Twelve things I’ve learned being a Dad to two under four (PART 2)

Thank you for returning to read the rest of my far from comprehensive, barely instructional list of twelve things I’ve learned so far as a parent. May it strike a chord, or make you feel smug and superior, you hubris-filled wanker. Either way, I hope you enjoy it. You can read PART 1 here.

5.) TV is your friend

Don’t listen to the snobs: your TV is as much a part of the family as the grandparents, or that funny uncle with the twitch. My partner and I vowed never to use the TV as a live-in babysitter or a motivational tool, and largely we’ve observed this vow. We’re careful to offset time spent in front of the TV with oodles of outdoor larks, jigsaws, puzzles, pretend play, books and tickle-fights. But sometimes… Just sometimes. Some days. TV may very well rot your children’s brains, but the brain-rotting skills of children themselves are unmatched and exemplary, so in this dirty war no weapon is out of bounds. I’ll be honest, if it wasn’t for the TV I’d probably have immolated myself by now.

6.) Don’t sweat the swearing

I don’t care what the Preachy McTutters of this world say: a swearing kid is a fucking hilarious kid. Naturally we don’t deliberately teach our three-year-old swear words. We don’t create Venn diagrams to show him the full galaxy of obscenities at his disposal, or give formal lessons every weekday morning. ‘Now, Jack, I want you to say it again, but this time I want to hear you enunciate the consonants like we practised. Ki…ki… ki… Ku… ku… ku… kun…kun…kun…. That’s it, you can do it!’

You simply don’t realise how much you profane as a matter of course until you’re sharing your home with a kid or two. Don’t get me wrong, over the years we’ve tried to shrink our pool of bad words (removing an em eff here, a cee there) and reduce the frequency of our swearing, and on the whole we’ve been successful in our efforts, but a one hundred per cent standard is impossible to attain: as long as there are frights, stubbed toes, dropped plates, inconsiderate drivers and sudden swirls of anger there will always be ‘bloody bastards’, ‘shitting buggers’ and ‘Are you fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuckkking kiiiidddddddddding meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees’.

A friend of mine recently told me that she and her husband had been aghast to hear their three-year-old daughter saying ‘Oh my God!’ As I listened, I had a flashback to all of the times our Jack has blasphemed, bee’d, essed and effed, all of which were entirely and inescapably my fault. I’ve heard him affectionately refer to a playmate as ‘a wee bugger’; I’ve watched him dancing around the toilet chanting ‘Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!’ like some demented shaman; I’ve seen him sneering a swear through one side of his mouth in the same manner and voice as a 1950s Italian-American Godfather, even shaking his little fist: ‘Sunnnnnn of a bitch!’; I’ve watched him lightly slap his own forehead and cry out ‘Oh fuck’. It’s like some horrendous version of Blankety Blank sometimes. “OK, here’s your next one. The guy tailgating me is a blanking blank?” “He’s a f….” “Nooooooooooo!”

In saying that, he’s seldom swore the same swear twice, largely because we react to each utterance with calm neutrality, gently re-directing his words down a different path without giving the no-no words any sense of power by confirming their taboo status.

Some examples:

“Yes, you can say (x), but it would be better to say (y) instead. Yes, maybe next time we’ll just say (y)”


“No, I didn’t say that, darling, you must’ve misheard. I said ‘rubber trucking other cuffer‘. What does it mean?… I’ve no fucking idea, son.”

7.) People lie about their kids.

Nobody talks up the beautiful, life-affirming aspects of parenthood. All parents-to-be are given the same bleak and nightmarish pep-talk: “You’re having a baby? Oh, you poor bastard! Forget sleep. Forget sex. You’ll be up to your knees in shit and piss. You’ll be so tired you’ll start hallucinating sentient raisins. You’ll be stressed out. You’ll probably start serial killing frogs, and using your head as a hammer to smash down play-parks. Your left leg will turn into an eighteenth century courtesan and start trying to marry people. Your right leg will fall off. You’ll shrink by five feet. Your eyes will explode. You’ll think you’re an owl. Seriously, I’m not kidding around here, my cousin was a dad for one day and he set fire to himself and tried to ram-raid a church. With a bison. I’m telling you; you might as well just kill yourself now, save the trouble. That’s how awful kids are.”

And then once your kids are a bouncing, bawling reality, and you’re asked the questions: ‘How are things at home?/How’s life as a parent?/how is/are the kid(s)?’ you lie then, too. Maybe you’ve just been sat at home cuddling your kids while watching a movie, or joyously laughing at their inspired silliness, or moved to tears by their innocence and sense of wonder, but you’ll always say something like: “Those bloody kids will be the death of me!”

8.) Bye, bye, sex life

Scheduling amorous activity with your partner when you’ve got children is difficult; scheduling it when you share a bed with your kids (the baby sleeps in an adjoined extension, our toddler usually sneaks in beside us at some point through the night) is nigh on impossible. The very fact that you have to ‘schedule’ at all is a bitter pill to swallow (a pill to swallow? Christ, there’s a Freudian slip). Sex isn’t an activity that lends itself well to scheduling or good time management skills, although as I’m writing this sentence I’m remembering a little something called ‘the entire sex industry’ that rather depends upon both of those things for its growth and survival, so I guess I’ll rephrase and refocus my argument somewhat: good time management and awesome scheduling skills may be useful, but they sure as shit never made anything sexier. Sex in the home between two partners should be sexy, urgent, primal, spontaneous, and not boring and clinical like making an appointment to see your bank manager (if you’re currently banging your bank manager, please feel free to imagine a different analogy).

The ideal scenario is for both kids to be fast asleep, and for us to slink silently from the bed and into the hall downstairs, to commence the world’s quietest bout of passion, like two mime artists make-believing a normal sex-life. If we make it to the living room we’re in for a riot of locked-knees, cold bums, burnt bums and stiff necks. We still have to be savagely quiet, but if there’s an accidental scream at this point it’s usually because we’ve stained the couch we’re still bloody paying for.

Wherever the venue, time is very much of the essence; because we’re both aware that we could be interrupted at any second, our coupling becomes less like a spontaneous act of love and more like two people desperately trying to beat their record on the mechanical bull. Never matter. I’ve always excelled at getting it done quickly.

For a longer consideration of the deleterious effects of children on your sex life, click here.

Click on PART 1 for the first four 12 things.

The Doctor Falls: A Haunting Look at Love, Loss, Death and Hope

Doctor Who is, and always has been, a family drama, so in theory it should be palatable and accessible to all points of the age spectrum at all times; in practice it’s always oscillated wildly between the worlds of childhood and adulthood. There are some episodes a little too silly or garish for my tastes, but which my son adores. Equally, there are episodes I consider mature, thought-provoking and insightful that my son considers confusing, boring or terrifying, or sometimes all three at once.

The show’s tone can change between and within seasons, and sometimes even within episodes themselves. From its inception the show’s been on a tone rollercoaster: from the stern and semi-educational stylings of William Hartnell’s grandfatherly doctor, to the karate-chop hijinks of Jon Pertwee, to the Mary Whitehouse-bating body horror and gothic grizzliness of Tom Baker’s early years, to the girny slapstick buffoonery  of Sylvester McCoy’s maiden season, to the multi-layered, sometimes senselessly intricate and confusing pseudo-nonsense of Steven Moffat’s stewardship.

Season 10 of Doctor Who (or season 37 if you’re that way inclined), its most recent, has grappled so ferociously and frequently with love, loss and the haunting spectre of death that it’s hard to imagine the gooey cuteness of the Adipose, Pex of Paradise Towers or the farty menace of the Slitheen existing in the same universe. While the show has also never been funnier – the impromptu appearance of the Pope in Bill’s living room being an especial highlight this season – Capaldi’s impending departure has cast a death-shaped shadow over the season that’s introduced a heavy, inescapable note of sadness to the show. If this sounds like a criticism, it most definitely isn’t. The marriage of mirth and melancholy has been a godsend for the show, as has the marriage of Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie, who have been uniformly excellent together. And let’s not forget Matt Lucas, who was an incredibly pleasant surprise – almost a revelation – as Nardole.

Steven Moffat is occasionally guilty of over-loading his narrative, throwing more elements and novelties into a story than its structure can bear, until the episode collapses in on itself, or disappears through a wormhole up its own arse. ‘The Doctor Falls’, however, was pretty much perfect in terms of pacing, mood, dialogue, plot, emotion, the loops and links within the double-episode finale and to the series’ own past, and the deft handling of some of Doctor Who’s most iconic monsters and villains. The Doctor Falls – haunting and affecting; immersed in hope, horror, sadness and goodbyes, and all draped in the cold white of death – was a fitting swan-song for Bill and Nardole, and a somberly satisfying sort-of send-off for both the twelfth doctor and Steven Moffat himself.

David Tennant’s pre-regenerative parting plea – ‘I don’t want to go’ – is regarded with a sneer by a vocal minority of fans, who consider it a particularly egregious example of Russell T Davies’ over-fondness for schmaltz and sentimentality. The Doctor would never behave like that, they snipe. He never greeted any of his previous regenerations in such a spirit of whiny arrogance before.  It’s not death, just change.

