25 Oct 2011

Make me laugh, damn you....

Why are UK scriptwriters almost without exception incapable of creating even half decent sitcoms? It wasn't so long ago we had the bizarre genius of Black Books, Whites, and a while before that Spaced and The Office even further back, but those apart we have churned out reams of utter unfunny shite in the guise of situation comedy. Yes, I know some of you think The Office was poo too, but if you've worked in that environment I defy you not have laughed at it, albeit while viewing through the cracks between your fingers. The marvellous Green Wing doesn't count as it was a comedy drama.

The latest example being Sky 1's Spy, where Darren Boyd unwittingly finds himself working for MI5. Sounded like a good premise, they could have done anything with it, and given Boyd's rather fine CV, having been in Green Wing and Whites, and that recent semi-documentary on the Life Of Brian, playing Basil Fawlty/John Cleese to a tee, I thought I'd give it a go. Mistake. Spy is centred around Boyd's character's hugely annoying and precocious 10 year old son, who, each time he appears makes you wish that Boyd would tell him to shut the fuck up. I lasted two episodes before deleting the recorder's series link.

On the other hand, our American friends still know how to hit the old funny bone with Curb Your Enthusiasm. I never "got" Seinfeld, although I did watch it a few times, might be because I'm not a New York American Jew, but its creator Larry David came up with a real gem in CYE back in 1999, now in its eighth series. For those unaware of this show, buried very late on Sunday nights on E4 (or possibly More 4, I can't recall), LD plays a version of himself as a sort of over-moneyed LA version of Victor Meldrew with more attitude and mucho swearing, who always ends up on the wrong end of some obscure point of principle that no-one else agrees with.

LD and his mates all seem to have far too much money and time on their hands and spend their entire existence either on the golf course, eating in exclusive restaurants or going to premieres with their equally self-obsessed and horrible wives, Mrs LD excepted. There's a guy in it called Funkhouser (most of the primary characters are lapsed Jews) who has a voice like a bull elephant with a speech impediment and who is often at loggerheads with LD, but the biggest ongoing war is with best mate Jeff's wife Suzy who refers to our hero as "Larry Fucking David".

OK, you can see all the pratfalls coming but that doesn't spoil the enjoyment. Because of LD's past successes there have been a stream of guest star appearances, and the last episode featured Ricky Gervais playing a selfish arrogant total dickhead version of himself....so he wasn't acting at all then was he...:)

Favourite moment (from way back)...Larry was given the responsibility of placing an ad in the Obituary column of the local paper for his recently deceased aunt. The wording was to be something along the lines of "She was my favourite Aunt"...I'll bet you can guess what was printed!

If you've not yet watched the last ever episode of Spooks....here be spoilers...

With a sad and poignant ending the best thriller Brit TV has come up with in aeons finished on Sunday night as Ruth expired in the arms of her unrequited love, good ol' Harry Pearce. The series was pulled by the makers Kudos while still at the height of its powers, and had this been an American show you can bet your bottom dollar it would have been extended beyond the point where there was any life left in it, à la 24.

There were a couple of pointers that may mean a resurrection or a follow up show at some point, one being the reappearance of Tom (Matthew McFadden) at the behest of Harry in order to dispatch the evil Russian who was ultimately responsible for Ruth's demise, and secondly the show ended with Harry back at his desk, not retired as might have been expected. We can but hope..


Fades....if you've not started watching it yet, I wouldn't bother. It started well then slowly disappeared up its own whatnot. It's still OK, but only just.

20 Oct 2011

Room 101

The last remaining vestige of socialist utopia in our benighted isle as imagined by Atlee's post-war Labour Government is the very wonderful NHS, currently under threat of privatisation by stealth from out ghastly rulers. One of many nightmares fuelled by the current Tory led coalition is the end of the free at point of service NHS, something I dread should that ever happen.

Yesterday saw my third operation in just under a year on the wires and pulleys in my hands, or to use the technical term, correction of Dupuytren's Contracture. As this is my third time I now know exactly what to expect. While I cannot fault the excellent standards of the actual operation, the amount of attendant bureaucracy is mind-boggling.

