Snow Day

I hate being bored, don’t you? In the back of my head, I can hear the echoes of the phrase ‘only boring people get bored!’ Well. Sometimes interesting people need a break from all of their exhausting and creative pursuits, and would rather like a bit of time off. Sometimes, the most fascinating creatures among us get stuck in the house, due to…oh, I don’t know. Snow?

And so it was yesterday. Trapped in the house! I elected to start a roaring log fire, put the original St Trinian’s on, and try and loll about a bit. I haven’t been used to taking weekends off lately, so I find that my brain is still running and my hands are fidgeting, and I generally want to do something. A lot of the time, I find it easier to relax by doing something that isn’t related to my work, or is utterly pointless but thoroughly enjoyable. For a start, I decided I’d wake myself up by going out into the snow with bare feet. I’ve never done that before in my life, and I’m not sure why I did yesterday. A combination of supreme boredom caused by the endless similar ‘snowy scene’ photos that appeared all over the net, and the fact that it was going to take me ages to get socks and shoes on. Anyway, I highly recommend it, and here’s the proof I did it:

I saw the comedian Josie Long do a brilliant stand-up show a few years ago, where she talked about all the things people put a huge amount of effort in to, but which don’t actually make any difference to life whatsoever. The show was called ‘Trying is Good’, and Josie pulled together a bunch of examples of the aforementioned ‘tiny things’ that people devote their time to. She handed out little hand-drawn booklets to all of the audience, and later in the show she passed around sweets and oranges for people who were particularly lovely. I was charmed by the show – she also mentioned how at the Edinburgh Festival, she would make badges for all the audience members on a daily basis, as well as sticking packs of sweets to the bottom of chairs as a nice little surprise. One of my tutors at uni, who’d been working at Edinburgh that year, told us that Josie held a month long Boggle championship over the course of the festival, challenging everyone to games between shows.

I unashamedly love that sort of thing. We get so caught up in only doing things that are important and that will drive us forwards in life, that we rarely ever spend time on something silly and purely for enjoyment purposes. Well, I’m a big fan of doing little thing just for the sake of it. That’s why I bought myself a 24 pack of Sharpie pens, despite having no practical use for them whatsoever. One of my February challenges was to make a stop motion animation, and I decided yesterday would be perfect to give it a shot. I’ve never done anything like that in my life before, and it was a big process of trial and error. For my ‘final’ piece, I shot about 200 frames, editing it together using the amazing free JellyCam software, and the result is below. It’s so far from perfect, or even being any good, but it was my first time! And I’m going to try some more (better) stuff in future. Hope you enjoy!

Top 8 misery-busting movies

I always find the start of the New Year a bit strange. You’ve built so many high hopes for the year, made your resolutions, started making plans, decided you want to completely change the way you do everything. And then January 1st rolls around and it just feels like any other day. In fact, if you’re like me, it feels like a day where you need to drink gallons of orange juice and lie in bed to exorcise your hangover. The very, very New bit of the New Year can leave you feeling a bit…lacklustre. It might be a bit hard to get motivated, or you might be easing yourself in gently.

Then of course there’s the fact that both Christmas and any New Year’s celebrations are now officially dead and buried. You might have spent months planning them, and suddenly it’s all in the past, and all you’ve got left are heaps of out of focus photos and a red wine stain on your carpet. It’s highly likely you might feel just the tiniest bit down as the New Year dawns. Now you’ve actually got to start doing those Resolutions, instead of just whacking them optimistically down on paper. Days with nothing to do stretch out, but it’s still getting dark early. Maybe you’re going back to school, university or work. That 2000 word essay you’ve put off is due next week. You’ve got to do your tax return. You really must join the gym.

With that in mind, I’ve popped together a list of my favourite ‘misery-busting’ films. They might not be what you’d find on a standard Top 10 Happy Films list, but they work for me. Some are uplifting, some are just pure comedy, and some feature Catherine Deneuve kissing a woman and singing. Actually, that’s just one. Read on to find out which. Anyway, with the nights still dark and the year still very much newborn, why not update your Lovefilm list with some of the following:

  1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – There was no question that this was going to be the keystone of my list. In my opinion, FBDO is not only my favourite film of all time, but the perfect film to watch when you’re feeling a bit ‘at odds’ with life. Every time I see it, I fall a bit more in love with Ferris and his limitless optimism. Not just a John Hughes 80s corker, but a film with a message to put across too: make sure you stop what you’re doing and enjoy yourself once in a while, or life might just pass you by.

