Glee – blame it on the alcohol – or not

Glee Club Tik Tok

Glee – Blame it on the Alcohol, aired April 11 on Channel 4. It was no simplistic Just Say No anti-drugs polemic – (if you are aware of this Nancy Reagan USA initiative commencing in 1982 as part of their War on Drugs and via the Girls Scouts of the USA, eventually even reaching our UK shores in the unlikely 1986 setting of a number of Grange Hill episodes) where we often Just Say Yes when yes or no are each valid choices.

This Glee episode was an admirably nuanced look at the uses and abuses of alcohol – the pleasures and the pitfalls. Not just for under-aged drinkers but the of-age teaching staff of the McKinley High – looking at the do as we say not as we do double-standard widely practised.

Which for a show whose prime time audience would include many under the legal age of alcohol consumption was a brave approach. Glee has been a courageous show since its outset and credit for Fox for commissioning it.

The age at which you are under-age as it were is not fixed from country to country though largely age 18 is the year at which most governments consider us fit to imbibe the amber nectar.

And the age which you can drink and purchase alcohol can vary too – here in the UK we can drink it legally aged 16 but have to wait a further two before we can legally purchase. And indeed we can be given alcohol in private at a much earlier age.

The USA is quite unusual in having 21 as the legal age both to drink and purchase alcohol. So a 19 year old Gleek for example knocking back a Martini is under-aged in New York but of age in Glasgow Scotland!

And let us not forget in many Muslim countries the drinking of alcohol at any age is illegal. At the other end of this scale in some European countries such as France and Holland the legal age is 16 – I mention all of this to remind that the Web is indeed World Wide and the laws of particular countries often have no global standard and practice.

The show tackled binge-drinking and the licensed and unlicensed Alcopops in circulation.

This being Glee the songs used were not going to be a trawl through the back catalogue of Shane MacGowan & The Pogues, and other Irish drinking songs!

First round in the Far East Movement and ‘Like A G6’ with lyrics “Poppin bottles in the ice, like a blizzard. When we drink we do it right gettin slizzard” as an example of glamorising excessive alcohol consumption as a lifestyle choice. And to that end an Alcohol Awareness Week was to be set up with the Glee club to perform a song highlighting the dangers of teenage drinking.

Also performed was the Jamie Fox number Blame it on the Alcohol. Mr Schuster compliments his club’s performance but notes the song celebrates alcohol rather than warns its dangers.  Rachel then responds that the reason there are no songs about the dangers of alcohol is that there are no dangers of alcohol as long as you have a designated driver!  Schuster then points out  the dangers of drunk driving and deaths by alcohol poisoning.  Later though Schuster and Coach Beiste are on stage singing the Rudy Toombs song One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer. This song was performed by Amos Milburn in 1953 so Glee certainly going out of their catalogue comfort zone here!

Kesha Tik Tok Video Cap Opening

Tik Tok

They eventually settle on a Ke$ha song – Ke$ha referred to as ‘Ke Dollar Sign Ha’ by Principal Figgins! – Tik Tok (“Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack. Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back”) to perform as a rallying cry against alcohol at morning assembly! – but ending in a tidal wave of vomiting rather like the tsunami of invective which ended The Grand Opening episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm – it just built and built and leaving us wondering if its crescendo was ever going to come!

Sue Sylvester then pins the blame on the ‘Alcoholic teen vomit fetishist’ Will Schuster! Schuster himself later condemns his Gleesters’ drinking-on-the-job antics and in turn is charged of hypocrisy by Quinn and so then advises he would now be going teetotal.

I did not think this was necessary – other than as an obvious plot line! – the message surely was not that alcohol in itself was bad but that alcohol in excess is bad.  In moderation it does more than ‘take the edge off’ but can be a social oil. And beer, red wine and whiskey can be pleasures in themselves – to be a connoisseur of without having to endanger your physical and mental health.

And would have preferred treating teens as adults-to-be rather than Peter Pan eternal children.

Nevertheless this un-Disney like treatment of the subject is to be commended not quibbled at.

