How to write a hit American Kids TV series!

Here is a quick guide for all you wannabe writers who want to pen a hit US kids TV series!  It’s simple – all you need to do is follow this easy step-by-step writing process:

Create your characters:

The lead rolethe “ordinary” girl who most kids will want to be.  Someone smart, but not clever enough to make other kids hate her.  The girl next door.  Pretty, but not stunning.  A positive, likeable girl.  Freckles optional, but recommended.

The sidekick – the feisty, quirky friend.  Could be male or female.  Fiercely loyal, but obviously has a lot to learn and gets the lead role into trouble a lot.  The female friend must be slightly boyish.  The male friend slightly feminine. 

The crushdevastatingly handsome and the object of the lead role’s affections.  He never seems to realise it, though, and remains painfully unaware of her feelings.

The admirerthe lead role’s geeky admirer who is treated with a vague tolerance.  Obviously, at the end of the series, the lead character will suddenly realise that the admirer was the right person for her all along.

The nemesisa very good-looking girl who bizarrely has something against the lead character, ultimately showing that beauty is on the inside.  Seems to get what is coming to them in every episode and yet never seems to learn a lesson, because they’re back to their old behaviour the very next week.

Range of ethnic charactersthe rest of the cast should be comprised of lots of different types of people who should all conform to some loose stereotype.  Black = sassy and cool.  Asian = geeky and super-intelligent.  Canadian = a bit slow, but kind-hearted.  British = haughty and posh with bad teeth (usually evil, but not always). French = romantic and just a tiny bit sleazy.  Other ethnicity/nationality = stereotype, but with a slight twist to show that you’re not stereotyping people.

Follow the vitally important US kids show rules:

  • There must be a unique selling point – eg. They can time travel, they have a pet dinosaur, they are incredibly rich, they have a superpower, they are a secret pop star, they can turn into a dog… the possibilities are endless.
  • The plots should be over-the-top, but also should contain elements that kids can relate to in their lives.
  • Their lives must revolve around modern culture, modern gadgets, fast food, the latest pop music and will appear to be fabulously rich (apart from when they want something badly, in which case they will instantly be completely broke and will need to go to desperate measures to earn money) without any explanation of how their amazingly privileged lives and brand new things are funded.
  • Even though the characters are in their early teens, they talk with the intelligence and vocabulary of somebody twice their age.  They are also horribly rude to each other and to the adults but never get chastised by adults for their obnoxious attitudes.
  • A patronising lesson should be learned by at least one of the characters per episode.
  • There will be a constant barrage of canned laughter, piped continuously and loudly throughout the show, even when the jokes aren’t funny (95% of the time).
  • Adults will be portrayed at all times as being either stupid, arrogant or pompous.  They will always have their come-uppance.  There will always be one likeable adult character, however, but they will be at least partially child-like in attitude.

And finally, most importantly of all, you must remember: 

It must be mind-numbingly shit and annoy the hell out of every adult who is forced to watch it.

Follow the above steps and – congratulations!  You’re a US kids show writer and will have yourself a hit show that Nickelodeon or The Disney Channel will pay you literally tens of dollars for.  You will never be hired for any other writing again, but that’s a small price to pay for success!

“You’re all individuals!” “I’m not!”

One thing I really can’t stand is people talking on my behalf. Especially if they’re misrepresenting the way I feel about the subject. I wouldn’t dream of speaking on behalf of every single person in the world, so why do people in the media insist on doing so for me? For example, on the radio this morning, the presenter casually stated that everybody was pleased for David and Victoria Beckham because they were expecting their fourth child. Well, I’m not. I’m indifferent at best. Really, honestly, I don’t care. The worst thing about it is that it brings to mind that David is still bumping uglies with the miserable, talentless stick insect. Something I really don’t want to picture.  Actually, perhaps the very worst thing is that there’s going to be another idiotically named child in the world and his or her every move is going to be plastered over each and every tabloid newspaper in the country. I wonder what this one’s going to be called? No, strike that, I just don’t care. I don’t know these people and wouldn’t even have a passing interest in them if the media didn’t report every little sodding thing they do.