Best moment: a competitive choice, as there are so many. For me though, Ferris’s first conversation with Cameron, over the phone, makes me giggle every time. Listen out for the way the score changes between a Hawaiian style tune for Ferris and pure music of doom for Cameron. ‘When Moses was in Egypt’s land, let my Cameron gooooo……’ Oh, and obviously the parade scene:

2. Son of Rambow – I watched this for the first time the other night, and I had no idea whether it would end well or in a way that would traumatically scar me for life. Luckily it was the former. Centring around two boys from different backgrounds who become ‘blood brothers’ and make their own film, inspired by Rambo. Both young leads are fantastic, and it made me want to be a young boy in the 80s (something I’d have previously thought quite hard to achieve.) The shots themselves are beautiful – often as visually appealing as a Sofia Coppolla film – an odd comparison, but as a sweeping generalisation I find female directors often exhibit more visual flare in films. Also look out for a fantastically British Ed Westwick.

Best moment: again, so many. But it’s a tie for me between any shot involving French exchange student Didier Revol, and the rave-like party in the sixth form common room.

3. 8 Femmes (8 Women) – A film by Francois Ozon that sadly went a bit under the UK radar. It might be because it’s such a spectacularly French film that us Brits might have found it a little bizarre and somewhat disjointed. A pastiche of a 1950s murder mystery set in a country house, the film features everyone from Virginie Ledoyen to Catherine Deneuve, and one of my favourite Gallic actresses, Isabelle Huppert. The film gets camper and camper before your very eyes, and features all your favourite French actresses singing various popular French hits. It really does have to be seen to be believed. Seeing Catherine Deneuve grappling with a woman on the floor will stay in your head, whether you’re a straight man, a straight woman, a gay man, or a lesbian.

Best moment: The dance routine that the youngest member of the household (Ludivine Sagnier) performs in her pajamas, to the song ‘Papa t’es plus dans l’coup’ – see below.

4. Clueless – Another girlie entry, and one that I must admit I know most of the words to. You can’t beat this modern update of Jane Austen’s Emma, and as far as I’m concerned, this was the original teen movie, and the best. It certainly has more heart that most of the films made within this genre in the noughties. Alicia Silverstone is perfectly cast as the cheerful yet initially rather spoilt teenager who really does want the best for everyone around her.

Best moment: The brief exchange between Cher’s father and her ‘date’ for the night, Christian. ‘What’s with you, kid? You think the death of Sammy Davis Jr left an opening in the Rat Pack?’

5. Wayne’s World – an antidote to my previous two girlie films. I’ve been watching Wayne’s World since I was about 8, and I haven’t got bored of it yet. From the infamous Bohemian Rhapsody car journey at the start to closing minutes of the film, this is a cinematic classic. I dare you to watch it and feel miserable (it’s impossible). And then I dare you to go round talking in 90s slang for the rest of the week.

Best moment: Anything involving Wayne’s ex girlfriend Stacey, but really, most moments are ‘right on’.

N.B. If you’re a Wayne’s World fanatic like me, why not come along to the ‘Schwing Along’ at the Prince Charles Cinema, just off Leicester Square? Tickets are £12.50, and include entry to a ’90s grunge party’ – dressing up strongly encourage – and the film itself. Click here to check it out, and maybe I’ll see you there:

6. Sixty Six – Another one where you have no idea if it’ll end well or in total carnage. The premise is this: a boy is planning his Bar Mitzvah, which ends up clashing with the England World Cup final. He dreams of the perfect event, and spends hours sorting out things like place settings. Absolutely made by the young lead of the film, look out for scenes where he tests ‘cocktails’ out on his brother. Also features the spectacular Helena Bonham-Carter in one of her trademark ‘slightly batty mother’ roles.

