When Star Trek Encountered The Internet

Captain’s blog 26112013 point 3.142. Starfleet has assigned the Enterprise to explore a region of space called the internet: the final, final frontier. Early readings have been unsettling to my crew who’ve found the internet mostly to consist of pictures of kittens and film clips of ladies doing bedroom things. There’s a cat pun in there somewhere. Not always in the bedroom. How about ‘the internet: it’s for pussies’. Note to self: edit this properly before Starfleet reads it.

I’ve asked science officer Spock for a theory but all he’s offered is E=MC2. I’m certain that’s a joke from the movie Loaded Weapon 1 but when he pointed out that we’re from the 1960s and that movie came out in 1991 and therefore logically he couldn’t have stolen it… well…

I had no reply.

Then he theorised that the internet exists in an ever-present now – that in or ‘on’ the internet phenomenon there’s no past, no future, no concept of time or space here at all; that we’ve stumbled into a singularity. Sounds like bullshit to me, but you have to let Spock have his little moments or he throws a tantrum.

Bones has offered no real insight into the biology of the phenomenon, either. “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor not a social media consultant,” note to self: I really must fire him; he’s a real negative nelly and an awful wingman.

Speaking of which, the crew informs me that the internet is full of women on MyFace.Pinterest and that the locals have strange customs like “tweeting” along to their preferred cultural abominations including something called a downton abbey. I’ve assigned an away team to explore and placed myself on it just in case the women are, well I was going to say hot but why pretend that I’m not a massive space whore?

Meme me up Scottie.

Captain’s blog: Supplemental: the crew have uncovered evidence that the internet phenomenon is aware of the Federation – full schematics of the Enterprise and detailed files on our missions are easily found. And details of our interpersonal relationships, under the disturbing subheading slash fiction. For the record I’ve never even touched Spock. Except that one time in Tijuana, but that was for a bet.

More encouragingly, my crew and I have come to the tentative conclusion that the internet phenomenon is not hostile to our values – it just chooses to communicate entirely in excessively, often sexually, aggressive posturing and pictographic ‘gifs’, which are not unlike hieroglyphs that move but lack artistry.

But it’s not all bad. Entire primitive cultures appear to have been built around us as though we’re gods. Definitely gonna’ get laid.

Kirk out.

Why I Love The Following

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

In 2003, FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) captured Edgar Allen Poe obsessive, Briton and serial killer, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy).  He was also stabbed in the heart and banged Carroll’s wife.  Carroll has become the leader of a cult from behind bars, and when he escapes to pursue his homicidal hobby, Ryan is drawn back in to hunt Carroll and his disciples down…

Episode 4: Mad Love

At the house:

Emma: Paul, you and me got some serious sexual tension to go with our inexplicable mutual jealousy over Jacob even though he looks like his own waxwork figurine and is totally wet.  Also, you shouldn’t go round kidnapping and gagging random young women even if that’s what we do as members of a deranged death cult because, y’know, standards. Oh and we’ve got Carroll’s idiot son running about the place and even he might get suspicious if he sees her.

Kidnapped woman: Mmph mmph mmph.  (“Yes, Carroll’s boy does appear to be unusually stupid.”)

Paul: Fuck you Emma.

Emma: Not ‘til the end of the episode.

Paul: Jacob, I got this woman for you because you’re a killing virgin, and frankly it’s a little embarrassing.  I don’t judge but Emma definitely will, because that girl is all kinds of crazy and I definitely don’t want to have sex with her in a shower.  You should stop lying to her.

Jacob: Wait, I’m confused, lying about not having killed anyone, or lying about how our make-believe relationship involves a lot of real man-on-man action and a genuine emotional connection?

Paul: Yes.

Jacob: Come to think of it, do you not think that our relationship is a little demeaning to the gay community?

Paul: You mean how we’re two murder crazy straight guys who have to pretend to be a couple for no logical reason particularly while we were engaged in a highly sensitive, heavily pressured surveillance mission and as such our relationship is almost entirely gratuitous and one of us could have easily been played by a woman and kept the kinky love triangle thing with Emma and how implying a link between homosexuality and murder craziness is perhaps insensitive given the relative paucity of gay couples on the tv?

Jacob: Yes.

Paul: Can’t say I’ve thought about it.

Jacob: Well that’s fair enough.

____

At the FBI:

Ryan gets a call from his sister but ignores it.  There’s a flashback to 2009 to remind the audience that Ryan’s totally an alcoholic, which helps him self-medicate his emotional issues even though both ideas are massively cliché.  In the present Ryan goes to talk to Carroll in a nod to Silence of The Lambs.

Ryan: You look like shit in orange.  How’s the hackneyed Edgar Allen Poe obsession going?

Carroll: Don’t be silly, Bacon – I’m quite literally the sexiest serial killer ever.  I don’t even need charisma because I look like James Purefoy.  That’s why you spend so much time flirting with me despite me being almost entirely useless as a source of reliable information.  You’re not bad yourself considering you’re an alcoholic with a literally broken heart.

Ryan: Yeah you got a good pouty squint going, and ok maybe we’re getting a bit homoerotic, but you can’t out-intense-eye-acting me – I’m Kevin Bacon.  Tell me about Maggie.

Carroll: Didn’t she shoot Mr Burns?  She’s very special – I’ve got very high hopes for her, Bacon.  Thanks for killing her husband by the way, now she can really flourish even though she’s an established serial killer in her own right.  Oh damn, I totally didn’t mean to let that slip.

Ryan: Ha! I’m going to take your info leak at face value even though that would never happen.

Carroll: Cough-ARKANSAS-cough.  Sorry, bit of a tickle in my throat.

Later…

Ryan receives another call from his sister, which he ignores.  There’s another flashback to 2009 to remind the audience that Ryan has a pacemaker fitted as a result of being stabbed in the heart and is an alcoholic with emotional issues, which is impacting his health.  In the present he gets another call from his sister.  He picks it up.

