Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Voice is more like an echo

"The Voice is different" bellowed the ads. "It's all about the music" bleated the performers. And for a while, we believed them. The blind auditions, the short-lived battle round. At last, someone had found a way to refresh and reinvigorate the increasingly stale TV talent show format. No judges, just coaches and mentors. But now, as we stagger into the live performance stage of the show, it's all starting to look disappointingly familiar. Maybe we were so caught up in the novelty, we forgot to notice that, deep down, nothing had really changed. And all that talk about artistic expression over commerciality was just spin. So let's take a closer look at tonight's first live edition of The Voice, and see how the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Bland presenters

Holly and Reggie are doing their best with their inconsequential roles, but they're no Ant and Dec. In fact, they're barely Richard and Judy. The cliches are all present and correct: "The atmosphere is electric," "It's the biggest night of their lives," and "You'll get the chance to vote for your favourite artists when the phone-lines open at the end of the show." At one point, Danny says "I'm really excited," to which Holly replies "Me too!" But that's only because they've finally given her a working mic. In retrospect, that may have been a rash decision on the producers' part, since she spends most of the show screaming like Bonnie Tyler with whooping cough. Meanwhile, Reggie spends his evening in the holding pen, playing the Tess Daly role. He's busy reading out Tweets about the show, because our enjoyment of the show can only be enhanced by hearing what Alan from Nottingham thinks of Matt and Sueleen. 

Group performance

Rather than introducing our 'superstar coaches' one-by-one, we get to see them take to the stage in an ill-advised four-way performance of U2's Beautiful Day. It's a handy reminder that they're all music artists in their own right, but it's also as scrappy and disjointed as the High School Musical performances that are now a mandatory part of the American Idol results show. It doesn't help that I've always hated this song, because it constantly threatens to transmogrify into Take On Me, but never does. So instead, you're left wishing that you were listening to A-Ha's eighties classic, rather than U2's po-faced rock. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with The Voice. It can't decide if it's pop or art, so it ends up settling for a joyless purgatory somewhere in the middle.

Inane comments

First off, Holly reminds us that "Our judges have never done anything like this," but she could just be referring to having to sing without a team of Autotune technicians on stand-by. Moments later, Tom compares the show to sky-diving, telling us "You don't think about it, you just dive in." Bagsy not going for a tandem jump with the silver-haired boyo. Midway through the show, Holly gives the band a shout-out, but then cautions them that "Nobody likes a show-off." This from the woman in a dress cut so low that I can see a waistband in her decolletage.

Song choice

The first performance of the night comes from Joelle, who struggles to find the right song to showcase her voice. As Will rattles through suggestions including En Vogue, Diana Ross and Christina Aguilera's Beautiful, it's all starting to feel a little samey. In the end, she picks I'm Going Down by Mary J Blige and gives a fantastic vocal performance. But it's likely that the audience at home will be thinking "Which bit was the chorus?" Elsewhere in the show, we're treated to songs by Chaka Khan, P!nk and David Guetta. For all the talk of artistic vision, I can't imagine that Thom Yorke will be Sky-plussing this.


Whether it's Ruth cramming a redundant run into Oleta Adams' Get Here, Tyler singing most of Steve Winwood's Higher Love in a painful falsetto, or Matt and Sueleen showing Lindsay Buckingham that they have a better ear for melody, there's certainly no-shortage of meaningless oversinging on this show. Then again, just look at the coaches they've got. Tom sings like Brian Blessed with a stubbed toe, Jessie changes the notes like she changes her hairdos, and Will doesn't care what anyone sings, since he can just change it all in post-production.

Unnecessary choreography

With her bobble hat safely discarded, Frances is reinventing herself as a fully-fledged popstar, complete with dance routine and a bevy of beefy dancers. Jessie J comments that she finds all the performance stuff a little too distracting, especially on a show called The Voice. Like she's Joni fucking Mitchell. Holly's far more supportive of Frances' new approach, even complementing her on "tackling the stairs in the first show" as if she came down them on a unicycle.

The would-be rocker

Adam is "struggling to release his inner rock god" so he's decided to take on The Foo Fighters. There's a lot of talk about his former tendency to hide in the background, but no mention of the fact that it's precisely what he's doing with the guitar he insists on carrying throughout his song, which might as well be an IKEA wardrobe for all that it adds to his performance. Things get even worse when Holly asks him whether he enjoyed it. "Yeah, that was pretty cool man," he replies, with all the gritty edge of someone about to talk you through your tax liability.

The sob-stories

Tyler James manages to shoe-horn yet another reference to Amy Winehouse into his VT, and Ruth reminds us of her dead Dad. I don't mean to appear unsympathetic, but this is the kind of shit we criticise the Cowell Factor for, and yet here we are again, getting a lump in our throat because poor old Tyler is having to pay for his own gear.

The coaches

Taking their cue from the rampant egos of the X-Factor crew, the coaches on The Voice are making sure to hog the limelight every chance they get. Will has cornered the 'playing it cute' market, dangling his legs from his chair, like Kermit's nephew Robin sitting halfway up the stairs. Danny is on his feet pulling his best duck-face and punching the air whenever anyone mentions 'rock music'. And then there's Jessie, who tries to come up with a new voice every time she speaks, and made a big show of wiping the tears away after Ruth's performance. Concerned that the five close-ups on her 'just something in my eye' schtick weren't enough, she even mentioned it when giving her comments. You know, in case we missed it.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Things I believe

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no bigot.

In fact, I have a lot of religious friends. Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Christian. A veritable rainbow of belief systems.

Because I’m glad that we live in a free society. One where people of all faiths are entitled to worship as they see fit.

But that doesn’t mean I need their world-view shoving down my throat. I mean, I’m pretty broad-minded. But please, spare me the gory details. After all, what people practice behind closed doors is entirely their own business.
Despite what some might say, no-one is born religious. It’s a lifestyle choice. Some people feel that they’re religious from an early age. Others lead a life of carefree agnosticism, before realising later in life their true calling.

For many, this means turning their back on their former selves, as they form a completely new identity in line with their chosen lifestyle. They might change the way they dress, start listening to different music, and even form new social circles.
Sometimes, this can make them almost unrecognizable from the people they once were. And I guess it can be tough for their families to adapt to this surprising new identity, especially if they don’t know any other religious people.

