Monthly Archives: December 2009

Revealing celebrity desperation is a useful purpose for reality TV

Boy George (courtesy of Usuário Idril)

It has been revealed today that the High Court has refused Boy George permission to appear on the final series of celebrity Big Brother which is set to start on 3rd January.

In May, the former Culture Club singer was tagged and sentenced to a 15 month curfew after assaulting a male escort in his East London flat. This is the reason why the Judge has denied Boy George the opportunity to appear on the reality show from which he was set to earn a reported £200,000.

The circumstances surrounding this case should not be surprising. After all, as I mentioned in my last post, many have come to know reality television as humiliating and degrading. For this reason and the fact that, in my opinion, Big Brother typifies this particular view of reality television, it is in no way surprising that Channel 4 has attempted to lure a man in such a position as Boy George onto the show.

What is surprising however is that Boy George is so keen to take them up on their offer. Although he would be the top earner on the show and one could argue he has got nothing to lose, it cannot be denied that participants rarely escape the confines of the Big Brother house with dignity intact.

In many ways Boy George’s enthusiasm to appear on the show typifies the sad reality that many celebrities face as their career’s wind down and work stops coming in. It is worth noting though, that the only reason we know this sad reality exists is through the production of such programmes as Celebrity Big Brother. Without these programmes we would not be able to watch these ‘has beens’ 24 hours a day for a whole month and we subsequently wouldn’t know how desperate ageing celebrities can actually get.

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This decade’s best reality TV moment

This decade has seen the continual rise of reality television and so it seems fitting to pick out the greatest reality TV moment of the last ten years.

When Susan Boyle walked onto the stage on Britain’s Got Talent in April 2009 and proclaimed to ‘want to be like Elaine Paige’ there was an audible groan inside the theatre. The audience turned to one another and sniggered at the 47 year-old, unemployed scot as she stumbled over her words.

I have to admit, I was one of these people. I thought it was simply going to be another instance of a member of the public being humiliated by a reality TV show and laughed off the stage.

Susan Boyle’s first audition

However, Susan had barely finished singing the first line of ‘I dreamed a dream’ from the popular musical Les Miserables when the entire crowd rose to their feet in recognition of how incredibly moving it was.

It was an inspirational moment and the beginning of a cindarella story which has seen Susan Boyle break the all time record for pre-release sales on the retail website Amazon for her album, ‘I dreamed a dream’. It is therefore no surprise that Susan tops the album charts in both the UK and America this Christmas.

Given that reality television is often described as corporate rubbish designed solely to humiliate people and put money in the pockets of a few, Susan Boyle’s story shows that this may not always be the case. Her incredible story since that magical first audition shows that reality TV should not always be regarded as  ‘tat’.

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Best of the decade: ‘Best comedy film’

As we come towards the end of the first decade of the new millennium I will use this Christmas period to highlight what I think has been the ‘best of the decade’. Today I start with the best comedy film.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

The ever hilarious Anchorman sees Will Ferrell star as Ron Burgundy, a legendary news anchor from San Diego. When a woman joins the news team and threatens to replace Burgundy as the news anchor, Ron and his Channel 4 news team struggle to readjust from their male-dominated work environment . Aside from comedy genius Will  Ferrell, Anchorman has a cast stuffed full of comedy stars including, Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers), Paul Rudd (Knocked Up), Luke Wilson (Old School) and even a cameo from Ben Stiller (Zoolander) as Arturo Mendes, the anchor of ‘Spanish speaking news’.

A short clip from Anchorman:

The most intriguing thing about Anchorman is that most of it is improvised from a very loose script. When watching the film with this is mind it becomes all the more impressive. The improvisation results in an endless array of comical quotes which don’t often make a lot of sense. It is these quotes which add something entirely fresh to previous comedy films and subsequently justify Anchorman being named ‘comedy film of the decade’. Indeed I think the legacy of this ground-breaking classic will extend well into the next decade.

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Rage against the X factor machine

X factor winner Joe McElderry is going head to head for this year’s Christmas number one spot with none other than Rage Against the Machine.

Although, that is not strictly true. Rage will technically be going head to head with the X factor establishment rather than the individual winner of the show.