Ryan: Go for Bacon.

Maggie: Tricked you! If you want your sister back, you have to come to her restaurant that is the first place any investigator would probably look.  And you have to come alone and unarmed.

Ryan: Sounds reasonable.  Bacon out.

Mike: Bacon, I’m YOUR creepy follower, so I know who Jenny is and what you look like when you’re sleeping.  Don’t worry, I didn’t tell anyone at FBI though – they just think we’re going for ice cream or something.

Ryan: I’m pretty sure that Maggie’s insane and I shouldn’t risk my sister’s life by breaking her rules needlessly.  But what the heck, it’ll be nice to have some company on the drive over.

____

At the house:

Emma: Look Paul, I know your secret – I know that you’re totally gay for Jacob.  I get it, he has a face like an unlit candle, you guys were always gonna’ get your gay on.

Paul: That’s a surprisingly crude way of putting it, but actually that’s not the secret.  The secret is that Jacob is a killing virgin.

There is a flashback to 2009 when Jacob tells a spectacularly unconvincing lie about his ‘first time’ which they all believe because they’re exceptionally dull-witted. Paul has curlier hair and wears glasses to emphasise that he’s a total loser-outsider.

Paul: Man I was such a loser-outsider then before I met you guys and formed this weird threeway thing.

Emma: Threeway comes later.

Paul: What?

Emma: Nothing.  I can’t believe Jacob lied to me – that is so not cool.

Paul: I know, right.

Emma: Here’s a knife, Jacob, go into the basement alone and kill the girl.  We don’t need to be there, we’ll just take your word for it that you killed her and didn’t let her escape.

Later Jacob will go to the basement, find that he’s unable to kill the girl and instead help her to escape so she can hide in the barn.

____

At the restaurant:

Ryan: Wow I can’t believe that after I read the note and put on the blindfold like you wanted, you hit me in the head and tied me up.  They don’t train you for this at FBI.

Maggie: I know about your pacemaker, here is a magnet, which will totally kill you.  The likelihood of you actually coming here alone without alerting anyone at all is vanishingly small, but I’m going to accept your word at face value and kill you in a slow, James Bond villain sort of way.  By the way I’m totes off message on this, so don’t think I’ll let you live just cause’ James Purefoy gives me a total lady boner and he wants you to suffer at least until the end of the series unless we get picked up for another one.

Mike: By the power of FBI I demand you stop this nonsense.

Maggie: You really want to go, kid? I’ve got a knife.

Mike shoots her with his gun.

____

At the house:

Emma: Wow.  I am totally turned on after killing that girl.  Look Paul, I know you love Jacob and I know this is hard for you.

Paul: You mean I’m hard for you.  (he raises a hand for a high five which will never come)

Emma: Let’s wash this mud off in the shower together.  But we’re definitely not getting it on, ok?  By the way, I’m sending mixed messages here.

They start going at it.  Jacob shows up, also a bit muddy.

Jacob: Guys I’m feeling a bit emotional right now, I’m properly sorry for lying to you guys, lying is pretty much the single most awful thing anyone can do. I’m also pretty sure I should be upset that you’re both cheating on me with each other.  Wait Paul – I thought you’d gone straight up gay?

Paul: It’s ok Jacob, we don’t need labels – this is the 90s.  Now get in here so the three of us can do some kinky porno stuff to each other.

____

Ryan: Claire, we traced Maggie’s phone call to upstate New York so I’m going up there even though I probably need some medical attention and time to recuperate, having a pacemaker and an alcohol dependency problem and all. But the Bacon won’t rest until he’s saved your son.

Claire: I appreciate that, but things have been pretty tough for me since my serial killer ex-husband set his cult on me and kidnapped my boy.

Ryan: With hindsight you should’ve known he was a bad guy in the first place – he is British for Chrissakes.

Claire: You’re right…I could really do with some company and support, just someone to reach out to even just for one night because I’m terrified and emotionally wrung out.  Please stay with me – we don’t need to talk because I know you’ve got emotional issues and you’re trying to be a modern twist on the stoic John Wayne type.  I, I just need someone to hold me close, even if just for five minutes because it’s been so long since someone reached out to me and, I’m really struggling.  It, it feels like I’m drowning.  Please, I’m literally begging you.

Ryan: No can do, babe, Bacon’s gotta’ do what Bacon’s gotta’ do.

Ryan leaves.

 

The end.

TV Comedy: 1 Line Reviews

There are some shows I’ve wanted to write about but have been too lazy or stupid to get to grips with. There are others in which the writing was as unremittingly bitter as Miss Havisham’s coffee (ahemMrsBrown’sBoysandMirandaahem).

Some I liked some I didn’t. See if you can spot the difference.

Mrs Brown’s Boys

Some motherfuckers do ‘ave ‘em.

House of Lies

Even lies about the existence of a house. And about being a drama.

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret

An incredibly poor decision by David Cross.

Girls

Enough nudity, it feels like we’re paying for your therapy. Otherwise, I heart Girls: the tits.

New Girl

Not even a new schtick for Zooey Deschanel.

It’s Kevin

It is Kevin, but sadly it’s not Kevin being funny.

Miranda

All involved ought to be arrested.

__

PS: post number 69, hur hur hur etc

Why I Love Homeland

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

Previously on Homeland:

CIA Procurement Dept:  Guys we’ve got the new vehicles in for your stealthy ops.  You get a choice of enormous black SUVs with tinted windows, or massive vans.

CIA Operatives:  Won’t they be a little bit obvious?

CIA Procurement:  EXACTLY. It’s a double bluff – no one would think we’d be stupid enough to use vehicles that might as well come with “CIA Super-Secret Missions” written on the side.

CIA Ops:  That doesn’t make much sense.

Carrie:  Look, I know we’re in a race against time to stop a(nother) terrorist attack on our soil, but I don’t know this Quinn guy even though the CIA is a pretty secretive organisation so that’s not that unusual.  Check him out for me: I think he played Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice.  So I don’t trust him.  And he’s British, so, y’know, BAD GUY ALERT.

