Television: Inside Obama’s White House and The Tube

Did you know that being president is really hard and it’s almost impossible to get anything done? I bet you didn’t, but you will after watching the tiresome BBC 2 documentary Inside Obama’s White House. Bloody people everywhere preventing this really cool amazing black dude from doing all these really hope filled stuff like spending bucket loads of cash when you’re already in shit loads of debt, and really awesome climate deals to de-industrialise his country and the rest of the third world with it, and Guantanamo – no he got nowhere with that either – and the bastards in the Senate who won’t let him do anything because they’re all mean, and the nasty bankers and the republicans who disagree with him on just about everything.

I’m sure that Obama is a genuinely nice guy who believes in all his silly liberal policies and genuinely wanted to wreck his country and turn it into Europe or whatever – and he did quite a decent job; but can you imagine if he got everything he wanted, it doesn’t bare thinking about – but I suppose that’s what happens when you elect a president who knows nothing about anything (a bit like electing Randy from South Park to do the job – both have striking similarities, by the way).

But imagine if you were a lefty, Obamaland must have sounded like cloud 9 or something – getting everyone hooked on social health care (no going back after that), all your bucks blown like confetti on welfare, green subsidies to push your energy bills into the stratosphere, no military, no uncomfortable word associations like Islam and terrorism, listening to the jerk bang on about identity politics until it made you puke but without the bizarre euphoria that follows.

But the most annoying thing about him – I know I’m biased, bear with me – is that he’s not really black, is he? Let’s be honest, I’d probably be that shade of black if I spent the summer sunbathing in the midday sun in the Costa del Sol; no Obama like everyone else these days is a little bit of everything – a bit black, a little white, 25.01% Hawaiian, 26.5% Muslim, a little Irish and tad English – a transracial, a bi-cross heritage instigator, a multicultural pariah if you will – and it’s really annoying.

But the best bit of the documentary – despite all the whingeing and complaining about how hard everything is – is at the 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen, when the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao ditches him to have secret talks with the heads of Brazil and South America. Obama is royally pissed off and pushes his way past the bouncers to confront the conspirators, “Are you ready for me now?” he demands, until they let him enter the negotiations – imagine the president of the most powerful country in the world being treated like that? No wonder he’s always complaining.

Political documentaries are often boring and almost always have a simmering undertone of left-wing bias – especially on the BBC and its sinister whore Channel 4 – and this was no exception.

So, while we’re on the theme of politics and tiresome repetitive television, following the 2012 BBC documentary The Tube, Channel 5 has decide to give it a crack with its trademark of unoriginality and insouciance in The Tube: Going Underground – the point of which seemed mainly to put people off ever going anywhere near London ever again and to make those already there even more anxious and tragic.

The documentary told us nothing  we didn’t already know about the capital and it’s rackety metro system: it’s overpopulated to the point of collapse; it’s old, really old, everything is so old that servicemen are scouring eBay for train replacement parts; everyone is very ugly, haggard looking and bloody miserable – and you’re very lucky if you live elsewhere.

I’m not sure how the next seven episodes of the series are going to pan out – we get it, it’s busy. Now for the political bit: no, it’s not the odd drunk or visiting football fans that cause such chaos, it’s mass immigration – get that under control and those poor souls in the dark cavernous bowels of London might stand a chance.

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TV Review: My Failed Novel and Grantchester

You’re a writer, people often proclaim, why don’t you write a novel about all the places you’ve visited, all those characters. But the truth, when push comes to shove (as it so often does), is that hacks are not really writers. Only hacks, editors and the cleaning ladies in newsrooms know this unpalatable truth – but it’s good to play along. Obviously, the ladies love a writer – dark, mysterious, eccentric, grey shallow bags and thin wristed. The contrary is true of hacks. Almost no one likes hacks, not even hacks. We killed Princess Diana, remember – and almost everyone liked her.

What hackers and writers do have in common is the constant unedifying steady sludge of rejection, disappointment, failure and moments (or sometimes weeks) of that dreadful paranoia that at any moment you’re going to be caught out, uncovered, for the obvious fake that you undoubtedly are. And even when you do reach the dizzy heights of a daily national, I’m only guessing here, there’s still that nagging sensation that this is merely a stop gap, a day job – imagine an air hostess pretending she’s anything other than a glorified cocktail waitress and you’ll be close to the mark.

