Monday, March 19, 2007

MAKING YOUR MIND UP

MARK:Yes, it’s that time again, as the UK votes for the entry that will come 16th in the Eurovision Song Contest this year. Wogan is presenting and already seems quite drunk, the way he is glaring at the autocue and swaying slightly. Fearne Cotton is his girly sidekick, wearing a weird shiny dress and terrible blusher – it looks like someone has drawn red circles on each cheek with a wax crayon. The “panel of experts” consists of Capt Jack from Dorkwood and Mel off Mel and Sue. Mel is wearing a bizarre miniature top hat at a jaunty angle – I later decide that this hat disguises a microcomputer that is beaming useless Eurovision trivia directly into her brain. Mel keeps saying “Eurovish”, when once would have been enough really.

SARAH: I like it that they appear to have taken Morrissey at his word and drafted in proper pop singers - well, pop singers that have actually seen the inside of the Top Ten and appeared on the cover of Smash Hits at least once - instead of the usual crew of stage school shriekers, ex X-factor competitors and session musos looking for a last hit at the Big Time. But of course it is all doomed.

BTW. I hate Fearne Cotton, but have to admit that she did a pretty good job managing Terry and the various popstrel types.

MARK:The first act is Liz off Atomic Kitten. She goes on about being a scouser and liking Eurovision and then shows us the bar she used to work before she was famous. It’s a good job she remembers where it is as she’ll be back there before long. She has a weird corkscrew perm and wears a short yet blousy blue dress to sing a bland and forgettable motown knock-off type song – there’s nothing wrong with it and her voice is quite good, but it isn’t anything great. The best bit is when all the boy dancers get overexcited and start doing backflips and somersaults etc. Capt Jack says something weird about her being a “down home girl” that makes him sound like a record exec from a 1950’s Cliff Richard film, as do all his comments tonight.

SARAH: Well, she can sing a bit. It was OK. But nothing special.

MARK:Next is Brian Harvey, the roughest one out of E17. (Sarah: I thought the roughest one was the bloke who looked like a bald fox, but not in a good way. Oh, hang on, they were all bald. Except for the fat talented one...) He goes for the sympathy vote by going on about his accident a lot, though frankly if I managed to fall out of a car I was driving and run myself over I would rather keep quiet and hope people forgot about it. Jesus, what is going on with his hair? It looks like a mohawk that has slipped to the back of his head. That can’t be a deliberate hairstyle, can it? For his song he wears a black suit with weird gold bits on it like circuit connections. Perhaps after the accident they rebuilt him like a bionic man or something and they need those bits to recharge him. The song is like an Alexander O Neill song and his voice isn’t really up to it. Next! Capt Jack says that it has a crazy groove that will make the beatniks go ape, or something.

SARAH: I kept wondering when he was going to get off that stage and come and fix my light fittings like he promised last week. Time to call Learn Direct, Brian.

MARK:Next is Big Brovas, who had a couple of big hits a few years back that melded the Sound of Music to hip hop beatz way before Gwen Stefani thought of doing it. Can I just say that Terry Wogan should never ever be allowed to say “urban flava” ever again. For the performance the women dress like Victorian hookers and wail away over a groovy string sample while the blokes rap a bit in the background and a couple of goth ballerinas act out goth tragedy (ohs noes, my mum told me I couldn’t listen to “My Chemical Romance” until I’d finished my homework. Why does everything rot and die! I wish I was dead, but in a sexy way like in an Anne Rice novel” etc etc) through the medium of dance. It is actually pretty good and I want it to win, even though it would do terribly at the actual ESC. Capt Jack says a few things that are euphemisms for: “it is performed by black people!”

SARAH: Quite liked it. In the way that I quite liked Big Brovas before my crazy next door neighbour started playing their album very very loud at 6am every day for a month.

