Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Drug of the Nation

(Am I the only person to have noticed that the Disposable Heroes of HipHoprisy were better at naming things than they were at anything else? I mean, that name... it's the best name for a band in the history of bands, surely! And the song of theirs that everyone knows, and from which this blog title comes - Television, the Drug of the Nation - that sounds like the toppest of all top tunes! However, then the music... it's ok. Not very exciting. And yeah, I realise it's probably 20 years old now or something depressing like that, but even at the time I remember thinking it was a bit boring. In fact, I got all excited about the idea of hearing that tune again, a couple of years ago, as I thought it would have to be one of those things that I hadn't been that bothered about at the time, but realised I LOVED now, like Take That or... well, I can't think of another, hipper example right now, but maybe it will come to me. Instead, I still found myself fairly non-plussed. It's pretty good. But the name is so much better, and that's why I've nicked it to spout some of my own nonsense underneath.

It's just a bit worthy. Not as bad as (shudder) Arrested Development, the hippiest of hippie hop this world has ever seen (it makes me so sad that one of the worst hip hop acts in the history of hip hop shares its name with one of the best TV shows in the history of TV), nowhere near that bad. But still. They're no Public Enemy or Missy Elliot or Eric B and Rakim.

Shall I stop wittering and get on with it?)

So... TV. My relationship with television has been long and involved. It goes back deeper and longer than most of my real life relationships. I've been pals with Carrie Bradshaw for longer than I've been pals with my DJ life partner. I have only one friend I've known for longer than Rachel Green. (Or should that be Rachel Greene? It differs in different episodes, you know. Outraged? Yes, I was too!) It's only family that go back further with me than Dylan MacKay or Kelly Taylor.

This is probably a terrible thing to admit, but I care more about the people on my television than about many of the people I know in real life. I cry at their dramas and laugh at their joys on a much more frequent basis. Their thoughts inform my philosophies and their actions drive mine in almost every thread of everything I do. My morals are shaped by scriptwriters and executive producers, not religious tomes. My expectations of life are sketched out by glossy haired actors, not by opening my eyes to reality. My dreams are inhabited by fictional people more than the ones I spend my day to day life with. And I'm beginning to wonder if this is a problem.

some tv shows i have loved

Beverly Hills 90210 was probably the show that started my obsessive love of television. I would love to pretend that I'm now hard pressed to say why, but this is not the case. Who could not love Dylan MacKay's slanting eyebrows and recovering alcoholic posturing? Who didn't find themselves identifying with either Brenda or Kelly (or both) as they fought for Dylan's hand and watched their friendship dashed to death on the rocks of teenage angst? Kelly joined a cult! And got addicted to coke! Brenda got engaged! Then broke it off over a pre-nup! Brandon got a gambling problem! The actors playing Steve and Andrea were way too old! Donna Martin graduated! Now there was a TV show, and no mistake. Will you, blog fans, lose all respect for me if I tell you that the new 90210 is the only thing currently being made that I really care about? I fear you will. So pretend you didn't see that.

If I now talk about acclaimed indie hit My So-Called Life will I regain some street cred? Depends who you are, I guess. Jordan Catalano came straight out of the Dylan McKay school of heroes - brooding, moody, gorgeous... as tempting as siren songs for teenage girls. I wanted so desperately to have Rayanne Graff as my best friend, to be as beautiful-without-realising-it as Angela Chase, to be able to go to Ricky with my problems and have him smooth them all out. It is such a crime against television - no, art! - that that show got canned after one series and we will never find out if Rayanne and Angela made it up or not.

Moonlighting also deserves a special mention. I love Bruce Willis and always will, and it's in no small part because of David Addison, a role I think he has never bettered. I think Bruce's slick-talking, commitment shy, thinking woman's crumpet must have been the template for the equally swoonsome Larry, played to such perfection by Robert Downey Jnr in Ally McBeal, and if the two were to have a fist fight over me (hell, it's my blog, I'm allowed to daydream), I'm not honestly sure who I would want to win. But Moonlighting wasn't just great because of Bruce/David - this, for me, was the original will-they-won't-they story (repeated to great effect by Dean Cain and Terri Hatcher's Clark and Lois, by Daphne and Niles, by Ross and Rachel, ad infinitum)... and, since the original, also the best. Throw in all the crazy dream sequences and surreal plot twists, and this show should've won a Nobel prize.