Best moment: unquestionably, the end. I’m not giving away any more than that, so you’ll have to watch it.

7. Let’s Make Love – I was always going to feature a Marilyn Monroe film in any list of misery-busting movies. Monroe is absolutely luminous on any screen, but ‘Let’s Make Love’ trumped ‘Some Like it Hot’ in this list for me. Firstly, I like to mostly stay off the beaten track with my film choices, and secondly because it’s such an undeservedly overlooked film. A high-powered French businessman (Yves Montand) is planning on shutting down a local community theatre in New York. He goes down to visit it, and sees Monroe performing, and falls for her straight away, naturally. While he’s sitting there watching her, a director plucks him up, assuming he’s here to audition for the show….as an impersonation of himself. He gets the part. Hilarity ensues. It also features the Niles Crane of the 50s and 60s, Tony Randall. Ahead of its time in many ways, I really do recommend this.

Best moment: A tie between the dance number for ‘Specialization’ (Marilyn at her best), and the scene where Yves Montand hires some experts to teach him to dance and sing. The experts are Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby.

8. Easy Virtue – Without a doubt, one of my favourite films of recent years. It’s one of those typically English, PG Wodehousian, big country house romps. Son of the household returns home with an American bride (Jessica Biel). And not just any American bride, a racing driver with a rather murky romantic past at that. Jessica Biel is my hero in this film, and perfect in the role. An icy Kristin Scott-Thomas reigns supreme, with Colin Firth as her rather put-upon husband. Another part comedy, part musical entry, but a great one to watch if you find yourself feeling a bit of an outsider.

Best moment: The dance scene near the end. You’ll be completely and utterly on Biel’s side.

Black Mirror: The Entire History of You

Or, where did it all go wrong?

Even when I read the synopsis for each episode of Black Mirror, the third instalment was the one which grabbed me the least. I’ve got no idea why, but I thought it sounded a little flat, and a little predictable. In fact, I even read a book for children when I was about 10, which centred around the idea of a girl who could fast forward and rewind time. Readers, I should have saved myself an hour and got that book out from the library. Black Mirror: The Entire History of You (TEHOY, you know the drill by now. TEHOY, mateys! Avast, there be a terrible plot! Etc etc) revolved around the premise of a world where we can review our lives by flashing back to moments and replaying them. Over and over. And over.

Think of how much time we spend dissecting our lives already. I must have clocked up hours sitting down with friends and furiously muttering things like: ‘so, when he said that, do you think that meant he liked me?’ My well meaning friend would reply: ‘well, how exactly did he say it? Did he say, “see you soon”, or “see you soon”?’ Instead of putting on a gruff voice and imitating whatever my passing fancy had said, in TEHOY world, I’d just replay the scene for her. By the way, I’m not actually that neurotic – I was just illustrating a point. Of all the various premises of Black Mirror, this wasn’t particularly interesting, and was also very poorly executed. I didn’t even fancy anyone this week.

I’ll start with the characters. Our main man Liam (Toby Kebbell) is a lawyer who becomes increasingly suspicious of his wife (I think they were married, I really, really failed to absorb much info) having an affair with a ‘prick’ called Jonah. Jonas? A Jonas Brother? Judas? I finished watching the thing ten minutes ago and I already can’t remember. Maybe there is something to be said for ‘Grain’ technology, where I could just rewind back to the…oh, right. Yeah, 4oD.

I’m not going to bore you with plot details, because it was essentially a middle class version of Eastenders. I imagine. I’ve actually never seen Eastenders. I’m too middle class. Liam obsesses over the events of a dinner party where his wife/partner/girlfriend/who cares is reunited again with Jonah/Jonas/Jesus. For the entire agonising hour of the drama, he just plays and replays events using the Grain implanted behind his ear, analysing things. I’m going to say right here that WATCHING THE SAME THINGS AGAIN AND AGAIN IS RIDICULOUSLY BORING. We got the picture within seconds, we’re not idiots. We knew he could rewind and replay bits. We had no need of seeing each one of those bits again and again.