Virgil:  He’s British? Jeez why didn’t you say?

Carrie:  Back the fuck away, Sergeant Mike.

Sgt Mike:  Uh, I’m actually like a captain.  Or am I a major now? I forget.

Carrie:  Jeez you’re wet.  Yeah the show’s writers have been doing that too.  Who’s the mole from series 1, for example?

Sgt Mike:  They’ll pick that up again, maybe next series now that we’ve got to stretch this thing a bit more.

Carrie:  We got picked up for series 3?  Go us! Anyway, fuck off, Mike, Brody’s mine.  I mean ours. The CIA’s.

_____

Virgil:  Quinn’s apartment is well secured – he’s got coins on his windows and everything.  Also, it’s kind of empty except for this convenient photo and a copy of Great Expectations.  Is that some kind of clue?

Saul:  Gosh, I wonder who he really is.  Get your gimp to follow him.

Virgil’s Gimp:  ZOUNDS!! He got off a bus and crossed the street to get on another bus; I am confounded with shock at how slippery this guy is.

(does a massively obvious U-turn)

Virgil’s Gimp:  I will pull up by the side of the bus and photograph him in my black super-not-obvious van.  That he would undoubtedly recognise if he just looked out the window.

Saul:  Well I shook the trees by sort of cack-handedly talking to his ex. Totes deliberate, by the by, not a screw-up.  Trust the beard.  So he’s probably suspicious, but I doubt he’ll go so far as to look out the window.  Who’s he talking to?

Virgil:  I have some photographs.

Saul:  OM effin’ G he’s that guy from Amadeus.  He got all twisted ‘cause he couldn’t write music as well as some 5 year old, joined the CIA and now he black ops kills people.  Quinn must be black ops too.  I thought there was something off about him STABBING BRODY IN THE HAND that time, which isn’t in the training manual.

Meanwhile…

Sergeant Mike:  Carrie called me, you know, the crazy lady from the CIA who everyone inexplicably still trusts to go out in the field despite being the very definition of loose cannon.  Nice lady.  Anyway, I’ve got to take you somewhere real safe.

Jessica Brody:  Carrie’s a straight shooter; I don’t believe that she’s got you of all people to take me away in a stressful situation as a ruse to get us to bump uglies.

Sgt Mike:  The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.  Great ass, by the way, you been working out?  I’ll get the kids.

Dana Brody:  Fuck you I won’t go.

Sgt Mike:  You don’t get to talk to me that way.  Now I’ve given you the smackdown, people might start to like me more.

Dana Brody:  Wow, you’re right, suddenly you seem less like a weak plot device turned unintentional comic relief.  Can we explore my hit and run subplot a bit more?

Everyone:  No, Dallas rang; it wants its plotlines back.  They threatened to sue.

Brody:  Roya, I’ve got the Veep to agree to do this thing with the returning soldiers and everything because that would be a really good way to announce me as his running mate even though I’ve only been a Congressman for 5 minutes and before then I spent 8 years in captivity and am probably all kinds of batshit crazy.

Roya:  Wow, it is quite fantastically unbelievable that you’ve managed to do exactly what we want even though we know you’re in bed with the CIA and your reliability and loyalty are suspect.  We’re not even going to question that.  By the by, this is an unsecure line BUT WHEN THE BOMB GOES OFF YOU NEED TO BE WITH ME.

Brody:  Ok.

CIA:  She’s just given a hint about the bomb; they definitely think Brody’s loyal and reliable.  It could be a ruse to distract us, but it might not be.

Later…

Chris Brody:  Wow this is a CIA safe house?

CIA Lady:  Yes it is, check that view. Do you know what that represents?

Chris Brody:  No?

CIA Lady:  Defence Budget, LOL.  You should’ve seen our Christmas party last year.

Sgt Mike:  Dana, because you were rude to me earlier, I’m gonna bang your mum.

Jessica Brody:  The kids will sleep in my room, you get the guest room. Don’t worry, I spiked their dinner so they won’t wake up; let’s get it on with some gratuitous nudity, Sgt Mike.

Sgt Mike:  Ok, but I’m leaving my PJs on.  Leave the light off.  And don’t you dare LOOK AT ME!

CIA Ops Assigned To Look After Brody’s Family:  I can’t believe they didn’t think we’d have the place completely wired up for picture and sound.  Who wants to see Morena Baccarin’s breasts?

Next day…

Carrie:  I can’t believe I’ve not been given much opportunity to show off my crazy face this episode.  It’s got its own Tumblr account.

Saul:  About that, we’ve got a really sensitive mission; I think you might want to be there?

David Estes:  Everyone, I’m sending Quinn out.

Saul:  Is that a good idea to send a CIA analyst on an FBI mission because the CIA can’t legally operate within the USA or at least it’s a grey area?  It’s not like he did a good job at the tailor’s in Gettysburg.  How is your stomach in which you were recently shot?

Quinn:  I’m fit as a fiddle.  It’s like it never even happened.

Estes:  Quinn’s wearing two hats which should make him extra super-secret and spyish, because they’re both fedoras.

Saul:  Ok fine, but my beard is bristling with indignation.  Anyway, let’s watch the screens peeps.  At no point will I or anyone else register the fact that Quinn is nowhere to be seen.

Shady-looking probable terrorists very obviously swap camera batteries between vans…

Carrie:  That battery weighs at least 200 pounds.  It must be a bomb or something.

Saul:  What’s that in metric?

Carrie:  OMG Nazir’s not there.  I can’t believe that he’s not there.  He should be there like he is for all his terrorist attacks, even though he never has before.  Sort of relieved though, there are a few more episodes to go this series, and if we wrap this up we might have to get back into that bullshit hit and run subplot.

Estes:  Quinn, best not shoot Brody in that limo you’re driving because it might ruin the upholstery.