MARK:Then we get Cyndi, who is a french singer who wants to do well for the UK and drinks some beer (like proper beer, nothing nice like a 1664 or anything) to prove how anglophile she is. She wears a black formal frock and sings a ballad that is an exact genetic splicing of “Wind beneath my wings” and “My heart will go on”. Ugh. It is very turgid and slow and predictable, complete with rousing key change 3/4 of the way through. Her gimmick is that the backing dancers walk on half way through. Awesome!

SARAH: Bu...buh...she's FRENCH! It's a neo-Napoleonic plot to take over our airwaves with their wavy-armed torch singing! A bas les chanteuses ennuyants avec les key-changes mediocres!

MARK:Then we have Scooch, who are the Fast Food Rockers that time forgot. There is a fat blond bloke with horrid hair, a weasel faced dark haired gaylord and two women who look like make up sales ladies from Debenhams. They are all wearing nasty cheap looking air steward type outfits and sing a song with an aviation theme so they can talk about flying over lots of European cities in a cynical attempt to get inhabitants of those cities to vote for them. It is all v sub Steps, complete with moronic “I’m an aeroplane” dance moves and camp interludes for the gayest bloke to say things like, “Would you like some salted nuts” in a suggestive voice at regular intervals. For the finale they wheel some trolleys around to show that they have a union jack flag on the back. This is really awfully cynical stuff. Capt Jack goes wild in the aisles, in case you were in any doubt that he is also gayer than Christmas.

SARAH: God, I hated this knowing try-hard camp nonsense with a passion. My husband quite liked it.

MARK:Finally we have Beverlei Brown (who??) and Justin out of the Darkness. Justin obviously could not want to be there less. There song is very weird, starting off like a track from an Austin Powers movie and then ranging over a wide number of musical genres, none of them any good. Justin’s high pitched cat strangling vocal does not go with Beverlei’s voice at all. There is a pointless guitar solo. There is a funky horn section. I really do not understand what is going on with this song. Capt Jack praises its “Euro funk style”. I don’t really understand what that means either.

SARAH: I willed this to be good. And my will failed.

MARK:Fearne chats to some foreign people who are in the audience – a Maltese guy and a Ukrainian girl both rate Big Brovas! We want them to win at home too! They show clips of other Euro entries. All I can remember is that there seem to be lots of trannies and also a bloke pretending to be a vampire. My brane cannot process this as yet.

SARAH: Terry mentions that Ireland have already secured their place in the bottom three by choosing something with tin whistles that makes My Lovely Horse look quite professional. Actually, I think My Lovely Horse would do really well if it went into Eurovision. Imagine all those Ukranians and Uzbekistahnians wondering about horse dentists...

MARK: There is a break for the phone voting and then we are back. Fearne is now wearing a different black dress that he makes her rack look plasticky and flat like an Action Man’s chest. Weird. Wogan is now clearly drunk – he drops into a chair like a sack of potatoes, does a link standing on a step with Fearne on the next step down (so she comes up to his elbow!) etc etc. whoever is directing the show also seems to have had a few. We get odd cuts to cameras that aren’t pointed at anything and interviews with people who are basically in total darkness. My BBC working boyfriend is shocked at the poor quality (his exact words “I would expect something like this on BBC3 but…” !!)

Lordi perform again from last year and amuse me and then Brian and Liz get the chop. Byeee! No surprise there. Then Big Brovas get the chop (Noooo!!!) followed by Justin/Bev. Justin races from the stage in record time, no doubt off to instantly sack his manager. We are down to Cyndi and Scooch and they have a “sing off” – both songs sound a lot worse the second time round. They have a little break for more voting and then announce the winner, only Wogan and Fearne each shout out a different name so that no one knows who has won. What a shambles. Fearne has a quick word in Wogan’s drunken ear and he shouts, “Oh right, it is Scooch after all!” and we all shake our heads in disbelief. After Jordan and Daz Sampson I always think that this show cannot get any stranger. I am clearly very na├»ve.