Another example of people speaking (wrongly) on my behalf is regarding the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Apparently “the nation” is simply filled with pride and is enthusiastically looking forward to the Royal Wedding with patriotism swelling in our hearts. Bollocks are we. Last time I looked, I was part of this nation and, frankly, I couldn’t give a fuck. It seems incredibly patronising that all of us “little people” have been given an extra bank holiday so that “the nation” can celebrate the wedding of two over-privileged, filthy rich toffs. I find the whole royalty thing deeply offensive, anyway. Their very existence means that we’re all expected to accept that people are born better than others, simply because their ancestors murdered, raped and pillaged better than other people’s ancestors. Still, it’ll definitely a proud day for Prince Charles – attending the marriage of his only son and all that.

Another thing. TV Magazines. Everybody isn’t talking about the latest Eastenders storyline. Everybody isn’t holding their breath waiting to hear who was killed in the tram crash in Coronation Street. Some people – in fact, the majority of people in the country – don’t watch these poorly-scripted, laughably unrealistic, mind-numbing excuses for television drama. I must confess, however, that I used to watch Eastenders, when it first started in the eighties. You know, when they actually tried to make it reflect the extremes of real life instead of these days when it’s all sensationalist, over-the-top bullshit with a few quirky characters thrown in for comic relief. Everybody isn’t watching Big Brother, I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here and all of those other dismal reality shows which feast on human frailties and laugh at people like Gillian McKeith making a complete arse of themselves and destroying whatever career they had left.  Some people, like me, find that kind of thing superficial and utterly boring.

Phrases like “everybody” and “the whole nation” are a blatant attempt to take away our individuality. My obvious problem with this seems to be that there’s a subtext of “if you don’t like/watch/think this, there’s something wrong with you”. It’s that sinister conformist message I really don’t like. The kind of conformism that says that I’m a bloke, therefore I must love football, drinking beer and the kind of films where Bruce Willis blows things up and kills lots of bad guys. In all honesty, I do support my football team, but I’m not a fanatic. I do like the occasional beer, but it’s not something I do more than once a month and, although Die Hard was pretty awesome, action movies really aren’t my thing. I like films with meaning, scripts with originality and, preferably, a story where someone dying in a bloody manner isn’t presented as entertainment.

I’m not a stereotype. I’m not a “typical man”, whatever that is or whatever that means. I don’t leave the toilet seat up, I do more than my fair share of cooking and housework and, yes, I can even multi-task. Football is OK, but it doesn’t have the same importance in my life as music, film and the written word. You don’t have my permission to speak on my behalf and misrepresent my views as part of “everybody” or “the entire nation”, not without asking me first – because, chances are, you’re going to get it wrong. There’s nothing wrong with the truth. Phrases like “a significant amount of people”, “many people in this country” – even “the majority of people” when it applies, all of these are absolutely fine, because they’re an accurate description. When, however, you say that everybody is doing something, thinks something or likes something, then you piss me off… and I go and do something really profound like write a few paragraphs in a ‘blog that only a handful of people will ever read.

There. That’ll show the bastards.

How “In The Night Garden” was conceived

30th August, 2005

It’s great working for the BBC. I’ve been given a project to work on, a new children’s programme with the working title, “In The Night Garden”. I’ve got to expand on that, create the setting, characters, everything. We want it to have a similar impact to our previous success, the Teletubbies, so I’ve got my work cut out. It’s going to be brilliant! Deadline is the end of September, 2005.

25th September, 2005

Hmm. Having a bit of a creative dry spell. The title, “In The Night Garden” just makes me think of a garden, at night. Not much to run with there. I’m thinking of maybe making the lead characters badgers, worms, moles and foxes. I’ll run that past Anne and the team tomorrow and see what they think.

26th September, 2005

Well, she hated it. Didn’t think that it showed enough imagination. She wants something with a little more “wonder and magic”. I’m beginning to get nervous. I’ve only got three more days to come up with my completed synopsis. Damn.

27th September, 2005

OK, just brainstorming here… talking vegetables… owls with attitude… green things that whistle. Oh Christ, I don’t know. I really don’t know. I need to go somewhere inspirational, somewhere that will get the creative juices going. Maybe sit in an actual garden, at night? I’ll try that.

28th September, 2005

Gardens are fucking boring. Nothing happens. It was cold, it rained. Don’t think that’s going to make a very entertaining series, is it? Welcome to “In The Night Garden”. It’s cold, it’s fucking raining. What fun, eh kiddies? That was a complete waste of time. Bollocks.