That was my first issue: that I was bored senseless. The second issue was that everybody was hugely unlikeable. Main man Liam was an absolute arse. Black Mirror worked in weeks 1 and 2 because I liked and/or sympathised with PM Michael Callow and Bing, respectively. But this guy? Please. I’m not sure if it was the writing or the acting, but I didn’t care a jot what happened to him. That’s another thing: you’ll be able to predict the end after about fifteen minutes in. His ‘life partner’, Ffion, was unsympathetic too, and….oh, I just disliked them all. I wish I could review the programme properly, but it was just terrible. Also, Stephen Mangan should have played the lead role.

Jesse Armstrong wrote the script, and I was surprised to find not even the merest hint of humour. After all, this is the co-creator of Peepshow and Fresh Meat we’re talking about. Nothing. I suppose it was slightly like an episode of Peepshow if Peepshow had been written by somebody bloated on a diet of Eastenders and misery, and if the actors in Peepshow had been plucked from some wanky, self-involved student production. I expected more from Jodie Whittaker, who is usually a very good actress. The single vestige of Peepshow that remained was those weird POV shots when one of the boys kisses someone. Even that failed to make me laugh. Oh! I just feel so irrevocably miserable about the whole thing.

Essentially, if you took away the technology, this would be a really crap version of Othello, or He Knew He Was Right. Jealous people will always be jealous, and you can still wreck a relationship without a PVR in your head. The other episodes looked at how technology was ruling and destroying our lives, but this hugely missed the point. Actually, I still remember seeing one of my friends playing and replaying a video on Facebook of a recent ex, sure that she’d seen him with an arm around someone. I don’t know whether that example illustrates the point of TEHOY, or does the opposite. Like I said, I’m feeling far too uninspired by the episode to bother making links. This is a terrible review for a programme that I can’t even really rip to shreds properly.

It felt to me like the episodes got smaller in scope. Week one was about Britain as a whole, week two was about one section of society, and week three was about a small group of people. Rubbish, boring, annoying people. I also think it declined in quality. I was disturbed by the first two programmes, but the final episode did nothing for me. Hence the one part review, which is unheard of for me. I can write 2000+ words on anything, but not this. It was poor, badly acted, unfunny, uninteresting, and there was nobody having sex with a pig. All in all, very disappointing. Should this kind of technology come in, you can rest assured I’ll be deleting this particular episode of Black Mirror from my brainbox.

God, I miss you. Please come back.

Toodle pip.

Fifteen Million Merits: Part One

Well then. Fifteen Million Merits last night, right after the X Factor final. Who watched? What did you think? For me, it made me realise how good I’d found The National Anthem, how disturbed I’d been by it and how thought-provoking I’d found it, whereas Fifteen Million Merits (FMM for short, because I’m not typing that every few minutes) left me cold, for the most part. And not in a cold sweat, which is what happened after last week’s. I think because I reacted so extremely to The National Anthem – too upset to sleep, flashbacks throughout the week (especially when a particular sound effect came on in The Archers, oh Jesus), and I was still thinking about it yesterday and making connections; it was going to be tough for anything to compete with that.

Funnily enough, the general consensus seems to be the other way round, that this week was genius, and last week was…well, something to be consigned to a pig sty. All I know is, during TNA, I was gripped for every single ghastly minute. During FMM I kept pulling up the TV guide on screen and making sure I wasn’t missing any good films. Then I spent most of the time on Twitter, which is both exactly what Charlie Brooker probably wants but detests me for at the same time.

So, FMM. Where to begin? We start with scenes of Bing (the amazing Daniel Kaluuya)  waking up in his screen-bound world, losing merits for every time he ‘takes’ something – toothpaste, skipping an advert, eating some food – and gaining them by just pedalling on a bike for hour on end, presumably generating the energy needed to run the technology that is keeping everybody prisoner. We see a selection of the ‘entertainment’ on offer, and let me tell you, there’s no such thing as ‘Frasier’ in this dystopian future. Nope, it’s all fat people stuffing their faces, computer generated bike rides, and X Factor style ads for ‘Hot Shot’ (a talent show) – oh, and the ‘Wraith Babes’ channel. Bearing the example from TNA in mind (i.e. everything you see means something), I knew to keep an eye on this ‘Wraith Babes’ malarkey, and that this wouldn’t be the last we saw of it.

