The Tuppence-ha'penny Punch and Judy Show

The Chewing Gum for the mind on the sole of your shoe.

By: Sertraline (Other listings magazines are available)

Hola, Buenas Dias.  Welcome back to the Tuppence-ha'penny Punch & Judy Show following a brief hiatus (A small lilac-coloured herbaceous bedding plant).  I've just returned from my annual pilgrimage to a country that, unlike England, has a climate that is slightly more dependable than buying a lottery ticket. Yes, a fortnight in Majorca has left me with a skin and a bank balance of roughly the same hue; it has also left me salivating at the prospect of giving the haunted fish tank yet another savaging. Sadly this has not been immediately possible due to Mrs. Sertraline demanding to watch the video recordings of all her favourite programmes taped whilst we were off  revelling in the satellite delights of Eurosport and CNN: The Weakest Link in Spanish and feature films dubbed into German. Curiously enough, however, two of these have set me off on trains of thought that led directly to the following two items.
All right, all right. Calm down, calm down!   Despite an almost universally held hatred of Scousers, Mrs. Sertraline, amongst many others, is a fan of Liverpool soap Brookside which is, these days, virtually impossible to record  since they keep moving it around the schedule as a test of fan's ingenuity in locating where it will be next. Channel 4 have cancelled the show after over twenty years and the last episode is to be broadcast in November. The reason for this radical surgery? Well, Channel 4 say the show is being axed  because viewing figures are not as high as they once were. Notwithstanding that the acting, writing, storylines and production values have always been consistently higher than the perennially awful Corrie (don't get me started!!!). Brookside has, over its lifetime been a groundbreaking series never afraid to deal with contentious issue in a realistic fashion. It has in the past boldly gone where other soaps, who shall remain nameless, have either been too gutless to go or have addressed in only the most facile and superficial manner. Now, stop me if I'm wrong here but Channel 4's brief was to produce programming that would serve a minority audience and here they are cancelling a popular series because they say it has low viewing figures. What is wrong with this picture??????
Six degrees of Separation. Now pay attention, class, because I may well be asking questions later.

Phil Middlemiss left Coronation Street to act in a police drama series set in Liverpool. He subsequently left this series for Yorkshire drama Where The Heart Is. Leslie Ash, on the other hand left that series to move to Merseybeat, a police drama series set in Liverpool and the actor who plays Tommy in Coronation Street moved from Where The Heart Is. 

Still with me? Good! Now then, in the latest series of Where The Heart Is there was an actress who used to be in Emmerdale and two actors who were in The Bill. Meanwhile down at Sun Hill The Bill have recruited Bernie Nolan and Paul Usher, ex-Brookside  alumni, and Todd Carty alias Mark Fowler of Eastenders fame whilst over at Holby City the line up includes emigres from Brookside, Hollyoaks and Coronation Street.

I  read somewhere that at any one time 90% of Equity members are not working in their chosen profession. Mmmmm strange that!

The cream of this country. Two brief stories about American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald before I get to my point. I once read that when he wrote The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald had set out to mock the empty and aimless lives of the wealthy but that he either unconsciously or secretly admired their lifestyle and that as a a consequence his novel became a celebration of hedonism. The other, more famous story is the interchange between Fitzgerald and Hemingway in which the former said, "You know, the very rich are different to you and I." To which Hemingway pithily replied, "Yes, they have more money."

