Friday, 14 January 2011
Saturday, 13 November 2010
Right, so it's about that time. After a hiatus, I'm liveblogging the X Factor this fine evening. Don't forget to send all your abuse / feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, or @abbasali5000, which is my Twitter handle.
Right, we're in. The show is recapping Cheryl Cole's controversial's refusal to vote on last week's Sunday eviction show in which she effectively saved Katie Waissel / Weasel (pictured.). The national hate figure.
Cowell, Cole and co are hyping up the "pressure" on the contestants. It's so tough, tough, tough, it might as well be Masterchef.
20.03 Elton recently made comments in which he criticised the X Factor as an entertainment show, rather than a real music show. Wonder if that'll be referenced?
20.05 Danni's boy, Paije is on. Budget Cee-Lo.
He's meeting Daniel Radcliffe at the Deathly Hallow prem, on screen. Signing autographs. Better not get too used to that, he won't doing it for too long, me thinks.
20.07 Never heard this number. Pajie in a pink suit. Seems to have gone down well.
And Louis is flaming it, calling it karaoke. He's blaming the song for being old. This is the man that managed Westlife, and Boyzone.
Simon's calling Louis on it, and his surreal "Lenny Henry" comment from last week. He's right, Louis has turned 180 degrees, and it's clearly done out of being competitive, rather than what he thinks. This is what I don't get about making the judges and mentors the same people. X Factor fundamentally flawed.
20.11 Simon's smelling blood. "Chances of winning, zero". Budget Cee Lo "that's your opinion". Few have challenged the Syco and lived to tell the tale.
As the entertainment behemoth that is ITV1’s The X Factor rolls into its sixth week, the show continues to attract massive 12-13 million plus ratings. It is to modern day music television what Top Of The Pops was in its 70s heyday. In an age of multiple media, the show has perfected the art of presenting a compelling narrative, harnessing the tabloids, social media and the “old” broadcast outlets in a highly addictive format. But why has the show produced so few actual music stars?
For every multimillion selling, respected artist like Leona Lewis, there are countless casualties like Leon Jackson, Jamie Archer, and, famously, Steve Brookstein. On screen success doesn’t guarantee real life success, perhaps because the X Factor is first and foremost an entertainment show. In much the same way that the Tea Party’s vociferous advocates in the US have been “astroturfed” into existence, the show’s fan base is a thin, large veneer, including many whose interest in music is shallow, and cursory.
But while it’s true that many tune in for the sideshow of contestants like Wagner and Jedward, there are true many music fans, such as myself, who find the show promises the prospect of music, but leaves such hunger largely unsated. What is offered is instead incredibly bland and pedestrian, a far cry from realities of contemporary music at its most exciting. This country has produced some of the world’s most compelling music, from the Beatles to Blur, and what unites much of it is innovation. I believe the show could thrive on more original source material, if it had any courage, while at the same time remaining accessible to a mass audience.
It was as a protest against the show’s blandness and it’s media manipulation that last year disgruntled viewer, Jon Morter began an internet campaign, to get Rage Against The Machine’s classic anti-establishment anthem ‘Killing In The Name Of’ to number one. The Facebook group garnered an amazing half a million followers, with the same number going out to buy the record during the festive season. They succeeded in keeping X Factor winner Joe McElderry off the top spot for the prestigious Christmas number one, with the 18 year old’s manufactured pop hit ’The Climb’ missing out.
RATM’s song ends in a repeated refrain. “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me”. The message to Cowell and his condescending corporate pop cohorts was clear, or so I thought. The British public, to whom the show truly belongs, didn’t want the smelly stuff that was being shovelled at them by a large money-making machine. It was a gesture designed to reclaim the charts, and tell the powers that be that people want something of more substance than bland numbers written by cabals of middle aged professional songwriters. Have the shows producers listened?
As a music fan, and a TV fan, I looked to this series avidly, for a reaction. By some freakish accident, Cher Lloyd’s debut on the show mooted such a possibility, with her audition, which she performed Keri Hilson’s version of the Soulja Boy hit ‘Turn My Swag On’, much to the surprise and delight of the judges. Meanwhile, Matt Cardle’s arresting performance at boot camp of ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ was an all too rare, shocking moment of genius in an otherwise anodyne series.
It’s notable that both moments in the early stages. As time has gone on through though, the producers have squeezed any sense of individuality, genuine musicality and self-expression out of the contestants to produce much the same results as previous, stage managed years. As we speak, a campaign is gathering on the internet to see John Cage’s 4’33” go to number one. The protest, entitled ‘Cage Against The Machine’, picks up where last year’s grass roots movement left off, to see the entirely silent piece go to number one in the place of any Simon Cowell-endorsed crony. In the nations’ most popular music show, there’s still yet to be any significant sign that the makers understand how much the public really do love music, and until they get it, the Rage will continue.
Sunday, 14 March 2010
For those of us who have followed the labyrinthine ABC series Lost over the course of its' 6 seasons, the tagline "The Answers Are Coming" that preceded the current run could not have been fulfilled quickly enough.