Bing is in love with a girl called Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay), but in a world where everything is controlled and manufactured, can their love exist? So far, so 1984, as I’m sure everybody said. Being TV illiterate, I haven’t seen either Downton Abbey or Fades, which is what the two leads are known for being in, so I had no frame of reference for them as actors. I thought they were fantastic, and not unlike the way Rory Kinnear and Lindsay Duncan made TNA by playing it gruesomely straight, these two carved something from the script by injecting a very natural, very real romance into a world where everything is false.

PLOT TIME! It takes ages for the plot to get started, unlike the ‘PIG SEX’ precisely one minute into TNA. I think it’s to build up a picture (or, screen) of the eye-bleeding monotony of their lives, where everything, including porn, is prescribed. The edge has been taken off everything – fruit is all too perfect; the Wraith Babes seem to be performing a very clinical, softcore, Britney Spears backing dancer-esque set of wriggling about; anything created is chucked. Abi constantly makes little origami penguins, which the yellow-clad cleaners throw away repeatedly. ‘Debris’, they mutter as they swat the little birds from around her. So Abi and Bing slope onwards in their pointless lives, watching crappy TV, and listening to a guy who REALLY reminded me of comedian Lee Mack yelling at the screen and at the cleaners.

I am the MTV generation folks, whether I like it or not. My attention span isn’t the best. I was flagging around 40-50 minutes in, wondering where the scathing dissection of the X Factor was that I’d been promised. Christ, the only reason I’d sat through the bloody X Factor final was to provide some context for this show! Dear Mr Cowell, I will be invoicing you for the two hours of my life that I shall never get back. Anyway, Bing hears Abi singing in the bathroom and tells her she should enter ‘Hot Shot’. She explains that she lives ‘hand to mouth’, that she can’t throw away the merits needed (the Fifteen Million of the title.) Bing promises he’ll give her his. It’s a sweet scene, both actors play it very innocently, making it all the more unbearable when the huge screen opens up next to Bing broadcasting the Wraith Babes to all and sundry. Oh, didn’t I mention? The screens are like those hideous targeted ads that stalk you around the internet. You know, when you accidentally scroll your mouse over them and they open up and pelt you with loud noise and you can’t turn them off. Well, imagine that following you around. On all your walls.

Bing is embarrassed, because the screen clearly projects what you’ve been watching previously, or something similar. Now this is the KEY POINT. You’ve got to watch Abi’s reaction when the trashy looking Babes come on. She sweetly averts her eyes and looks at the floor until it’s gone, then raises her head awkwardly. This is the reaction you need to remember as foreshadowing of what’s to come.

Read Part Two here:

Fifteen Million Merits: Part Two

About two million hours in – or, the length of an X Factor final itself – we finally got somewhere. Bing purchases the ‘Hot Shot’ ticket and accompanies a nervous Abi , who is beginning to have doubts about the whole ordeal. Bing talks her into it, and they swoop down to get her checked in. Bing gets a ‘Hot Shot’ stamp on his hand as her designated friend/family, and is told it’ll probably last ‘about two months’. No kidding, I’ve suffered at the hands of an overzealous stamper before when I’ve been on a night out, and it SUCKS. Led to the ‘backstage’ area, we get a glimpse of the ‘behind the scenes’ bit we always see on X Factor/Britain’s Got Talent, where hoardes of hopeless hopefuls are warming up or stretching out. The only difference is they’re all in grey tracksuits. No Kitty Brucknells here (THANK GOD.)

FINALLY, I think. We’re getting somewhere. Eventually Abi gets through to the stage, and we see the judges: Judges Charity, Hope, and…you guessed it, Wraith. A quote from 1 Corinthians (chanks Google, sadly I can’t remember huge chunks of the Bible myself) says this: ‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity’. Nice one guys, rhyming ‘charity’ with ‘charity’ was really ace. Anywho. I’m not in any way saying you’d have been better pushed to spend the time reading the Bible, no sirree bob. But what in God’s name was Rupert Everett thinking with his bizarre accent?