But it is a death. How could it be anything other? When we move towns, countries or houses, when we leave school, get divorced, become parents or start a new job, our changing brains and circles (of both friends and influence) and circumstances and stances and outlooks change so drastically – albeit slowly over time and not finger-click quick like a regeneration – that the new people we become are almost entirely disparate entities, with perhaps only a tangential connection to our ‘true’ or ‘original’ self. We break with our pasts, our youths, our lives, in a dance of perpetual reinvention. Imagine how we would feel if we routinely changed our entire body: face, physiology, biochemistry, height, weight, age (gender?), everything. Who would ‘we’ be?

Moffat managed to make the Doctor’s impending regeneration feel like the most final of goodbyes, despite the fact that we all know it isn’t. His handling of both the Doctor and the Master/Missy really hammered home the point that each new version of these characters is so distinct from the others as to be wholly separate beings. The Twelfth Doctor has moved away from the exquisite alienness of his first few years to embrace a deeply earnest sense of humanity and kindness. Missy found redemption, of sorts, through death at the hands of her previous incarnation. With that in mind, it makes sense to arrive at the conclusion that if Time Lords can counter their core instincts, if regeneration can favour revolution over evolution, then each regeneration is certainly a death. But the final message needn’t be fatalistic. Perhaps the feeling we should take away from the finale is that the power, and hope, of change resides in all of us.

The Doctor Falls lends legitimacy to Tennant’s farewell, and adds a greater poignancy and sadness to Capaldi’s upcoming exit, an exit I’m already very, very sad about. On the strength of this incredible episode (both of its parts) I may even miss Moffat, too.

F*** The Walking Dead Season 3: The Return of the Un-Fun-Dead

How can I describe Fear The Walking Dead for the benefit of those who haven’t yet sampled its delights? Here goes.

Imagine writing a list of all the things you love about The Walking Dead. Now imagine pulling your pants down and taking a long, slimy shit all over that list, working and twisting your hips so you actually spell the word ‘shit’ with your own shit as you shit it out, like piping the icing on the world’s most abominable cake. Imagine stomping your bare feet into all that shit, really spreading and squishing it around, and then getting a lamb to lick the mess from between your toes.

Well, I’d rather watch you do that than watch another season of Fear The Walking Dead.

So I guess that makes me a sicko as well as both an unhinged completist and a self-flagellating masochist, because I am going to watch another season of Fear The Walking Dead. Why don’t you join me? Or jump back in? Catch up. Take the plunge. Misery likes company, after all.

Here’s a re-cap of the action so far, presented in the sort-of style of a sort-of recipe.

Ingredients you’ll need to make:

A series which purports to show the fall of civilisation

The fall of civilisation (4 episodes)

Getting to a boat (2 episodes)

Being on a boat (4 episodes)

I wish that they were still on that boat (3 episodes)

What happened to that boat anyway? (2 episodes)

A hotel? A Mexican death cult? This could get interesting (4 episodes)

I was promised way more boat than this (2 episodes)

I suppose Fear The Walking Dead itself is a little bit like a boat, a broken boat; cast adrift on a rolling sea of plot as the tides of tired tropes and waves of cringe-worthy contrivances hurl and tug it hither and thither. It’s doomed to sail on uncertainly and aimlessly, at least until the day it’s dashed on the rocks of viewer apathy.

Despite garnering higher ratings than Better Call Saul (What the hell is wrong with Americans? No wonder you voted for Trump!) that day surely can’t be too far away. The only thing stopping me from jumping overboard with this show – “ABANDON SHIT!” – is the faint, infinitesimally small glimmer of hope that things might get better; that I might actually start to care about the characters.

Earlier this year The Walking Dead – FTWD’s zombie daddy – wrapped up what was arguably its weakest season yet. Even in its better days The Walking Dead was never likely to earn itself a place in Television Valhalla, standing shoulder to shoulder with the mighty classics of our age. It’s often clunky, schmaltzy and over-padded. Who cares though, right? Not every painter can be Van Gogh. Not every TV show can be Mad Men, The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos or Rectify. But at least The Walking Dead is capable of turning out exciting, haunting, affecting and powerful episodes, and I actually care about most of its characters. Especially Carol. And except for Carl.

Fear The Walking Dead, on the other hand, is objectively – on the evidence of its episodes to date – a bad show, as I’m sure the subtle analogy I deployed at the beginning of this piece, involving lambs and human feces, made clear. The tag-line for Fear the Walking Dead’s upcoming season might as well be: “YOU ACTUALLY THINK THIS SHIT’S GOING TO GET BETTER, DON’T YOU?”

I hope it gets a lot better. I really do… Or at least marginally better.

Anyway, here’s a re-cap of the characters:

Madison Clark

Hi. I’m Madison. I’m an archetypal strong female character in the kick-ass-mom mould. Good, right? Well, no, because I’m poorly written and portrayed as if I’m a Vulcan at a funeral, walking around with a jaw like a steel-trap, frowning and moaning the whole time. Seriously, I’m so unlikeable I can’t even stand myself. I was in Deadwood. Remember that? Man, that was a good show. And now I’m in Un-Deadwood. Fuck. I wish I’d taken that part in The Strain. At least I’m not a total pussy like my boyfriend… whatever this name is.

Travis… thingy. Or am I?

Hi, I’m Travis. Or am I Curtis? I think I’m Curtis. Am I? Or is that the name of my actor? One’s Travis, the other’s Curtis. No, I’m Travis. I am Travis, definitely. Or am I Curtis? Fuck, is my name Cliff? Christ, I’m so boring and devoid of a concrete identity it’s no wonder I’ve no idea who I am. Dull, dull, dull. I’m desperately trying to survive a fledgling apocalypse here: how the Hell do I manage to be so utterly boring in the process? I just mope around all day looking like Tully from Sesame Street, and pissing on people’s parades. But don’t worry. I beat two punks to death at the end of last season. That was a wee bit interesting and people seemed to dig it, so they’re going to ‘Rick’ me up for season three. WE’RE GOING OVER THE CLIFF EDGE, BABY! Hmmm. That doesn’t work if my name’s not Cliff though. Travis… Travis… Travis… A-HA! WHY DOES IT ALWAYS BRAIN ON ME?!

Or am I Curtis?

Alicia Clark

Hi there, (bats eyelashes) boys are like soooo gross, shutup I love boys, oh God I love my iPod, but oh God I’d die for my boyfriend, he’s like my bff, oh my God, gross that is like SO unfair, oh my God I hate you guys, I’m such a girl, I’m so ditzy, oh I’m on a boat, OMG, boys, I can talk to boys out here, uh-oh I almost got us all killed, FML, I wish I wasn’t so naïve and blindly trusting and … (CHUNG CHICK) Hi there, that was the sound of me loading a fresh cartridge into my shotgun, that’s the kind of thing I do now, because I’ve just inexplicably woken up in possession of the wise, noble soul and tactical combat knowledge of a 900-year-old warrior-general, and the inner-calm of a Lara Croft android. I’ve gone from ‘Damn, she MOAN’ to ‘Michonne. DAMN’ in less time than it takes a man to check IMDB to see if I’m safe to wank over.

Nick Clark

OK, let’s get all of the Johnny Depp and heroin addict gags out of the way first, shall we? What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Zombies, that’s what! I’ll also give you Edward Needle-hands, Willy Wonky and Crack Sparrow. There. All out of your system now. Hi, I’m Nick. I worked out how to walk safely through hordes of zombies pretty early on in the apocalypse. You just smear yourself with zombie guts. I tend to do it every single time I’m out amongst the zombies, because I quite like being alive, unlike those fucking idiots on The Walking Dead. Anyway, give or take my recent spell in a Mexican death cult, I’m probably the best character on the show, which is a bit like being awarded best in show at Crufts when you aren’t actually a dog. Or maybe it isn’t. I’ve taken a lot of heroin.

Victor Strand

I’m mysterious. Christ, I’m mysterious. Look at me lounging against the bars of this cage in my dapper clothes, offering gruff nuggets of cod-philosophy and intrigue to my jonesing new friend, Nick. It’s like my old dad used to say: if you find yourself imprisoned under martial law during a zombie apocalypse, make sure you’ve got a junkie as your right hand man. Junkies are indispensable survivalists, and not a liability at all; everybody knows that. I’m Strand, by the way. Or am I? Who am I? Who are you? Who’s Abigail? Ah, forgive the mystery, it’s my boat, you see. And I’m going somewhere. Where? Well, aren’t we all going somewhere? Christ, there’s that mystery again. I’m also dangerous. Did I mention that? Can’t you see it? Dapper and dangerous. Positively stranger-ous. I’ll cut you and you won’t even know you’ve been cut. I’ll cut the rope on your dinghy. I’ll shoot you. I’M IN LOVE WITH DOUGRAY SCOTT. He was great in Love Actually. He wasn’t in it? Well, what was the one… Kathy Burke was in it. He had the long hair and that? Anyway, I love him, and we’re all going to Mexico so we can… Oh. He’s dead. Fuck. Erm… eh. Yeah. (sigh) I’m boring now.

Chris Manawa

Hi, I’m Chris, which is short for ‘Christ, I’m an awful character.’ Remember how you thought Carl Grimes was the most awful boy in existence? Well allow me to introduce you (points at self) to this cunt.