More vocal critics argue that deeply religious behavior is a sign of mental weakness or disturbance. Something to be cured or reconditioned. I don’t believe that at all. These people deserve our understanding and acceptance, not judgment or persecution. Remember, religion is not their sole reason for being. It’s merely one facet of who they are. When they’re not spending time in contemplative prayer, they’re going to work, spending time with their loved ones, and paying their taxes. Just like the rest of us.

Some people are loud and proud about their religion. They wear icons on their clothes or around their neck to broadcast their beliefs to the world. You see these symbols on the bumpers of cars, or in shop windows. It’s their way of telling the rest of us that they’re here, they fear, so get used to it.

The behaviour of consenting adults is one thing. But I do worry about the children. Surely we should be preserving young people’s innocence, rather than recruiting them to a lifestyle they’re too naïve to comprehend. It seems unfair to promote a belief system, and indoctrinate the next generation into it, before they’ve developed the maturity to make their own decisions.

Of course, there are also a number of sexual risks associated with a deeply religious lifestyle. For instance, some religions believe that a rape victim should be forced to marry her attacker. Others are more obsessed with sex, and teach that abstinence is the only virtuous path. Sadly, this can lead to unprotected sexual activity and countless unplanned pregnancies.

Animosity between certain faiths has been brewing for hundreds, even thousands of years. But no one religion has any right to dominion over the others. In an equal society, we’re all entitled to the same basic human rights.

I suppose it’s the militants that cause me the most distress. Marriage is an institution as old as society itself. It changes with the times, adapting to the needs of the world around it. And yet, there are special interest groups that are looking to hijack it, and redefine it as an exclusively religious ceremony. Marriage is for everyone – it’s a basic building block of civilisation. So let’s keep faith out of it, and in the houses of worship where it truly belongs.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Jumping the shark

We've all heard the term 'jumping the shark'. It's generally used in TV circles whenever a well-loved show makes one too many attempts at refreshing its format, only to lose sight of the thing that made it great in the first place. Not everyone knows where the phrase originated - it was actually coined in honour of a scene in a season 5 episode of Happy Days, when Fonzie attempted to jump over a shark whilst waterskiing. 

What most people don't realise, however, is that this particular episode occurred halfway through the show's 11-year run. So although it represented a nadir for the writers, it in no way impacted the long-term popularity of the programme. Most people seem to assume that 'jumping the shark' is the tipping point when an audience begins switching off. But as Happy Days proved, viewers don't always recognise when the producers have stopped trying.

Pop cultural history aside, let's take a look at the Apprentice. Now in its eighth series, Lord Sugar's search for a business partner shows no signs of slowing down in the ratings. But it's hard to escape the feeling that its best days are, like for Sugar himself, far behind it. A few too many tweaks to the concept have left it feeling like a shadow of its former self. So let's take a look at the changes, and decide whether Lord Sugar is ready to strap on a leather jacket and some swim-shorts, and see if he can't clear a hungry hammerhead.

Cast changes

The departure of Margaret, to be replaced by Karren Brady, was the first sign that the main cast were starting to get bored with the format. Sure, Karren might work a fitted two-piece better than La Mountford ever could. But given that her formerly agreeable personality has changed to make her into a younger version of the formidable battleaxe, it serves to confirm the suspicion that everyone here has come straight from central casting. This may be a game show, but the move still smacks of Lucy Robinson being shipped off to New York, only to transform from a dumpy tween into a hot blonde underwear model.

Bullshit Bingo

Back in the early days, it was possible to watch The Apprentice and perceive the candidates as credible professionals. But as the editors have gradually exerted their influence over the show, it's become increasingly clear that the contestants are recruited for their unwitting comedic value, rather than their ability to turn a profit. Whether it's Azhar talking about his organic business start-up, or Stephen's goggle-eyed enthusiasm for meaningless brand names, the candidates are little more than figures of fun.

Pointless concept

Once upon a time, the purpose of the show was to help Lord Sugar recruit an impressive new employee to join his fading business empire. Unfortunately, after several years of miss-and-tell exclusives, it's become clear that the career prospects were as imaginary as Sugar's Canary Wharf-based headquarters. Apparently, most high-flying executives are looking for something a little more challenging than selling digital signage. So now, Sugar's looking for a business to invest £250,000 in. Aside from the fact that it renders his well-loved 'You're fired' catchphrase utterly meaningless, it does force us to question the logic of selecting a potential investment opportunity based on its inventor's ability to sell old radiator parts on Brick Lane.

Same-old, same-old

The advertising task. The bargain hunter task. The aggressive interview. Been there, done that, bought the overpriced, poorly-printed Union Jack t-shirt. Nowadays, Lord Sugar can't even be arsed to come up with a convoluted introduction to the tasks. On tonight's show, he just rocked up at their Bayswater mansion to interrupt their Wii tournament and told them all to fuck off to Edinburgh. Then again, I wouldn't have even bothered mentioning Edinburgh. 

Cliched characters

The brassy northern lass. The arrogant alpha male. And enough regional accents to curdle a carton of non-dairy creamer. Tonight, we enjoyed a double-dose of the latter, as Adam and Jenna honked and bleated their way through the street-food task, sounding like someone trying to play the paper and comb. When they weren't putting the finishing touches to their 'Gorrrrrrrmehhhhhhhh' offerings, they were making inane statements like "What if people come to the stand and speak Scottish to us, will you be able to understand what they're saying?" Still, they can't really be blamed for doing what the show expected of them. If you've seen The Cabin In The Woods, you'll know all about our love of archetypes when it comes to accessible characterisation. The Apprentice is becoming so formulaic that the official BBC website could just do away with its 'Meet The Candidates' page, and replace it with a grid of those generic blue and white Facebook silhouettes.


One thing we have to give The Apprentice credit for, is the way its production team manages to keep the results a secret. Eight years in, and I can't remember a single time when someone has leaked the results ahead of the broadcast. However, the show's not entirely spoiler-free. The editorial team's love of ironic foreshadowing is now so prevalent, that the outcome of the task can usually be determined twenty minutes in. The moment someone congratulates themselves on a job well done, before it's actually been done, you can be sure that those words will come back to haunt them. Tonight, it's was Stephen's turn, as he celebrated his own brilliance for securing an exclusive deal with a bus tour company: "That's a task-winner that is. High fives all round." From the get-go, they were as doomed to failure as the horror movie character who tells his girlfriend "I'll be right back."