I still can’t work out if it was Aussie, New Zealand or South African. I like to imagine that he’s the kind of actor who gets really, really into the role, and just showed up at rehearsal and went ‘guys. Guys! I’VE GOT IT. I’m going to make him an Aussie/New Zealander/South African!’, and everybody just had to go ‘heeeey! Nice one Rupes, great idea’ etc etc until he shut up and drank his Starbucks. I adore Rupert Everett, I just didn’t understand what the accent was about. I would guess that they didn’t want it to be an impression of Simon Cowell, but last week worked on the basis of Rory Kinnear looking like a love child of Nick Clegg and David Cameron, so why would you deviate from that? Julia Davis was clearly giving her all to an impression of Amanda Holden. Everett just perched on the end looking like a mug shot of George Michael and acting up a storm, but with an ACCENT.

Aaand calm. Anyway, they hustled Abi into the spotlight, and she sang, and Judge Wraith began to talk about her taking her top off, and she looked confused and nervous, and Judge Hope (Everett) said ‘throw another shrimp on the Barbie, mate’. Then the crowd (all made up of avatars) cajoled Abi into signing up to be one of Wraiths Babes. She agreed. The kind, naive, innocent Abi was hauled off to provide 24 hour porn, which Bing himself would later have to watch (not having enough merits to skip it.) Even the scene where he had to watch her tartily made up face contorted on screen wasn’t quite there for me. I may be an utter pervert, but I wanted to see even more humiliation for her. Otherwise it was just a girl with some makeup on with some chap’s thumb in her mouth. A normal Friday out in Tunbridge Wells, what what!

Has anybody ever watched Babestation? Because that’s what Wraith Babes sort of was. If you haven’t, you’ve got to. True fact: you can actually hear your soul steadily seeping away. I remember flicking onto it with a friend and talking about the deadened eyes and plastic lips of the girls. It’s not even porn – the girls have sex with the air as opposed to a man/woman/pig, and they can never take their knickers off, I believe. What upsets me the most about watching it is thinking ‘that’s somebody’s little girl. That plastic chested, shark eyed girl was once a baby.’ Unbearable. I’d hazard a guess that a lot of girls who go for ‘modelling’ careers end up there. So, that’s what lovely Abi with the origami penguins and the fringe was consigned to for the rest of her life.

I don’t think a good enough reason was given as to why. Ok, she’d been drugged slightly before she went on, and the audience of avatars were cheering for her to do it, but really there wasn’t a moment when I saw that she had to make that choice. And she had a choice – it was porn or back to the bikes. Dude! The bikes weren’t that bad! Sorry, but if Brooker can make me think that the PM had no choice but to have sex with a pig on live TV, he should be able to make me think a girl can sell herself to a life of Babestation.

I found the avatar audience pointless. It lost the imposing feel of a real audience. If you’ve watched a talent show, you know that the ugliest part is when the camera turns on the audience and focuses on a single face as it turns from delight to anger, and starts chanting ‘off, off! OFF!’ And here’s where my stumbling block was. I was expecting this programme to really, really rinse X Factor/BGT for all it was worth. I thought Cowell would be completely lampooned. I thought the whole franchise would wriggle under the weight of Brooker’s careful and precise incisions.

Read the final part, Part Three here:

Fifteen Million Merits: Part Three

But alas, it was not to be. I would go as far as saying that you could pick any single episode of X Factor/BGT and you’d see something uglier and more brutal than what Brooker depicted. Ok, so the contestants aren’t being offered a porn deal (not on screen, anyway), but what about when the researchers send through a person with clear mental illnesses for us to laugh at? That happens EVERY. SINGLE. SERIES. Think how many times you’ve laughed at a completely deluded contestant only to stop yourself after a while and go ‘wait, this isn’t right’. People with psychological difficulties are put through round after round by researchers with no scruples, told endlessly how talented they are until they confront the judges. The judges then tell them something like ‘the dream ends here, today’, and they either protest or shuffle off.