You watched me at the end of last season and thought to yourself, ‘Oh, thank goodness he’s dead, I hate that fucking guy’, and then when the guy who plays me appeared in Agents of SHIELD – as Ghostrider’s brother – you thought, ‘Phew, well that seals it then, he’s absolutely, definitely, incontrovertibly dead,’ and then the character was only in the show for about three episodes, and you thought, ‘Oh, fuck, maybe Chris ISN’T dead’. And then you couldn’t quite remember if my death had only been hinted at or if it had been shown on screen, and you thought to yourself, ‘Actually, now I’m thinking Curtis killed him… or did Curtis kill the guys who killed him? Wait, is it Travis or Curtis… but… shit, I can’t remember’, and then you didn’t even care enough to Google it.

Oh, and Ofelia, too. I guess she’s a thing?

F*** the Walking Dead returns to US screens on Sunday 4th June with a host of new characters, and hopefully the tragic death of a few old ones.

The Walking Dead Season 7A: What happened, and what’s going on… and what went wrong?

It’s fair to say that the front-half of The Walking Dead’s seventh season has attracted a lukewarm response from audiences and critics alike, despite the arrival of Negan, everyone’s favourite trash-talking, bat-wielding sociopath.

So what went wrong? I’d contend that The Walking Dead’s biggest enemy has been the audience’s expectations. Never before has a show or a movie taken such a continuous, long-form look at the nuts and bolts of a zombie apocalypse. A zombie movie has a definite arc: there’s an outbreak, society collapses, the survivors endure horror and heartache, a plan is hatched or a quest undertaken, and slowly and painfully the survivors learn to adapt. The movie then ends on a note either of hope or nihilism. The zombies never linger long enough to lose their terror, certainly never long enough to become a manageable nuisance.

The Walking Dead has entered its ‘manageable nuisance’ stage, and many viewers now find themselves struggling to reconcile the show’s new direction with their expectations of it being a man-against-monster zombie survivalist saga. Nobody can talk such viewers out of their apathy or active dislike; however, it’s worth pointing out that if the show had simply continued to place its zombies front-and-centre – if the story hadn’t expanded to incorporate new challenges, obstacles and threats – we would have become as desensitised to the undead as the show’s characters have by this point in the narrative. The Walking Dead had to end or evolve, and if you’re willing to accept its evolution, then you have to cut it a certain degree of slack during its transition.

I only started reading the Walking Dead comics after the show’s sixth season finale. I very quickly gorged myself on them, catching up and then overtaking the TV show. By the time Lucille had crashed down on the heads of her flesh-and-blood victims, I was already in a post-Negan, Whisperer-infested world. I’d also decided that the quintessential Negan could only be the brutish, black-and-white, fuck-fuckity-fuck-stick version from the comic books (you can read my article about that here). It’s fair to say that Jeffrey Dean Morgan had something of an uphill struggle against my expectations. As did the entirety of the seventh season itself.

While the show doesn’t follow an identical trajectory to its source material – and has different characters and different versions of existing characters to boot – I already knew the main thrust of the narrative, meaning that when certain scenarios began to unfold on screen, I had a fair idea of what would happen next, and in some cases who would die. I wonder if these two related things – how much I’d enjoyed comic book Negan, and my knowledge of the main story beats to come – robbed me of my objectivity and sense of surprise, which in turn left me pre-disposed to view the show comparatively and analytically, instead of through the gut and the adrenal gland (which of course is the manner in which The Walking Dead is best enjoyed).

That being said – and while it’s obviously impossible for me to un-read the comic books and watch those first eight episodes again through untainted eyes – I do believe something has been severely off-kilter with season seven so far; problems that run deeper than the show’s new direction, and my foreknowledge of the source material. I can’t remember ever enjoying a fresh batch of episodes less. Sure, The Walking Dead has always had slower episodes, and weaker episodes, and filler episodes, but these are usually buoyed by a mix of competent, good and occasionally great episodes either side. Not so this season. All of the episodes thus far have felt lukewarm and lacklustre, and somehow lacking thrust and cohesion. Many of the big dramatic beats, especially the deaths in the premiere and Rick and Negan’s jolly RV trip, were handled clumsily and gratuitously. The show has never felt so coldly nihilistic, and that’s saying something in a series threaded through with so much death, destruction and misery.

I understand that in order for the coming war to mean something, and for the inevitable victory to provide us with a visceral dose of catharsis, our heroes must first be trampled deeper into the dirt than they’ve ever been trampled before. We have to fear for them, we have to feel their sense of pain, impotence and outrage. We have to be introduced to and start to care about all of the potential allies that are going to be thrown together in the back half of the season, and have a fair idea of the mechanics of the enemy camp, and the tenuous fear-soaked peace that keeps the Saviours in power. I understand the chess pieces have to be moved into place, and the pace slackened to prepare for the fireworks. But still… meh. At first I thought the problem was Negan. But I’ve come to realise that the real problem is Rick.

Not Andrew Lincoln, you understand, who has always done terrific work as Rick Grimes. But Rick the character, who suffers in comparison to his more effective comic-book counterpart. While it’s true that Comic Rick has had his lapses of judgement, spells of foolhardiness, and suffered the odd psychotic break, he’s always felt like a leader in both name and deed, fully deserving of the title and capable of handling the weight of the crown that goes with it. His ruthlessness and occasional recklessness is tempered by a strong conscience and a pragmatic outlook. I can see why his people like him, trust him, respect him and follow him.

The only real evidence that TV Rick is a great leader is the amount of times the other characters repeatedly tell each other that Rick is a great leader. To my mind, he only has two stock responses to most managerial and logistical problems: cry face, or full psycho. Case in point, Comic Rick only swallows down Negan’s brutality in order to lull him into a false sense of security. Even as Lucille swings down atop Glen’s skull, Rick is formulating a plan to take that mad, cackling bastard down, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds against him, because that’s who Rick is, and that’s what he does. He’s strong and capable, even in his darkest and most testing moments.

Game of Thrones may be able to juggle the narrative demands of an entire world and its multifarious clans and characters, offering up a smorgasbord of delicious little interlocking short stories that served together are greater than the sum of their parts, but The Walking Dead – while definitely an ensemble show – really needs Rick as its focus, its point-of-view, its through-line. The lack of Rick – and especially the lack of a strong Rick more in-line with the comic book incarnation of the character – has been to the show’s detriment.

Unless of course this Ricklessness is part of a deliberate strategy. I’m thinking more and more that perhaps the ground is being prepared for a shocking shake-up that will serve as the biggest break from the source material imaginable: the death of Rick Grimes. One thing season seven has done particularly well is to promote the strength and resilience of the show’s female characters, especially Maggie, who is an obvious and believable contender for the top spot should Rick ever take a long, one-way walk into Walkersville. It’s worth steeling yourself for such an eventuality. For once in the show’s history, the possibility of Rixit doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

I sincerely hope that, whatever lies in Rick’s immediate future, the Walking Dead will return with a barnstorming, seat-of-the-pants, solid smattering of tense and exciting episodes, to exorcise the malaise of this season’s opening half, and perhaps even grant it a retrospective pardon. The first eight episodes may not have rocked my world or inspired much in the way of hope or enthusiasm, but there was still plenty to enjoy: Carol (she’s my ‘if x dies, we riot’ character); the introduction of King Ezekiel and his pet tiger; the effective and over-due fleshing out of peripheral characters like Rosita, Father Gabriel and Tara; Daryl’s stay at Dick Dastardly’s Dog-food Motel; and the mid-season finale, which was actually very good, and finally convinced me that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was the right man for the role of Negan; he really owned the character in ‘Hearts Still Beating’, seemed to swagger straight onto Alexandria’s twee suburban streets from the pages of the comic book. I’m sorry I doubted you, Jeffrey. Perhaps you just needed a shave.

One thing I didn’t enjoy – and which I gather had fans howling into their hankies – was the emotionally manipulative reunion of our band of heroes at the episode’s climax. Those few minutes of silent smiles, nods, tears, hugs and raised eyebrows, all set to uplifting music, felt a bit too on-the-nose, like a cross between a music video and an episode of a soap opera. I couldn’t help but remember a funny video I watched on YouTube a few years ago, where the musical score was removed from the scene at the end of Return of the Jedi, as the heroes are receiving their medals. It just looked ridiculous, and made me laugh like a loon.

I’m under no illusions about The Walking Dead. It’s a compulsive show, incredibly popular and lucrative, but it isn’t, and never will be in my opinion, a truly classic show; certainly not when stacked against worthy behemoths like The Wire, The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. That’s not to say that it hasn’t produced thrilling narratives, or produced some truly great episodes: the pilot, 18 Miles Out, Better Angels, Seed, Clear, Internment, Too Far Gone, After, The Grove, No Sanctuary, Consumed, What’s Happened and What’s Going On, JSS and Here’s Not Here, to name the stand-outs.

Lest you imagine I’m launching an attack, it goes without saying that I’m very fond of The Walking Dead, else I wouldn’t expend so much time and energy thinking and writing about it. And while the show may never be uttered in the same breath as the true classics of TV’s first and second Golden Ages, it’s shown itself more than capable of greatness in seasons gone bye (sic). And I sincerely hope that it’s able to reclaim some of its past vigour.

So come on, showrunners, Let’s do it.

Let’s make The Walking Dead great again.



Syfy’s Z Nation: fun, low budget and well worth your time

How will The Walking Dead end?