The remarkable thing about Giles Coren’s new documentary Giles Coren: My Failed Novel (Sky Arts) is that it captures all of the insecurities and nagging self-doubt of a wannabe writer perfectly – but only just, and almost certainly not intentionally, more as a natural matter of course.

Giles – we should get this out of the way – is one of Britain’s most successful restaurant critics and columnists; but it turns out that none of this matters, when you’ve always dreamed of being a novelist, and your first and only novel was a commercial and critical flop selling only 771 copies in hardback and 1400 copies in paperback – everyone from his agent to Jeffrey Archer smirks at the dismal sales.

So, Giles goes around in his annoyingly affable boyish way, meeting lots of publishers, authors, critics and women in book clubs to find out what makes a writer successful and why his novel was such a disaster. And what begins as a resignedly jaunty exploration into the publishing world bizarrely turns into self-analysis and pursuit for the soul of the artist (ok, I exaggerate – this is Giles Coren we’re talking about, but you get the idea.)

I have to say, I did feel sorry for him when his book was being scrutinised, ridiculed and ultimately tossed on the bonfire by a group of awfully patronising creative writing students; who basically said it’s all bollocks and you were only published because you’re a famous journo (and hacks, as we know, are not writers) and you should stick to your day job.

The usually confident and opinionated Giles was at pains to read it out loud and red-faced when they tore it to pieces. “If you can’t live through the failure, then your screwed,” Howard Jacobson said to him. Maybe, but he isn’t a failure – it’s just that his first novel wasn’t very good. I was ambivalent about Giles before this, now I quite like him.

Since everyone now accepts that all men (especially noble prize winning scientists, and those of a catholic disposition) are sexual deviants, predatory rapists and just all round nasty misogynists, apart from, of course, Arab, Muslim and North African men, who are all just lovely, thank you very much. It’s quite fitting that we should kick off this year’s spurge of new detective shows with a drab crime drama set in the 1950s, to remind us that men were just as awful and sleazy back then and fifteen-year-old girls just as randy.

What is baffling about the new series Grantchester (ITV, Wednesdays) is why the village vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) – who was at the beginning accused of sexual offences against a child, who then turns up dead – plays at being sleuth with local detective DI Geordie Keating (Robson Green); are the police low on staff, or is this just how it was back then? And back then is just another problem. I’m tired of back then. I want a back to the future, or a Phillip K Dick style drama set sometime in the next 5 minutes.

It’s not that Grantchester is particularly bad, and isn’t a perfectly amiable way to flitter away a Sunday afternoon (only it’s on Tuesdays – which might make you think twice). It’s just that it’s so dreary, laboured, been-there-done-that and certainly on a period (so to speak) that it made me want to either scream to wake up or hit myself to pass out. The best character was the dead girl’s father played by Neil Morrissey – I haven’t seen him for ages – because he looked like Hitler – if Hitler had decided to swap his trademark toothbrush moustache for a more socially acceptable variety of facial hair. But other than that, I’ll give this one a miss.

 

TV review: The Jihadis Next Door

Don’t we live in such a vibrant multicultural country? Don’t we? We do, don’t we? I’m sure, like me, it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling – a sense of stability and security, that we’re all basically human beings underneath the facade, pulling in the same direction.

What can one say about Channel 4’s new documentary The Jihadis Next Door, other than: how did we allow our country to sleepwalk into such a terrible mess? And: Islam again, bored now.

The kind of footage aired in the documentary is pretty much the usual stuff we’ve grown accustomed to in our perpetual state of 24/7 Islam: radical hate preachers subsidised by the tax payer, roaming at will through inner city London; blokes with beautifully moisturised beards; footage of the odd Muslim condemning it – never a mass rally mind or even a moderately attended street protest, just the odd one (I’ll guarantee this will be the focus of most of this week’s reviews, along with something about the programme dividing communities); the odd infidel beheading and, obviously, how we’re all going to burn in hell fire.

So, pretty much your average weekday in the religion of peace (you should see what they do for New Year’s, crikey).