Quinn:  Oh but I wanna’… fine.

Brody:  Quinn, what are you doing here driving this limo that I am just getting into on a day I know there might be a terrorist attack and might need watching and/or protecting?

Quinn:  We got EVERY SINGLE TERRORIST.  Except Nazir.  So just for right now I’m your best friend in the whole world.

Brody:  In no way do I feel threatened by that statement, even though you stabbed me in the hand.

____

I also love the lack of any actual security at Langley – the phone calls, loud conversations in corridors, the open plan CIA offices in which Carrie can walk right into some sort of ops hub wearing only a visitor’s pass.  THAT’s the mole, or rather, everyone who works there is – place is leakier than the Mary Rose.

Oh and: Brody: Jessica, I’m working for the CIA, you can’t tell anyone.

5 minutes later… Jessica: Sgt Mike, Brody’s working for the CIA, you can’t tell anyone, like I didn’t.

See also Quinn’s evidence board (he really loves The Wire), which is right there in Brody’s face earlier in the season even though no one trusts him.  That really makes no sense, but that’s how Quinn rolls.  Because he fucked with Lizzie Bennett’s emotions and lied about why Darcy hated him.

Shark well and truly jumped.

God Bless Homeland.

ITV Football: The New Boy’s First Day

Roy Keane fixed the new boy with a laser glare, freezing the terrified lamb to the spot.  “I don’t like smartarses, you hear? You’re not a smartarse, are ye?”

“Nnn..nnno, no.    Sir”

The boy trembled, fear leaking from every pore and every orifice, filling the cramped pundits box with a sour, unpleasant odour.

“Yer not shitting yerself are ye?”

The boy jerked his head from side to side, pupils dilated and buttocks clenched.  A bead of sweat trickled languorously down the small of his back to tickle the valley between his cheeks like an office manager on an intern.

“Good.”

Seemingly satisfied, Keane turned to leave.  The boy failed to prevent himself from heaving a sigh of relief.  Keane spun violently on his heel, a thought announcing itself on his face like a storm front.

“What do you think of that Martin Keown?”

A test, clearly.  But the boy didn’t know the rules or even the price of failure.  He stammered lamely, forcing the words out.

“Uum, he was a great player? He’s quite insightful on” but Keane interrupted the boy with a ferocity that, perhaps, surprised even himself;

“I SHIT ‘IM!!!  He’s got a face like one of those Easter Island statues.  I hate Easter Island.  He’s a stinking, simian, Easter Island wetbag; even Vinnie Jones could take him.  Prawn sandwich-munching, gimpy twat; I’ve taken DUMPS with more personality.”

He spat on the floor, as if to expel an evil taste, “I despise that goggle-eyed, vein-necked mongrel.”

With that he stalked off to find the makeup artist assigned to soften his own granite-hewn features in a vain attempt to prevent small children from having nightmares. 

He was intercepted by a cloud of pinkish mediocrity. “Hello Roy!” bounced the jovial jowls of Adrian Chiles. Keane said nothing but glowered into Chiles’ eyes, inches from his face.  They held one another’s gaze with all the tenderness of the Marquis De Sade faced with an underage servant girl.  Chiles broke eye contact first, re-affirming Keane’s dominance. 

Sated, Keane nodded brusquely in the direction of the new boy and his swampy armpits.  “Southgate’s replacement.”  Keane raised his voice “IF THIS ONE AVOIDS TALKING ALTOGETHER MAYBE I WON’T BITE HIS FACE OFF.”

Chiles approached the new boy, who by now was weeping viscous tears from his genitals, a mix of excitement and despair. “He’s just joshing, don’t let him intimidate you.  A lovely guy, really.”

But Chiles’ eyes betrayed the numb terror of a hunted animal.  He weighed up the new boy in his mind. He has a certain forcefulness about his manner of dress and choice of barnet, or lack thereof, he thought, maybe he won’t end up like Lee. 

Chiles shuddered as his mind filled with too many unwanted memories, unspeakable horrors that woke him up in the early hours, night after night:  Keane standing over the broken, crying form of Lee Dixon hitting him again and again with a foam hand he’d taken from a lovestruck young couple in the stadium, the constant humiliations, spittle collecting in the corners of Keane’s mouth as he smashed a chair over Gareth Southgate’s head and used the pieces to threaten Jamie Carragher during the Euros, Keane laughing in the face of a toddler as he stole her tube of Smarties.

Keane shouting, Keane stamping, Keane’s demeaning little slaps to the face, the pointing, the crazed eyes of a zealot, burning through your skin…

Yes, Chiles thought, poor kid doesn’t know what he’s letting himself in for.

Especially with that tie: Keane hates lime green.

What Doesn’t Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom Have To Say About The 2012 Election?

Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom features Jeff Daniels as somnambulant newscaster and Republican with a conscience, Will McAvoy, in what some critics have suggested is a transparent attempt by Sorkin to deflect criticisms of liberal bias.  Daniels’ ex-girlfriend with the ridiculous name MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) is hired as the new executive producer of his nightly news programme and she accordingly inspires Daniels and the team to produce the news as it should be.  This is to say that the news ought to be decent and honourable, neither a partisan polemic nor an affected neutrality in which all opinions are deemed equally valid, regardless of their credibility, sense or basic internal consistency. 

Despite a suspiciously high rating on IMDB, The Newsroom didn’t receive much love from critics or the public, most of whom appeared to have tired of Sorkin’s trademark mix of overt sentimentality and naked emotional manipulation.  Not to mention the bespoke stylised dialogue – zippy one liners punctuated by longer monologues – which fail to disguise the sense that the characters represent little more than straw men to be torn apart or mouthpieces for Sorkin’s political views.

The Newsroom is typically Sorkin, perhaps more so, as though he’s been left on a medium heat like a red wine reduction – stickier and more concentrated.