When zombies attacked … Neighbours (and other shows)

And another from this website, reviewing S05E09.


Scotland Decides… What to Watch on TV

Let’s take a look at what’s happened to TV in Scotland – and Britain beyond – in the wake of the referendum result. Welcome to a Scotland where every TV programme has something to do with independence, a lack thereof, or the wankiness of government. 

To contribute to a future edition of this TV Guide, please email your submissions to, including your name and location, and if enough people get involved I’ll do another one.


Fawlty Powers

Cameron Fawlty is desperately trying to keep the guests in his run-down hotel happy so that his business doesn’t collapse around him. He does appear to be trying rather harder to please the rich guests, especially the ones with Home Counties’ accents, but let’s not get cynical, that’s probably just coincidence. Cameron is helped along by his luckless servant Man-No-Very-Well, of whom Cameron remarks to other guests: “I’m terribly sorry, he’s from Caledonia.” Get ready to shriek with laughter as Man-No-Very-Well is repeatedly struck over the head and threatened with a loss of earnings and a reduction of his liberty.

Tonight’s episode is everyone’s favourite, ‘The Scottish’, where we get to hear the immortal line: “Don’t mention the Barnett Formula! I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it alright. So, that’s two Scotch eggs, a dismantled NHS, a billion barrels of oil, a West Lothian question, and four deep fried Mars Bars.”

Not to mention: “Well you started it.” “No, we didn’t.” “Yes you did, you elected Salmond.”

Miliband of Brothers

Ep 6. A Scottish battalion – low on weapons and ammo – is coming under heavy fire from Westminster forces at the Battle of Referendum. General Miliband sends them a telegraph from HQ 800 miles away ordering them to stand down and allow their bollocks to be shot off by the enemy, who aren’t really their enemy, even though it might seem that way because they’re in the process of being attacked by them. Miliband vows that after the battle he’ll definitely send more weapons and ammo. Definitely. One hundred per cent. Possibly. Well, maybe. Put it this way, he’ll seriously think about thinking about talking about thinking about it. “Thufferin’ thuccotash, chaps,” signs off Miliband. “We’re all in this together! Thee you on the other thide!”

Lamonty Python’s Lying Circus

Johann Lamont and the Scottish Labour Party are back, and just as side-splittingly hilarious as you remember them. Includes the all-time classic ‘Dead Party’ sketch:

Johann Cleese: “Look, matey, I know a dead party when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now.”

Michael Failin: “No, no, it’s not dead, it’s, it’s restin’! Remarkable party, the Glaswegian Red, int’it, ay? Beautiful plumage.”

Johann Cleese: “The plumage don’t enter into it. It’s stone dead. This party has ceased to be. This is an ex-party!”

Get ready to guffaw your head off at more of your old favourites, like the Argument Clinic sketch (“Hello. I hear Scottish Labour is going to be a strong, credible force in the next election.”  “No it isn’t.” “But Labour stands for the working man against people like the Tories.” “No it doesn’t.”), The Four Scotsmen sketch (“I used to get out of my bed and go down the mines to work for twelve hours a day, and when I got home, I’d always go to the polling booth to vote for Labour. But you try and tell the young people today that… they won’t believe you.”) and, of course, the funniest sketch of all, The Ministry of Silly Cunts.

The Far Right Stuff

Join your host Nigel Farage for his mirth-filled mid-morning magazine show. Joining him today are Nick Griffin and Paul Golding. Why not call in and share your views on immigration with the guys? (Unless you’re an immigrant, in which case don’t waste our fucking taxes on a phone call.). The Far Right Stuff hopes to relocate its studios to Westminster in 2015, and go on to ensure even better coverage for viewers in Scotland.


BBC News

A new series of the hilarious comedy.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

The exciting tale of an ordinary faction of loyalist Rangers Supporters who use their super-powers to stamp out the twin evils of Republicanism and Nationalism. In today’s episode, the gang is threatened by a wee 9-year-old girl waving a saltire in George Square. Donning their trademark Union Jack body-suits and balaclavas, and with a cry of ‘WE ARE THE PEOPLE’, they bond together and crack out their mightiest super-powers of all: the powers of “kicking fuck oot ay cunts an’ that” and “settin’ fire tay some cunt’s bin coz he’s prolly a bleck or a Tim.”

Mighty Corstorphine Flower Arrangers

In this spin-off show, a group of rich old Tory women from Edinburgh form a guild, which they use as a cover to fight the forces of fairness, justice and progressiveness. Watch out for their special power of saying ‘NO THANKS’ really loudly, and their devastating super-attack of ‘not wanting to risk the value of their husband Gerald’s stock portfolio’.

Lamont and Eck’s Friday Morning Take-away

Johann Lamont and Alex Salmond are back for a special post-referendum edition of the popular studio-based game-show in which Alex Salmond desperately tries to give autonomy, prestige and democracy to the Scottish people, and Johann Lamont tries to take it all away again.

Look out for the hilarious round where Lamont has only five minutes to terrify as many old people as possible by phoning them up and telling them that they’re going to lose their savings. Tonight’s first special guest is the woman from that advert who thinks the best time of the day is when they’re all out and it’s nice and quiet. Tonight’s other special guest is Tommy Sheridan, who’ll probably try to fuck her.

Cameron-nation Street

Just to recap the story so far: The Cabin was forced to close due to the opening of the town’s ninth Tesco Megastore just two streets away. Ken Barlow hung himself once he realised that his state pension was only six pence a month. Twelve residents have died since it now costs £6000 for a tub of paracetamol. All of the street’s houses have been repossessed. Actually, nobody lives on Cameron-nation Street anymore. Tonight’s episode is just a 30-minute static shot of the street, accompanied by the sound of an unseen man screaming himself to death. Last in the series.

Or if you’re in the mood for a movie instead, how about Danny Alexander Champion of Fuck All or No Country Because of Old Men.

New TV Shows This Autumn 2014


25 Years to Life on Mars

In 2013, BBC producer Sam Tyler is the victim of a vicious didgeridoo attack, and wakes up on the ground outside the BBC studios in 1973, with Jonathan King’s cock in his mouth. Walking into the BBC Studios is like walking into a different world. Is camel-coat wearing, cigar-puffing Director General Geney Savile all he seems? And if his new guv’s on the level, then why does he keep patting his arse, winking at him and calling him a nonce? And why does Savile have a yew tree potted up in his office? The only man Sam feels he can trust is Bruce Forsyth… but for how long?

savileIs Sam insane, back in time, or in a coma? Is he even a BBC producer? Every time Sam passes a TV set he sees an image of his younger self lying unconscious on a hospital gurney, with Cliff Richard singing songs at his bedside. Allegedly.

Features a cracking soundtrack by Gary Glitter.

Brew Peter

An informative lifestyle magazine show for young adults on the dole. Ever wondered how to draft that perfect letter to an employer that will guarantee you’ll never get hired? Also, Richard Bacon reveals the secret of how you can use a strip of sticky-back plastic to secure your bags of blow to the underside of hard-to-reach places. Perfect for evading the filth! And discover a brilliant use for all of those empty Kit Kat wrappers you don’t need any more. Each week, viewers send in their crayon-drawn portraits of Margaret Thatcher, which are set on fire by an angry man dressed as a miner.

Crystal Meth Maze

methA group of toothless, stinking tramps in vests run around the many zones of the Crystal Meth Maze – Up the Graveyard, The Underpass, Big Tam’s Hoose, The Swingpark and Down the Docks – taking part in timed challenges to get their hands on those coveted Crystals. Watch with glee as they compete in games like forced prostitution without protection, bare-knuckle fighting with their best friends for the amusement of strangers, stealing from their families, and selling their own internal organs to the Chinese. What a laughriot. With Richard O’Dien.

Biggest TV Disappointments of 2013: The Following


Kevin Bacon should be commended for his savvy in snapping up the lead role in this bold, brutal, and exhilarating piece. Yes, the production values are high, the dialogue is crisp and knowing, and visually it’s slick and vibrant, but make no mistake: Bacon’s the real star here. Everything is lifted to another level by the power of his performance; every second he’s on screen reminds us why this talented actor deserves his place at the top of the A-list. In a word: unmissable. 

You’re confused, aren’t you? Here you are expecting me to be giving The Following a ruddy good thrashing – pants down, six of the best – and yet here I am lavishing praise on the bugger. Well, not exactly. In actual fact, the paragraph above has nothing whatsoever to do with The Following. I was applauding those EE ads Kevin Bacon stars in, which begin to look like a series of mini-Citizen Kanes when set against The Following.

bacon1Remember Kevin Bacon in Sleepers? Remember when he led those boys down to the basement? Well, watching The Following is like being one of those boys. You’ll say to yourself: ‘I don’t know where he’s taking me, or why, but I just know this is going to be an awesome experience! How could it not be? I mean, it’s Kevin Bacon! This is going to be brilliant, just brillia… uh… em… Kevin, what are you doing? WHAT… WHAT are you DOING… Kevin! Kevin?? … KEVI…OW!!… inOWWWWwwwwuuuu…uhm… erm… I think… I think KEVIN BACON just FUCKED me!’

