SLOUCH POTATO: 13/01/16

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Tom Pheby returns for his weekly flick through the delights of multi-channel television.



CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER: THE LAUNCH
I've looked it up. The definition of a celebrity is:
A famous person, especially in entertainment or sport.
This is something that Channel 5 seem to be unaware of as their show Celebrity Big Brother repeatedly manages to assemble a collection of, at best, vaguely recognisable faces. People, not celebrites, who are either has-beens or wannabes.

Now, I like Emma Willis, she's a bright, bubbly and pretty thing, but that being said, she appears in some of British TV's most awful programmes. Someone give this girl a decent gig please! In this year's circus of disposable big heads and unemployable egomaniacs Willis introduced us to Gemma Collins, who appeared on something called 'Towie', a cheap and nasty shout fest filmed in Essex. In she trotted on impossible heels, like an over inflated Pamela Anderson doll or a rejected contestant from a Ru Paul show. One assumes that was to capture the public's imagination but I thought if this is as good as it gets, get them all in quick, lock the doors and fill the house with liquid cement, right up to the roof.

Next, in came Darren Day, a sort of serial shagging Cliff Richard cyborg. He was followed by two Eastenders castoffs, David Bowie's Nan, and a former X-Factor contestant with a billion teeth and a shredded wheat hair thatch. Then there was Tiffany someone from something on American TV, and a man who was a cross between Huggy Bear and a Bobby Brown type pimp. Well, you gotta do what you gotta do in between jobs, right?

Just when I thought the show was beyond saving, in hopped David Gest, Michael Jackson's bezzie with a face like a badly beaten Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Gest, not shy about name dropping every chance he gets.

And last but not least, we were introduced to Nancy Dell'Olio who baffled the crowd completely by not drawing a cheer or a boo. Perhaps they thought she was Emma's eccentric Grandmother who had got merry on the Vimto and took a wrong turn back stage.

Anyway, if you value your sanity, do not watch this this show, even if at gun point.


LOUIS THEROUX'S WEIRD WEEKENDS
For those unfamiliar with Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends a peculiar series of treats await. You can find them streaming on Netflix now, and they are well worth the investment of time. The long bespectacled journalist employs the guise of a little boy lost or bumbling, inexperienced reporter, but the truth is he is neither. His questions are designed to innocently draw the truth and expose pretences in the most bizarre gatherings or circumstances and its a ploy that gets results 90% of the time.

Season 3 Episode 5, "Looking For Love", sees Louis set off overseas to Thailand to scrutinise the search for lasting relationships. In Thailand, western men are apparently much sought after, even if they all appear desperate or damaged enough to go about romance in a way that most people purchase a loaf of bread. Louis met Ronnie Conrad from the Anglo/Thia introductions agencies, which is the Thai equivalent of Argos for the love lorn. There he thumbed through catalogues full of 100's of willing Thai girls waiting to catch a plane to the UK to settle in the suburbs, make cakes and watch crap mid-morning telly.

Ronnie was a little strange, to say the least, and looked like an elf in a flat cap, tank top and neck scarf, with skin like the walls of a heavily shelled palace. His sleazy demeanour wasn't wasted on Theroux, who wanted to explore the credibility and professionalism of the agency, which one suspected wouldn't take long.

Ronnie Conrad, the Del Boy of the dating industry.

Ronnie's brochure was almost code for male chauvinism. Within its text it stated,
"When it comes to making love, for Thai women there is no such thing as 'I've got a headache'"
Louis pressed, "D'you think western women get too many headaches?". Ronnie replied, "I don't know. I'm not with a western women." Oh dear, I thought, he's dipping his nib in the company ink. And he was, with some considerable style. Apparently Ronnie managed to find three women to marry! All were originally intended to end up in his catalogues, but why let the good ones slip through your fingers for mass consumption?

As if to illustrate the philanderers insatiable appetite, Louis had been invited to dine with sleazy Ron and his wife but he discovered on his arrival that Mrs Ron had gone, only to be replaced by an upgraded 20 something female. Ronnie claimed he fell in love straight away, but the object of his desire took slightly longer. Three hours in fact. Whilst her mother waited outside the office. Charming !

Playing devils advocate, Theroux registered with sleazy Ron's private pool of women. During the paperwork exercise the star was asked to reveal his income. Louis teased,
"Can I say a million pounds?"
"We'll, I'm be very happy for you if that were the case."
"But would you check?"
"What we normally do is put, erm...sufficient"
Oh yeah, here we go! I thought. Louis continued,
"I shouldn't bring up any legal problems I may or may not have?"
"If there's anything that you feel is relevant, then we should know about it. We would appreciate to be told about that."
"Personally I feel it's not relevant, you might disagree?"
"I don't know if you don't tell me.""If it didn't go to trial..."
Louis said flippantly, before heading off to meet a British love hound from Great Yarmouth called Blake Palmer.