The bags

Every week, the candidates all have to cart their luggage into Lord Sugar's holding pen, in case they're the ones to get the chop. But we're not stupid. Even Tarzan would struggle to force ten weeks' worth of outfits into a small carry-on bag. So why are we expected to believe that the these flashy business types have crammed enough business suits (and in Katie's case, a foam pizza costume) into their hand luggage?

Lord Sugar

With every passing year, Sugar becomes an increasingly inconsequential reminder of his own former glory. A couple of shit jokes ("£5.99 at a Herts match for meatballs. They don't pay that for a striker.") and some painfully poor grammar, is about all he can muster these days. And let's face it, if he no longer gives a solitary shit about the show, why should we?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Battle Concludes: Part 2 of The Voice

If last night's ninety minutes of shouting, screaming and difficult decisions wasn't enough for you, you're in luck. Here's another hour and a half of close-harmony Sophie's Choice. There's eleven duets to trudge through, so let's kick things off with our opening act:

David vs Cassius

Cassius is still reminiscing about his former chart career which saw him scale the heady heights of the mid-thirties. But there's no time for all that, since he's been paired with David in hope that they can bring the best out of each other - an idea neither of them seems particularly enamoured with. Ana Matronik wants to know where they are in the competition. They're right in front of you love, they're the two who look like they'd rather be drowning their sorrows in a KFC family bucket. Jessie's doing her best to make them a little more edgy, and has thoughtfully styled herself as Tasha Slappa to help set the scene. They're singing Beat It, which works pretty well as a duet, but they're better on their solo bits than when working together. Remember that scene in Bridesmaids when Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne attempt to outdo each other on the speeches at the engagement party? You catch my drift. While Jessie deliberates over who to save, Reggie holds hands with the two contenders, which seems a little overfamiliar. I don't know, these fancy media types. Cassius wins, and David mopes into the green room to shrug off his disappointment.

Barbara vs Leanne

Tom's paired up these two beefy belters, so there's lots more talk of 'big personalities' here; and we all know what that means. He tells us he'd be scared to "get in the ring with those two", probably on account of his claustrophobia. As Tom complements them on being "like two boxers," the cameraman obligingly gives us a close-up of Leanne's two boxers. The performance is predictably cabaret, so much so that I half expect one of them to work the crowd with an illuminated tray of cigarettes. The voices are even bigger than the cleavage, but it's more of a demonic invocation than something you'd actually choose to listen to. Punishment as entertainment, for people who can take a broom-handle without flinching. Will pretends he's got a crush on Barbara and warns that there's melted chocolate on his seat. I really hope that is chocolate, for the sake of the upholsterers. In the end, Leanne makes the live finals, and Barbara heads off to make the sandwiches.

Frances vs Kate

Will's put these two together because they remind him of himself when he was younger. the quirky teenage female hipster years. They're actually very similar, so it's good that Frances has her bobble hat and Kate the Timmy Mallett glasses, so we can tell them apart. By the second verse of Ironic, Jessie is doing her lip-sync thing again, as if she's the only person in the world who has Alanis Morrisette on her iPod. Frances has the edge on Kate, but neither of them can really make the song's distinctive harmony work. Will makes the right decision, prompting Frances to finally show a bit of personality in the green room.

Alex vs Emmy

Alex is nervous because he's never sung a duet, whereas children's entertainer Emmy is very confident, despite looking like Aunt Sally. Emmy's VT has been edited to make sure she comes across as unlikeable and arrogant, as she takes all the credit for carrying her duet partner. Even so, she wipes the floor with Alex who's acting like he's in a karaoke bar and just discovered he's been drinking Kaliber. He eventually finds his way to the melody by the end of the song, winning Danny's vote and leaving Emmy to give Deniece Pearson lessons in supercilious entitlement.

Ben vs Ruth-Ann

Ben is still clinging to his bow-ties to remind us of his status as an internet sensation (try Googling 'Two geeks, one cup'), whereas rough-around-the-edges Ruth-Ann has to prove that she knows how to hold a tune. Here's a tip - don't give a Whitney Houston song to a young Mica Paris and a guy who looks like he sells '99s and choc-ices. The production crew obviously hate it too, because the song is cut short, and we don't even get to hear Jessie deliberate before choosing Ruth-Ann. Next...

Lindsay vs Matt and Sueleen

This is like watching the foreplay of a really awkward middle-aged threesome. All that's missing is a dish full of car keys and some pampas grass. Matt and Sueleen think they can be winners, and I think they need to take shorter hits off the poppers bottle. When it comes to their performance, it looks as though the local charity shop received a thorough rummaging, and the three of them just wander around the stage doing their own thing. Jessie complements Lindsay on holding her own, and I'm just thankful we didn't see her holding Matt's. Tom chooses the gruesome twosome, and tells us that this is the hardest thing he's ever done in his life, like he's reflecting on passing a particularly robust stool.

Murray vs Hannah

Murray has a hat surgically attached to his head, and he's concerned about shaking his "booty". If he didn't already feel like Hannah's dad, that last comment should seal the deal. They're hacking their way through Robbie and Kylie's Kids. Sorry, that sounded a lot less wrong in my head. Unfortunately, this musical performance just sounds wrong, period. Hannah wins this round, which surprises nobody.

Indie and Pixie vs Becky

The girls aren't gelling well at all, and they're giving some serious side-eye at each other around the piano. They keep sniping about each other's voices, to the point that it's like watching a dramatisation of the Sugababes story. I'm starting to wish they had to enter the stage via a staircase so we could have some proper Showgirls-style bitch-fighting. After a pretty one-sided performance, Jessie chooses Becky, who goes to give the other two a hug. They manage to smile through their bitterness, and resist the temptation to stick a 'kick-me' sign on the back of her floral cardigan.

Adam vs Denise

There's not much to say about this ruthlessly edited rendition of Use Somebody, apart from the fact that it looked like Stephen Merchant trying to harmonise with Chucky.

Sophie vs J Marie

So here's the experienced professional singer, versus the 17 year-old girl from an Irish village, and together they'll be yelling their way through Katy Perry's Firework. Despite being on Will's team, they're taking their tips from Jessie and changing the notes whenever they feel like it. I say 'change', when in fact they're just ditching the notes altogether and shouting as loud as they can. Danny comments that there wasn't much in the talent, but I don't think he meant it the way it came out. Sophie wins this round, leaving J Marie to slope back to the Strictly Come Dancing backing band.