When I got my first letter in early September informing me of the operation time, I noticed that they wanted me at the hospital on Wednesday 12th October by 7:15am! That would mean getting up by 6am at the latest, and those of you that know me will realise that this filled me with some dread. I am not and never have been a "mornings" person. I still regularly recall my dear old dad getting up at the rise of the sun, and wandering about the house whistling at some ungodly hour. The memory makes me smile and cringe at the same time. How can anyone be so cheerful so bloody early?!

Anyway, I digress. I phoned the appointments people and asked if they could find me a date later in the month at a slightly later time, say 9am - still quite early enough, thank you, but if not I'd take it anyway as I want the op over and done with. "OK" she said, "we'll see what we can do". A fortnight passed and no call or letter, so I ring again and was informed by answer-phone that the lady in charge of appointments was on holiday, and could I ring my consultant's secretary, which I duly did. Of course this meant explaining the situation again, and she told me that the reason the original slot was so early was so that the consultant could see me before the operation. I asked her what time he arrived in the morning, and she avoided the question - obviously a lot later than 7:15am I'll bet. I and the other patients would just end up sitting around for hours with the chill air conditioned breeze wafting through the gaps on those horrible do-up-at-the-back smock things they make you wear.

She was actually very helpful and said she'd look into why I had not been contacted and get back to me. A few days later a revised appointment letter arrived..great, they've changed the slot... for Wednesday 19th October...at 7:15am. It made me laugh that did! So I rang up the secretary again and asked what was the point of changing the date if the time slot remained the same? "Oh" she says, "well, you should have explained yourself better". I smiled to myself and bit my tongue, "Never mind" sez I , "I'll take it anyway"..."Hold on" she replied, put the phone down and came back and said "How about 10am, same day? It'll mean you won't see the consultant beforehand"". "Great" sez I "He's seen me twice already, I'm sure he knows what he's doing". Just why they couldn't have done that first time round I don't know.

I arrived at the hospital yesterday and guess what, the consultant saw me anyway, and I was under the knife within an hour. When I got back to the ward the guy in the next bed who had been operated on directly before me was moaning about having to turn up at 7:15am and then sitting around for two hours while nothing happened. Wahey!

Bureaucracy addendum - In the short time between arriving at the hospital and being put under the lights (lovely reflection of my op to watch in the light cover by the the way!) I was asked the same pre-op questions by the ward nurse, the theatre nurse (who supplied The Stone Roses on her iPod as operation music - marvellous!), and the anaesthetist, who all filled in three different versions of exactly the same form. This doesn't really surprise me, having to deal with HMRC in my day job. Anything the Government get involved in is bound to be in at least triplicate!

The cuts affecting the NHS were in evidence in the ward after the op. The discharge nurse (in the sense of leaving the ward, not messy liquids..heheh) asked if I would need any painkillers. and as I have not used any of the co-codamol prescribed after the first op for that or the second op, I told her no thanks. A bit of soreness does not necessitate medication in my opinion, unless you're a complete wuss. Medications are handed out all too freely these days if you ask me. She told me that was just as well as they had run out of the "proper" stuff (co-codamol) and could only offer me paracetamol in any case.

Despite all the endless layers of officialdom and general waiting around, the NHS is a truly marvellous thing and the coalition will rue the day their pernicious and self-serving little Health Bill becomes law.

If the Evil Coalition get their way, which is depressingly likely, the first stages of creeping NHS privatisation will soon be upon us, enabling Dave's mates to set up phoney health companies in order to make vast profits out of the rest of us, and we will all be nostalgic for the old ways of endless paper shuffling related above. There's still time to sign 38 Degrees' petition to to stop the changes, so if you haven't already signed it, get off your arse (well, hit a few keys on your keyboard) and do it now! At nearly half a million signatures one can only hope, perhaps naively I'll admit, that some notice is taken in Westminster.