We have ended up a far way from where we started. Initially, I was massively interested just by the situation of Lost, the meeting of a diverse group of people of different cultures, ages and experiences. The sheer ambition of it, the expense, making what effectively amounts to a short film each week, just showed so much balls. It Lost (excuse the pun) quite a few followers along the way as people became frustrated with its' ever-increasing number of backstories, subplots, and surreal plot twists, which provoked more questions than were answered with each single episode. I stuck with it, and now I am particularly glad that I did.
The makers of lost, JJ Abrams and his cohorts, insist that they knew what they were doing all along, and it was always intended to be what it is now. Some kind of supernatural, time-travelling tale, a brutal fight to the death to be a super human king (or queen) of the island, now that, in this the series, mythical, mysterious figure of Jacob has been violently murdered by his long time acolyte, Ben Linus.
There has always been something incredibly fragile, sensitive, and delicate about Ben Linus, in the way he looks, that has always been at odds with his capricious, deceitful and treacherous behaviour throughout the series. He makes me think of another baddie in another series altogether, Heroes, where Zachary Quinto's mass murdering anti-hero Sylar always leaves you feeling he may have a good heart, despite his violent actions.
When Sylar was redeemed just a few weeks ago in the season finale of the recent Heroes series, it was done in a perfunctory manner, to quickly tie together various strands of the plot, and hurriedly rush the current run to it's conclusion. I believe Sylar had good in him, but the way it came out, I just didn't believe it, it was too saccharine, too easy the way he suddenly said he was a good guy out to help get the bad guys.
But in this episode, which shows another Ben in the parallel universe that the Lost gang have somehow ended up in, we see the gentle, kind, caring man he could have been, were it not for the terrible things that had been done to him as a child. We see the Ben we know confess to Jacob's murder (albeit at gunpoint), revealing his anger at Jacob, and his realisation, too late, that after years of fighting tooth and nail to protect the island, he chose it over the life of his own daughter, and that was the wrong choice. For once, I believed him when he spoke.
Plenty of other stuff happened, this week in Episode 7. We saw the completion of the transformation of Jack, from a cynical man of science and medicine, unsure of himself and his worth, into a man of faith, taking up the space left by the original man of faith, Locke.
For a series that's often been more frustrating than rewarding during its' time, the days that pass between the current episodes can't come fast enough.
Monday, 11 January 2010
I have always loved, though occasionally been exasperated by the 49 year old presenter. For me, he is the embodiment of good, high profile broadcasting of the kind that only a few people in this country, namely Terry Wogan, Chris Evans and Chris Moyles, can pull off. He's the superior of all of those as far as I'm concerned, because, as a man who came of age in the punk era of the late 70s, he has always retained an element of danger, of risk, to his presentation ; I think it would be fair to say he has been an anti-establishment figure who has found himself at the heart of the establishment, and it is for this reason, among others, that his head had to roll sooner or later.
Some might say £6 million a year to present exclusively for the BBC is an obscenely large amount of money, and yes, this now infamous and oft quoted (never confirmed) figure was agreed in 2006, before today's current recession the payment of someone who is essentially an entertainer from the public purse does seem out of place. For my (licence) money, he's worth every penny, and all such claims are born of the great British disease of jealousy, something at which we excel in this country. Rather than aggresively defend its decision to fight to keep its' talent, the BBC unfortunately has to tread extremely delicately in the current political and media environment, where it is clear that forces of private media ownership have organised a hate campaign against them. Ross indiscretions, Sachsgate, his enourmous salary, talk of "fucking" Gwyneth Paltrow on his Friday night show (hell, who wouldn't) just became made him a stick with with the Daily Mail could beat the BBC Trust. It's a true shame that they capitulated, as the right wing press have claimed it as a victory and been emboldened by it.
I always warmed to Ross because, particularly in these post 9/11 times, as a British Asian, I've felt conflicted about being British, and the sense of tolerance in his broadcasting made me feel accepted. There is an inclusiveness about his show and a warmth about his personality that makes you feel ok, it's clear in his love of black culture, and his enthusiasm and warmth towards guests who are of colour, whereas one suspects readers of the Torygraph and Daily Hate would rather be watching Jim Davidson calling black people picanninies on a Friday night. He can be like an excitable child at times, which is by turns annoying and endearing, while his mocking persona clearly belies a fierce intelligence - he clearly knows the history of music and movies, and is authentically passionate about advocating the best of the present popular culture, whereas somelike Michael Parkinson's idea of cutting edge is Jamie Cullum and Robbie Williams.
When he wasn't getting over excited on his Friday night show, I was always impressed by his journalistic instincts. He would bluff his way into the affections of his guests with his daft persona, before asking them the most personal, pressing and intimate questions, the questions that few interviewers had the courage to ask. When Rhianna came on his show, you knew he'd ask her about the domestic abuse she'd suffered at the hands of her boyfriend Chris Brown, and he even had the nerve to ask Hugh Grant why he wasn't married with kids at his age, something few journalists would do in this age of the sycophantic celebrity interview.