David vs John James

Danny's getting biblical with his 'David vs Goliath' battle, but he also wants to give the guys "more of a chance to blow." The watershed is just moments away, so I'm a little unsure of where this is heading. David points out several times that he gave up his job to appear on The Voice, and talks about what a big risk it was. After watching far too many of these shows, I'm getting better at spotting the clues as to who's going to get the coach's vote. No surprise then, that David gets the thumbs up. As duets go, this is probably the best of the night, in terms of consistency and harmonising. Tom starts reminiscing about moving to London and being held back by his curly hair. When he was a lad, this studio was all fields. Can someone get him some soup and a copy of The People's Friend.

And there we have it; our final twenty has been decided. But it's interesting to note how in almost every case, the younger artist won the battle. For a show that's supposed to be about breaking talent show and music industry cliches, it seems as though image and marketability are still the guiding principles.

Tough decisions...

With The Voice now well and truly trouncing Cowell in the ratings, the pressure's on for the producers to demonstrate how fresh their concept is. Because, like it or not, there'll come a point where it's just people on a stage singing for the audience's votes. And we've seen that shit before. So here's the 'battle' phase of The Voice. They're taking it quite literally - the set designer obviously received a very specific brief - as two singers at a time enter a pseudo-boxing ring and battle it out to decide who goes through to the live finals.

Each pair of singers represents one of the four celebrity mentors, which means that, at the end of every sing-off, they have to let one of their own acts go. Tough choices all round, and not made any easier by Reggie Yates appearing intermittently to remind them of the fact. At times, "You've got a difficult choice ahead of you" seems to be all he can say, like Arnold Schwarzenegger's malfunctioning fat-suit in Total Recall. Holly Willoughby performs much the same role, whilst grinning deliriously that they've finally unlocked her dressing room.

Some might quibble about the logic of turning a duet into a duel, since it just encourages everyone to over-sing. Nonetheless, this is our new reality, so let's just embrace it. Here's how tonight's pairs got on.

Joelle vs Jenny

Will's paired these two because they're 'super mega divas in the making'. Louis Walsh would be proud. Dante from the Black Eyed Peas is on hand to help Will in his coaching, and he compares Joelle and Jenny's duet to a 'Whitney vs Christina' battle. As the camera takes in our two contestants, the comparison seems laughably optimistic. By the time they take to the stage, they're all psyched up for battle, and I'm hastily adjusting the volume. They're both in fine voice, but utterly lacking in stage presence; dancing awkwardly while the other one has a crack at the vocal runs. The song's bridge arrives to find them leaning into each other and screaming in different keys. By the time they're done, poor old Holly staggers onto stage and begins screaming too, possibly suffering from some kind of ear trauma. Joelle shouted the loudest, so Will picks her for the live finals.

Max vs Bill

Danny has put Max and Bill together because he thinks they're both at the start of the career, so let's try and ignore the fact that that's how talent shows tend to work. He's also been joined by Paloma Faith, who's here to share her well-studied quirkiness with the contestants. I quite like Paloma's music, but hearing her speak I can't help but picture her as a grown-up Veruca Salt. Anyway, Danny excitedly tells us he's planned an explosion, so let's hope Theresa May's not watching. The boys take to the stage with their take on Beggin' and they sound pretty good. Unfortunately, their performance is marred somewhat by their lame attempts to appear confrontational, since Paloma's advice to "make lots of eye contact" has given it an unmistakably homoerotic edge. Mercifully, the song ends before we see either of the lads take a pummelling in the ring, which just leaves Danny to make his difficult decision. Thanks Reggie. Danny thinks the whole of the UK is looking at the TV and calling him an idiot. That's not the half of it. In the end, Max gets picked, leaving Bill to wander backstage and embrace his weeping fiancee, who's probably kicking herself now for postponing the wedding.

Aundrea vs Sam

Tom's matched this pair because they've both "got really strong characters" - someone sound the euphemism klaxon. Our sizeable singers are rehearsing A Little Less Conversation, when A Little Less Saturated Fat might be more apropos. Tom and Cerys Matthews keep commenting on their "big stage presence" until it's clear that nobody actually wants to address the elephants in the room. The stylists have clearly given up, so Sam's sporting a weird rockabilly look, and Aundrea has a little too much leg for her leggings. Their performance is fun, but visually it's just like watching two lesbians come to blows outside the Candy Bar.

Kirsten vs Toni

Jessie introduces Mary Portas, who's here to help her singers work on their performances. Sorry, it's not the Queen of Shops, it's Ana Matronik, so we're in for lots of 'Hey girl!' and 'Fierce!', which gets tiresome pretty quickly. By the time they get to the battle ring, it's all about who's wearing the whoriest shoes. The vocals are fine, but by tackling an Aretha Franklin song, it becomes clear that we're not exactly seeing a star being born. They're both trying to overemphasise every word, to the point that all that's missing is an orderly off-stage with a trolley full of anti-psychotics. Jessie picks Toni and tells her "Your light just went on." Does that mean she's accepting fares?

Bo vs Vince

Here we go - Ricky Gervais facing off against Dolores O'Riordan. Vince keeps singing over Bo, who tries her best to sound humble when Danny asks her if she knows how good she is. During their performance, it's clear that the production crew loves Bo, and can't pull away from Vince quick enough. At times, you might wonder where that second voice was coming from. Reggie tells Danny he's got a difficult decision about four times, but in all fairness he doesn't exactly break a sweat picking Bo. Still, he makes an attempt to hug it out, but Vince walks straight past.

Tyler vs Heshima

Will has given the boys a Chris Brown song, and they couldn't be more disappointed if he'd told them to sing something by the Andrews Sisters. Tyler does his best to act happy with it, and Heshima cops a major attitude. The performance is pretty wretched, and Will's face suggests that he knows it. The other judges are trying to dance to it, but Jessie just looks like she needs a piss. Tyler wins the heat and goes backstage to greet his best friend. Well, the best friend that isn't the frequently mentioned Amy Winehouse. See, even the legends are easily replaced.

Vince vs Jessica

In preparing her singers for a rendition of We Found Love, Jessie J demonstrates her unique talent for over-singing, and tells them to change the notes around if they feel like it. That's called a rewrite. Her final advice: "Bring it, dot com." Alexandra Burke is probably wishing she'd copyrighted that. In the end, it's Jessica who goes the Jessie J route and completely fucks up the melody. Future note to anyone who ever gets a bad audience response at karaoke - just tell them you were changing the notes around. Jessie picks Vince, who seems more connected to his hat than he is to the family member who rushes to hug him backstage.

