Best thing on TV

Do you remember when EastEnders was good? It was around the start of the new millennium and my only memories of that momentous occasion for humankind are of a soap storyline of such brilliant emotional depth that it will never be matched ever again. Trevor and Little Mo; possibly the most frightening EastEnders plot ever (no mean feat when Phil Mitchell haunts the screen like a zombie suffering PMT every five seconds). As the sorry tale ended in Little Mo going to prison for murder, if you listened closely enough, you may have heard the sound of BBC executives weeping into their coffee mugs, losing the only thing that was keeping the turgid muck going.

Who can forget the moment when Little Mo, the sweet, innocent, unassuming Little Mo of old, was plunged head-first into her Christmas dinner? Even nowadays, when we’ve been programmed to be faintly indifferent to blood, guts and gore on television, something about Trevor and Little Mo sends shivers down my spine. Watching twenty-five hours of explicit schlock horror movies couldn’t match the intensity created by one minute of that storyline.

Trevor’s death left an emotional chasm at the heart of EastEnders which hasn’t been plugged since. With every failed marriage, stupendous death, or misunderstanding with Ian Beale, the writers are like chimps charged with writing Shakespeare; if they keep writing and writing and writing they might discover something as good. But my money’s on the chimps reciting “Henry IV” before I care about EastEnders again.

But try they must. So the witless writers bring characters back from abroad, apparent death or social service intervention. Down the years, this approach has seen the return of Bianca, “Nasty” Nick Cotton and Dirty Den. If I ever was to play a part in a soap opera, I would probably be cast as the condom which splits after a drunken sex escapade between two characters who later realise they are related. I’m aiming for the stars, me.

EastEnders may have hit a creative dead end, but some shows are filling the gap. One such delight hits all the right targets of teenage life.

The Inbetweeners is a sideways glance at full-blooded adolescence through the eyes of four Averages Joes and is much more realistic than the surreal drama of ‘Skins’ – the least passable show depicting the young adult lifestyle since ‘Byker Grove’ tried to reinvent itself for the new century, coming across like a fork shower of British youngster’s lives seen through the eyes of a Daily Express columnist… “Look, they’re all queer, drunk, addicted to narcotics and shagging anything that moves”.

It’s not that Skins isn’t great fun – it is – but the drugs, the drink, the roster of better-looking-than-you-could-ever-hope-to-screw girls and boys, all whingeing about their lack of cocaine and intercourse, has little relevance to the world in which us teenage brats have grown up in.

It’s a world full of confusion (did that girl just smile at me or am I seeing things again?), angst (what if I don’t do anything about it? She’ll think I’m not interested) and regret (I’m sitting at home watching Location, Location, Location; I should have at least asked if she wanted a bunk-up), not the casual debauchery which has characterised Skins’ rise to critical acclaim.

Skins does actually have some rather good acting and a plethora of well-known faces. But the low-brow smutty humour that populates The Inbetweeners is so much more funny and true. To illustrate the point, only the other day, my mates were discussing what to do if one of them was having sex on holiday in Spain; “Because I don’t wanna walk in on you getting a BJ” said one – proof The Inbetweeners is much more convincing than Skins (and that my friends let their imagination run wild).

Nearly every misunderstanding revolves around sex and the sequence in which the lads decide to be “the boys who go to clubs” is awesome. It is a question I have often asked myself. Why is everyone else going to clubs and chatting up girls, while I’m reading The Guardian and listening to Jarvis Cocker’s solo stuff?

Simon ends up wearing a tramp’s shoes and losing the girl of his dreams because he smells of piss, while Neil cuts his knob on a can of beer, tending to it in the bathroom before he is chucked out because the security guards reckon he’s wanking. That is the sort of thing that would go wrong if I ever ventured in to clubs. Making a dick of myself is a pastime for me, but doing it in front of hundreds of people my age looking for someone to bonk is not my idea of fun.

Calling something “The Best Show on TV” is a high accolade, but I there is a clear winner. Congratulations The Inbetweeners. Now quickly, make a third series.

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European election results

Disaster isn’t a strong enough word for Labour’s capitulation in the European elections. Labour were beaten in Wales for the first time in a century and they came SIXTH behind the Tories, Liberal Democrats, Greens, UKIP and the Cornish nationalists in some areas of our most south-westerly county.

That’s right; in a number of wards, Labour lost to a candidate who believes Cornwall should be fully independent, with its own constitution and a seat at the United Nations. If this kind of fiasco doesn’t spell trouble, nothing will.

The trend continued elsewhere, with the Monster Raving Loony Party gaining more votes than Labour in one ward. If Hazel Blears was the local MP this might be an understandable phenomenon as Blears’ and the Loons’ policies are sometimes difficult to tell apart.

Despite winning a dismal 16% of the vote, Labour backbenchers are sticking with the PM, hoping he can turn things around. But is it possible to turn around defeat to the fascist British National Party?

In Yorkshire & Humber and the North-West, two BNP candidates were elected to office, including party leader Nick Griffin. Interviewed on Sky News, he tried to smooth over his “non-whites” policy, blustering he would “look into it”.

Something tells me Mr. Griffin is not the next Mussolini or Jean Marie Le Pen. I doubt whether they would capitulate to Kay Burley in a Sky News interview, promising to take another “look” at a flagship policy, one which forms the basis of the party’s popularity.

Credit must go to the Labour candidate who was elected alongside Andrew Brons, the other BNP candidate to be elected. He had the guts to say on live television that the party included “convicted rapists and people convicted of racial incitement charges”. It was a sobering day for British politics.

