I have developed a love & hate relationship with LivingTV. On one hand, it offers oodles of drug-like mind-numbing, incredibly addictive mush. The kind that has managed to make me hooked to the point of SHH-SHHing Timo in the middle of a program.
It satisfies my Inner Voyeur, my Inner Bitch and the almighty Ego that whispers "wow, I'm so much better than...".
On the other hand, it offers offers oodles of drug-like mind-numbing, incredibly addictive mush. And some of it is really rather crap. I feel dirty every time I utter the words: Living TEEVEE. Now it's about to get even worse.
LivingTV, I have a bone to pick with you.
First, you seduced with me with the "soft porn for teenage boys" (Charmed, as described by one of the cast members in a recent documentary).
As a fantasy-epic, Charmed is pathetic. Scary demon appears. Witches get rid of scary demon. Put on different outfit. File nails. As a soap, it's over-simplified and derivative. Forbidden love between a witch and a demon? You mean that's not going to work out? Hmm, where have I seen something like that before?
Yet the adventures of the three Charmed ones and their various side-kicks work. It's the combination. The power of three? Or a potion with just the right ingredients. It is certainly not taxing to view and it can be a visual treat (if you like that sort of thing).
Then, you got me to flick over from something undoubtedly more valuable on another channel... to watch an episode of Will and Grace. Really. I could have learned more about What the Romans did for us. Or watched another half an hour of news. Instead, I had ears, eyes, mouth and every orifice full of that horrible canned laughter. Say anything. Raise an eyebrow in that way. AAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA! Because the TV audience might not have realised that this is where one laughs. Oh, come on, quit just smirking, throw your head back and laugh out loud! We're telling you, this is comedy gold!
As Grace woudl say: "You can move your lips from here... to here!"
Jack: For your information, most people who meet me do not know that I am gay.
Will: Jack, blind and deaf people know you're gay. Dead people know you're gay.
Jack: Grace, when you first met me, did you know I was gay?
Grace: My dog knew.
Will: Grace, go to bed. You obviously have had a very busy day of crazy.
Grace: Ok, here's the Thanksgiving menu so far: apple pie, pumpkin pie, blueberry tart, and ice-cream roll. What am I missing?... Cake. We need cake.
Will: Did you take a bong hit before you wrote that?
Karen: Well, if it makes you feel any better, I'm devastated, too.
Jack: Mmm, it does, thanks.
The thing is. It's is funny. The awful stereotyping of homosexuality (a male homosexual is either interested in "the arts, dontcha know", or a squealing camp clown like Jack, yup, or remember that episode with the fat, blousy lesbians, boy that one was a hoot!), the gratingly dumbed down plot lines; the obnoxious character of Karen.
And it's just. Funny.
I console myself with the thought that poking fun at stereotypes and deluded neurotic people (don't say it!) IS the way humour works. And so actually, by liking Will and Grace, I exhibit an ability to lighten up and appreciate true comedy - the kind that comes out of tragedy. Because if you can't just cry and cry, so why not laugh.
Well, good comedy or not, my hate for the over-use of canned laughter remains. Maybe that's a good mechanism for preventing a Will & Grace overdose. There's just that point where you can't watch any more of it.
Not so, with the most addictive program of all; the part where your seduction had reached its climax.
America's Next Top Model is so hideously addictive, so unbelievably dumb, so deliciously bitchy - that not only do I watch it regularly; I must not miss an episode. I've occasionally even watched reruns.
What makes it so?
Well, first of all, I used to work with models, photographers and fashionistas. I know that world. In the end, I tried to avoid fashion shoots and preferred working on film and TV productions because I came to realise that the superficial, air-headed, totally narcissistic and (rather obviously) appearance-obsessed world just didn't like me and I didn't like it. Not that film and TV didn't have the flaws of fashion. It's just that they were presented in a different package - and most crucially, as a make-up artist on a film set, you're crew. Crew gets to look normal, even scruffy. Crew is a team, or at least a good crew is. In the fashion world, everyone, even people working "backstage" have to fit in to the high fashion world.
I wasn't edgy enough to be a make-up artist in the fashion gang. I wasn't a guy for starters. Bummer. Nor was I stick thin, from a famous family, or outrageous. I just did really good make-up.
And now, I occasionally feel wistful for even the fashion world. I mean look at those girls. They're naive, ignorant, innocently hopeful, deluded about their own abilities, looking to find self confidence and to become... models. Modelling is such a dorky ambition to have.
I didn't get picked? Oh nooo! All my dreams are crushed! How will my life ever have meaning?
Or is it? Dorky, I mean.
The model that makes it can become extremely rich. The model that makes it will have that all-important confirmation: they really, really love me!
