All entries for Thursday 28 January 2010

January 28, 2010

Coming of Age

Coming of Age
2 out of 5 stars


Sometimes, TV can’t be taken too seriously. Yes, it’s great that Mad Men’s back for a third series, that those angsty Skins kids will be snorting and self-harming their way to university and that Paxman’s perennial sneer is forever imprinted upon the hollow soul of the BBC, but sometimes it’s nice to lose yourself in half an hour of complete banality. Yes! From the makers of ‘Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps’ comes the second series of ‘Coming of Age,’ a yoof sitcom that follows the oh-so-hilarious tribulations of five sixth form students.
However, we are being led to believe that the monster that is Recession-bot 3000 wants the BBC to take television more seriously. The Policy Exchange recently concluded that the BBC should cut the amount that it spends on popular entertainment and shows for 16 to 35 year olds and concentrate on providing a better quality output instead of chasing ratings. It also stated that money spent on reaching 16 to 35 year olds would be better placed on E4 and Channel 4 than it is on the BBC at the moment. Of course, being the cynic that I am, I tend to disagree. The BBC is a multi-faceted organization, with a platform for intellectual programming on BBC4, (‘Alice Sommer Herz at 106: Everything is a Present’ anyone?) popular entertainment on BBC1 and BBC2 and youth programming on BBC3. Heck, they even have BBC Parliament. If the Policy Exchange is concerned with wasted money, they should look no further than BBC Parliament. I don’t know why anyone would want to sit around and watch the televisual equivalent of a bunch of bleating walruses flogging themselves, as if we need any convincing that our parliament is little more than some perverse foreplay. I digress.
I spoke to Tim Dawson, the writer of ‘Coming of Age’, this week. Tim is a man who is, as one short search on Google reveals, widely applauded for achieving success as a scriptwriter at a young age. The first series of ‘Coming of Age’ was commissioned when he was just 19. Now, this makes me a little jealous. I am fast approaching the big two-zero and I have little more to show for myself than a dirty bedroom and a dubious collection of Victorian masks. Of course, I asked him the obvious question: what is the best way to break into the industry? He dutifully replied, “I had dinner last week with a very respectable writer who show ran Cheers in America and we were talking about this. He said no-one’s written a great script that hasn’t been made. So that’s all you have to do – write a great script.” Simples. So young, so wise...
More to the point, I asked whether he thought that programs such as ‘Coming of Age’ are vital to maintaining the diversity of viewers that the BBC should be striving to attract to which he responded, “I think BBC3 is an exceptionally entertaining and adventurous channel which I’m delighted Coming of Age is a part of.  The future of the BBC lies with the younger generations, therefore it’s imperative that we are catered for adequately.”
Which I agree with, in part. I wholeheartedly support BBC3 for employing new, fresh talent like Tim, but I also believe that it shoots itself in the face with a lot of the programming choices that it makes. It is home to the much maligned ‘Dog Borstal’ and programs that we have to look forward to include ‘I Believe in Ghosts: Joe Swash’. This might just be my own personal taste, but the prospect of watching an hour of someone who used to be in Eastenders walk around a house is totally unappealing, not entertaining and unlikely to attract viewers.
But I’ve been wrong before. You may or may not remember my denouncement of ‘Miranda’ a few weeks back, but Tim shocked me when he revealed that, “Miranda was both a critical and ratings success and is returning for a second series on BBC Two.” The further revelation that “My Family regularly draws 6 million viewers and 22 new episodes are currently in production” was even more shocking. I had no idea that it was still on TV, let alone that it was still inordinately popular. Tim refutation that the sitcom is still popular is drawn from “simple logic: if a genre is popular it is by definition relevant.”
‘Miranda’ and ‘My Family’ are both programs which are outmoded and feel stale. I truly believe that they only exist to be derided by joyless beasts such as yours truly, novice television critic. But why shouldn’t they be on TV if people are watching them? Who am I to say that people can’t watch TV that makes them happy?
Whilst I’ll admittedly be snorting along with the Skins kids, imitating Paxman, buying a vintage 60s ad-men suit and avoiding the BBC sitcom at all costs over the coming months, I concede that programs like ‘Coming of Age’ have their place. Tim asserts that “I think there’s plenty of room for us all.”And why not? ‘Coming of Age’ is fun enough, heck, I even laughed with it. It completely lacks pretension and is reassuringly human. If you don’t want to take television too seriously, ‘Coming of Age’ is the perfect show for you.