Blake blows his own invisible trumpet before making his move for a bride.

Blake, a 56 year old neurotic with an aggressive nature, questionable temper and quite a list of medications, revealed in his own special pigeon English way what had bought him to Thailand.
"Broken heart. Ladies go off with other men. I'm a flower without any water, it withers and dies. I crave love and affection."
Crumbs, no wonder he's on his own. However, like a panic purchase in the January sales, this northern romeo had met and married a woman quicker than you could say "Love Boat".


CALL IT A DAY SIR TREV
Trevor McDonald is a TV legend. He's done just about as much as anyone could in his field, but his style of interviews is like getting a pep talk from Noddy. Someone at ITV needs to stop putting him on jobs that require a forthright and abrasive approach as Sir Trev just faffs around. He's way too polite and lacks any bite on gritty subjects. Theres no pretence, no luring into a false sense of security, and above all no ompf.

This was evident in Las Vegas With Trevor McDonald, and is equally apparent on Inside Death Row With Trevor McDonald - a unfortunately titled show, makes you think that Sir Trev has broken bad. Maybe he did? I suppose I could've missed the prequel episode, Cooking Meth With Trevor McDonald.


Inside Death Row could have been revealing and shocking. It could have had emotional impact and evoked dormant reactions, but with Trevor in charge, it barely reached watchable. He met James Harrison, a man who spent 18 and a half years on death row only to get a reprieve at the last minute. Sir Trev went for the jugular,
"What was it like spending 18 and a half years on Death Row?"
To which Harrison replied,
"It was hard."
Jeez! Really?

I'll tell you how bad it was, it was as if the real interviewer had been struck down by a mystery illness and they pushed a reluctant researcher into the spotlight. Trevor looked way out of his depth and out of ideas as  each question was followed by a sizeable pause, a nod of the head or a puzzled look. Sir Trev might be OK in the company of someone like the Queen or speaking to the organiser of the village fate but put him in an environment where harsh reality shines like a searchlight and he's buggered.

There you go! Idea for the next Sir Trev special - Buggery With Trevor McDonald.


DVD HEAVEN OR HELL: THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY
It's back into my DVD collection for another break from the usual dross on the box. Anthony Minghella wrote the screenplay and directed this absolute classic film which stars Matt Damon as the devious Tom Ripley, Jude Law as the decadent and vile Dickie Greenleaf, and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the equally disgusting and shallow Freddie Miles.

Tom Ripley is an inventive, resourceful and violent liar, trying to obtain a life style that he can never have by conventional means. He manages to meet a successful business man, Herbert Greenleaf (played by James Rebhorn) whose son Dickie is living a carefree life in Italy. Mistakenly, Greenleaf Senior assumes that Ripley knows his son, something that Ripley himself encourages, and before you know it, Greenleafs father finances Damon to retrieve his boy.

As the plot continues, Ripley becomes confused with his own murderous identity and those that he attempts to assume. Later the deceit begins to unravel, his lies begin to catch up with him, and all that he aspired to be seems further from his grasp than ever.

The Talented Mr Ripley has a stellar cast and is a superb piece of storytelling. It's one of my favourite films of all time which can be enjoyed again and again.

Verdict: Open the gates St Peter!


AMY
It's hard to really say how good Amy Winehouse could have been. We'll never really know because her life was cut so tragically short back in July 2011. Her brief career included just two albums, so who knows how she would have developed as an artist had alcohol and drugs not contributed to her untimely end.

Asif Kapadia’s acclaimed documentary succeeded in painting a balanced picture of a troubled, yet talented individual, but since its release it has managed to receive unfavourable criticism from her friends and family members. The documentary shows an Amy that could be complex, dismissive and distant. Yet on the other hand she could be enchanting, dynamic and captivating. Such is the nature of talented, yet deeply flawed stars.

Personally, I felt the whole thing was handled in a sensitive and honest way. Celebrities of this stature are rarely saints and although I have no desire to trample on the graves of  the dead, I don't wish to ignore their failings either. It makes me extremely angry, truth be told, that rare gifts such as these are squandered freely by those that possess them. If only I were blessed to that degree. Then again, even if she had been surrounded by loved ones in a secluded and protective fortress, there are no guarantees that the outcome would have been any different for one so tortured.



At times this film made me feel ill at ease and desperately uncomfortable as shadows from her past offered opinion and insight into her rise and fall. It was tantamount to attending your own funeral, only to hear the nearest and dearest speak of your shortcomings whilst fondly drinking to your memory.

Talent should be appreciated for all its worth, warts and all., and with David Bowie's departure within the last few days, you realise how precious these phenomenally blessed artists are and that you may never see their likes again.



Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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