Yes, he could say things that occasionally offended people, but that made me all the more proud that we live in a country where the national broadcaster allows presenters to take risks, and occasionally offend people, albeit without malice, rather than a country like America, where free speech exists in theory until you actually practice it.
So, yes, JRs' departure from the BBC may be cause for rejoycing in the homes of narrow-minded little Englander households up and down the country, but for me, I'll always be left with the feeling that the bad guys won and a national treasure, however imperfect, has been allowed to slip away.
Sunday, 3 January 2010
So, we've had a glimpse of what the house is like, some messages from the sponsors, and she's back. Queen of BB, Davina is now introducing cross-dressing cage fighter (TM Tabloid-speak) Alex Reid, and asking specifically about the spat that has appeared in todays' tabloids. He says "catagorically no", he didn't go in for fisticuffs action with Dane Bowers, and he's on his way into the house......
21.21: Now Stephanie Beecham is being introduced. Via a glamourous A-List introduction, which includes both Marlon Brando, Dynasty and Coronation Street (what a combo), and she climbs the stairs, and after a brief intro from Davina, looking resplendent, and rather tasty, she goes in those famous doors, into the pimped house.
Davina is disgusted that Steve doesn't know who the Beecham is. Chavsexual Lady Sovereign is being introed. I must say, the hot little scally should make good telly, but this isn't quite the spicy lineup I was hoping for, not quite what tabloids promised, but there's still more to come......
Oh, and it looks like "sov" is bonding with the mates, though there's a lot of mutual wondering who the hell everyone else is in the house.......
21.30: So far, so BB. over at unrealitytv.co.uk, Lisa McGarry isn't happy that Nicola T's nips made it just after the watershed. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised to see those babies. Not sure how Mr Baldwin will take it, given that he's a born again Christian, though.....
Now it's time for "Thon Th Thon thon thong Song" Sisqo. Last year it was Coolio. Looks like they're following something of a tried and tested formula here, and it's the job of the Thong man to be the ladies man / villain?
He singing about butts on the podium for the fans. It's bizzarre.
21.36 His impromptu performance of the mighty Thong Song gains cheers from the crowds, and he tells the big D he likes the ladies, and through the doors of the pimp house he goes.....
They're discussing Satanism. Sisqo seems surprising nice, warm and polite.
21.38 It's only Dane "Out Of Your Mind" Bowers. And tonight is full of revelations, as Davina confirms there was no bust-up this morning, despite rumours to the contrary in todays' tabloids. HOLD THE FRONT PAGE EVERYONE. People seem the know the words to an Another Level tune as he walks down. He confirms there was no bust up with Alex Reid. Seems the only boobs at last night's party were the plastic ones that belonged to Katie Price.
21.43: One more for the confirmed lineup: Heidi Fleiss. Hollywood madam. Her intro makes her sound like a ready-made tabloid story, though she's someone that most people in this country haven't heard of till now. She knows enough about who's used the "services" of her girls in Tinseltown to cause a tabloid frenzy, and Davina politely asks her to spill the beans when she's behind bars. She plays it cool, and rolls in. Looking straight at Steven Baldwin, she says "I've seen you before". This will surely be in tomorrow's papers!!
One more for the house. It's only Ron Wood's Ex, Katia Ivanova! Ok, this show is turning into tabloid dynamite. The girl who was about 4 decades younger, and allegely beaten by the Rolling Stone walks up, looking like a mousy, blond and rather waify version of Bjork. In a weird half-London half-Eastern Europe accent she tells Davina that Ronnie is "still a friend", and so he supports her decision to join the show.
Now Ex-Wimbledon hardman turned Hollywood 'ard geeza Vinne Jones up. Davina asks if he's gonna be well 'ard. He dodges the question, and tells Davina he's gonna "av a larf". Dressed rather dapper, in a pork pie Mod hat, and jacket. In a bizarre reversal of fortunes, he says hello to the housemates, before sitting down, and telling Stephanie Beecham he lives on Muholland Drive.
22.09: Big Brother is chipping in with his first, "icebreaker" task: How many people can you fit in a mini Cooper in 5 minutes.
After that initial flurry of insanity, we're getting all 5 minutes, live from inside the house. The car is decorated up as a devil. After a bit of a squeeze, they're back out, and Davina is back on that podium saying bye.
And that was it. The tabloid baiting show that has insipired questions to be tabled in Parliament, and effigies to be burned in India is back on TV, for one last show. the first glasses of wine are cracked out, and Paul Oakenfolds' familiar theme tune plays out the final moments of the show. In many ways, BB has defined the past decade of celebrity culture, and here we are at the beginning of a new decade, 3 days in, and it's back on, one last time. Surely with the lineup so reinvigorated, so ripe for tabloid speculation, it can't be the last time we'll see this show? One suspects Channel 4 are going to have to come up with a similar reality TV format to replace one after its' last bow this year, but for now, let the games commence......