The Following is a piece of dog-shit. It really is: a hot, slimy, sticky, dog-shit sandwich, where even the bread is made out of dog-shit. It’s not a BLT: it’s a BDS. Take a big bite and watch that dog-shit slush down your shirt-front. Rub it in. Take some and smear it in your eyes. Saw open your skull and lather it onto your lobes like it’s some sort of shitty sun-tan lotion. Get someone to flamethrow your head – really flambé that dog-shit. Melt it straight into your skull, scalp and throbbing mind-bollock. Is it excrutiating? Good. That just means it’s working. You’re not done yet, though. Next, let a dog – any dog – lick the disgusting, syrupy, melted, congealed faecal mush from your exposed and infected brain, and then wait for the greedy beast to vomit it all back into your mouth. Ah, drink it in. Gargle with it. Swish that sick-shit around in your gob like it’s Colgate mouth-wash. Mmmmm, feel the chunks in your cheeks. Let them marinate. Then French kiss the dog. Go on, kiss it. Do it! Let its big, slobbery, dog-dick-scented canine tongue investigate your inner-jaw. And why stop there? Fly the dog to Vegas and marry it. Cheat on it with a hooker who’s also a tiger, and then have sex with that slutty tiger – and the dog – live on webcam, and email the footage to your parents. And then – and ONLY then – shoot yourself through the throat. You’ll have a more entertaining evening, I guarantee you.

The Following: not even WHITE dogshit.

The Following: not even WHITE dogshit.

Still determined to enjoy The Following? Be warned: you’ll have to lower your expectations in order to extract even minimal enjoyment from this rancid semen-stain of a show. Did you deduce that? Have I been too subtle thus far? And, people, you won’t have to lower your expectations just a little. You’ll need to lower them so much that eventually your expectations will drop down through the earth’s molten core, pierce through the fabric of time, space and reality, and knock Dante clean into a coma.

In fairness… the first and last episodes aren’t entirely awful. It’s just the bit in the middle that’s agonisingly bad. And that’s over eight hours worth of dog-shit. This really should have been a movie, or at-least a three-part mini-series. Maybe they could have salvaged something. But it isn’t. And they didn’t. All that’s left is a squandered premise and wasted potential, and an idea stretched beyond breaking point.  And that makes me mad. And when I get mad… I do dog-shit analogies in which people fuck tigers. Ggggrrrrrreeeeeaaaaatttttt (‘Kellogg’s on line 1…’)!

What it’s about: The Back-story

Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy.

Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy.

Kevin Bacon plays former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, a retired, alcoholic cliché who has to hunt down escaped convict Joe Carroll, an allegedly charismatic serial killer – and former professor of literature – played by James Purefoy.

Hardy catches Carroll after the depraved don’s first round of brutal serial slayings, but takes a near-fatal knifing to the chest as he arrests him. Hardy’s injuries force him out of the FBI, and he hits the bottle big-time. I know what you’re thinking: a maverick lawman who turns to booze to fight the pain, and doesn’t know if he’s ‘still got it’? Yes. It’s a startlingly original conceit (actually, a lot of novel work can be done with stock characters and familiar scenarios, but in this case…). In a nutshell, life’s a bit shitty and bleak for Ryan, but he does get to pump Carroll’s hot but irritating ex-wife Claire, played by Natalie Zea, so there’s some degree of silver lining to be enjoyed. Unfortunately, he also falls in love with her, the silly boy, which complicates things somewhat.

James Purefoy as Joe Carroll.

James Purefoy as Joe Carroll.

Meanwhile, Joe Carroll, in prison for being a serial killer and all-round bad egg, is busy secretly assembling a cabal of murderous psychopaths, who’ll be on hand to help him escape, and carry out his evil masterplan. The plan, such as it is, involves Carroll winning back his wife and young son (Well, it’s more ‘kidnapping’ than ‘winning back’) and tormenting the living hell out of Ryan Hardy using the aforementioned newly acquired legion of head-cases. Oh, and murdering lots of innocent people as well, obviously. Be rude not to.

Fantastically – and I don’t use that word as a synonym for ‘brilliantly’ – Carroll manages to recruit the bulk of his mental, stabby cultists through the internet… which he has completely unfettered access to… while in prison. Yep. You read that right. He recruits hundreds of killers to his cause, on his computer, in prison, while in prison for murdering lots of women.

GUARD 1: ‘Hey, shall we check this brutal serial killer’s internet history, see who he’s been talking to?’

GUARD 2: ‘Why don’t we just monitor his every move, read all of his mail, lock his door at night, stop him from having blades, and pay close attention to the hundreds of psychotic strangers who visit him every week as well, you fucking Nazi?! Geez, let the guy relax and play some Candy Crush, Hitler!’

OK, he’s got one of the guards on side, but even still…

In addition, both Hardy and Carroll have written and published books: the former, a blow-by-blow account of his investigation into Carroll and the events leading up to his stabbing at the madman’s hands; the latter, a pretentious piece of shit novel that has savagely dark undertones. Ryan Hardy is in fact the subject of Joe Carroll’s difficult second novel, which we discover Joe is writing as a companion to and an account of the horrible shit he does to his nemesis over the course of the show’s first season.

Anyway,  The Following begins nine years after Carroll’s incarceration, at the very moment he escapes from prison.

Why it sucks so hard

1.) Joe Carroll is a Poe-ring Bastard


“Hmmm, I wonder what method I’ll use to kill my agent.”

Joe Carroll has a thing for Edgar Allen Poe. He’s obsessed by the man and his works, and aspires to write fiction of a similar quality; unfortunately, he’s a two-bit, psycho hack, who couldn’t write for RiverCity. He is quite good at killing, though, and with this in mind he resolves to build his cult and its murders around the theme of Edgar Allen Poe. Some of his bampots even wear rubber Poe masks when they’re out on a kill. Now that’s devotion fur ye.

The whole Poe thing’s a nice conceit, but one that gets old far too quickly, and becomes dull even more quickly than that. Luckily, the writers seem to agree, and the idea sort of fizzles out for a while after the first few episodes. You’ll be glad. There’s only so much tenuous, Poe-related cod philosophy you can listen to before you begin to wonder if Drop Dead Diva might’ve been a better choice of box-set.


Couples’ counselling.

We’re supposed to believe that Joe Carroll is the most charismatic man on earth. But he isn’t. He’s smug. And arrogant. And a little bit creepy. His only discernible talent seems to be that he’s a half-decent English teacher. Nothing in the acting or dialogue convinced me that this man could’ve enticed or bewitched a rag-tag assortment of insanely-loyal psychopaths to do his evil bidding. Get them a passing grade on an Edgar Allen Poe test paper? Maybe. But this? Midway through the series, one of his insanely devoted cultists offers himself to Carroll as a human sacrifice, ultimately because he thinks Carroll will have a right laugh stabbing him to death. He’s right! I did, too. I think I was supposed to be shocked, though.

So how does Joe Carroll’s ‘charisma’ work? How does he recruit his army and manage to provoke such slavish, unquestioning devotion in his would-be recruits? Beats me. On the surface of it, he just sort of stares at them intensely and then talks to them in a honeyed, husky whisper for a couple of minutes:

‘So you’re a fan of murdering, and you butchered your own mum? Ach, don’t worry about it, murdering’s cool. Extra points for a family member! Anyway, you’re awesome, and I’m definitely awesome, so how about joining my cult? We’ve got prose and everything, and sometimes we get to talk like we’re in a high-school production of Shakespeare.’

2.) Soap Cra-pera

Awful. I don't even care what their names are.

Awful. I don’t even care what their names are.

Too much of the action focuses on a trio – two guys, one girl – of young, trendy, be-quiffed and coiffured cockbags. After many years spent as dormant ‘sleeper-cultists’ living undercover as Claire Carroll’s neighbours and babysitter, their mission is activated: kidnap Carroll’s kid, and get him to Serial Killer HQ in time for big Joe’s arrival. These three characters are essentially 2-dimensional, knife-wielding haircuts, who seem to exist only to look pretty and spout pseudo-philosophical bullshit about how awesome it is to butcher people. And to shag each other, obviously.

The three losers eventually form a steamy, bisexual love triangle, which proves to be about as entertaining as having experimental groin surgery performed upon you by an angry monkey in the grip of meth withdrawal, and less convincing than Katie Hopkins’ impersonation of a human being. Whenever these three are on screen together The Following becomes like an episode of Hollyoaks Later with slightly shitter dialogue.

3.) Police

"God DAMN it! I can't get past level 358!"

“God DAMN it! I can’t get past level 358!”

OK, I know the stakes are supposed to be high in a policey/slashy/killy show. High stakes that gradually become higher still serve to ramp up the tension; create conflict and suspense; and drive the narrative in an exciting direction that makes the audience want to keep watching. I get that. And if the police were absolutely brilliant at their jobs, then the show would be over in less than an episode:

‘Ha ha ha ha, you’ll never foil my fiendish plans, never, never, NEVERMORE I say, NEVE… {click} Shit.’

Granted, the baddies’ plan is suitably fiendish. There’s an army of sleeper serial-killer cultists out there, drawn from all walks of life, and across the divides of age, race and gender. At the beginning, the good guys have no idea that the cult even exists, and even when they realise what they’re dealing with, they still have no idea how many members it has, or who they might be. They could be anyone: a cop, a prison guard, an FBI agent!