Now you're wondering what on earth this has to do with television. Well, in the case of the former story I was reminded of it whilst watching Young, Posh and Loaded Granada's late night exploration of  rich and vacuous teens and twenties. On first viewing I couldn't make up my mind whether they programme makers were holding up the lives portrayed as being in some way laudable or desirable or whether they were were going for a more post-modern approach where by careful editing they were simply showing you this procession of guffawing buffoons with a subtext of "We're not saying it but aren't these people complete twats". After three editions I have now come down firmly on the side of the latter as the individuals in question are such uniformly cretinous examples of that uniquely British species chinlessus wonderus that it is near impossible to imagine anyone, even their presumably equally nauseating parents, finding them in the least bit likeable. Some of the highlights, or more accurately lowlights , are: Jonathan "Sword of Truth" Aitken's daughter Victoria at an open mike night in Brixton making her bid for fame as the first white, female, hip-hop rapper - imagine if you will trying to say "Suck my cock you mutherfuckin' ho" in a plummy, public school accent and you'll come frighteningly close to the actual embarrassing experience. Cut to shots of the audience of black street kids pissing themselves behind strategically placed hands. Then there's a hooray Henry called, ironically, Johnny. I say ironically because if only his father had had the foresight to wear one we would have been saved this whole painful experience. This silver spoon sucker runs an exclusive club somewhere in Mayfair (Where else?) where he carefully vets the potential customers to ensure that none of the lower orders manage to insinuate themselves into his establishment. After all poverty is catching you know, it seeps through your pores by osmosis. Though having seen the footage shot inside his club I can set his mind at rest; my own kids and their mates would never dream of setting foot in such a dreary excuse for a club. Far and away the saddest specimen on display is an Asian guy called Raj who has bought himself a title for 20,000 (who said the people in this programme have too much cash?) and insists on being referred to as Lord Raj. He lives in a house that is a monument to 70' kitsch and wears clothes that are not so much loud as LOUD. He waxed lyrical, last night, about how his title will enable him to attract the woman of his dreams. And what is this dream girl like? Well, Lord Raj tells us, it is important that as well as being beautiful, witty and intelligent it's important that she loves him for himself, for who he is inside. So tell me again, your lordship, why did you buy that title? Cut to closing shot of Lord Raj sitting on his furry, five-seater sofa against a wall covered in black and white zig-zag wallpaper, eating his microwave Lasagne for one.

My own response to Fitzgerald's observation would have been "Yes, and thank God for that!" Incidentally, in case you're wondering, the title of this piece comes from the old joke: The Tory party is the cream of this country  -  rich, thick and full of clots. Boom boom!

As an outsider, what do you think of the human race? We've all seen things on TV that make us ashamed to be human beings: the actions of Serbs in places like Kosovo, the beaten face of a pensioner mugged by some little scrote who is then taken on a safari to Kenya as part of his rehabilitation, fat cat African politicians living in gold palaces while their people slowly starve to death. On a smaller scale but no less sickening was the opening sequence of What are you staring at? on BBC2, an exploration of facial disfigurement and how it is treated by people in the street. When the documentary began we were looking through a concealed camera moving through a busy market place and seeing the reaction of the passers by to some, as yet unseen, stimulus. Some discretely waited then expressed their silent horror by closing their eyes; others, surprised raised a hand to their mouth. A few openly pointed. One Chinese girl laughed out loud and rapped her boyfriend's arm urging him to look at the object of her amusement and one piece of pond scum kept circling with his wife to get a closer look and making no attempt to conceal his actions or his entertainment. The subject was a Portuguese woman in her twenties, an ex model, who had been admitted to hospital for minor surgery where the doctors found rampant gangrene in her upper jaw that resulted in a large section being cut out leaving this once-pretty  woman, who made a living from her looks, with the appearance of a cartoon witch. The programme followed her journey through the first stages of reconstructive surgery but was intercut with sections covering a militant group of disfigured people whose argument was "Why should I change my appearance? You should change your attitude." An idealistic thought but one that has no basis in practicality. Like Sting wrote in Invisible Sun: "The only way you're gonna change this place is by killing everybody in the human race". Now don't get me wrong, they're entitled to their opinion however misguided and unrealistic it might be but what I found objectionable was that they believed that the only way to achieve their rose-tinted aim was to stop anyone from having reconstructive surgery and to further that cause they were advocating that all doctors refuse to carry out such operations. The joy on the rebuilt face of the Portuguese woman alone was sufficient to convince anyone of the worthiness of the surgeon's work and if the anti lobby could not see that then they are every bit as short sighted as those people in the market place. Remember what Nietsche said: "You who hunt monsters must take care that you do not become monsters in the process...."

Mysteries of the Coronation Street Universe No. 2841

And finally it's time for my regular kick at the old cripple's crutches. Todd Grimshaw is a bright lad, you have Ken Barlow's word for that. He was all lined up to go to university before he  came under the thrall of  that shameless little hussy Sarah Louise Platt and blew his A-Levels by walking out of the examination room. So, to recap: he'd passed the entrance examination for what is arguably the finest university in the country, he was sitting A-levels and the presumption must be that to do so he had already walked away with a barrow load of GCSEs. Clearly a young man of great potential. So why are the only jobs he can get cleaning jobs? Is the finance sector not recruiting, are there no management foundation opportunities with any large companies, are apprenticeships a thing of the past? Or is it that Todd didn't really bail out of going to Oxford to be with Sarah-Louise but to fulfill a deeply held and long nurtured desire to build a career in the occupational hygiene business. Obviously with his academic credentials the lad's going places, after all in three years time he could have progressed to being the man that empties the sanitary towel bins from the ladies' toilets and after that who knows?
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