Those people who know me, know that as a general rule I do not like rock music and have been known to have a soft spot for cheesy X factor winners including Leona. However, I have always admired Rage for their no-nonsense way of displaying what I would call ‘heavy’ political messages.

This is a band who headlined Reading festival dressed as prisoners of war in a protest at an ‘unjust’ Iraq war. This is a band that has been restricted from playing on numerous occasions, and has gone ahead and played anyway. This is a band who, on Thursday, swore on BBC radio Five live’s breakfast show during a rendition of their 1992 hit and Christmas number one hopeful ‘Killing in the Name of”.

WARNING: Contains strong language

Rage Against The Machine and Christmas should really never be mentioned in the same sentence. The band’s entire ethos is as far away from ‘Christmas cheer’ as you can possibly get. However, there is something about Rage that I find intriguing, something which made me listen to them as I was growing up, and something which I have never been able to put my finger on.

Perhaps it is the simple, yet typically addictive riffs. Perhaps it is the infectious tone of lead singer Zack de la Rocha’s voice or the unique blend of his hip hop lyrics with roaring bass lines. Perhaps it is simply the ballsy, anti-establishment messages which the band are so famous for preaching.

Product of social networking

I like Rage for all these reasons but this is not why I will be buying their single this week. Rather, I feel the popular reaction to the facebook group urging people to make the Rage single number one is a fascinating example of the power which social networking sites hold. The group currently has 397,286 members.

Make no mistake, It will be a genuinely pleasant moment if Rage are named this year’s Christmas number one and the ‘anti x factor’ contingent reign supreme. Indeed, wouldn’t it be lovely to see Simon Cowell’s face when it is announced?

Please vote in the poll below for who you THINK will be this years Christmas number one.

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Politicians and journalists: society’s most hated?

The Iraqi journalist made famous for throwing his shoes at George W. Bush when he was President has suffered an identical attack whilst speaking at an event in Paris.

Indeed the way that Muntadar al-Zaidi ducked down to his left as the shoe came directly for his head bore a remarkable resemblance to Bush’s own dodge in 2008.

Eggs, shoes… what next?

This particular story struck me as being quite comical and of increased relevance given my last post was about people throwing eggs at a politician. It seems the world has gone mad with throwing things, and random things at that.

First eggs, then shoes, then eggs again. Now shoes…again! I find myself asking what next? A sock? A cabbage? Or maybe just more shoes… and eggs.

Verbal attack is one thing, journalists verbally attack politicians, politicians verbally attack journalists, and the public verbally attack both. It’s an age-old pattern. However, it is certainly a worrying development that these two professions, or as I like to call them: ‘society’s most hated’ are beginning to come under physical attack from both the public and one another.

I can only hope that this most recent episode of shoe throwing at journalists does not take off in the same way throwing eggs at politicians seems to have done. Otherwise it might be necessary to rethink my career choice, before I get a boot to the face.

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Warsi and the egg men

Images of John Prescott being pelted with an egg whilst campaigning in Rhys, North Wales in 2001 resonated true this evening when I saw a video of Tory Peer, Baroness Warsi suffering the same, humiliating attack.

Warsi was on a ‘walkabout’ in Luton when some protesters appeared and threw eggs at her. What I thought was particularly interesting was the Baroness’ response. Instead of trying to get indoors and away from the angry protesters as you might expect, Warsi attempted to reason with them. This was in stark contrast to Prescott’s ‘Rocky’ impersonation where he landed a clean punch to the offender’s chin before wrestling him to the ground as if he had stolen his last piece of cake.

Although the Tory Peer appeared angered by this most recent attack, she kept her cool remarkably well. Warsi, who was named Britain’s most influential Muslim woman in 2009 could be heard saying to one of her minders “I think we should actually deal with it”. The Baroness did her best to answer the questions of the egg throwers but, rather predictably, they did not afford her the same patience as she gave them.

Baroness Warsi’s calm response to this confrontation is a fascinating demonstration of British democracy. Being an unelected member of the House of Lords Warsi is not directly accountable to the public, yet she put herself in the firing line to argue her point and submit herself to further abuse from the ‘egg men’. Yes it would have been funny to see her flailing fists towards the protesters as Prescott so famously did but, as it was, her reaction was both intriguing and reassuring.

By Nick Higgins

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