Before the Bees Came


The hair grows around my finger, constraining my blood-flow. It squeezes blue into the tip. He squeezes blue. I see him at a distance, but his breath still drizzles heat onto my shoulder. “Stop it,” I grit, “stop it.”
I am glass. I am a dirty window. His breath is condensation. It is sticky, slow, viral. After the affair. It’s always after the affair.
Of course I’m naked! Of course!
The bed is dry and cold. I leave the windows open. I want the flies to come and indulge in my shit. It’s a feast, a gargantuan feast. Eyes open, and he’s there. Next to me. Hand cupping my breast, knee forcing a jigsaw connection: I don’t need to see him. He is the other side of the world. If I run far enough, I’ll come back to him. Limp in bed. I’ll come back cupping his droop and trying not to touch his hairsweat arse.
A spider-web threads its way through the flower bed. The spider waits. Nothing. The bees will come. The bees will come. And honey flows. The bees will come.
The wall is too empty. I need photos. I need smiles and friends and proof of the love. I was promised more. My mother promised me more than a walking sack of shit seeping over my ‘well, cream will sell...’ selected carpets. I am always ready to sell my life to the highest bidder.
The cat sleeps at the end of my bed, head facing the nameless-because-it-will-probably-die-soon goldfish. Pinnocchio lies dead next to me. Just a tangled mesh of wood and wool.  Oh, so I am Geppetto. His creator, version: Incest. I made that arse. I made that droop. I laugh. And I laugh.
The thread breaks, the spider waits. Nothing. The bees will come. The bees will come. And honey flows. The bees will come.
The hair around my neck tightens. The whore line. Elizabeth I called it the whore line. My finger is frozen. My hand is numb. Under the weight of my glass body, the mattress sinks. I am glass and hair. I am a wig-shop window. The wood clatters a tribal rhythm behind me. The cat stalks. The goldfish pauses to drown.
My eyes are pearls. They will not shatter. They will roll, roll onto the cream. And he will ignore them. And he will grab his tools, his mining tools, and chase coal. Snow White now. So I am Snow White. In a coffin. Waiting. The prince will come. The prince will come. There is no sin. The prince will come.
I lie, garroted. The flowers rot, the spider trapped. The thread drapes over the branches. 

Fish Eye View

White two white bumps brown metal. Bubbles and castle and hide hide. I have a fin, I want to see my fin. BREATHE. BREATHE. Perhaps I could jump. I see light.
White two white bumps brown metal. White wall, white carpet, bubbles bubbles. Pebbles and pebbles and blue grey. Long hair, stop, stop, long hair. My bowl is dirty. Clean, tail. Clean. I have a fin, I want to see my fin. I see light.
Mist. Mist. Mist. Mist. Mist.
I will attack that brown, hungry. Bubbles and castle and hide hide. Long hair and white bumps. And feet, peeping. Toes curling. Pebbles. My bowl is dirty. I see light.
Material draped around glass, a curtain frame. Up, up, up, up. How did I get here? Snow storm, over there, snow storm.
Mist. Mist. Mist. Mist. Mist.
I hear. I have ears. I have a fin, I want to see my fin. Move there, left, left, right. How did I get here? An arm, in the air, curled fingers. Teeth, brown eyes that. How did I get here? Long hair, snow storm.
Stop. Stop. Stop.

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