SARAH: What with all the allegations of phone vote tampering flying about this week, I suppose they couldn't possibly have fixed this one. I fear for the sanity of the Great British Public. Next year, I think the hopefuls should perform in front of a panel of deaf/blind performing monkeys who will then cast their votes by pushing the failed entries into a crocodile-infested lake. That would work as well as any, and possibly solve the unemployed ex-popstrel problem too!

Next up – the semi finals, where they try and whittle down the 60 or so entries into a reasonable number!

ITV GOES POSH:Mansfield Park

For those who don't read, here's the plot of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.

Fanny Price, a poor girl with rich relations, is sent to live with the rich relations at Mansfield Park. This happened a lot in Olden Days. The relations never fail to remind her of her place, except the boring middle son, who is nice to her, and gets her to read good books (always important in Jane Austen World). Along come the Crawfords, a slightly twisted brother and sister seduction team who set about seducing Elder Daughter Maria (played by Teen Slater) away from her rich-but-stupid husband; and Boring Middle Son away from the priesthood. Henry Crawford also tries it on with Fanny, but is rebuffed and runs off with Married Maria instead. This brings SHAME upon the lofty Bertram household and everybody realises that Fanny is actually quite a good egg, and more deserving of Mansfield Park than anybody else. Middle Son bins off the Crawford hussy and marries his cousin instead.

So it's a kind of Cinderella story, with added commentary on the patriarchy, sexual politics, the morality of building one's family fortune on human misery, and loads of other stuff about families, rivalry etc. Fab book.

But this is ITV1, and all ITV1 wants is nice frocks, pretty houses and men in britches jumping in ponds. Thankfully the pond-jumping is avoided, but there are plenty of nice frocks about. One of the prettier touches is the change in Billie/Fanny's clothing as she rises in status. She starts off wearing something in brown cotton, and ends up strolling through the lavender hedges in a gorgeous pale blue satin confection that looks good enough to eat.

Somebody has also decided that, as a poor relation, Billie would not have the usual Regency rules of ladylike decorum forced upon her, and therefore she has to express her free-spiritedness by tearing about the house like her life depends upon it. There she goes up the stairs...and there she goes down the stairs. Good thing it's a big house. Billie isn't as insufferable a little prig as the other Fannies I have seen, but I did wish she'd stop running like a hoyden and do something with her hair. The action was mostly shot on hand held cameras that made you feel slightly seasick, but I think it was to make the point that the bulk of MP is about YOUNG PEOPLE HAVING FUN! and not nice frocks and britches. Look! there goes Billie again...she must have forgotten her hat...

Billie's arch nemesis in MP is not a giant Slitheen or even a Dalek, it's her Aunt Norris, played with twitching evil relish by Maggie O'Neill (aka Her from Shameless). Auntie blames Billie for everything, and is eventually banished for blaming Billie for not marrying Henry Crawford and driving him into Teen's married arms.

Edmund the boring middle son was suitably po-faced and intense. Actually, I thought Roistering Eldest Brother Tom was more interesting, and so did Billie by the look of things. Teen didn't have much to do other than look beautiful (check) and rather calculating (check check). Nothing was made of Fanny Price's bluestocking tendencies (except for a timid question over dinner about slavery), and she wasn't banished to Portsmouth to experience Middle Class Hell after refusing the advances of Henry Crawford.

ITV1 crammed one of Austen's denser novels into two hours by concentrating almost wholly on the central romance, which kind of works if you haven't read the book. It galloped through the more meditative aspects - and believe me, there are a few. I kept wishing they'd slow down a bit, and give Billie a hairbrush.

NEXT WEEK: Northanger Abbey, starring That Hussy Emma Grundy!