Sorkin professes that the show is a drama about people and relationships as much as it is an idealised account of the media – a class of people more usually caricatured as morally bankrupt muckrakers and sleaze merchants.  And he’s not lying insofar as there’s a fractious will-they-won’t-they relationship between Ross ‘n Rachel stand-ins, Daniels and Mortimer, and the love triangle of Alison Pill, John Gallagher Jr and Thomas Sadoski, playing Maggie, Jim and Don respectively.  Dev Patel and Olivia Munn round out the cast as a hapless geek prone to ‘outrageous’ theories concerning the existence of Bigfoot and a smokin’ hot, socially awkward economist named Sloan Sabbith.  

The focus on character is one reason why The Newsroom utilises real-life news events, which means there is little need for exposition-heavy dialogue to recount the news and thus more room for characterisation.  It also enables Sorkin to use the benefit of hindsight to ensure he’s always right, which is nice.  But Sorkin is being disingenuous when he suggests that The Newsroom isn’t predominately a piece of soapbox television.

The West Wing gave audiences Martin Sheen as a POTUS the Americans didn’t have to feel ashamed of, initially because he could keep it in his pants and latterly because he didn’t use ‘now watch this drive’ or ‘let me put it in Texan for you’ as rhetorical flourishes.  Likewise, The Newsroom is an escapist fantasy of wish fulfilment in a country in which belligerent (tabloid) news programmes and the shadowy rightwing fringes dominate the political conversation more than is perhaps desirable. 

US politics, as we are told constantly, is more divided than ever.  The Tea Party has replaced the Neocons as the political bogeyman so far as the rest of the world is concerned.  It’s easy to sneer this far from the US, but in fairness the Tea Party’s extreme rhetoric is unsettling, not to mention their usurping of the language of patriotism and the questionable tactic of claiming divine inspiration, as Michelle Bachmann and Ricky Santorum both appear to have done.

There’s a theory runs that media outlets reinforce such division. This is especially so in a commercial environment in which the news is perceived as another form of lifestyle choice or entertainment.  Finally, news programmers are said to be loath to bite the hand that feeds, which is an issue when your company’s owners/shareholders are themselves potentially newsworthy and you have a number of journalists in your employ. 

But soapbox Sorkin has given himself a problem here.  In seeking to focus on his characters’ personal dramas, one note though they might be, there is limited time for such a complex issue.  In any event he’s idealised his team and there’s little interaction with other media rivals beyond cartoonish gutter-dwellers, about whom everybody can agree (hint: they be wrong ‘uns).

Luckily, the media isn’t Sorkin’s target at all, which brings us neatly to the question of the protagonist’s political affiliation.  He might be a liberal, but in the ‘anti-US’ speech in the pilot Sorkin makes it clear he sees himself as an American above all; he simply laments the direction the country has taken.

The story arc of series 1 may turn on a conspiracy theory concerning Daniels’ superiors and the pressure impliedly brought to bear on them by his targets, but that merely serves to highlight the real antagonists of the show.  Or, to borrow soaring Sorkian rhetoric for a minute, the real enemies of America: the Tea Party.

And make no mistake, shady billionaires the Koch brothers are repeatedly name-checked as originators and funders of the Tea Party – ie it’s not a real grassroots movement at all, but an exercise in manipulation.  The Tea Party generally is potrayed as a collection of extremist fundamentalists: anti-tax, anti-science, anti-women, isolationist, racist, simplistic and insidious.  The GOP nominees are likewise given special treatment – in a mock-up debate Alison Pill mockingly asks a Michelle Bachmann stand-in what God’s voice sounds like given He’s been talking to her.  

At others more moderate Republicans are harangued about why they continue to let their party be overtaken by the fringes, about why they’re seemingly content to be portrayed as RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) by fruitcakes.

Sorkin’s point seems to be this: America has a two party system, with two (realistic) presidential candidates.  There might be the odd Ross Perot, but mostly you’d struggle to name a third-party candidate without accessing Google.  For such a system to work there has to be some compromise in Congress and there have to be viable presidential candidates on both sides.  Otherwise, democracy struggles and the nation accordingly suffers.  Daniels’ character isn’t a Republican beard for Sorkin so much as he’s a mouthpiece for this point – a Republican president isn’t the end of the world, especially given the relatively narrow range of political positions open to POTUS.  An extremist, however, is either unelectable or too dangerous to stomach – would anyone ever really have wanted Sarah Palin to have access to the nuclear codes?  Santorum infamously compared homosexual activity to necrophiliac bestiality and is aggressively pro-life. Whatever your stance on those issues, his isn’t the language of a head of state, especially one as diverse as the USA. 

As for Congress there have been many quotes from Republicans confirming their desire to see Obama as a one-term loser, regardless of the cost.  The Tea Party appears to view compromise at any level as anathema.  Whether you agree with their policies or not, this is clearly no way for a government to function.

That’s my theory anyway. 

It’s unlikely Sorkin has had an actual impact – people don’t tend to enjoy being lectured about why their views are misguided so he’s mostly been preaching to the choir.  Then again, there are increasing signs of Republican dismay and rebellion against the shrill dictats of the Tea Party.

Something to ponder on election night, anyhow.

The Newsroom, then: as entertainment it’s tonally patchy, veering from saccharine to sanctimonious almost in a heartbeat, but it’s been optioned for a second series.  Expect next series to focus on the Superpacs, mudslinging from both candidates and particularly Romney’s flexible approach to facts.  And drone strikes.  Oh, and Veep-wannabe Ryan’s appropriation of 20th Century economist Friedrich Hayek, despite Hayek having serious reservations about laissez-faire policies, not to mention his tacit espousal of universal healthcare and welfare.  

You read it here first.

It’s Grimm in Portland, Oregon

“These guys, they carry grudges all the way to the grave.  And usually it’s your grave.”

What are there far too many of on the TV?  No, not medical dramas.  Or property porn.  Legal dramas?  Cooking shows? Victorian-sideshows-with-racist-undertones masquerading as documentaries or reality TV?