I raise my glass to Glee – Chin-Chin!

The Daily Show – with David Mitchell?

John Stewart Daily Show

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in the USA airs four times a week on the Comedy Channel.  Four episodes of political satire on the news of the day.  It wears its politics on its sleeve – an unapologetically liberal stand.

Could we have such a show here in the UK?  And if so, who might host it?  Do we even have unapologetic progressives in the UK – or only self-doubting and or self-hating lefties?

The Zeppotron produced 10 O’Clock Live came to the end of its first series last week April 28 on Channel 4. It was a weekly show, and commercials included ran to sixty-five minutes in length. Jon Stewart’s show despite four foray’s a week does only broadcast for 22 minutes a pop so in terms of air-time there is not too much difference between them.

Could any of their four presenters host a daily show alone?

Mitchell, Brooker, Laverne, Carr

Of the four the one non-comedian Lauren Laverne often made the most thoughtful and articulate contributions to the recent political news stories.

Jimmy Carr has the highest joke content – often though the comedy seemed more important than the political points being made.  That is fine but for a Daily Show the presenter does have to be as impassioned about their beliefs as its comedic undercurrent – the comedy should serve the politics not the politics serve the comedy.

Charlie Brooker is more impassioned but often in negative tirades – I am always left knowing what he is against than what he is for.

David Mitchell blends better political and satirical content.  He is eloquent, erudite and impassioned. The Daily Show with David Mitchell has a natural ring to it?!

I focused on 10 O’clock Live as a recent British political televisual satire but there are other candidates of course.

Clive Anderson is one such candidate, but perhaps a milder Charlie Brooker – more gently savage in his negative assaults – but still negative.

Stephen Fry?  He is erudite, fair-minded and has a sharp yet gentler humour – and seems to get the ire of The Daily Mail quite a lot – always a recommendation in my book!

There are many good comedians in this country and quite a number have satirical credentials – however it is not always clear what their politics are – a few causes they support and a number of issues they oppose but less cohesive their overall party political position – perhaps though this just reflects a national ambivalence to political parties and their politicians in particular than any deeper ingrained cynicism towards politics?

The BBC has a mandate to be even-handed so that neuters a lot of its political commentary – though perhaps benefits it too as not seeing the world in a narrow party-political lens.

‘The Daily Show with whoever’ would have to be on Channel 4 – where its presenters and the production team could be as passionately partisan as they wanted.

My preference would be for ‘The Daily Show with David Mitchell’ – how about you?

Mary Portas – shopping with Mary

The Secret Shopper

Having enjoyed Mary Queen of Shops I was looking forward to Mary Portas’ new project Secret Shopper from production company Optomen aired on Channel 4.

In Mary Queen of Shops the focus was on the shop as business and how best for it and its staff to promote itself. For Mary Portas: Secret Shopper the focus was on the customer.

Mary Portas considers that we in the UK have some of the worst service in this area in the world – though I am not sure exactly the basis for that claim – clearly she has not been shopping in every country in the world! She explains in an interview on the Channel 4 website her hopes for the program and the reasons for it.

The program addressed service without a smile and what might be done to change this. It is clear that some customers are pretty awful and the mantra of ‘the Customer is always right’ must be pretty challenging to adhere to in every circumstance. It was also clear that a lot of retail staff are minimum wage with minimum training – by bosses who short-sightedly see training as a cost rather than an investment. The low wages themselves are not going to guarantee staff loyalty and motivation.

On the Channel 4 website there is a lot of feedback about the program – both from customers disgruntled with staff and staff disgruntled with customers.

I always have some suspicion about these programs that the very presence of a television crew and the prospect of an audience of millions may change behaviour while the cameras are on but wonder whether it lasts when the last crew-member has packed away their camera and mic?!  In the fashion make-over shows How To Look Good Naked hosted by Gok Wan and previously What Not to Wear with Trinny & Susannah; and in the restaurant food and service shows Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay and Big Chef Takes on Little Chef with Heston Blumenthal to name just a few and the best of them – this was addressed to some extent in that they would re-visit a year or so down the line to see whether the lessons learnt were still being acted upon.