Jay vs Jaz

Will's paired these two because they're "Jedi Knight singers". I guess this means that they can practice their scales whilst settling an interplanetary trade dispute. Jaz has a chest infection, and although he promises to give it his all on stage, he's not sure what's gonna come out. If it's green and lumpy, he's going to need some antibiotics. The vocals are all over the place, but with occasional patches of brilliance, like the whites of Jay's all-too-visible ankles. The judges all stand in tribute, but I suspect that may be because those seats look fucking uncomfortable. Jessie tells them that British audiences aren't ready for that kind of musical talent on TV. I guess that discounts every performance she's ever given then. Will picks Jaz because "You got something in you", but there's also a sizeable specimen of it in an hanky.

Deniece vs Ruth

Oh Deniece. You poor deluded thing. In your flashy fur coat and diamante-encrusted cowboy boots, you look every inch the former star. But this is The Voice, not TOTP2. As Deniece vamps around and tells us how confident she is, young Ruth is busy connecting with the song. On stage, Ruth lacks any kind of polish or finesse, but it's what makes her a genuinely exciting singer. Deniece, on the other hand, keeps doing little Michael Jackson body-pops which date her even more than her outfit. At times, it looks as though she left the hanger in the back of her jacket. Having already been reduced to tears by Ruth's authentic emotions, Tom's got watery eyes again. But that could just be glaucoma. In the end, it's no surprise when Tom picks Ruth and gives her a long hug and some words of encouragement. Hopefully, they included "Shorter dress next time please."

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Goodbye to the lady in red

And so once more unto the breach, my friends, as we see the Apprentii battle it out for a 50/50 deal with "the nation's most demanding investor." Somewhere in a Leicestershire snug, Hilary Devey is nursing a pint of snakebite and adjusting her shoulderpads in disgust.

Tonight's instalment of The Apprentice starts with the candidates enjoying a much-needed morning off in their swanky Bayswater mansion. However, the fact that they're all playing ping pong makes it look more like a damp Thursday in a half-way house. Sure enough, the phone rings and they're told to meet Lord Sugar at an old cinema in Chiswick. So it's time to brush on the blusher and fire up the hair-straighteners. And that's just Azhar, who's busy posing with his shirt off and showcasing his impressively waxed chest.

The candidates are excited that the venue hints at the ever-popular advertising task. Instead, we discover that the cinema is now a reclaimed furniture shop. That's right folks, it's another 'buy some old tut and flog it to punters' task. "One man's junk is another man's treasure," explains Lord Sugar, as I lovingly caress my old Amstrad email phone.

In the same way that Sesame Street was always sponsored by a couple of letters and a number, tonight's Apprentice is brought to us by the word 'upcycling'. Jenna excitedly explains the concept, saying "If we buy a bin, we can funk it up to be a funky bin." And who doesn't love a funky bin?

The teams debate who should lead - Duane's keen to do it for the second week in a row, but his colleagues are less enthusiastic. Instead, Laura gets the gig and warns us about judging her for being an "attractive businesswoman." In my defence, that particular thought never crossed my mind. Over on the other team, the previously anonymous Tom has assumed the role of Project Manager - he's even parted his hair and pulled on his tweediest jacket to mark the occasion.

Katie, Stephen and Adam are sent out to an auction in Greenwich; not the ideal place to pick up a bargain, especially when they've only got £200 to play with. As Adam explains that he's not a miracle worker, his sub-team resort to ratching through the bins behind the auction house, picking up some discarded radiator racks and a coal shovel.

Elsewhere in London, Tom and the rest of his team are scouring a car boot sale for trashy treasures. As they continue to spout an endless stream of businessy bullshit, Nick's in danger of inhaling his own neck in disgust. He thinks that they should be looking for items that they can "sell to the young trendy with the gelled hair." He's nothing if not down with the kids.

Ricky Martin is eyeing up the legs of a table, figuring he can get a better deal on the parts. He's focusing on retro style, not realising that there's a gossamer-thin line between 'retro furniture' and 'old shit that no-one wants'. Still, Brick Lane's as good a place as any to make that negligible distinction.

Already installed in their vacant unit, Laura's team are going mad giving everything a 'shabby chic' look, and if they can't distress it, they're getting Gabrielle to paint a Union Jack on it. They might have loads of stock to 'upcycle', but that's not a problem for Tom's team, who have a huge unit, with just a tiny little display of crap in the middle of it. I don't know what they're complaining about, Tracey Emin could make a mint off that.

Still on the hunt for more products, Stephen tries haggling with an authentic 'Sarf Lahndan' trader, who tells them they've got a great deal, then confesses to us that the stuff they bought wasn't worth its own weight in scrap. Not to worry, Duane is sanguine about their haul, reminding us to "Never look a gifthorse in the eye."

Gabrielle's creative streak is out in full force, as she fuses bits and pieces of furniture together, the way Herbert West used to combine reanimated body parts. She's still going mad with the Union Jack motif, because she wants "a universal language on all our products." I'm not sure what language she means, but I don't need a translator to tell me that it means "fucking shit".

On the day of the big sale, Stephen's excited because he's dressed as a hipster. It's smart thinking - if they're not interested in your shop full of shite, just dazzle 'em with your polo-neck. As Tom stalks round his empty-looking unit singing the praises of a vintage hole punch, an American punter tells us that "everything in the shop was pretty special." Including the staff.

Scowling in the street, like a tramp with an empty cider can, Nick advises us on the difference between minimalism and emptiness. His pointless VT snippets are a case in point. Business may be brisk in Tom's shop, but Laura's team are struggling to sell anything. But that's because Jade is stalking the streets outside, threatening to cut people if they don't buy three pieces of occasional furniture.

Now here's a turn-up for the books. Nick is actually confessing that he got it wrong, apologising for misjudging Tom's team for their product selection. In the understatement of the millennium, he admits "I may have sneered a little, yesterday." May have? His lip actually curled over his eyebrow. The pressure's on for the last few sales, so as a hipster in a red bowtie haggles over 25p, Laura attempts to flog a coffee table using the unusual pitch of "see how much weight you're getting for a pound."