(By the way, I know it might not seem like it right now, but I do love television for more reasons than just drooling over fit blokes playing cool characters. I love it for the sake of writing and drama and stories and, goddamn it, ART! Not just because of hot men! Or at least, I always thought I did... maybe I was wrong?)

If we're going down the route of older, surreal shows, I naturally have to mention Twin Peaks, which was a spectacular feast of strange characters (the Log Lady, anyone?), stranger plots, freaky music, scary villains (I still get a bit freaked out to this day if I see someone in the street who looks a bit like Bob... which happens more than you'd think... in fact, there's a photo of me on FB which I took myself where I think *I* look a bit like Bob, which is really quite unnerving!) and... yeah, yet more hot boys. Although the whole thing had a pretty disappointing ending, if I remember right.

Coming slightly more into the current day... did anyone apart from me, an ex-boyfriend of mine and my brother watch the tour de force that was Popular, the first show made by Ryan Murphy (him of Nip/Tuck and Glee fame)? If you didn't, I implore you... watch it. Watch it NOW! At first glance, this show seems a bit like 90210, which I realise may not interest many of you. But it's actually packed with such deliciously bizarre characters and strangely satirical plots that every episode is as naughty and as mouth-watering as a cracker laden with brie and topped with chutney, washed down with a glass of red. The social commentary is second only to the hairstyles in this series. And again - packed to the rafters with hotties, of the male and female variety.

Is it very tired and passé of me to love Sex and the City? To be honest, I don't care if it is. I really can't understand why anyone doesn't like this show. People say it's girlie, and yeah, it's got shoes and smooching in it... but the characters, the writing, the wit, the tragedy, the relationships (between the women and their men) and, yes, the outfits... I think the final season is a near perfect example of television writing. And it seems no coincidence to me AT ALL that SATC was dreamed up behind Darren Star, one of the major players behind 90210. What a god that man must be! I dream of being Carrie, and I dream of this blog making that dream more of a possibility. I too, unlike most of my friends, would have picked Big over Aiden. Although I actually think Smith was the pick of the men on that show. Come on, boys... be confident enough in your masculinity to watch it without getting scared you'll be labelled a girl and I defy you not to end up loving it.

As I mentioned at the start of this blog, one of the worst hip hop acts in the world shares a name with what, objectively speaking, I believe I must call the best show in the world: Arrested Development. There is actually nothing else in the world like this series, and I don't just mean in the realms of TV. The characters are all so weird and so nasty but somehow still so appealing. The plotlines are so twisted and convoluted, and every time you think something is going to resolve with the chance of a happy ending, some new and yet still hilarious disaster strikes. It is so dark and so sweet all at once. Again, cut tragically short by the idiots who run American TV, although there keep being rumours of a film. I can't see it happening though, now that Michael Cera is the teen film sensation that he is. And actually, these days, Nurse Jackie is doing a very, very good job as a replacement in the weird/funny/oh-my-god-did-they-just-DO-that!! stakes.

So, objectively speaking, I know that Arrested Development is the best show ever made. But subjectively speaking... I know it's unoriginal... but I'm a Friends girl all the way. Friends is like the desktop wallpaper of my life. It's my comfort blanket, my cuddle trousers. I've probably seen every episode (and there are a lot of episodes) an average of 20 times, I'd guess. I can relate almost anything that happens, either to me or to someone I know, to an episode of Friends. I realise this is nothing to be proud of and yet, somehow, I still am. I watch it constantly and talk along to it, as if it's a Morrissey song that I'm singing all the words to.

(Two of my favourite Friends dialogues - please excuse the copying and pasting, it's late and I'm tired...

Rachel: See? Unisex.
Joey: Maybe *you* need sex. I just had sex a few days ago.
Rachel: No, Joey, U-N-I-sex.
Joey: I wouldn't say no to that.

Joey:... it's a moo point ...
Rachel:... you mean a moot point ...
Joey:... no no, a moo point ... like a cows opinion, doesn't matter ... it's moo ...)

My life has recently been revolutionised by the new boxset which contains uncut footage and hence NEW JOKES!!! (One of my favourites being about Paul the Wine Guy from episode one - 'does he drink it, sell it, or just complain a lot?') This means more to my pitiful little life than I could ever hope to convey.

(These are my favourite TV shows. But I cannot finish this blog without also mentioning Teachers, Black Books, Frasier, Desperate Housewives, ER, Once and Again, Gilmore Girls and the L Word. Yeah, most of the TV I like is American. So sue me.)