Like these hosts Mary Portas is a larger-than-life charismatic go-getting figure – very motivational and who clearly has great experience and understanding of retail from both sides of the till.

At four episodes duration the series was not long.  I can understand why in that each episode must involve a lot of production time and work – both in preparation and implementation and then not to spread herself and her team too thinly across other retail outlets.

Perhaps though that is the limitation too of being over-reliant on one charismatic individual.  The aims of this program are big and perhaps require a bigger team to carry out.  But again perhaps it is not the sole role of a television program to do such a thing – rather it acts as a campaigning voice and rallying cry for wider consumer action.

The real success of Mary Portas won’t be a few changes to a few shop branches here and there but a cultural change to shopping service itself – and that is a big ask.  Alongside the program she is running a campaign to celebrate the best and castigate the worst in customer service – not just in shopping retail as I understand but in other areas too such as banking and transport.

Another good series and television idea from Mary Portas.  She left the BBC for Channel 4 for this show – I can well imagine both these channels wrangling over her for her next television opus!

Big Brother and Cheryl Cole – TV Heaven?

Cheryl Cole at Brit Awards 2011

Endemol makers of Big Brother have announced that Channel 5 will be reviving the show following Channel 4’s ending of it last year.

I have mixed feelings about this – I enjoyed Big Brother but probably watched too much of it – Channel 4’s axing was likely the only way I could have been weened off it – and now Channel 5 are to revive it!

And Cheryl Cole to step into Davina McCall’s shoes!  I’m sold, as a big fan of Cheryl too, but this might just be media speculation – there will be a lot I guess as Davina has said she is not interested in compering it again.

It is a hugely expensive show to produce and the audience figures have fallen away over its decade duration so some risk for Channel 5 too – I wonder what other plans they may have for it?

Big Brother does have its share of fame wannabes but the program usually strips that away and gets under the skins of its contestants into their hearts and minds.

My fear is that Channel 5 may not understand that and turn it into a circus with unnecessary gimmicks.

I hope not – time will tell.

Fashion Couturier Brix Smith-Start

Gok’s Clothes Roadshow last week reached its Channel 4 London fashion finale.

Whilst Saint Gok is the centre-piece of this show I enjoy Brix Smith-Start’s high-fashion mix just as much.

A thankless task potentially as she flies the flag of Haute Couture against Gok Wan’s creative re-constructing of High Street wares in these times of tightly controlled purse strings. And though more often than not the vanquished in the catwalk showdowns she always responds in good grace and spirit.

In Gok’s Fashion Fix she was teamed up initially with fashion buyers from Harrods, Selfridges and Browns but only Brix stuck around for subsequent fashion head to heads against this clothes magician.

And in this series she got even, literally as Gok would say – drawing the series to a close!

I enjoy too her trips around Britain to our fashion sites of creative excellence – Burberry, Barbour, Gina, Christys, Dents, Garrard among others were visited this series where each produced a specially commissioned Brix piece – lucky her! – ending this series with a Matthew Williamson gown – celebrating the craft as well as the art of British fashion.

I think though she should have a show of her own – haute couture is art as fashion, fashion as art – and if priced beyond most of us we can still appreciate dream and aspire.


Fuck You David Love Lily!

So said Lily Allen dedicating her song of the same name to our current Prime Minister in the first episode of the Channel 4 Documentary ‘From Riches To Rags‘ – which details her move out of music into fashion – it made me smile.

We can and should have well considered forcefully argued respectful debates about political parties and issues, but this reminds that sometimes a blunt outburst of Anglo-Saxon expletive is all that is necessary – as self-explanatory of what you are thinking and feeling as any much wordier editorial or commentary.

Fuck You is a single taken from her cleverly titled ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ 2009 album and has the merit of being able to be applied  to whoever or whatever most gets your ire at any given place, at any given time.

This certainly includes the leaders of our political parties and the leader of the Conservative Party obviously won’t be the last one to be the object of popular vitriol.  But for the time-being to paraphrase!

…David Cameron, fuck you!