29th September, 2005

6pm

Well, this is it. I have to hand it in tomorrow. So far, I have nothing. Zip. Zilch. Zero. I’m screwed. I may even lose my job over it. I’m going to have one more crack at coming up with something. Sod it. May as well have a glass of wine or two as well. May help the mind relax and give me something I can’t get out of it at the moment. Mmm. Nice. Rioja, my favourite. How about a character called Rioja? No, that’s silly. It’s an alcoholic drink, not suitable for children at all. Think, Jonathan, think. Hmm. How about multi-coloured hippo-like creatures with stripey noses who have a tinkling tree which… hang on – bollocks, that’s the Fimbles. Oh God, I’m losing it. Better pour myself another glass of wine. This isn’t as easy as people think!

7pm

I hate working for the BBC. It’s no good, all I can think of are programmes which have already been made. I’ve just re-written The Tweenies, The Flumps and Button Moon in my head. None of which are helpful. I’ve even been imagining that I could somehow make Terry & June into a children’s programme starring robotic meerkats. Better pour myself the last of that wine. What harm can it do?

7.30pm

OK, OK, OK. I think I’ve got something here. I think it sounds brilliant, but, then again, I am a little tipsy, so I probably would. Let’s go back to basics and make something that’s like Teletubbies, but isn’t Teletubbies! Multi-coloured teddy bear-type creatures with stupid names that don’t actually look like anything – and have television screens on their tummies! Actually, no, scratch the television screen idea. That’s a bit too much like Teletubbies, isn’t it? Hmm. What would they be called, though, and what could they do? I think I’ll open another bottle of that Rioja. It’s rather moreish.

8pm

Right, I think I’ve got something! I was thinking about Peppa Pig. Ha ha, not in that way. Well, not right now anyway. Ha ha! Right, anyway, I thought the lead character could be called Igglepiggle, because that’s a really cute name and the kids will love it. What should he do and say, though? I was thinking that maybe he never says anything, but he has like, a bell in his toe and a squeak in his middle and a klaxon up his arse… and, well, not the last one, but the rest are really good ideas! He can be blue. I like the colour blue. Now to think of some friends for Igglepiggle. Igglepiggle! That’s great!

8.30pm

More wine, I think. REALLY enjoying this wine. I’m not drunk. Really, I’m not. I’m just REALLY enjoying the wine! Ha, just nearly fell over getting another glass of wine and said “Upsy Daisy”, so – fuck it! Igglepiggle’s best mate can be Upsy Daisy. Maybe like a wine-coloured, wine bottle character. Or a rag doll type thing. Yeah, that’s much better than a wine bottle. Wine bottle! What was I thinking? I think that she can speak, but she only ever says her name. And maybe something really profound, like “religion is the opiate of the masses”! Ha ha, that’s bloody hilarious. No, can’t have that, too controversial. How about something inane like “Daisy Doo”. Yeah, that’ll do. Fuck it. He can parp and tinkle at her and she can say her name repeatedly back at him… and something witty like… like… um… “Pip Pip Onk Onk”! Bwahahaha! That’s hilarious! Kids will fucking LOVE IT!!!

9pm

Just been thinking (over another glass of wine, natch!) – we need more characters. It can’t be just those two parping, tinkling and giggling at each other. Let me think. Another glass of wine should do the trick. They need another friend. Someone equally as stupid and inane. Something like Macca Knacker. No, not suitable for kids. Macca Stacker, Macca Tracker… Macca Pakka? Yes! That sounds great! He can be like Upsy Daisy and just say his name. Maybe do a stupid little dance too. Have stupid little things in the stupid little garden with stupid names. Like an Og-Pog and an Uff-Uff. Christ, that sounds so stupid. But it may just be stupid enough to work!