Having said all that, it doesn’t make it less shocking to watch – we’re not completely desensitised, yet. The range of emotions you go through watching the documentary is quite remarkable, I counted: fear, concern, sadness, helplessness and anger; I laughed twice, nearly cried once, and vaporised about 20ml of my super strength blackjack e-liquid. The most interesting bit however, is how articulate and goal orientated these people are and, of course, how stupid we are.

Clearly, your average bog-standard Jihadi isn’t stupid; they know how to manipulate the law and exploit the weakness, as they see it, of our democracy; they understand how decadent our culture has become and how to use it to their advantage.

“The people in this country are living in ignorance, their country is involved in war,” says Siddhartha Dhar (aka Abu Rumaysah), a bouncy castle salesman and the man now suspected of being the new Jihadi John in the latest Islamic State execution video. He continues: “If they continue to have this indifferent approach, it is not going to help them.” Check! I totally agree, albeit in a different way, but you get the idea.

Another radical, YouTube sensation Abu Haleema, tells a group of reporters outside of court that Islam will eventually dominate the UK and the flag of Islam will fly above Downing Street. A reporter shouts out “You’re joking?” “No, I’m not,” Haleema replies. And he isn’t, and it will, if we carry on like this.  Bored now.

The Jihadis Next Door, Channel 4, 9pm, Tuesday 19 January

 

TV Review: Britain’s Spending Secrets and School Swap

(Published here at Celebmix.co.uk)

It’s always the nouveau riche who are the worst: crass, vulgar and tasteless – it’s the same everywhere. Money and what people spend or don’t spend it on – tells you everything about them. “Money”, as Somerset Maugham said, “is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.” But enough pointless literary references – this is a television review.

So, Woody Allen’s Small Time Crooks (bear with me) is a hilarious comedy about rise and fall of a couple of nouveau riches. Half way through the movie, Ray’s (Woody Allen) wife Frenchy throws a big party for her new ‘friends’; keen to impress, she goes all out, turning her mansion into a massive out-of-proportion Tutankhamenesque tomb – i.e. vulgar as hell. During the dinner party, she overhears her guests making fun of her decorating taste and lack of sophistication. She is, as they say, common muck. Frenchy then asks art dealer David (Hugh Grant) to verse her in the cultural ways of the American upper classes. Needless to say, Ray hates it, and the couple separate.

Why am I telling you this? Well the movie makes a good point: whatever money can buy, it can’t buy class (it can probably buy you love, don’t believe the Beatles), and that no matter how much money people have, they’re still the same. I was reminded of Allen’s movie when watching Britain’s Spending Secrets (BBC 1). Presented by Anne Robinson – who incidentally is way too comfortable poking around people’s fridges, wandering around their houses and mansions, shifting through their spending budgets, and generally being a nosey beggar – we are introduced to a cross section of Britain’s spenders, i.e. the general public.

Oddly enough I’d reckoned on hating all of them for either having too much money or too little – but the programme was pretty balanced (unusual for the beeb). There are a few annoying jerks along the way though. Chief among them, Darren Stevens, who lives off his wife’s 90 grand a year (she commutes four hours a day) and spends his days playing pool and hanging about in his ‘office’. When he’s not doing that he’s avoiding ASDA, shopping in Waitrose (better standard of staff, apparently) and spending £150 a month in Starbucks. Call me old fashioned but I don’t think a grown man should be living off his wife.

The best bit is when the Stevens meet the Addicuts, a family of six living on 25 grand a year. Life’s tough for the Addicuts who seem to spend most of their days discount hunting, lurking in charity shops and being generally miserable. (Mr. Addicut looks like he’s been sucking on a lemon and is thoroughly ashamed of it.) Darren shows off his holiday snaps of a £5000 Peruvian adventure, whilst Mrs. Addicut moans about her £200 holiday in St Ives. Class resentments bubble and nobody gets along.

Robinson also meets single mum Charlotte, she is living on benefits and credit and obviously spends every waking hour watching trashy television and scanning the Argos catalogue for really crappy jewelry. She can’t keep up her repayments and owes £500 in rent arrears. Charlotte loves her really big expensive blue light fridge (especially getting ice cream out of it) – and that’s all that matters.

But it’s the super rich and the upper classes that come away the most sensible and prudent. Entrepreneurs Alfie Best and Laura, while squandering like drunken sailors, have earned their money and have every right to spend it as they wish. Charlotte on the other hand is sponging off the taxpayer.