Well yes to all the above, obviously, but that’s not what I meant.

I meant crime procedurals.

CSI: Everywheresville, USA.  That alone accounts for several million investigated corpses.  Then there’s all the rest, your Without a Traces and Law and Orders etc etc.  In these shows the good guys usually get their man and everyone goes away happy, except when they don’t and Dexter has to step in to chop up said with malice aforethoughter and wrap him in a bin bag and everyone else goes away happy.

As you might expect, liberal America poster city Portland, Oregon does things a little differently.

Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) is just an ordinary cop working homicide and trying to do his job as best as possible when he discovers, courtesy of a dying aunt, that he is a descendant, nay a veritable scion of the brothers Grimm and as such can see the true forms of Wesen (“Vessen”), mythological creatures occasionally given to offing human folk.

Not all the time, mind, just when they lose control of their emotions.  Because otherwise it would just be silly.

The brothers Grimm were in fact recording documentary evidence like 19th century detectives and decapitating bear-men and wolf-men and such, not merely writing down the horrifically violent and often heavily sexualised stories that people used to tell the kiddywinks.

Cinderella?  By all accounts it was a fur slipper before the BGs wrote it down, not a glass one.  Think that ‘perfect fit’ through for just a second.  Just sayin’, dawg.

And so begins Grimm, the wackiest, most overblown, ridiculous and genius trashy cop show ever. Watch it, you’ll hate it: it’s terrible; you’ll love it, guaranteed.  See, it goes like this: 1st five minutes = WTF, next 5 minutes = this is dreadful, next minute = fine, I’ll give it until the next ad break, two episodes later = obsessed much?  You’re officially a write-off.

It’s got people trafficking, jealous lovers, cookies, magic coins, fight clubs, people being poached to make mythological creature Viagra.  Best stock up on monster mace – turns out there’s a fanged beastie in every corner of Portland.  It’s a true original and yet so, so generic crime caper, but with fairy tales.  I only wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall when it was pitched:

Yeah so, like, CSI meets the wolf from red riding hood? Yeah the wolf’s in it, but Burkhardt finds the wrong one first when they’re chasing a kidnapper – they’re called, uh, Blutboden by the way.  Yeah we just made up some words that sound a bit, y’know, German.  Anyway, this one is called Monroe, yeah I know, great name even if it’s not very dog-like but he becomes Burkhardt’s best friend and sort of like a guide.  Geddit?!  We’re gonna’ get him to say stuff like “don’t you dare say heel!” Oh and Burkhardt solves crimes with his partner, Hank Griffin.  I know, right?!  No I don’t know the mythological significance of the griffin, I just think it sounds frickin’ harsh!  He gets dragged around but he doesn’t know what’s going on so there’s all this tension ‘cause Burkhardt wants to tell him and his girlfriend the truth but can’t.  Yeah we’re not too bothered about the girlfriend to tell the truth.  But we could probably write in some references to the Nazis if you guys want, that’s definitely something that could happen.

Hmm? I dunno, do you think Nicolas Cage might be interested?

Sadly not, but Giuntoli plus partners detective Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby) and Monroe (Silas Mitchell) have a genuine likability about them that’s typically lacking in less luridly ludicrous police shows.  That they wear the material so lightly is probably what makes it even remotely watchable, admittedly.  Mainly it’s about Silas Mitchell.  Bitsie Tulloch is a bit wasted in the girlfriend role that is little more than a plot device.  Then there’s the boss cop (Sasha Roiz), about whom there may be more than meets the eye. 

To recap it’s pathologically stoopid, the CGI is lame, the Wesen designs usually laughable rather than scary, season two opened with one of the cheesiest credits sequences you’re ever likely to experience, the girlfriend role’s a bit thankless but the guys are having a whale of a time (TV and film in microcosm, really).

If that’s not a rock-solid promise of rambunctious entertainment then I dunno’ what is.

Series two features on the channel Watch in the UK on Mondays at 9pm, it’s probably long over in the States but I’m sure you young criminals will all find a way to stream it on t’internet.  For shame. 

“It’s obvious: it was committed by a barefoot man carrying a wolf.”

Getting Stick For The Thick Of It

Stop the presses, it’s funeral time.  Crack out that W H Auden poem John Hannah recites in Four Weddings.  Armando Ianucci has lost it.  Seriously, he’s spread himself too thin.  Veep was a minor misdemeanour, but that was American and they have previous convictions for adapted British comedies.  So we can forgive him Veep.  But the new series of The Thick Of It just isn’t much cop, and that’s not forgivable; that’s a crime.  Stick a knife in him, he’s done.  All that needs to be decided now is who gets to do the eulogy.

Well let’s not prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone just yet.

Even the puffiest of puff pieces have been mildly ambivalent about season four of The Thick Of It.  Once it was appointment television, a show that could do no wrong; that could even survive the worst possible scandal in the form of a major actor’s personal life.  Now it’s considered little more than a fart in a frock.  You’ll appreciate what I did there.

The Thick Of It’s not so sharp, so they say.  But it’s not really as blunt as all that.

Real politicians are desperate for legitimacy, kowtowing to the media gods in the hope that Murdoch et al will play nice and the public won’t actively despise them.  But TV is a mirror that reflects our prejudices.  Consequently, new coalition partners the Inbetweeners are the sort of gauche, insincere schoolboys society assumes all politicians to be, especially the ones who trade their principles for power and are accordingly found wanting by the court of public opinion.  

There’s a tangent here about our priorities (or those of the media). About what it means when Theresa May MP as home secretary can flat out lie/be utterly ignorant about the importance of cats in asylum and immigration proceedings, for which she is the minister ultimately responsible, and not get fired because of it, but when Andrew Mitchell MP swears at a policeman while riding a bike nothing less than a public inquiry will do.  Maybe a flogging too.  