9.30pm

OK, now I think I am a bit drunk. Losing the will to live here. Having trouble concentrating and typing. Thank God for spell check! All I can think of is a load of old nonsense. Stuff like Ninky Nonk, Pinky Ponk, Tombliboos, Pontipines, Tittifers, Haahoos and Wottingers! What a load of bollocks! We can’t use those. Surely. Can we? Can we?!?  We can, can’t we!!  Hell yeah, I’ll make the Ninky Nonk a train, the Pinky Ponk a big fuck-off balloon, the Tombliboos will be some little annoying twats who say annoying twattish things, the Pontipines can be idiotic idiots who all bugger each other, the Tittifers can be like, birds or something and… you know what, I’ll work out the rest later. I really need to go to sleep. My head is pounding.

9.45pm

Ah crap. I’ve just thought. What the hell has all this got to do with the title “In The Night Garden”? Absolutely bugger all, that’s what.  God, my head. I haven’t drank this much in a long time… I really need some sleep. Hmmm.   Sleep?  Hang on – sleep!  That’s it. All of the characters can be in somebody’s dream, like J.R. in Dallas, but set in a garden instead of Texas. Brilliant! I’m a fucking genius! Now that’s sorted, I can get some sleep myself. This is going to be one fucking fantastic kids show!

30th September, 2005

8.15am

Oh God. I’ve just woken up and I’ve got to be in the office at nine, to make my presentation to Ragdoll Productions. What the hell am I going to do? Everything I wrote last night was complete and utter bollocks! It’s all idiotic nonsense! None of it makes any sense! Some of it is out-and-out offensive! Well, I’ll just have to clean it up a little on the train and use it. Nothing else for it. If I get fired, I get fired. Oh God, I’m going to get fired.

The BAFTA-award winning “In The Night Garden” first aired in March, 2007.

2010 – Review of the year

Sorry that I’ve been a bit quiet in the last week or so.  I haven’t been in the best of health and, well, it has been Christmas and I’ve also had to work.  Life has to come before ‘blogging.

So, 2010.  Is it so very predictable to talk about the year just gone when it comes to the end of the year?  If so, then call me Mr. Predictable of Predictable Lane, because that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  However, I do find it much easier to talk about the year 2010 at the end of December when lots of things have happened, rather than to do so in January when you’ve got very little material to work with.  Call me Mr. Conventional of Conventional Street, if you like, but make up your mind.  I can’t be Mr. Predicatable and Mr. Conventional.  Anyway, if I reviewed this year before it happened, at least I’d have been able to accurately predict one thing… that the England football team would (under)perform like a bunch of talentless, over-paid, non-league players at the World Cup.  It’s no exaggeration to say that we were one of the very worst teams out there.  Even North Korea seemed to have more of a chance than we did.

My World Cup, bizarrely, was spent in Milan.  The thinking behind that was that Italians are football crazy and spending a couple of weeks in an Italian city rich in culture with lots of exciting games to watch in the evening would be a great way to spend the early summer.  Unfortunately, the reality was a little different.  The Italians (or specifically the Milanese) seemingly couldn’t give a toss about the World Cup and we struggled to find anywhere showing the live matches other than an Irish Pub with extremely rude staff or a local bar which they seemed to open when they felt like it.  On the whole, I enjoyed the experience, but found it extremely expensive (16 euros for a pint of Carlsberg in one bar near the station) and a bit same-y after a while.  I would have liked it much more if we’d have been there for a week rather than a fortnight.  Oh, and if England had won all of their games and played with a little bit of skill and pride instead of playing like a bunch of lobotomized monkeys… but that would have surely been asking too much.

Let’s rewind to how the new year started. On December 31st, 2009, I was working a late shift and finished at a depot in North London at approximately 11:00 p.m, after which I was to be taxied home.  I was hoping to get to my home in South London in time to see the new year in, but it was looking increasingly unlikely and, as the time ebbed away, I knew that I was going to be spending my first minutes of 2010 with a London taxi driver.  Sure enough, as Big Ben chimed, I was going past a 24-hour convenience store in the Wandsworth area and a group of drunken teenage chavs outside the shop were holding their cans of newly purchased Stella Artois in the air shouting, “Happy New Year, you fuckers!”.  It was at that point, just as the year began, that I got a bit of a sinking feeling about 2010.  Surely things could only get better?