On the back of BBC2 and Channel 4’s educational experiments (Chinese school and sexy Belgians in class), ITV – obviously feeling a little left out – has come up with School Swap – The Class Divide (ITV). State school kids swap with some posh kids. This week, three kids from £27,000 a year Warminster school spend a week at state school Bemrose in Derby. Bemrose is your typical city state school, that is: half of the kids speak English as a second language and so have a reading age of about seven, crap discipline (panic buttons in rooms) and lots of head scarves.

Obviously every culture is pandered, except the white kids who underperform and lack self-confidence – I wonder why? Even the end of term leaving ceremony resembles something foreign. There’s this really odd bit when an Osama Bin Laden look-a-like is teaching a ‘special morning class’ of white boys about eating healthier and then goes on to say something like they’re not motivated enough. Well, it’s not their fault they don’t speak Urdu now is it.

 

 

The week in TV: Witnesses and The Spoils Before Dying

(Published here at Celebmix)

It’s finally saturated itself – the postmodern neo-noir-thriller-crime-drama, or whatever it’s called. What is noir anyway? Anything now remotely crime related is noir. The dictionary informs me it’s a genre of crime film or fiction characterised by cynicism, fatalism and moral ambiguity. That list could pretty much cover any television detective series, from Inspector Morse to Colombo, (ok, maybe not Colombo, but you get the idea).

I’d proffer another definition: a crime drama with a central brooding nihilistic character (or the entire cast in the dismally poor True Detective Season 2); panoramic shots of highways or lonesome dead trees in dry meadows (saturated film); long drawn out shots of people inhaling tobacco; solo jazz singers in down and out bars surrounded by strangely inanimate shadowy figures slowly sipping hard liquor. Did I mention that the new series of True Detective is crap?

In this vein, then, The Spoils Before Dying (Fox), a follow up to last year’s Spoils of Babylon, parodies film noir and the subsequent French La Nouvelle Vague reworking of it. Jazz pianist Rock Banyon (Michael Kenneth Williams from The Wire) turns private eye when singer Fresno Foxglove goes missing. That’s basically it for the 20-minute opening episode; that along with Will Farrell’s wearily unfunny prologue and epilogue (stupidly mocking Orson Welles), and we’re left with around 10 minutes of content. Not a waste of time then.

So, noir, booze, bills, clubs, coppers and dead people – everything you want in a noir parody right? Well, no, because none of it makes any sense at all. Stylistically it is spot on: smoke drenched scenes in boozy nightclubs, a woozy jazz soundtrack, a brilliant cast; the problem with this noir parody, ironically, is that it’s a parody. It would have been far more successful had they cut out the lame Airplane type humour, which irritatingly disrupts its elegant style, and took itself more seriously like LA Confidential – now that was a film parody worth watching.

In keeping with the French connection then, anybody who’s ever sat through an afternoon of French television will be frankly amazed that the nation ever invented anything, let alone modern filming techniques; but don’t worry this isn’t going to veer off into a spiel of Le French Bashing, as crime drama Witnesses (Channel 4) was rather watchable, it ticks all the right boxes, albeit in a conventionally obvious European noir way (a bit like American noir, but not as cool).

My favourite bit had to be the opening credits, which reminded me of a mix between an 80’s pop video and the opening credits to Gordon Ramsey’s Hotel Hell. Either way, it was as tacky and sticky as blue tack: the music, the blowing hair and the bizarre appearance of the wolf from Game of Thrones – which, I’m guessing was stuck in to add a bit of dark mystery (It’ll have something to do with her dreams). Of course, the bird’s eye panoramic shots of highways and deserted bleak landscapes were lifted straight from True Detective and lead detective Sandra (Marie Dompnier) is based on every television detective ever – she’s got OCD instead of commitment/alcohol issues or whatever it usually is.

Witnesses shoves mysterious down our throats like it wants to chokes us. It begins with the discovery of three bodies carefully arranged in a show home to look like the perfect family. And if that’s not mysterious enough, there’s also a photograph in the upstairs bedroom of mysterious retired police officer Paul Maisonneuve (Thierry Lhermitte), who behaves very mysteriously throughout (in fact, he barely speaks or even moves his head – a bit like a French Roger Moore).