Of course they protest! The process by which they gain access to the stage is one in which they are told how fantastic they are! This is not my guesswork, by the way, that’s really what happens behind the scenes. People JEERED Susan Boyle when she came on, purely because of how she looked. That poor girl Jesy from Little Mix has suffered endless torments about her looks and weight. Even last night on Twitter people were passing round photos of animals and saying it was her, or capturing her at ugly angles. That poor, poor kid. She might have won the show with her band last night, but the psychological scars won’t be as short-lived as the fame she’ll probably experience.

There is SO MUCH to be said about X Factor. How we treat people as villains for no reason, how it’s the 21st century equivalent of the Victorian freakshow, how the judges will say anything to sell records. And that’s before you even consider all the scandals about fixing, the bad press stories that the show itself propagates just to gain column inches, and the fact that the pile of nobodies who have won the show in previous years is getting higher and higher. And let me ask you this – can anybody tell me exactly what it is that Little Mix have won? Yes, I know they’ve won ‘The X Factor’, but what are the details here? Have they got a contract? Nothing was mentioned, I’m pretty sure. This is a week when scandal after scandal has hit British X Factor, but the events over at US X Factor are even weirder. Rachel Crow, a girl of 13 or 14, I believe, was voted off the competition this week. Her reaction? She sank to the floor, called for her mum, sobbed her heart out and yelled ‘mama! You PROMISED me!’

These programmes are ugly, and I think most of us have begun to see that. We are no longer in the thrall of them, we’ve had too many vote fixing scandals and insincere comments from the judges to actually take them seriously any more. Brooker portrayed the judges as being the ultimate authority. Actually, this year, we’ve seen the judges criticised as much as (if not more than) the contestants. When ‘reality’ is so ugly in 2011, I would have liked to have seen a really scathing, merciless take down of X Factor. Considering Konnie Huq co-wrote it, and she worked on the programme in 2010, I felt it lacked any insider info. People have claimed that after the axe had fallen on her job, she wrote this to get back at the show. Really? It would have been more effective to paint ‘You suck’ onto the side of a pig and send it on the X Factor stage. I just don’t think the programme was put under the microscope at ALL. It all felt a bit….well, GCSE Drama, really.

There is one more thing, though. I felt disappointed by the postscript in TNA, but in FMM the last 20 minutes were the best bit. Bing worked his way up to the credits needed, tucked a shard of glass into his pants (or was he just pleased to see me?) and proceeded onto the stage. Unfortunately, he didn’t stab Aussie George Michael in the sunglasses, but held it to his own throat and just yelled at everybody. The judges pretended to listen. Aussie George Michael leaned forwards and said something like ‘that was….without a doubt….BRILLIANT’, and got him to speak more. Bing’s anger became sanitised and as a result, he was given his own show, twice a week, half an hour each. He did the whole show with the shard of glass pressed up to his throat, yelling at the system but ultimately becoming increasingly inauthentic, the same as everything else.

Say…here’s a question, kids. Can we think of another angry man who has become a very cog in the thing he hates so much? Who is wheeled out to just yell at things until we all laugh? No, not Konnie Huq. No, not the pig from TNA, now you’re just being stupid. Yes! Charlie Brooker. Spot on. Charlie Brooker is the man who has to hold a shard of glass up to his throat for the rest of eternity, spitting bile and garnering viewers, hating the system but earning money for that very system. Quite a nice touch.

So, that was Fifteen Million Merits. I wonder if I do better with things that look more like our own world, as in TNA? Perhaps it was a little too futuristic for me (although as we speak Google are developing interactive rooms like Bing’s.) I didn’t wake up scarred for life this morning. It was a bit limp. Maybe The Xtra Factor wanted Konnie back to host, and she had to tone down her criticism of the programme. Who knows/cares. I’m off to download the Little Mix single and read the Daily Mail for all the latest X Factor scandals. Ta ra for now.

**Mulling it over, there is one more point I feel I’ve missed. When Bing goes to enter the competition, he’s let through the scanner with no questions asked, even though I’m fairly sure it’s obvious that he’s…erm…got something down his trousers. The security guard sort of gives him a look. It’s been bothering me, that little bit. I wonder if that in itself is a comment on the kind of people they let through to these shows – i.e. as long as they’ll provide entertainment, it doesn’t matter whether they’re a terrible performer, mentally challenged, or carrying a weapon. Just a thought. Another one. **