I get all that. But if the police are consistently shown to be about as effective as the Chuckle Brothers armed only with a bag of dead chickens, as they are in The Following, then it quickly destroys your willingness to suspend disbelief. Honestly, the cops don’t win at anything. Not once. Every strategy they adopt fails, everything they say is bull-shit, and everything they do is ball-achingly stupid: ridiculously, incompetently, fatally stupid.

tf10In real life, I’ve seen more and better trained police officers sent to deal with a noise disturbance in my street than The Following’s fictional FBI ever deigned to send in pursuit of a serial killing cult. No-one ever takes back-up with them, and when they do call for back-up, it’s always at-least forty miles away. Jack Bauer would never have found himself in such a sorry situation: no matter where he or his agents were in the world, it only ever took them ten minutes tops to get where they needed to be. Actually, bad comparison, because Jack Bauer never needed back-up at all; a fucking sharp pencil would be good enough back-up for him (I suppose 24 suffered from the opposite problem to The Following: Jack Bauer was too good at his job).

Really, though, it’s as if the police and the FBI have recruited all of their officers from the same pool of people who always die horribly within the first six minutes of a horror film. Considering there’s a cult out there whose members could be anywhere and anyone – essentially making every stranger a suspect – the police seem keen to adopt the curious tactic of suspecting no-one at all. Douchebags.

4.) Ryan Hard-ly

hardyKevin Bacon is a really great actor: Ryan Hardy is a really shit character. He just mopes, broods, and frets his way through the dark, grey, oppressive atmosphere of The Following’s suicidally un-cheerful fictional world. It’s not Bacon’s fault, I suppose. All he did was sign the contract. I hope the cash was worth it, because Ryan Hardy’s merely a poor man’s Jack Bauer. Imagine Jack Bauer with a pacemaker and a drinking problem, and then stop to realise that even with a pacemaker and a drinking problem Jack Bauer would be a hundred times more fun, likeable and interesting than Ryan Hardy – and Bauer kills and tortures people in almost every episode! Come to think of it, although the premises and subject matters are radically different, it feels to me like The Following wants to be a slasher-psych-thriller version of 24 (but without the real-time element, obviously), and fails miserably on all counts. Can you still taste that dog-shit?

And this is before we even delve into Hardy’s reputed ‘death curse’. God, the dialogue is execrable on this show. There’s a scene that shows Hardy in bed delivering a woeful chunk of expository dialogue, in which he reveals that almost every single person in his life has died or been horrifically murdered, a preposterous roll-call of hilarious deaths. It’s supposed to make us sympathise and connect with the character, I suppose, but it only served to make me roll my eyes and snort out a derisory laugh.

‘…and then all I had left was my turtle, Mr Jenkins, but somebody put a pipe-bomb inside him and threw him in my girlfriend’s face…’

The Best Worst Moment

One of Carroll’s acolytes is captured by the FBI. He’s injured, so they sling him in a hospital room, and place him under armed guard. As he lies there awaiting interrogation, the loyal idiot realises that he would rather die than betray his master. He proceeds to kill himself by eating his own bandages, suffocating himself to death with them. I’m guessing the intention was to chill and shock the audience by showing them just how deep and twisted a loyalty Carroll inspires in his sick-ass tribe of psychopaths, but it didn’t have that effect on me. I thought it was funny as fuck.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this scene from The Simpsons:

The Verdict

Do I really need to sum up this article for you? I don’t think there are any lines to read between here. The Following is shit. But it’s good shit, if you get enjoyment from deliberately watching shit things and then tearing them apart, like I know I do.

So, remarkably, I guess it’s good.

Now THAT’S a twist.

And, in closing…


John Lewis Christmas Advert 2013 – Director’s Cut

Here’s a link to John Lewis’s 2013 Christmas advert, if you haven’t seen it.

John Lewis Christmas advert

Pretty good effort, John Lewis, but I can make the ending better. You want drama? Heart-ache? You’ve fucking got it.

johnlewisOK, this is what happens. The bear waddles out from hibernation. He makes his way down the snowy hill to be with his best pal, the hare and – oh my God… Christmas… and all my friends… and… and a big tree… and OH MY GOD, I’M SO OVERWHELMED WITH AWE AND EXCITEMENT, this is literally AMAZING – just then, a hunter steps out from the forest, takes aim with his rifle and shoots the bear through the back of the skull. BANG! A FOUNTAIN OF BLOOD! The bear’s dead body thumps down onto the snow, and an oil-slick of red quickly spreads over the white landscape. The owl is so freaked out by the gun-shot that primal instinct takes over. The owl swoops into flight, and heads straight for the hare, digging his sharp talons into the hare’s back, and snatching him up into the air. The hare’s too heavy, though, and the owl can’t cope with the burden, so he releases him earthward. The owl, snapping out of his fugue, and finding himself racked with grief and shame, heads straight for a tree trunk, and slams his revolving head into it at full speed. SNAP! He’s DEAD. At the same time, the hare tumbles and hurtles towards the ground like a cannon-ball, and lands – with a sickening crack – right  on top of the hunter’s head, killing the human instantly. The hare is alive – but only just. The hare rolls and rolls and rolls, his legs broken, his neck twisted, rolling and rolling down the snow, until he comes to a stop not too far from his dead pal’s giant slack-jawed body. The bear’s big dry tongue rests lifelessly on the cold, cold snow. The hare struggles to breathe. As the life drains from him, he looks into the bear’s wide, dead eyes, and starts to cry. The guilt is killing him as surely as his injuries. His best friend, the big gentle bear – thought the hare – would’ve been safe in his cave until spring, if only he’d kept his fucking mouth shut about poxy bloody Christmas.

‘It… was… my fault,’ he says. ‘I’m…sorry… old friend. The worst… thing is… Christmas… is shite anyway…’ Then he dies. And a caption flashes up on the screen:


Then there’s an enormous nuclear explosion, killing everyone – man and animal – within a 60-mile radius.

Get filming it, John Lewis. And I want my cut.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Recipe for Kitchen Nightmares US

Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares

I know Kitchen Nightmares is a heavily-manufactured, manipulative piece of reality TV guff, but I can’t help but love it. I also can’t help but notice how each episode is constructed pretty much identically. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. But you still watch them all, because they’re immensely entertaining. God bless you, Ramsey, you angry little shit. Here’s how things go down: every single time.

  • Ramsay arrives at the restaurant, and makes some bitchy comments about the decor/menu/the discovery of a rat on the doorstep.
  • The owner tells Ramsay that the restaurant is losing money, which they can’t understand because the food is awesome. Ramsay’s concerned frown and receptive eyes betray the fact that within the hour he’ll have them in tears after shouting at them like they’re the unwanted step-child of a second marriage.
  • Ramsay orders three items from the menu, and declares each in turn the worst dogshit he’s ever tasted in his life. The serving waitress agrees with Ramsay’s assessment, and adds that the owner, her employer, is a waste of space as a human being, and a terrible manager. She’s pretty sure the owner won’t mind her honesty once the show is broadcast.
  • Ramsay rampages into the kitchen and discovers a rotting corpse beside the pizza oven. The owner gets defensive and says, ‘What’s your problem? That’s our mascot: Davey.’ Ramsay then discovers that none of the food is fresh, and all of it is kept in plastic bags beside a heater, next to a cardboard box filled with arsenic and rat shit.
  • Ramsey’s jaw muscles go into over-drive as he unleashes a volley of vile swear words at the owner. The words are bleeped so we viewers are spared the horror, but Ramsey’s such a clever curser that even the rhythm of his bleeps spells out a verbal attack in Morse Code. The owner sulks like a baby, and then tries to blame the staff/their partner/the Norse God Thor for how shit they now realise their restaurant is.
  • Ramsey gathers all of the staff together. He itemises the worst things about the restaurant: the Chef’s Specials written in dust on the wall; the fact that semen is an ingredient of the clam chowder; the twenty-three cats that live in the dining room. He then says ‘bland’ and ‘no passion’ sixty-three times whilst jerking his finger around like a conductor having a stroke. The chef says he was only following orders and blames the owner for everything, including 9/11. The chef goes on to confess that he would rather brush his teeth with bird shit and gargle a vial of AIDS than eat the diseased muck his kitchen serves to customers. ‘Anyway,’ says the chef, ‘I’m a bricklayer and I don’t even like cooking.’ He further confesses that ‘he’s never heard of eggs before.’ Ramsey stares at the chef like the chef’s just sharted on a child, and then calls him a c***.
  • The owner threatens to kill the chef and then accuses the staff of being lazy thieves who spend their time texting instead of working. In fact, it’s so bad that they text the customers asking for their orders, and then text these to the chef, who promptly ignores them. A mouthy Polish waitress tells Ramsey that the owner spends every night crying at the bar, cradling his dead mum’s ashes and throwing olives at customers. The owner throws an olive at her, but a beef olive this time. The rest of the staff just sit there smiling and blinking because they’ve just arrived from Puerto Rico and can’t speak English yet. Ramsey tells them all to fuck off, and storms out.
  • Ramsey observes a typical night at the restaurant. The owner thinks, ‘This is my chance to show that British bastard how awesome my business is.’ We all think: ‘This show’s not called Kitchen Awesomeness, you fool.’ Lots of customers pour in because they want to be on TV. They agree that each dish on the menu is dogshit, and send everything back. A feral cat jumps up and steals some salmon from a customer’s plate, which is snatched from its mouth by a rat. The rat gets involved in a salmon-related mouth tug-of-war with a cockroach, which is only ended when a waiter crushes them both under his heel. The waiter places their fresh remains on a plate and serves it to another customer. He drizzles some sauce over it and says it’s their ‘Vermin of the Day.’ Ramsey rustles up a smile that conveys both smugness and hatred.
  • In the kitchen, Ramsey sees the chef vomiting over a breast of chicken, and then chucking it straight into the frying pan. Ramsey goes bat-shit mental, and the chef just shrugs, and then scratches his balls. With the chicken. The owner, too pissed by now to walk, starts crying because he can’t live up to his dead parent’s restaurant-running standards/is about to lose his marriage/can’t afford to keep his business going/it’ll make good TV.
  • Ramsey screams, ‘Stop what you’re doing! I’m shutting this kitchen down! You’re going to bloody kill someone.’ Sure enough, a customer keels over into a bowl of spunky clam chowder. The owner drags the customer’s corpse into the kitchen and puts it next to Davey.
  • The next day the entire staff watches a film on a giant cinema screen. It features every single person in town telling them how shit their restaurant is, and how much of a cock the owner is. The owner either a) cries and vows not to be such a cock in future or b) says it’s a Jewish conspiracy.
  • Ramsey gets the set designers from Prisoner Cell Block H to revamp the restaurant. Then he devises a new menu and cooks up some samples. Every dish is now ‘rustic.’ When Ramsey uses the word ‘rustic’ we know he really means ‘microscopically tiny portions at double the price.’ The staff are like, ‘Wow, these taste so good it’s like a world-class chef made them.’ Uh-huh. Because they were. By now the audience know that there’s zero chance Chef Cum Chowder is going to be able to match that standard once Ramsey buggers off.
  • Despite some before-the-last-ad-break editing that suggests relaunch night is going to be a disaster – it’s not. Well, we can’t have Ramsey’s reputation wrecked by a bunch of filthy plebs. Ramsey tells them they achieved it by themselves, and should be proud, even though they clearly didn’t, and they shouldn’t. Ramsey hugs them all, which is tense and unnerving, like watching a cobra giving somebody a hug.
  • Ramsey strides outside and gives an awkward recap to the audience, during which he swishes his finger like it’s a fencing sword, and keeps jerking his gaze down to the ground and back up at the camera again like a serial killer battling ADHD.
  • The restaurant closes down.