They shouldn’t have called it Witnesses though, because there are none, which makes everything even more mysterious. I guess since there are more detective dramas now than Chinese people, you’re inevitably going to run out of catchy titles. Even more mysterious than anything else are some of the subtitle translations, “We’re in deep shit” reads one and “some bloke” reads another, “bastard copper” says one – not very French noir then. I’m sure the British public with its insatiable appetite for European crime dramas, will love it. Just give me Colombo any day.

The week in TV: Escape from Isis and Inside the KKK

(Published here at Celebmix)

Apparently, The KKK is desperately trying to change its image, Inside the Ku Klux Klan (Channel 4), which, to be fair to them, is going to be pretty tough. It doesn’t have a particularly good reputation, does it? What with the lynch mobs, burning crucifixes and brutal murders. Let’s face it: It’s going to need a PR campaign so massive and wide reaching, that the odd leaflet or door to door visit, isn’t going to cut it.

To help them, the KKK have allowed Channel 4 reporter Dan Vernon to spend seven months interviewing its members, filming its rituals and secret locations. He chats to Imperial Wizard, Frank Acona – leader of Traditional America Knights – who’s keen to shake off the image of the cult being a racist sect, “When we say we are not a hate group,” he says, “it’s true, we don’t hate people of other races, we don’t hear our members preaching hatred towards other members. Most of us are in it for the fraternal brotherhood aspect of it, for the most part.”

Fine, but that leads to the question of why join the KKK, why not for example a nice book group, bar crawl or maybe even a hiking club, “Well somebody has to carry this honour,” is Frank’s response.

Frank himself seems normal enough (apart from being in the Klan and dressing up like a wizard), playing with his dogs and guitar; he doesn’t like rap music, he tells us, prefers heavy metal. So do the rest of his crew – going by the way they look – and even without all the supremacist stuff and Dark Age attire, this lot would freak you out. Two new recruits, a married couple, said it even brought them closer together – they’d been having marital problems.

But, race riots in Ferguson, Missouri, spurred the Klan into spreading its message via distributing leaflets in the early hours, to a not very favourable response from the black community. So hostile was everyone in fact, that international group Anonymous decided to hack the Facebook pages of its members and publish the details online. Now the Klan is more paranoid than ever.

Just like the ‘so-called’ Islamic State, the ‘so-called’ Ku Klux Klan, are adept at using the Internet for promotion (Frank has built up a quite sophisticated site, and he’s getting more online ‘hits’ now than ever before, oh dear). But Isis makes the Ku Klux Klan look like picnic, doesn’t it?

Understandably, we in the west, find the religious fanaticism of the Islamic State difficult to grasp, it is a fair estimation to say we are at complete odds with each other – there’s no connection, not even on a human scale; and like the Holocaust, we cannot comprehend such unfathomable monstrosity – words fail us. And as the Prime Minister messes around with the BBC deciding what to call them, the horror continues.

We all have some inkling about what’s going on in ISIS held territory, but the new Channel 4 documentary Escape from Isis reveals to us, in unflinching detail, the full extent.

The incredible secret footage – filmed by brave people who would almost certainly have been murdered had they been caught – is a real eye opener, and probably one of the most uncompromising television documentaries Channel 4 have ever produced. As one Internet activist says ‘I was beginning to think there was no colour in the city (Raqqa), only black and darkness’.

Last year, Isis fighters captured the Sinjar mountain region northern Iraq on the frontier of Islamic State, home to the Yazidis – an Iraqi ethnic minority – who have been targeted by Isis in order to ‘purify’ the region of non-Islamic influence; many have been killed and 3000 women and young girls have been kidnapped, abused, gang raped and sold into slavery like cattle. Four million women are now under their rule.

One woman describes how her kidnappers raped her: “He put his toe in honey and forced it in my mouth. Once, all six guards came into the room. Then the driver gave me to 12 men … I’m still in pain. I can’t sleep, I wake at 3am still smelling them.” She brushes her teeth more than 10 times a day to get rid of their stench.