If you need any more proof that the recession is still biting, consider the fact that Lord Sugar has had to let the photogenic Frances go, and replace her with a new receptionist who sounds like Baron Greenback. As the forensic investigation gets underway, Laura tells Lord Sugar about how her team tried to get some ideas on the table. In fact, it was more about ideas for tables, including one made from an old valise, that collapsed the moment the customer got it out of the shop.

Asked to summarise his team's performance, Tom declares that he's delighted with them and doesn't have a bad word to say about anyone. As the irony-meter threatens to go off the scale, Karren swoops in and reveals that Laura's team overspent and lost the task. Lord Sugar demands an explanation about why they lost, but Nick Holzherr has already solved that mystery, explaining that they spent too much money, and didn't sell enough. We call those 'business smarts'.

As usual, the team discussion descends into a horrendous screeching match as everyone talks over each other. Jane gets hauled over the coals for her desperate and aggressive sales technique, which she redefines as 'overenthusiastic.' That's how convicted murderers get their sentences commuted to manslaughter. And it's all going well for her, as she gives a rousing defence of her role on the task. But she makes the fundamental error of saying "I'm not a market trader, I'm more comfortable in the business to business environment." She might as well have pissed in Lord Sugar's weeping fig. After a lacklustre bit of back and forth, it's quite clear where the finger is going to be pointing. He explains that Jane's been in the board room three times, but neglects to add that she's worn the same red fucking outfit too. It's no wonder she got canned, since Lord Sugar probably sees that suit every time he closes his eyes. I know I do.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Devil And The Details

There’s been a lot of speculation in the right wing press about the veracity of HBO’s docudrama Game Change, ever since the adaptation of John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s 2010 book was first announced.

Pre-emptively labelling it another ‘liberal Hollywood elite’ hack-job, critics sharpened their blades and prepared to get stuck into the film for playing fast and loose with the facts. To them, Sarah Palin is an unassailable figure, representing folksy home-spun wisdom and traditional Christian values, all wrapped up in a tidy MILFy package. And since The Hollywood Reporter helpfully pointed out that the film's top talent and executives had, between them, donated US$200, 000 to Democratic causes, it was unlikely to give their moose-murdering heroine a fair hearing.

In fact, the film is a surprisingly even-handed portrayal of one of the most compelling footnotes in recent political history. I say ‘footnote’ because the fact remains that this is the story of a campaign that failed. Sorry if that spoils the ending for you, but at this stage, it’s like warning people that the dénouement of Titanic is a little moist.

So why make Game Change at all? Surely a film about Obama’s genuinely historic election would make for a more uplifting and celebratory narrative? But that’s to miss the point of this fascinating and compelling film, which instead addresses the key question at the heart of McCain’s ill-fated attempt to win the White House. Namely, what were they thinking?

McCain has long been regarded as one of the most likeable and honourable Republican Senators, by observers at both ends of the political spectrum. So his decision to pair up with a photogenic ‘Soccer Mom’ seemed ill-advised at best, and downright terrifying at worst. Indeed, there are several genuinely chilling moments in Game Change, as McCain’s team of advisors question the wisdom of putting the big red button within the grasp of Palin’s neatly manicured French tips.

Here’s a woman who has to be given a crash course in geography (“This is Germany, we fought against them in two World Wars”) by advisors expecting to discuss more taxing geopolitical issues. At one point, the campaign’s chief strategist Steve Schmidt (played by Woody Harrelson) coaches Palin for the Vice Presidential debate and asks her about how she would manage the special relationship between the US and the UK, given that support for military action in the Middle East is at an all time low. She responds by saying "America has always had a great relationship with the Queen…" Cue a rather panicked explanation of the difference between Prime Minister and a Head of State.

Despite Palin’s considerable intellectual shortcomings, the film refuses to poke fun at her, instead commending her remarkable ability to connect with ordinary people. We may question the disingenuous way that Republicans have successfully demonised anyone with a tertiary education as the ‘intellectual elite’, but Palin remained resolutely committed to her role as the ‘you betcha!’ voice of everyman (and woman).

Having made peace with their ‘high risk, high reward strategy’, the Republican strategists can barely contain their glee as their progeny begins to charm the crowds. As Palin watches Barack securing the Democratic Party nomination, she comments, "I'm just watching Obama's big fancy speech. They sure do love him." Their reply: "They're gonna love you more." You can almost hear her eyes make that ker-ching sound.

Showcasing that unmistakable grin, as if invisible hands are continually checking her bridge-work, Julianne Moore nails Palin far more effectively than Tina Fey’s hilarious but one-dimensional portrayal ever could. We see her struggle with her own personal ideology when it conflicts with McCain’s more centrist approach, and we feel genuine empathy for her as her lack of preparedness threatens to derail the entire campaign. As her advisors worry that she’s in the throws of a full-blown nervous breakdown, Palin sits at the table like a petulant pre-teen refusing to eat her greens.

Much has been made of the film’s powerhouse cast – TV movies not usually being known for their ability to score actors of the calibre of Julianne Moore and Ed Harris. But credit should also go to director Jay Roach, who deftly applies his background in big-screen comedy (having helmed all the Austin Powers and Meet The Parents movies), in giving this potentially dry tale an effervescent energy. In fact, much of the film plays like a contemporary retelling of George Cukor’s classic Born Yesterday. Think My Fair Lady, but with more Creationism.

So back to that original question, what were they thinking? The answer lies in one of the early scenes in the film. Marvelling at the hero’s welcome Obama receives while visiting Germany on the campaign trail, Schmidt reveals the key insight that will help them reclaim the lead from the Democrat wunderkind – “We need to ask whether America wants a statesman, or a celebrity.” By choosing to align with the untested and hurriedly vetted Palin, they ended up offering America one of each.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Breaking down Britain's Got Talent

After another hour and a quarter of The Voice’s empathetic worthiness, I’m all set to catch up with Simon Cowell and his merry band of jeering gawkers. An hour of cruelty and eye-rolling is just what I need to get my mean on. Problem is, Britain’s Got Talent has become so contrived and predictable that it’s impossible to get a proper hit off its effortless spite. Sitting through tonight’s episode, I realised just how transparent the show’s rigidly deployed format actually is. The whole thing can be broken down into a series of grimly familiar clichés, so let’s make a list of what we can expect, based on tonight’s selection.