I seem to have got a little sidetracked. The point of this blog wasn't to wax lyrical about all these television behemoths which have so filled my life with joy. The point is, in fact, the exact opposite.

Two recent things in my life - the last blog before this one, and a post made by a friend on the internet forum I spend all my time on when I'm not on FaceBook or propped up in front of Friends - have made me realise that the constant stream of television that is being fed into my brainbox whenever I'm alone is actually making me really quite miserable. To me, this is a revelation on a par with the splitting of the atom. And I'm doing a PhD... scary, isn't it? ;-) The thing is... I work what I consider to be quite hard most days, and so when I get home, I feel I have somehow earned the right to relax and do nothing else. So I turn the TV on and then forget to turn it off, even when I fall asleep, with the TV still on, some five or six hours later. And all the while, the fact that I only have the TV for company gradually making me feel more and more like a lonely loser with no friends and no future. It's as if someone has put a valve in my brain and is slowly leaking out all the hope and happiness I might have ever felt. Almost as if it is, after all, the opiate of the masses.

I do not intend to become one of those born-again anti-TV people that I always want to shoot on sight. I would hate to want to shoot myself. But I have turned over yet another new leaf (since my last one is now, five months on, still going so strong) and I now plan to only watch TV a little bit. (That's good and specific, eh?) And see if that will maybe make me a bit happier.

It seems to be working so far. I had quite the crappy day at work today, but instead of sobbing my heart out over the TV as I usually would, I have worked on some playlists for a wedding Twisted Kitten are playing at over the weekend and written this blog. And there's something that might be a smile playing around my heart.

Saturday, 11 September 2010


There is a quote from Ally McBeal which some extensive research (well, five minutes on Google) won't reveal to me, but which, if I remember correctly, goes something like, 'I've tried my whole life to avoid being lonely. But when I think about it, the times when I've felt most lonely have been when I'm sitting right next to someone.' That's not quite right, she says it better. (And yes, I know she's not real, thank you very much.) I did think about going to get the DVDs to try to find it properly (I'm fairly sure it's the first one of a series - maybe series four - near the end of the episode, so it probably wouldn't take too long), but I suspect that way madness (in the form of lying on my bed doing nothing but watching Ally McBeal for the next 48 hours) lies. (Is that enough sets of brackets for an opening paragraph?) (No?) (Ok, we'll have some more.)

Loneliness is a funny old beast, isn't it? I always feel an affinity to that line from Ally, hence looking for it and thinking I would start this blog entry with it. And yet, now I think about it, I realise I'm almost the exact opposite to her. I spend a large portion of my life wishing I was on my own, away from all these rabbiting people ruffling up my view... and yet as soon as I am alone, I sink as fast into misery and loneliness as a lump of rock sinks into a murky pond.

I'm not quite sure what it is I'm looking for, or what exactly I think it is that's going to make me happy. A slap round the face is probably the most pertinent suggestion. I mean, really... what happened to the less boys, less whining I promised you all a while ago? Will I ever really stop moaning? Very likely not, I wouldn't hold your breath.

I had a weekend recently that was crammed full of people. People everywhere, falling out of doorways and tripping over each others' shoes. A quote from the fabulous Charlie Brooker occurs to me here, and this one I actually could find: "I don't get people. What's their appeal, precisely? They waddle around with their haircuts on, cluttering the pavement like gormless, farting skittles. They're awful." I spent a large portion of the weekend longing to be back at home and away from all the noise and clamour, and when I did get home, back to sanity and peace and quiet, what happened? I was so depressed for 24 hours I could scarcely get out of bed.

I'm not sure what I'm looking for. Is it to live on my own, with a high wire fence around my house, with only some guard dogs and all the Lost boxsets for company? Or is it to be married and have a house full of friends coming round at all hours of the day and night? I suppose I must grudgingly admit it's something in the middle, but where's the fun in that?

I think I should probably take some of my own advice and do some more 'flow' type things when I am on my own (see the DJing blog) rather than dying slow degree by slow degree in front of the television with my gameboy clutched in one hand and an endless stack of toast in the other. I should be doing things that will satisfy me, not things that will gratify me... taking more photos, writing more poetry, going swimming, practicing DJing, making clothes. But it's just so much effort. Can't I spend my life being miserable and finding new ways to articulate it on the internet instead? Oh, I can? Great... then everyone's a winner.