Under ISIS rule, women are forbidden to leave the house unaccompanied; they must wear three veils, so even the eyes cannot be seen; they can’t even be heard. All women, young or old, are fair game, as one fighter says ‘my religion permits me to take a 9-old-year.’ In secret footage, we see a group of savages, hanging out in an internet cafe, having a laugh about how they’re going to treat the Yazidi women and children they capture; and if that wasn’t enough, we also witness an ‘adulterer’ being stoned to death – even her father joined in.

But there’s a glimmer of hope – for some, at least. A network of activists, are risking their lives, performing undercover rescue missions. In one poignant rescue a group of 34 Yazidis who spent 2 days fleeing the Islamic State, emerge like phantoms from the hills into a field of flowers, ready to greet their rescuers and be returned to their families. These people are not paying traffickers thousands of Euros to cross the Mediterranean in a dingy to work in London or wherever, they are in true desperation; as usual the wrong people are getting asylum – this is television at its best.

The week in TV: Married at First Sight

Published here at Celebmix

It used to be a staple of Saturday nights, along with a pot noodle; watching a singleton question three other singletons, who could hear but not see them, to choose which one they wanted to hook up with, ‘The choice is yours’, the voiceover bellowed.

(However, these days, I’d rather empty the contents of a vacuum cleaner into my mouth than eat a pot noodle.)

Cilla would then whisk the lucky couple away to East Berlin or something for a holiday, while she performed covert operations for the Soviet Union, and we’d find out how the date went and whether the couple could stand each other – those were the days.

I am of course talking about Blind Date, a bit of harmless tat, which sadly ended in 2002.

Apparently, a few couples did get hitched and lived happily ever after; and it all started with those initial idiotic questions:

“Listen sweetheart,” rapturous applause. “If you was a animal, right, which animal would you be?” Stamping of feet.

“If I was an animal, I’d say, I’d be a…Lion.” More screaming.

“Why?”

“So then I could claw your eyes out.” Frenzied laughter.

Imagine that. But these days we’re too sophisticated for that carry on. Nowadays, you only get married if you’re absolutely perfect for each other. And by perfect I mean down to the atomic level perfect; that science can prove with numbers, stats, psychology, emotional history, careers, face symmetry and yes DNA, that you’re the perfect match.

Forget, all that old school stuff about meeting people through friends, going to bars, socialising, and getting to know somebody; just hand the whole lot over to science. Science knows everything.

That is essentially the idea behind Married At First Sight (Channel 4). If you’re expecting a group of nut jobs (again), living with their mummies and collecting guns and ammo magazines, you’re going to be disappointed. The ‘contestants’ (let’s call them that) are ‘ordinary’ thirty-something, successful professionals, who can’t seem to find ‘the one’.

So, Channel 4, whittles 1500 applicants down to 15, (half of 15 is 7.5, the science is exact, you see), then science gets to work on them, until the experts (including a priest), come to an unanimous decision about which couples are the best match. They then go through the process of telling their families and friends that they’re getting married to a complete stranger for television.

There’s one poignant moment when contestant Jason breaks the news to Mum, who then cries in the kitchen over sausage rolls and miniature pork pies, “I’m finding it all a bit difficult,” she sobs.

“This is what happens when Jason goes to London,” comments his brother.

Devon boy Jason recently moved to London, for work, and is finding the place a bit too much, life’s hard there – the dating scene isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Incidentally, Jason looks about as out of place in his family home as a crocodile being kept as family pet. The nasty city has changed Jason beyond recognition – he’s so sophisticated and metropolitan, he now needs science to decide his perfect partner – that’s how special Jason is. “I’m not sure what I’m looking for,” he says, as he picks out his suit for the big day, in some really expensive shop in London.

The contestants then go on stag and hen nights: one last frolic before the big day. By the way, if you’re not finding this really weird, then you should, it is very odd.

Everything about it is odd. From city high flyer Jason and his red neck family (I’m still wondering whether he was adopted); the posh girl he’s marrying, whose initially shocked Mum is now really excited, and even helping her pick out wedding dresses; the blonde girl with the brown teeth, who seems to spend all her time in the gym, who’s marrying that other bloke with the beer belly; to the bloody priest who seems to be condoning all this madness.

But why marry? It’s a bit extreme, right? Yes, but that’s what makes this ‘ground breaking social experiment’ (yeah right) so entertaining. Of course, it makes a mockery of the institution, for the sole purpose of chasing viewing figures, and speaks volumes about the empty atomisation of our culture. But, it is entertaining – at least in a baffling way.