A redefinition of the word ‘talent’
The show might claim to be incontrovertible proof of Britain’s immense talent reserves, but the woeful selection of acts manages to contradict its title every three minutes. Even its hosts seem to be in on the joke, with AntorDec asking outright, “So, has Britain Got Talent?" In response, we get a sound-bite from a Pearly King who says, "Pickpockets and burglars. They've all got talent ain’t they?" Since this is all about as much fun as having your watch stolen, he may well have a point.

Patronising the old dears

There’s an extended scene at the start of tonight’s show, featuring a catheter (collective noun) of old dears, sitting in their anoraks. At first, I thought they were like my grandparents - “No, we won’t take it off, we’re not staying” - but it turns out they’re the first of tonight’s acts, and the coats are part of the joke. As The Zimmers shuffle onto the stage and fuss about who stands where, Simon rolls his eyes and mutters "Oh God, it's going to be one of those days," because he has as much contempt for the acts as he does for the audience. They start by murdering What The World Needs Now, and then whip off their coats to stick the knitting needle into Fight For Your Right. Both songs sound equally awful, like Harry Brown auditioning for Glee. The judges love it, but given that the whole point of the act is the mid-way surprise reveal, it’s hard to know what else they can do with it.

Dance troupes
Ever since Diversity beat Susan Boyle in the series three finale, every dance troupe in the country has attempted to make the Britain’s Got Talent stage their own. Unfortunately, they’re getting bigger and bigger, to the point that most of them look like a suburb that turned up in the same outfit. Tonight’s first act is Twisted Disco, who dance like they’re auditioning for Showgirls (the volcano routine) but look like Toto Coello – ask your Mum. Four Corners aren’t much better, with one girl and about 15 guys. She tells the judges "They're all pretty much male except for me." Some of them take exception to her denouncement of their masculinity, apart from the one who does a celebratory high-kick as they exit the stage after four yeses. Worst of the bunch is a group whose entire routine consists of simply walking from side-to-side, as if they’re just trying to stay upright on a choppy P&O crossing.

The serious musician
One guy comes on to do a working men’s club version of Ed Sheehan, and takes himself very seriously. Simon tells him, "You look like Mark Owen from Take That" to which he responds with "I don’t know who that is." But his ‘I don’t do pop’ comment is entirely redundant. It’s Mark Owen. From Take That. It requires no further elaboration.

The ‘you’re what this show is all about’ moment
We get a very brief clip of Analiza Chingan, an attractive Chinese girl playing the violin in a provocative outfit. It’s all very Vanessa Mae, and Simon tells her “You’re super talented. And exactly what we should be looking for on this show.” Note the judicious use of the word ‘should’.

The ill-placed self-belief
Richard Bolongi wrote a song for his girlfriend, but his performance doesn’t really sell it. He complains that the microphone is making him sound weird, but it takes a special talent to sing one’s own composition out of tune. Richard tells us that, one day, the judges are all going to buy his record. Scoff all you like, but remember how we all once laughed at Darius Danesh?

Zipparah is another big believer in the power of self-confidence. We first meet him boring the arse off a girl in the holding room. She smiles politely, but she’s looking around to see if anyone else desperately needs a seat. He does a rap about losing his keys and his mobile phone, as #wheremekeys and #wheremephone helpfully pop up on the screen. It's not enough that we're given the opportunity to participate in these fucking shows, now we're being told what we should be talking about. Oddly, the judges loved him, so now the pressure’s on to write another song about an immutable human truth - maybe something about picking the wrong queue in the supermarket.

The pretty girl with a big voice
18 year-old Chelsea is here with her Nan, who looks exactly like an alternate reality version of Cher, where the Oscar-winning popstar developed an early phobia of surgery. Chelsea's version of Purple Rain gets off to a slow start, prompting Simon to do that thing where he smirks with half his face; his way of saying "I'm not going to smile properly until she starts bellowing." Which she does, right on cue. It's loud, but not particularly tuneful. And her timing is so off it's like the musical equivalent of that Two Ronnies Mastermind sketch, where Ronnie Barker gives the answers to the previous question. By the time the judges weigh in, it's all getting very emotional. DecOrAnt gives Nan a tissue, but she's not actually weeping, so she nods in gratitude and rams it up her nose.

The weirdo
On comes Mena Swift, a strange woman with bad hair and worse teeth who compares herself to "Nicole Sheerwinger." Simon cuts her off before she sings, and so we never get to hear whether she's any good. But given how the whole thing was set up for us to laugh at her, I think it's safe to assume that Maria Callas wasn't facing any stiff competition in the diva stakes.

The awful styling
Simon’s desperate to recapture that monumental Susan Boyle epiphany, so all the singers have been encouraged to take to the stage, dressed as if they spent the night before rifling through the bin bags outside Oxfam. That way, they can shuffle into the spotlight looking like hell, then blow everyone away with their immense vocal chops. Simon gets to do his surprised face, and everyone goes home happy.

The triumphant crescendo
The show ends with a sixteen year-old girl in a Wilma Flintstone dress and her dog Pudsey. The crowd goes wild, and Simon loves it. But his face is so frozen with Botox, it’s impossible to tell whether he’s being sarcastic.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The secret's in the sauce

I was never much use at football. It's not that I had two left feet or anything. In fact, on the few occasions when I applied myself, I managed to surprise everyone by being halfway decent. Problem was, as my P.E. teacher repeatedly pointed out, I was a 'shitliner'. So rather than apply myself, and push forward to get in the game, I was content to hang around the goal in the hope that a fortuitous cross might come my way. That way I could spend 89 minutes in the background, then knock one in and save the day. You can see where I'm going with this. Three weeks in, and it's time for Lord Sugar to start clearing the timewasters out of his penalty area. 

Tonight's show opens with a spooky soundtrack and a shot of the moonlit house. All that's missing is a tall priest with an attache case clambering out of a cab and lingering in the lamplight. It might only be 6am but Gabrielle's already up and dressed to kill. So this week we're spared the shot of our candidates thrashing around wrapped in a damp bath towel. 

After two consecutive failures, the girls are licking their wounds. Jane McEvoy, who is slowly morphing her way through several Catherine Tate characters, has already identified the runts of the male litter and has marked their cards for termination. At St Katherine's Dock, Lord Sugar waxes lyrical about cinnamon and saffron. Since this show is getting more and more like Dragon's Den, he wants a piece of the Reggae Reggae action, and has challenged the Apprentii to create a new condiment. Thankfully, he explains the rules once again ("One of you will get fired") which, based on facial expressions, seem to come as a surprise to Duane. 