I don't know. I think if you have a realistic idea about what the industry actually involves; if your ego and vanity can take the rejection, if you have someone like Tyra Banks shouting at you, then maybe, just maybe you'll have the ingredients to make a real career of it, get some awesome rewards, become loaded and not destroy yourself and your life in the process.
I don't know whether I want my favourite girls to win or get chucked out sometimes.
I do think Tyra is great. She's a business woman. Now that I can respect. Hungry capitalism; self made success. Perseverance. Adaptability. She might not win the Nobel prize, or cure anyone from anything other than a bad attitude problem, but I tip my hat to Tyra for her sheer determination to make something of herself. Anyone who learns to make the best out of what they've been given is a good egg in my book.
The show has become UPN's most watched show and cycle 5 is about to start in September. I don't know when it will be available through LivingTV. They've even got Twiggy involved this time. It could be juicy!
Now that Tyra is firmly standing on the platform of current television success, she has also managed to secure her own show.
I wish America's Next Top model would tell us more about what happens to the winners. The last round (cycle 4) saw Naima Mora shed the tears of joy in that age-old Miss Universe style when she was crowned the winner.
I went on a hunt to see what's been going on with her since.
She seems to have done at least one runway show besides the finale in the show itself. She can also be found on a top model directory. She's got her own website. Other than that, I'm not sure. Could this be that it's too soon to tell whether Naima will rocket into supermodeldom? Or could it mean that winning doesn't really guarantee anything? Except that Cover Girl contract, of course.
So, you have wooed me into total addiction, but just as a cherry on top, you added child torture. Because model wannabes just weren't enough.
LivingTV has introduced me to the insane and, thus, appropriately named Duncan Nutter, who, at least according to some, should be shot. I'm not that passionate about what happens to Duncan, but I do worry that one day, one of his family members might just go ahead and empty a hail of bullets into his head on behalf of angry bloggers everywhere. Or perhaps because Duncan has ruined their lives.
He doesn't have any time to listen what his wife or children have to say. He seems to lack the ability to empathise. He is obsessed and ill. He and his family need help.
Then there's the stage-mom [sic] of a 4-year old Emily Tye, the woman who tells her daughter to "act like a 4 year old" when she is doing just that by being a child for once. This poor girl will be robbed of a childhood. Her memories will be linked to the smell of fake tan and to the pull and tug of backcombing. I can't imagine what will happen to her self esteem, or ability to form real relationships. This, I feel, is the biggest tragedy in the show - the other people are, at least, a little older.
Jordan Moseley-Stephen is the only talented child featured in Showbiz moms and dads. Her mother is the only normal adult. She seems to be rational and reasonable. She isn't using her child; Jordan seems to genuinely enjoy what they get up to together. The way she reacted when faced with rejection was excellent; just a shrug and a: "Well, mommy, I can't book everything anyway, so it doesn't matter."
And so, now to the gutter. The crass rubbish that I have never, or will never watch on LivingTV. The stuff that manages to leave a bad taste in my eyes when a trailer flickers past on the channel.
They're the Queer eye for the straight guy (that's just taking the gay stereotyping a bit too far - it's not funny; it's not witty - what, we are meant to believe that your sexual orientation somehow automatically comes with an innate ability to either a) not be able to dress yourself properly or b) have an eye for style. Bollocks. Utter, sweaty bollocks).
They're the psychic detective and Most Haunted supernatural mambo-jambo timeslot fillers.
And now, this is the pits: LivingTV is about to release the Hades Bulldog on us all - Jade's Salon. Oh, lose weight for the one last time and do it so impressively that an image of your emaciated dead husk with the boob implants lolling on top gets splattered on every OK! SLUT! and CHAV! magazine in the world, then be done with us.
Go Away Jade Goody.
You are a discrace to the town you lived in. You are the hero of snot-nosed reality TV addicts. And your claims to fame are so devoid of skill or merit that I am embarrassed on the behalf of the general public for making you a D list celebrity (and this is saying something, considering my feelings on the faceless creature of General Public). You don't deserve to be on any list.
Yet there you are, mocking us with your ability to take a turd, polish it a little, and sell it.
Should I respect her for that?
Didn't I just finish praising Tyra Banks for making the most of what she'd been given?
Tyra Banks is a human being. And gorgeous. And clever.
Jade Goody is a puddle of mindnumbingly thick pond scum. And hideous.
I think I will be able to live with my double standards.
So, here's the final question then. Will I now be compelled to watch Jade's Salon? Will the attraction of her potential bumbling as a small business owner be irresistible? I want to start a business - wouldn't it be excellent to see a character like Jade make a total pig's ear of it?
If only there was such a guarantee.
I don't think I'll be watching Jade's Salon, just for the chance that she'll make a success of it. I don't think I could take it.
This is the first in the new series of The Sunday Review.