Sieg Kyle – Daytime TV’s Case for Sterilisation

I wrote the piece below about four or five years ago. These days, Jeremy Kyle styles himself on a waxwork of a waiter from the Titanic, and has taken his hectoring talk-show to the States, its spiritual home – Jamie

Jeremy Kyle has become what many of his studio guests need: an institution. He is a mainstay of modern British media culture, along with Richard and Judy, Rolf Harris and Howard from the Halifax ads.

His long-running show serves us up a daily dose of poor, stupid and ugly people with which to satisfy our voyeurism, and generally make us feel better about our own pathetic little lives. Jeremy and his production team like to pretend that each edition is a sort-of pseudo trial, designed to expose dishonest behaviour before a furious Jury of the People, an act that will surely take away the need for any real social work, and possibly save the world. It’s all about reclaiming lost dignity, punishing the sinful, mending fences and repairing lives. Is it? Is it really? Then why does it seem that all Jeremy – and, by extension, we the viewers – are interested in is humiliation on a grand scale, with the added bonus of the threat of violence?

The typical guest is from the north of England, or Scotland, possesses little in the way of teeth or intellect, and has usually been – despite resembling a walking tumour – shagging their entire home town. Paternity and lie detector tests are the order of the day. The results of the latter wouldn’t be admissible in a court of law, but anything goes in Jeremy’s daytime Kangaroo Court. That’s why there are so many big, bald men with tattoos on stand-by as security; just in case any of the big, bald men with tattoos featured as guests decide to pop Jeremy’s head off and use it as a football.

The episode I watched featured the usual slideshow of human sputum, tears and tantrums. One of the segments told the beautiful story of an adolescent male who had met and ‘romanced’ a young lady, only to find out after their brief relationship ended that his ex-beau believed herself to be pregnant with his child. He disputed the accuracy of this claim, and thus demanded that she submit to a DNA test. Once his neckless, feckless, and dietarily reckless ex-partner thundered out on to the stage, I too was pretty eager for a DNA test: to prove she was human.

The ex instantly endeared herself to the audience by free-style swearing, and nervously yet aggressively hitting her shoe. I know it’s become something of cliché to describe an inarticulate, chavish girl as being like Vicky Pollard, but Neckless really is the closest match I’ve seen; in looks, speech and mental processing abilities. She couldn’t see any connection between her outright refusal to submit to a simple test that would prove she was telling the truth about her pregnancy, and Jeremy Kyle’s mounting disbelief at her story. As guests often do on the Jeremy Kyle Show, she stormed off backstage. He followed her, changing his tone from hectoring, Hellfire Baptist minister to wise, understanding uncle. ‘Never mind them out there, it’s just you and me, now,’ he said to her, or words to that effect, refusing to let the fact that millions of eyes were on them both destroy the sense of intimacy he was cultivating.

‘Why don’t you want to take the test?’ he asked her softly. Her response almost had me rolling on the floor. ‘I’m not going to go down to his level,’ she said, rolling her eyes and continuing to batter her shoe.

Some might say that once you’re sitting on Jeremy’s backstage sofa it’s a little too late to worry about dropping a level or two. This is it, Neckless. This is rock bottom.

Let’s put aside our role as collaborating spectators for a moment (yes, I’m talking to you) and ask ourselves why anyone in their right mind (I think I’ve just answered my own question) would want to appear on Jeremy’s show. I see it as a venal circus, from which few emerge with even a shred of dignity; and that’s true even of the protagonists who initially approach the producers to get their pound of flesh from someone who’s done them wrong. Why don’t the guests see it that way? I can perhaps see why a cuckolded husband would want to see an angry audience screaming at his scrawny, cheating wife; but why would the wife want to subject herself to this treatment, and vice versa where the sexes are reversed?

Who gets a phone call from the Jeremy Kyle Show and thinks, yes, yes, I do want to have a middle-aged man shouting at me in-front of two hundred people, who will also be shouting at me, while the people watching at home hiss things like ‘scum’ at me. Well, perhaps you would consider doing it if you were dirt-poor, trapped in a life you couldn’t escape, ill-educated, desperate and sincerely believed that the Kyle show was an institution primarily concerned with helping people and not with exploiting and humiliating them for advertising revenue. Or if you were getting an all-expenses-paid trip to London, and the chance for your fifteen minutes of fame, however grizzly.

Certainly one thing you won’t see on the Jeremy Kyle show is a top-hat-wearing male doctor arguing with his Gucci-clad lawyer ex-wife about who’s going to get custody of their Shih Tzu, Phillip. How do the producers sleep at night? I’m sure the Nazi doctors salved their consciences by assuring themselves that their work was for the good of mankind. Maybe that’s what they do.

Our society, and care industry, must be in one Hell of a shape.






Postman Pat – Kids’ TV Redux Pt1

''sup, motherfuckers?'

The first episode of the re-imagined Postman Pat opens on a misty moor on a frosty winter’s morning. Pat and farmer Peter Fogg are drinking strong, home-brew whiskey, as they lie propped up against a dry-stone dyke.

‘Foot and mouth, swine flu, Defra, the wife. They’ve all fucked me, Pat. I’ve got nothing.’

‘I hear that,’ says Pat, hurling an empty bottle and smashing it against a tree. ‘Fucking government. Sixty pence for a first-class stamp? It makes me so angry I could choke Mopatop dead!’

‘Give us a minute, will you, Pat.’

Justice has a long nose and a black pussy.

‘Yeah, sure,’ slurs Pat, wobbling to his feet. As Pat crunches through the frost covered field, he hears the silence broken by a single loud clap. He knows that Peter Fogg’s long misery is at an end.

It’s 2012. The countryside is in ruins thanks to the recession, underinvestment and the exodus of the young and their money. Crime, unemployment and despair are the orders of the day. Chicken rapes are up 200 per cent.

Postman Pat’s seen better days. Especially since the tragic death of his wife at the village fete, crushed under the wheels of a tractor driven by a joy-riding fox.

RIP OAP. Goggins' last stand: mailing her own dessicated jobby to Tory HQ shortly before doing herself in.

A few scenes in, the local post office is closed down by a laughing Tory bastard. Mrs Goggins, with nothing left to live for, takes her own life. She downs a bottle of Gordon’s dry gin, laces her false teeth with paraffin, pops them in, and then lights a petrol-soaked Cuban cigar. The fire is so large it can be seen from the house of the recently-outed Miss Hubbard.

Clutching Goggins’ withered, cooked fingers in his cold hand, Pat vows to avenge her and all of ruraldom. He paints a mural of a black fist on the side of his big, red van; wraps a bandana made from Mrs Goggins’ tear-soaked handkerchief around his head, shaves a mohican into Jess’s skull, claims the shotgun Fogg used to blow open his skull, and rides into the Yorkshire night looking to bring order into chaos.

Ted Glen - or 'The Ferret' as he was known by the SOCS.

The paedophile Reverend Timms is paper-cut to death by a stack of manilla envelopes. I guess he shouldn’t have tried it on with the Thomson twins.