Friday, March 16, 2007

CELEBRITY APPRENTICE

Celebrities and Apprentice in the same show? How my cup runneth over! For a one off special, a male team and a female team compete to raise money for Comic Relief via the medium of a funfair. Siralan and his minionators are all present and correct (though Nick and Margaret don’t really get to do much. Boo – hopefully they will get to say something in the boardroom on Friday) and the teams are as follows:

BLERKS:
Alistair Campbell – Tony Blair’s rabid attack hound
Piers Morgan – unctuous and hateful ex editor of the Mirror
Ross Kemp – Ger-want Mitchell, also well known for being beaten up by his missis after being caught shagging another bloke ALLEGEDLY
Danny Baker – Ex Chris Evans sidekick and local radio presenter.
Rupert Everret – moose faced fillum star

Wow, Campbell and Morgan on the same team??? I assume that Attila the Hun, Adolph Hitler and Dr Crippen had other engagements.

LAYDEES:
Trinny – the thin one out of Trinny and Susannah
Cheryl Tweedy-Cole – Girls Aloud foxtress, Footballers Wife and pugilist.
Maureen Lipman – everyone knows who she is, though I’m not really sure how she first became famous
Jo Brand – the comedienne. I once saw her in real life, examining a GIANT CHAIR on Hampstead Heath with her kids.
Karen Bradey – the chair of Brumingham FC

Siralan banters with Karen re football, mocks Trinny’s failed dotcom venture and teases Cheryl re her “singing a bit in manufactured band” skillz. There is then hours of blokey banter with Danny Baker about being cockernees or something, which makes me throw up a little bit inside my mouth.

To begin with the teams have to negotiate which of a limited selection of rides they want for their sections of the fair. The women go all out for dodgems and then have to accept a load of crap (helter skelter, spinning vomitator machine) while the men get thinGs like the coconut shy and hoopla which they think will be more suitable for celebrity chums to play on.

It turns out that Alistair Campbell and Piers Morgan are actually quite nice and good natured. Ha ha, only joking! They are just as hateful as you would imagine and instantly take over, bossing Rupert around and ordering that he phone up Madonna and Julia Roberts so they can get involved somehow. Rupert whimpers that he doesn’t know them that well and looks more and more like a bemused camel. In the end he says he doesn’t like being in front of cameras without a script and doesn’t appear again the next morning. The blokes recruit Fit Tim from Apprentice 1 instead. Sadly he does not take his shirt off at any point.

Ger-want and Danny go and sort out food with a famous chef while the Twunt Twins brainstorm and fail to get many takers for their tickets. They complain that they are used to having PA’s to do everything for them and aren’t very practical. They even have to get Tim to work their stapler! Urgh, so much hate…

Trinny knows a famous chef who can get them cheap food, but when the chef’s assistant arrives at the hotel he is “misdirected” to the bloke’s suite. Morgan tells him to stay, even though they haven’t got a clue what to do with him. Trinny goes to find out what is going on and then has to actually fight her way out of the suite, dragging the chef after her while Morgan and Cambpell try to physically restrain them. What a bunch of bullying bastards. It is a good job that Trinny’s felt tip pen fu powers are strong – she basically has to colour in Piers Morgan before they let her leave and then has to have a little cry to calm down. If only Two Fisted Cheryl had been there…

The men are worried that they haven’t got enough mates, so they hire some stocks and also scrounge a load of crap from BHS as hoopla prizes. BHS!!! Awesome! I’m sure the A list celebs will love getting a free fibre filled pillow and practical nylon jacket as a prize.

Later, Maureen, Karen and Jo are sorting out the food while Trinny and Cheryl phone all their rich mates and sell them tickets. Trinny sells one to a blonde lady for £150,000 (!!!!!) and Cheryl just has to phone her hubby Ashley, his Chelski team mates and then Simon Cowell to raise about £100k. Cheryl complains of being sleepy so Trinny ropes her into a bizarre aerobic routine, explaining that this is what her Russian Doctor in Austria does with her to help her detox. Cheryl’s eyeroll to camera is comedy gold. Later on Trinny is squawking down the phone to Maureen about some irregularities with the tickets while Maureen is up to her elbows in chicken satay (oh Maureen, you should take you rings off before you do that – most unsanitary). So Maureen tells her fuck off and hangs up on her with an evil smile. Cheryl sweetly asks Trinny if she has a touch of OCD, which made me laugh a lot, mostly because it was so completely unexpected. Why Mrs Cole, with these unexpected comedy skillz you are really spoiling us!

