappy that passed for a costume. Remarkably this was not a look that caught on, which in the era of loon pants, is quite an achievement.

Peter Griffin in McStroke

The latter seasons of Family Guy have been decidedly hit and miss, but one recent episode which temporarily restored the show to its former glory saw Peter Griffin growing a spectacular handle-bar moustache. Decked out in three kinds of denim, Peter tells his family that "My moustache tells people that there is a ninety percent chance that I am poorly educated, that I keep upscale porn magazines out in the open, and that I listen to the Little River Ban with giant headphones." Can't argue with that kind of logic.

Blakey

Experts would argue that moustaches should have a good density and a rugged, slightly military quality, in order to effectively convey the masculinity of the wearer. Cyril Blake, on the other hand, demonstrated what can go wrong when an insipid outcropping of hair is partnered with an equally weak top lip. In retrospect, Blakey was something of a hero, attempting to protect the dolly birds of Luxton from two remorseless sex pests. Unfortunately, no-one ever saw past his weaselly lip situation, meaning he was forever dismissed as an ineffectual bureaucrat.

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