With the teams mixed up a little, the girls are delighted that Katie will no longer be the blond albatross around their collective neck. Duane explains that he has no specific knowledge of the food market, but feels he could be a successful project manager if they all focus on winning. I'm sure it made more sense in his head. Meanwhile, Katie's put herself up as project manager for Team Phoenix. As Adam checks that she's OK with the responsibility, since "this might get quite complicated," Ricky Martin (gets a laugh every time) nominates himself to head up the sub-team. He's quite aggressive about it, suggesting that he may be rinsing chunks of Katie's spine off his pocket-knife later. 

Team Sterling has decided on a spicy pineapple chutney, which doesn't sit well with gimlet-eyed Jane who's a food industry expert. She launches into a mini-lecture about sugar percentages, but Duane shuts that down by saying  "I totally agree, so let's focus on making this a quality product." Non-sequiturs a specialty. 

Stephen is getting excited about calling the ketchup 'Bellissimo' which he thinks might be spelled with a B or a V. He seems to be something of an expert when it comes to talking vollocks. The label design is a bit of a farce, as Stephen suggests "A sunset, so to speak." The underwhelmed designer cobbles together something that looks like a Saga holiday ad, so they replace it with a red pepper. That's it, just a pepper. Katie comments "We've stumbled across magic." Actually, I think they may have stepped in it. 

Things aren't so positive in the chutney factory, as Team Sterling have knocked up a condiment spicy enough to make Duane cough up his duodenum. Unfortunately, this means that the sales team have to head out to a meeting with a premium retailer, without a sample. Business development manager Jade tells a fascinating story about how much people enjoy chutney, but it's let down when Nicolas points out that there's nothing for them to taste. They should have gone for broke and offered up some beautiful robes fashioned from invisible thread. 

With their ketchup sample safely dispatched for the sales pitch, Adam is looking after the rest of the batch. He's concerned that it's "boiling like an omelette." I don't think I'll be popping round to his for a frittata any time soon. The ketchup pitch doesn't go too badly, until the buyer points out that they've mis-spelled Bellissimo. Thank God they didn't try it with a 'v'.

Things aren't going too well back in the factory. The ketchup's too thick, and it gets worse as the sauce cools down and coagulates. The boys are slopping it all over the place. Forget about toothpaste back in the tube - this grim scene is more like squeezing shit back into an arsehole. And because they've smeared it all over the factory floor, they're missing twenty percent of their stock. 

Team Sterling is now back on track, leaving the voice-over to explain that "Duane has split his chutney 50/50." That's a new one for the Profanisaurus. As the rest of his team attempts to sell their product in a supermarket, Jenna displays an amazing part-time smile that drops like a whore's knickers the moment a customer turns their back. 

Michael and Tom, who've managed to avoid the cameras for the first couple of episodes, make a halfhearted attempt to score some sales. Michael plays hard to get, and leaves the retailer empty handed, while Tom simply rolls his eyes. Moments later, he pipes in to comment that it's an aesthetically pleasing sauce. Well, that was worth switching the radio mic on for.  

In the boardroom, Adam takes the opportunity to point out how amazing he is - a perspective he seems to be alone in holding. Everyone else is distracted by Karren's decision to pair a black bra with a cream sweater. That harsh lighting is great for blue eyes, not so much for sheer tops. 

With almost twice the profit, Team Sterling head out for a race around Silverstone. Poor old Phoenix shuffle off to the Bridge Cafe, to sit in the shadow of a well-placed bottle of generic table sauce. Lord Sugar struggles to understand what their sauce is for, figuring that a truck driver wouldn't ask for the 'Bellissimo' to throw on his pork pie. But that's because everyone knows you have HP with a pork pie. 

Sitting in-between Ricky and Michael, Katie unwittingly reveals a reasonably confident and competent demeanour, suggesting that the casting directors are getting a little lax when it comes to screening contestants. When Michael cranks his cockney schtick up to 11, Lord Sugar shoots him down, saying "I don't care where you come from, or whether you got a two-point-one from Oxford." Poor old Nick must spend so long biting his tongue, his mouth is constantly filled with blood. Still, if anyone asks, he can tell them it's Bellissimo. 

After an interminable bout of Lord Sugar's Russian roulette routine, he finally points the hairy finger of doom at the jug-eared shitliner Michael. Aside from his anonymous showing for the last few weeks, there's only space in the boardroom for one East End geezer-made-good. And it's the one with a face like a fist full of bristles.  

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Time To Change The Chanel

Don't get me wrong, fashion is important. It inspires people to pursue a lifelong love of design. It generates millions of jobs around the world. And it has the unrivalled power to transform someone's self-esteem in the time it takes to fasten a couple of buttons. At its best, it's pure art. The rest of the time, it's simply content to make us look good, feel good, and swing our shopping bags as we walk down the high street.

However, it's still just fashion. It's transient, fleeting and sometimes utterly ridiculous. Even the world's most respected fashion designers can take a beautiful woman and make her look like she was dressed in the dark by a mean-spirited pack of primates.

Despite this, fashion magazines willingly overlook the frivolous nature of their industry, speaking about it in such lofty tones as to make the Large Hadron Collider seem like an inconsequential indulgence by comparison. Case in point - a new article on Vogue's website, reporting Karl Lagerfeld's assertion that Jacqueline Kennedy's iconic bright pink, bouclé skirt suit and pillbox hat wasn't a genuine Chanel.

Forget about the fact that the image of her scrabbling across the back of the President's car, attempting to gather up her husband's brains, is indelibly burned into the collective consciousness of a nation. Now we have to deal with the upsetting fact that her outfit was a knock-off.

OK, so maybe 'knock-off' is a bit of a stretch. According to Chanel biographer Justine Picardie, "The garments were not fake or pirated, but made to order [by American dressmaker Oleg Cassini] using materials supplied by Chanel in Paris." Even so, we're now in a situation where the most traumatic murder of the twentieth century is being re-evaluated because of the supposed inauthenticity of the widow's two-piece.

It might have been variously described as "the most legendary garment in American history" and a suit "which will forever be embedded in America's historical conscience." But ultimately, it doesn't matter whether it came from Chanel or George at ASDA. Fashion doesn't make historical figures, it just makes sure that they look nice in the photos that record it. Let's just try and keep a little perspective shall we?