The Thick Of It makes this point intelligently – we never really found out, for example, whether Ben Swain might actually be a competent government official, we just know that he’s a burke who can’t stop blinking when under studio lights.  It might be The Office transported to Westminster, hence the little people in big jobs, but just take one look at some of the ‘scandals’ that have done for our MPs.  Duck houses and crisp packets, the mistress in a chelsea shirt, the sniggering innuendoes about close male relationships and late night visitors.

In such an atmosphere where the most minor peccadillo is verboten, when looking foolish is a worse crime than being foolish, it makes sense that Nicola Murray’s opposition leader would want to practice how she walks.  Let’s not forget that The Thick Of It has always been about the spin of modern politics in which appearance is deemed more significant than substance.  David Cameron pitching up on a late-night American chat show isn’t an anomaly – it’s a symptom.

If anyone’s the target of The Thick Of It’s so-called satire, it’s not just politicians, it’s also you and me.  As they used to say about the mafia, our silence is complicity.  

On the subject of spin, season four finds Malcolm Tucker in reduced circumstances and reduced screen time.  It’s never confirmed but implied that Nicola Murray is party leader by virtue of Malcolm’s support for her.  The closest he’ll get to a win-win is a leader so unsure of herself she needs him to hold her hand, thus cementing his position as power behind the throne.  Otherwise, he’ll simply cast his dark spells and remove her, impressing and/or intimidating the heir apparent, thus cementing his position as power behind the throne.  Machiavelli would be green with professional envy.

Previous seasons have kept the party leaders firmly off-stage, a neat conceit that served during the ‘power years’, but has been daringly jettisoned during the ‘opposition years’.  Make no mistake, Malcolm plays bully and anti-hero, but we’ve seen both his power and his powers diminished over the show’s run, mirrored in the way the cast list has grown, eating into his screen time.  

We shouldn’t cheer him – he’s unelected, unaccountable and yet wields an enormous amount of influence.  A man who will go to any lengths to protect his own position regardless of who he destroys to do so.  Who is indistinguishable from his job: a pantomime villain, a caricature; all spit and venom and negative characteristics.  It’s jarring when it’s revealed it’s his birthday in season three – this is no human being.  And yet there are occasional unsettling moments of pathos that leaven the performance.

‘Less Malcolm’ isn’t a criticism then, or shouldn’t be – it’s part of the point.  The new season hasn’t rested on its laurels – it’s taken creative risks rather than replay the hits and count the money like all those reformed bands from the 70s.  Besides, we’re into the second half now, and it seems likely that Malcolm will shift into action and reclaim his limelight birthright.

If there is one little quibble to be made it’s the non-appearance of Alex MacQueen’s Lord Adonis  Julius Nicholson.  Maybe that’s just me.

But the real reason why the show has been criticised for being underwhelming is entirely because of how well loved it is.  Like every other sentiment humanoid who’d seen the show, I was weeping with anticipation.  I tried to placate myself with In The Loop and Veep, but those were as methadone scripts to recovering addicts in comparison.  Nothing was ever likely to live up to that level of expectation.  Or could.  A victim of its own success then, hoist by its own petard – hardly its fault or Ianucci’s.

This season has had a couple of relatively duff episodes, as did the earlier ones – the show has always run the gamut from ‘I see what they did there’ amusing to pants-wettingly funny.  In general it’s well written, fantastically performed and it’s made a few changes to keep it fresh, which have largely worked – who’d have considered James Smith’s Glenn Cullen to be the show’s moral compass before?  Who wouldn’t now?  Plus, more Stewart Pearson, more Peter Mannion MP and more of their bickering – what’s not to love?

Wait for it on DVD, all you doubting Thomases, watch it again and reassess.  I guarantee you’ll wonder why you ever said it wasn’t as good as what it was.  “What’s this? I’m supposed to be commenting on a suicide, not a fucking camel race.” 

Indeed.

A working demonstration of Kant’s antimonies there for all you pseudo-intellectuals, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Getting Sick Of The Thick Of It

Satire.  When it’s not done well it stinks worse than Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator  a pile of rotting fish on a hot summer’s day. 

So to Westminster’s most celebrated and anticipated televisual assassin.  Ken Clarke Peter Mannion MP is now firmly ensconced in DOSAC with a couple of Liberal Democrat Inbetweener phantasms for some cheap laughs.  Can I get a “COALITION!!!” from the back there? Nicola Murray MP is the, presumably by default, leader of the opposition, dithering over the party’s policy direction and concentrating on how to walk properly.  Somebody give her a violin – she’s fiddling while Westminster burns!!!  Like the Labour Party!!!

And here was you thinking that ‘fiddling’ was something to do with onanism.

Oh wait, my bad.

Of course The Thick Of It isn’t about satirising the government so much as it is riffing on the idea of little people in big jobs, the small and petty, mendacious and incompetent, lurching from one minor disaster to another.  It isn’t even about that so much as it’s about the inventive use of spittle-inflected vitriol, with profanity serving as makeshift punctuation.  This especially from Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker, also known as the reason why most people watched the show in the first place. 

Which is good, because if it was about actual political satire we’d have a version of Ted Millibland the school prefect and Ed’s Balls on the one hand and on the other some Bullingdon club posh twat jokes. Last and certainly least, Nick Clegg, the physical manifestation of middle-class guilt, although I prefer to think of him as the white pussycat that Bloefeld fondles in the early Bond films. 

And we’d all have long since died of boredom at the smug wit of Bremner, Bird and Fortune   Ian Hislop   all involved.

Previous seasons and the specials had an odd plausibility to them.  No one watches an ostensible satire for verisimilitude but nevertheless the characters, their actions and panic-stricken reactions rang true.  Or put another way, there’s nothing particularly novel about the furore surrounding Andrew Mitchell MP and ‘Sweargate’, gleefully reported at interminable length by a tabloid near you.