The coverage on BBC News included David Dimbleby hosting a gathering of minds to discuss the results as they came in from each region. The last result to come in was the South-East, where we were told “computer difficulties” had led to a delay in counting the results. Clearly no-one had told the officials present that they should upgrade to Windows Vista as XP is useless.

When the votes finally came in, the BNP were mentioned first as the results are given in alphabetical order. A small cheer greeted their paltry vote-count, but a man from the back of the room shouted “FASCISTS! FUCKING FASCISTS!” It was made all the more hilarious by the reaction of the returning officer, who instead of asking for the man to be ejected, just sped up the telling of the votes, until all the parties were a blur and the announcement of those to take a seat at the European Parliament was made in a nanosecond.

It is worth taking stock of our newest parliamentary force in British politics. An Observer investigation discovered the horrid truth about BNP members, who have been asked by wary decision-makers to wear suits and to look every inch the politician they are not.

Jeffrey Marshall, BNP organiser of London’s European election campaign, said “There is not a great deal of point in keeping these people alive after all” in response to David Cameron’s son dying from a tortuous disfigurement. Gary Aronsson, Nick Griffin’s running mate in the North-West for the European election, lists as hobbies on his personal website: “devising slow and terrible ways of paying back the Guardian-reading cunts who have betrayed the British people into poverty and slavery. I AM NOT JOKING”. Such a pleasant, electable man.

Back in the South-East results hall, Neil Farrage, a UKIP MEP who looks like he’s made from both human and butter DNA, lifted the arm of his fellow UKIP MEP and said “we will let the British people know where their £40 million a day is going, thank you” to a lukewarm response. It must have taken some balls to do this when he has one of the worst expenses records of British MEPs. So he hates Europe, yeah! He stands against petty money-wasting from one of the world’s largest bureaucracies, yeah! But if they offer him first class travel, a four star hotel and as many packets of cashew nuts as he can fit in his luggage, he’ll take it, no questions asked! Even more damagingly, a former UKIP MEP is in prison and another is facing jail, while an ex-leader joined VERITAS halfway through his term with UKIP.

As the results were painstakingly revealed, various Labour Ministers were coming out to put a decent spin on the results, calling it a “dismal day” but saying “we can see some positive signs”. What! The only affirmative thing the British electorate is saying about Labour is that they want them positively to fuck off.

Hellish 16th birthday

I remember my sixteenth birthday reasonably well. It involved a few hastily organised relatives, a little more money and presents than usual and a cheap cake from Tesco. But I was never rich and privileged enough to appear on “My Super Sweet 16th”.

Tune in to any episode (and I’m talking of the American version, which is always much more interesting and thereby sickening than the UK version, which is tame by comparison) and the urge to repress shouting “CUNT!” when you see eager little wankers receiving a car from their parents when they can’t even drive, will eat you alive. I can’t watch for more than a few minutes, or my parents will wonder why I’m screaming obscenities at the top of my voice.

The kids are always the best looking in their year, either with glamour model hair for the girls, or Zac Effron-esque baby-faced looks for the boys. They already have just about everything, as their parents are often celebrities, with houses so big they require their own national anthem. But they still want their party to be the biggest and best thing in the universe, regardless of cost.

Yesterday, one particular kid, a self-confessed “gangsta”, spent $1507 on trainers. Bloodyhell, I could spend a quarter of that and create a much better party: £300 on booze and £100 on some food (and if the food can be made from booze, all the better). He didn’t just buy one pair either, he bought six, so he could change every hour, like the sad saps who attend awards ceremonies and change every time they blink, until it turns into a competition of who can change the most.

Not content with having thousands of dollars spent on them, they request auditions for who can attend the party, which turns into a horrifying catwalk of party hopefuls who are rejected for such plastic reasons as “rubbish hair”. It becomes an extremely undignified process, where the spoilt brat gets to hand-pick those who will enjoy their birthday bash with them.

As the big bash draws nearer, the munchkins get to display a skill they believe they have in bucketloads. Invariably, this means dancing or singing, with no-one telling the youngster that better dancing was seen in a remake of the Macarena by interpretive dance students.

“I get to bust my moves” they say, hiring a bunch of gay choreographers who create routines more boring than a million people’s daily commute. Over the weeks, they gather together the strands required for their party to end all parties; the dancing, the clothes, the music, the guests and the obligatory teary-eyed “thank you”s to parents, who must weep intermittently as their sons and daughters turn into the handsome prince or the beautiful princess before their very eyes.

And so on to the shindig, which is always held in an underground bunker with little light and minimalist furnishings, all bathed in resplendent glitter flicks from a mirrorball which whirls distractedly above them all. As the guest of honour approaches the party, everyone rushes outside and screams for no apparent reason, seeing the birthday boy or girl arriving in evermore-stupendous ways, whether it’s a stretch limo, a party bus or a coach made from actual pumpkins.

Then comes the big moment; the handing over of the keys. This may sound like some corny religious ceremony, but it’s the moment when the kid is led “unexpectedly” downstairs to see a car sitting in a garage and a parent dangling the keys at them. Then follows some high-pitched screaming, more celebratory hugs and a huge dollop of swearing for good measure, which is bleeped out by censors presumably worried about what foul-mouthed 16-year-olds might do to their ratings.

So they have the car. They have the party. They have all their (carefully screened) friends. They have their expensive clothes. They have their choreographed dance routine or warbled karaoke version of My Way. So what more can these kids possibly want? Well, that didn’t stop one girl from crying intensely when her Mum bought her the wrong car. Despite having everything she could possibly need, despite leaving her parent’s bank account begging for the pain to stop, she had the temerity to shout…

“It’s all RUINED!”