The fair comes around and the ladies have Girls Aloud, McFly and Take That helping on the stalls, whereas the blokes have Tracy Emin (who paints some coconuts like breasts to sell) and Mick Hucknall, who looks like a creepy rapist. Ashley Cole, John Terry, Girls Aloud Nadine and Desperate Housewives’ Jesse Metcalf also show up but Ger-want’s EE castmates are conspicuous by the absence. When Siralan arrives, the women’s rides (apart from the dodgems) are pretty dead compared to the blokes but then again they don’t really care given the insane prices they got for the tickets. Oh, who has won????? Such suspense - not.

At the boadroom Siralan has a go at the blokes for the stupid time wasting business re kidnapping the chef. Then Nick and Margaret read out the results. The women get more money for the food, but the men get more money for the ride receipts. The men got about 200k in ticket sales and the women got about £600k!!! Overall, the men raised about £275K and the women raised about £750K. PWNED LOL LOL!!11 eleven!!!, as a twelve yr old on the internets might say. The look on team leader Alistair Cambpell’s face is absolutely priceless, such a bad loser. One of the women comments that they have raised over a million between them and they all applaud each other. Then Siralan says that the men have to come back into the boardroom and that someone is going to be fired!! Cliffhanger!!!

Monday, March 12, 2007

PROJECT CATFIGHT, MORE LIKE...

For the final task before the final, the four remaining contestants (Less-dour aussie Monica, Bouncy Luke, Bitter Queen Giles and Likeable Queen Wayne) have to make a wedding dress for ITV Cat Deeley clone presenter Holly (“She’s too tall!! Not perky enough!! Amend the formula!!!”) and what’s more, they have to make it in Debenhams on Oxford St on the shop floor while the hoi polloi leer at them. They all get to quiz Holly on what kind of dress he likes (there is a funny bit where Holly says “not white” and Monica starts chanting “Holly’s not a virgin!”) and then talk to two top frock designers (who both look as if they have stopped off on the way to notorious gay muscle club AM:PM) about, um, other things to do with dresses.

They buy their fabric and all moan about having to work in Debenhams with shitty sewing machines. Giles and Luke panic and are a bit rubbish! Wayne and Monica, not so much! Then Giles makes me hate him slightly less by going to the Julian MacDonald “Designer at Debenang” bit and making fun of all the shitty clothes.

For the “something old” they have to go to an antique shop and buy something – Monica and Giles both buy weird old hats and the other two buy jewellery. For the something borrowed bit they are allowed to borrow something from Debenhams shop floor – I would have chosen a Wii myself but they all chose shoes… They then have to show their dresses in the shop window and see what people think of them…

Monica’s – a pretty, eggshell blue dress with flowery bits on the shoulder straps and a tulip skirt. My favourite, though the antique granny hat she puts on the model is not great.

Luke’s – is not properly finished as usual. It is white (gasp!) with an excessively low cut bodice and a huge skirt that looks a crumpled up paper bag.

Giles’ – what the hell? It is sort of light gold coloured and covered with bits of torn up lace so it looks like a bird’s nest. Also, it makes the model who later wears it look as though she is huge. Not at all flattering.

Wayne’s – is sort of ivory coloured with black lace round the bodice and a black netting bustle thing. It would be a nice dress for anything apart from a wedding, unless you were Elvira queen of the night or something.

The judges say pretty much the same thing – Monica wins (hurrah!) and Wayne comes second. We are down to Giles and Luke and the voice over helpfully reminds us that Luke has won the weekly tasks a few times and that Giles has never won. They are given a final moment to try and saves themselves. Giles bitches about Luke’s time management skills and Luke says that Giles’ designs are “dated” and that he dresses like a clown (paraphrase…) Meow!! Of course Luke wins – I can’t believe I actually got the finalists I wanted!!!

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