Part of this plausibility lay in DOSAC itself: the unloved runt of a department is a good backdrop for the machinations of bitesize Napoleons, half aware of their own insignificance but acting otherwise.  The department remains, but new occupants the Inbetweeners are too openly grotesque truly to be funny, lacking even a pretence at caring about their jobs.  This falls flat if only because the vast majority of our politicians are plainly desperate for legitimacy, for whatever minor laurels they can claim from the public, whatever the media might say.  Also, with so many new and extraneous characters to cram in, screen time is at a premium with all involved competing to draw the biggest guffaw.  To be clear, this was never a show about subtlety, but whereas before characters ploughed distinct comedic furrows, now it’s all become a bit homogenous.

Nicola Murray as head of the party is a promotion too far – the old conceit of never seeing the party leaders was a good one, offering a worm’s eye view of politics from no hopers, outsiders and the fringes.  The suspicion is that the writers promoted her in order to tear her down as a deconstruction of the politics game in action, and a sure promise of comedy.  Presumably it would have been too difficult to write in a pair of fratricidal brothers for the regular characters to comment on in the usual Thick Of It approach to traditional satire.  Me, I’d have promoted Nicola Murray to shadow home secretary instead – the woman who gave us meaningless fourth sector pathfinder babble trying to adopt the more visceral, tabloid and crowd-pleasing bloodlust of those who would be responsible for criminal sentencing.

This sort of fiction is arguably hamstrung by a requirement of plausibility – the comedy is only partly in the exaggeration of everyday scenarios and should rarely go to the tawdry extremes of reality.  When the likes of Call me Dave Cameron appears on David Letterman, one might wonder if real life isn’t absurd enough without also having to watch it for entertainment purposes.  The prime minister on a chat show was just a bit of fun, yeah?  Chillax…

Can’t picture Obama on Jonathan Ross though, can you? 

But the main thing about The Thick Of It is that the swearing isn’t as good, the lines less quotable.  The whole thing is a bit stale, an increasingly loveless marriage, maintained for the sake of the children – you and me both – when as amicable a divorce as possible might be the healthiest thing to do. 

TV shows have a sell-by-date like any other perishable good.  The Thick Of It was described as the swearier successor to the altogether far more poisonous Yes, Minister, but the characters felt somehow more endearing than in that show, even the gimlet-eyed spider Malcolm Tucker.  In my view it’s embraced the satirical elements a bit too fully, dropped the ball where the show’s strengths are concerned and ended up less likable as a result.  It’s become bad-tempered but resigned to its fate: Peter Mannion commentating on Fergus’ “air tits” speech – “it’s making me hate politicians.”  – a laudable sentiment to be sure, but less fun than “You’re like a sweaty octopus trying to unhook a bra.”

The positive is that there’s more of the peerless Vincent Franklin’s Stewart Pearson, the Tory’s blue sky Malcolm, and one of my favourite characters.  As he’d probably put it:  that’s constructive feedback via the compliment sandwich matrix.

So, The Thick Of It Then – the whole thing’s a bit shop-worn, a bit silly and the swearing’s second-rate.  It was once the new Yes, Minister, now it’s merely a less crap Veep.

It’s still more believable than the political news though.

Match Of The Day: Season Preview

Round one came and went, and what a blessed relief it was all round.  Yes, the Premier League kicked off in all its diving, referee-baiting, unacceptably offensive chanting, wanker players with a sense of entitlement-ing and Ashley Cole-based glory.  You can take your Olympics crowds with their positivity and polite deference to socially acceptable norms of behaviour and shove it up your arse, you faackin’ etc etc.

Of course proper League football with proper football fans who are properly bigoted is where it’s at, but you can’t watch Liverpool lose 3-0 to West Brom in League One. 

Some people have suggested that the Olympics experience has much to teach our national game, particularly in terms of that whole respecting people ‘ting.  Said people more usually hold up rugby as a shining example of what football should try and emulate.  That’s as maybe, but all I’ll say in response is that your average rugby fan is no less bigoted than your average football fan; he simply chooses to apply his bigotry to real life instead of at the match.  BOOM.

But I digress…Football’s back, and how sorely it was missed from our TV schedules.  And wherever there’s professional football on the telly, there’s crap punditry.

So here are my predictions for the coming season on MOTD:

More terrible shirts all round.  Fashion tells me that denim shirts are ‘back’ this season for the boys who care about fashion, so expect to see yet more shiny polyfibre atrocities of a Saturday/Sunday night.

Mark Lawrenson to make even less effort than he did at the Euros or in previous seasons and still make more money than you or I on the back of it.  Mark Lawrenson not to get punched in the face, inexplicably.

Alan Hansen: Poor. Shocking.

Harry Redknapp to offer opinions of truly scintillating vacuity even by the standards of MOTD pundits: “Nah, he’s cracking, a top, top lad.”

Mick Mcarthy.  You love him or you don’t.  I do.  I imagine that our Mick will probably start to at least try and offer some genuine insight but then stop because he has to defer to Alan Shearer’s periodic empty, wheezy-breezy noises that sound like words if you don’t listen too closely.  They can’t be words he’s using because words have meanings.

Joey Barton: won’t be a pundit, probably should be, but will continue to confuse Guardian journalist types who don’t know whether to applaud him for his ability to do a Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V combo – copy and paste, yo – on Twatter, or condemn him for his ability to start a brawl with himself if no one else is around.  To be fair, that reflection in the mirror was looking at him funny.

I actually have quite a soft spot for Barton.  He might have borderline-psychotic behavioural issues at times, but on the other hand he’s publicly reading things that snobs like me assume he would be incapable of reading.  Or indeed reading at all.  And if there’s one thing the world genuinely does benefit from, it’s pissing off snobs like me. 

Finally, Gary Lineker to do some puns.

Oh, yeah.  And some football highlights, but we don’t really understand what that fitba malarkey’s all about unless we get someone like Lee Dixon to explain in monosyllables what we’ve just seen on the screen and then proffer up something along the lines of “Oh he’ll be really disappointed with that.” like he works for Sky Sports ITV or something.  

Kirk out.