A heroin smuggling ring, controlled by handyman Ted Glen and mobile-shop owner Sam Waldron, is brought to a swift end when Pat pulls up in his van of justice.

‘Package for Glen,’ Pat drawls, slipping an unfiltered cigarette into his badly animated mouth. He hands them the parcel, then makes sure he looks straight into their eyes with a menacing intensity before swaggering back to his van.

‘Ee, thanks, Pat,’ says a puzzled Glen, ‘But tha thought delivrees ‘ad ended.’

‘They have,’ laughs Pat, lighting his cigarette and blowing out a jet of smoke. Out comes a remote control. ‘For you. Privatise this, you drug-dealing cunts!’

Pat slapping them down, Terminator-style.

The resulting explosion takes out Ted and Sam, the mobile shop, three cars, two walls, an electric fence, a pot of cottage cheese, John Craven and fifteen sheep. Wiping from his face the bloody remains of John Craven, and a fragment of sheep’s arse, he looks down at Jess with an uncertain grin. The flames from the explosion reflect in his lenses, lending him the aura of hate and Hellfire. Jess miaows.

‘Maybe we’re too old for this shit, buddy,’ says Pat. ‘But retirement is a choice. My choice. And this letter-posting, big-nosed motherfucker says nobody sleeps till Greendale’s cleaned up.’

Much crime-fighting and indiscriminate fox-murdering ensues.

Pat stands on a desolate outcrop overlooking the hills and valleys of his new kingdom. In the sky above he sees a vision of Mrs Goggins.

‘Pat,’ she howls in her ghostly tone, ‘will the mail ever come back to Greendale?’

‘One day,’ says Pat, cocking his shotgun, ‘There’ll be knock. Ring. Mother-fucking letters through your door.’

Derek Acorah is a Mentalist Pt 1

The following is a TV review/rant I cobbled together after watching one of medium-extraordinaire Derek Acorah’s shows a few years back. More deliciously fun Acorah poo-pooing to follow over the next week or so – Jamie 

Snakes on an Astral Plane

Derek Acorah and his invisible psychic side-kick, Sam, in happier times.

Most parents keep their children away from gory, overtly disturbing, sexual or horrific TV content: explicit war films; late-night pieces of a pornographic nature; violent gun-and-monster flicks, and anything that has a hint of the red stuff or even a soupcon of rough language. All well and good.

But there are some programmes that slip under the radar, which many families actively encourage their children to watch. Happy, feel-good shows that seem innocent upon brief inspection, but if explored in any depth turn out to be more insidiously destructive and psychologically scarring than a back-to-back late-night marathon of Vampire Gore Splat Anal Destruction Nympho Whores in Trench Warfare Hell.

Welcome to Derek Acorah (broadcast on Sky 3 in the UK), a regular hour-long delve into the spirit world with the eponymous Derek Acorah, ‘Britain’s best-known medium’ – an accolade bestowed upon him by the Daily Mail. ‘Best known’? Yes, he’s ‘Britain’s best-known medium’ in the same way that AIDS is the world’s ‘best known’ sexual infection, and Adolph Hitler is Austria’s ‘best known’ Jew-killer.

'Your gullibility is THIS big, screaming woman.'

So what’s my beef with Acorah and his ilk? Surely it’s all a bit of harmless fun? Doesn’t Derek Acorah bring people comfort and closure, say ‘please’ alot, and thread love, peace and happiness into and around all of his dalliances with the spirits and their living loved ones? Well, yes. But this is why he’s so insidious. What gives a man like Derek Acorah, with no demonstrable psychic powers – certainly none that would stand up to any scientific scrutiny – the right to take people’s raw feelings of loss, hurt, fear and confusion, and attempt to exorcise them with flimflam and lies? Not to mention to extort these peoples’ feelings for money?

There are a few possible explanations for his conduct. The first is that Derek knows he has no psychic powers, and is cynically employing his theatrical tricks to make money from vulnerable punters, or else to satisfy some insecurity or Messianic complex whereby he feels a surge of self-worth or grandeur through ‘curing’ people – even if it is by a sugared deception. The second is that Derek actually believes he possesses both ESP and the ability to commune with the dead, in which case he requires some urgent and far-reaching mental help.

What's it watching? The Hissssss-tory Channel, of course! Belter!

In the episode of Derek Acorah broadcast yesterday (Friday 21st August) Derek brought out a woman and her pet snake. He attempted to read the reptile’s ‘thoughts’ and translate them for its owner.

‘He’s not been himself,’ said the woman. Excuse me? How can you tell that a snake hasn’t been himself? A drop in witty repartee? Not dressing as smartly?

Anyway, Derek was able to meld with the snake and went on to dispense some real psychically-gleaned pearls of wisdom. ‘You’ll need to take him to a vet,’ he told the woman.

Later, Derek added that his long-time spirit guide Sam was sure that the snake wanted to watch more television. The woman looked enthralled. During her own straight-to-camera moment, away from the studio audience, she made excuses for Derek. ‘It can’t have been easy reading a snake. I think he tried his best.’

Derek did little better when he moved on to bipedal mammals; although the audience didn’t share my assessment. He appeared again to have convinced them that he was a spiritual savant and all-round psychic miracle worker. This despite the fact that any person with a little common sense and a lot of balls (or a psychological condition) could come up with an achingly similar ‘reading’ and enjoy a chorus of oo’s and aah’s from any number of poor misguided souls. I’m being diplomatic here.

Derek after being told how much he gets paid for this shit.

His subject was a woman called Sharon, aged between 50 and 65. He amazed by asking if she knew anyone called Jack, Betty or Anne. She did. Incredible. Who would have thought that a woman born between 1945 and 1960 would know people with some of the most common names of that era? He moved on to wow her with such startling and specific questions as ‘Do you know someone who died of breast cancer?’ and ‘You’ve had to counsel someone recently who’s been through a break-up, haven’t you?’ Shockingly, she had. Who would have thought, given how long she’d lived, that there would be a statistical chance of those two things having happened? Certainly not Sharon or the tearful studio audience.

‘You’ve not had an easy life, have you?’ oozed Derek, staring at her like some demented hypnotist.

‘No,’ she agreed. I was almost out of my seat by then. This was getting spooky.

‘But you’re a star,’ he told her, almost on the verge of sobbing himself, ‘I know you’re a star. And they (the gaggle of dead communicating with him) know you’re a star.’

Who knows what frisson of sexual excitement was zapping through his balls at that moment as he held this deluded woman’s happiness in his huckster’s hands. He was probably thinking: ‘Ha! Jesus can suck on my big Liverpudlian throbber.’

Don't let your children watch Derek Acorah.

Have you ever heard noises in your house late at night? Probably just the pipes, or the radiators, or wood or cement expanding or contracting, right? WRONG, DICKHEAD! It’s ghosts. They’re there to talk to you, silly. Only they’re not going to make it easy for you. If your death has been foreseen by your loved ones on the other side, what are they going to do? Simply tell someone like Derek Acorah in plain, uncluttered English so that you can do something to prevent it? Rap out a warning in Morse Code? Use telekinesis on the fridge magnets to spell out ‘GO TO HOSPITAL’? No. They’d really rather prefer to make pots fall on the floor until you get the message.

Sharon had heard things in her house at night.

‘You’re confident you’re psychic, aren’t you?’

‘Well, yes, I’ve heard things. But I’m not scared.’

‘You’ve got an innate receptiveness,’ he told her. ‘You’re sensitive to spirits.’

What I like most about Derek Acorah is how he listens to all the facts, forms a hypothesis, looks at it from all angles, contemplates everything deeply, conducts a thorough investigation, follows through with an experiment, and then arrives at a wholly logical and scientific result. Inspiring.

The best part of the show, however, was when he grilled an old lady (not literally, although that really would’ve been entertaining) and claimed to have one of her acquaintances from the other side jabbering in his ear. The old lady had no idea who the person was.

‘Not someone in your family?’


‘Someone you know?’


‘If anyone in the audience wants to jump in, if you know them, please raise your hand.’

"You know someone called Morag, don't you?"

Even that little bit of fishing never made the audience in the least suspicious. Even when he moved on and left the old lady on spiritual call-waiting to entertain another spook they were still on his side and in full support of his miraculous powers. And still no one raised an eyebrow when he pretended to be in conversation with the spirit and said: ‘What’s that? You’re saying someone here does know who you are? OK, but we’re going to have to move on now, please. Step to one side, please. Thank you.’ Yeah, fuck off, ghost, nobody likes you!

It’s quite telling that after the end credits roll a message flashes up that reads: ‘All views and messages relayed in the show are for entertainment purposes only.’

Wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect someone who sincerely believed himself to possess genuine supernatural powers to fight the government and the media regulators tooth and claw to remove such a disclaimer from the end of his television broadcasts?

Just a thought. I’d like to lobby to have the message displayed throughout the entire show, in huge block capitals at the top of the screen. And force Derek to shout it at the end of each reading.

If you’re looking for something mildly diverting and inspiring for your children to watch on television as you organise lunch or dinner, don’t be tempted to expose them to Derek Acorah.

In the true spirit of the medium, simply go over to the other side. Or put on a DVD double-bill of the Hostel films which they can watch while you beat them with a fucking spade.