Here’s what I will think will happen: it won’t work out. For the simple reason that the ‘experiment’ is still part of this virtual, depersonalised dating culture that the contestants claim has alienated them – it’s just been taken to another extreme level. That, and something tells me marriage is a little more complicated than the stats and results would have us believe – no matter how scientific.

The week in TV: A nation of eccentrics

(Published here at Celebmix)

Imagine you’re a television producer sat around a swanky Channel 4 board meeting, free rolling ideas, brainstorming knowledge, scoffing on croissants and trying to think of yet another way to entertain the masses while having to spend as little of the budget as possible.

Obviously, it’s going to be another reality TV show; the public are always in supply (there’s a country full of them); and what’s more, going by the lot you see on television, the internet, Facebook and twitter – most of them are nut jobs – quite a few have lost the plot altogether: watch a random ten minutes of Come Dine With Me – your gaping mouth will be dribbling in bewildered stupefaction – “Am I like those people?” You’ll be thinking.

So here’s the new pitch: each week, obsessive compulsives turn up at a country estate (we’ll get a good dose of class resentment in there too), where the eccentric owner, who has long since given up, cares about nothing, is clinically depressed and has allowed their home fall into disrepair – there’s shite (literally), dust and insects everywhere, it’s total hell.

The other wackos, the obsessive cleaners, are mortified when they see the dump, and have no option but to clean the place spotless. Sound like a good idea? Well that’s the thinking behind the new series of Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners (Channel 4).

Needless to say the house is a cesspit – even the scruffy old tomcat Toby thinks so, we see him wrench and vomit (poor thing), which in turn makes diagnosed OCD sufferer and obsessive cleaner Denise gag, which then makes fellow obsessive cleaner (undiagnosed) Vinny throw up, which in turn made me cringe and almost turn off the TV – the whole thing was like a vomit inducing domino effect.

The only person not affected by any of this putrid mess seemed to be the lazy resident owner Tiggy, who exclaims that they’re all exaggerating.

Apparently, Tiggy let ‘get go’ after the death of her parents, not just of the house, but also her appearance – she was quite a looker back in the seventies, as the old family photos attest; but now she looks like Anne Widdecombe and everything’s gone to pot. She’s also trying to flog the family home, but the estate agents are so disgusted and confused by the site of the place, that they’ll never be able to sell it – not even for free.

The obsessive cleaners have five days to put it all right – what could possibly happen?Since we’re on the topic of crackpots and cats, a new one off special 90 Cats and Counting: Cat Crazies (Channel 5), is about cat addicts whose lives have been overtaken by felines, often at considerable cost and to the detriment of personal relationships.

We meet cat breeder Kelly, who’s adapted her home and living arrangements to fit in with her 40 ‘friends’ and it’s costing her £14,000 a year. She also has a pet Chihuahua – only one though – dogs just don’t do it for her like cats do. Her two kids help out in the feeding frenzy before school, there’s no television, as one son said ‘Why have TV when you have all these cats?’ Her husband has long gone – it was either him or the cats.

We meet a 74-year-old lady, for whom ceramic cats have replaced the real thing, she doesn’t like ‘real ones’ kept in the house, they should be out hunting, she says. She has over 2500 cats in her collection, ‘the internet keeps showing me things I desperately need,’ she says, as she bids online for yet another addition to her collection. (There’s this really creepy moment when she’s gazing into the eyes of one of the statues – or ‘soul mates’, as she calls them.)

Next, there’s the British expat couple that roam the feral streets of mainland Greece, feeding and rescuing stray cats in the early hours, costing them up to £1000 a month, they’ve even set up a rescue shelter.

Then there’s the owners of a luscious boutique cat hotel (prices start at £19 a night), who spend all their cash on the up keep, while their actual house falls apart – cracked windows, broken shower, sellotape practically holding the place up; maybe when they save enough, they said, they can finally get round to the children’s bedrooms.

Finally, there’s Barbarella, the local Lanzarote eccentric, who’s decided to marry a couple of Tabbies, ‘It was love at first sight,’ she says, as she renews her wedding vows – she’s got a certificate and everything. Just one question though. How do they afford it all?