In fact, the whole year has been a bit on the strange side, but also really rather wonderful.  I met someone in late January on a very silly group I created on Facebook, we got chatting, soon exchanged very frank life stories and I began to get some rather foolish feelings of love before I had even met her.  Then, late on February 9th, she invited me to Brighton to come and meet her and I arrived, on my motorbike, at just after midnight on February 10th.  After a few hours talking and, after a bit of a kiss and a cuddle, I left Brighton on Cloud 9, having met the person I’m now planning to spend the rest of my life with.  Unfortunately, that elated feeling was interrupted by me losing control of my motorbike on the way home, coming off at about 40 mph in icy conditions and ending up in Redhill Hospital.  The outcome of this was me tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee and having about five months off work, which was much less fun than it sounds.  Still, the time off work allowed me to spend more time with Corinne than I could have if I’d have been working, so I suppose being in pain and having trouble walking had its perks.  Probably my single highlight of this year was when, on August 27th, Corinne and I got engaged and, around the same time, I moved in with her.  Life doesn’t get much better than that.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of great artists this year, such as Jeff Beck (great), Eric Clapton (disappointing), Brendan Benson (superb), James McCartney (promising), David Ford (sensational), Ray Davies (not great), Paul Weller (good, but self-indulgent), Divine Comedy (excellent), Jason Lytle (good) and Squeeze (brilliant).  I’ve been unfortunate enough to miss quite a few concerts too, such as Grant-Lee Phillips (owing to volcanic dust), David Ford (three times – twice owing to my motorbike accident the week before and once, last week, thanks to the snow) and Rufus Wainwright (family crisis).

Apart from my favourite albums (which can be viewed on a previous ‘blog entry, dated December 8th, 2010), my main forms of entertainment have been television and film.  I’m normally much more of a book reader than I have been over the past twelve months, but the only relatively new book I’ve read this year has been Stephen King’s Under The Dome – and that was published in 2009.  I thoroughly recommend it, though.  It’s one of his best.  Many of the films I have gone to the cinema to see in 2010 have been accompanying my daughter, Bethany, who turned fourteen this year and, in truth, I have only seen a handful of new films.  However, out of the ones I have seen, the three films to really stick in my mind as exceptional were Alice In Wonderland, Despicable Me and Inception.  I’ve spent the rest of my film-watching time catching up with a lot of things I missed last year, courtesy of Sky Movies.  In fact, I only watched Avatar for the first time a couple of nights ago, so it’s fair to say that I’m not exactly in the running to present Film 2011 any time soon.

2010 has been a rather good year for television, though.  New programmes I have enjoyed include the rather tasteless Him & Her, which was like The Royle Family with added sex, set in a bed-sit, Coppers, a no-holds-barred documentary on the police force and Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights, an uncompromising, offensive, outrageously funny stand-up and comedy sketch show.  Favourites which have returned and haven’t disappointed are Doctor Who (OK, Matt Smith isn’t half as good as David Tennant, but it’s still a great show), the ever brilliant House MD, Peep Show, QI, True Blood and the criminally underrated Harry & Paul.  The third series of The Inbetweeners was supremely funny in places, but over-the-top and extremely disappointing in others, with the main roles often descending into caricature.

Of course, it feels almost frivolous talking about this year in terms of my life and my favourite music, films and other entertainment.  There have been some devastating world events, killing – in total – hundreds of thousands of people.  Earthquakes, tsunami, floods, volcanic eruptions… some of the news has been difficult to process and unimaginable in consequence for people living a relatively comfortable life in the United Kingdom.  What can we do?  Alleviate our guilt by throwing a pound or two in the collection buckets at train stations or the high street.  Maybe set up a direct debit to help fund the Red Cross.  Go about our safe lives feeling slightly guilty that we have got it pretty good, compared to so many others.  However, it has to be said that you solve nothing by living in a state of perpetual guilt.  There’s nothing to be gained by attempting to absorb all of the pain and suffering in the world and continually reminding everyone that their troubles, compared to others, are minimal.  People don’t want to hear it.  There’s (nearly) always somebody worse off that you, but that doesn’t always make your worries easier to bear, nor is it any great comfort.  Of course, perspective can be lost sometimes – like that woman from Chatham who rang 999 to report the theft of her snowman or, even, the reaction of the world to Mary Bale, the woman who flung that unfortunate cat into the wheelie bin.  Yes, what she did was cruel and wrong, but what was even more shocking for me was the amount of death threats and threats of violence that she received for that moment of madness.

Of course, I can’t sign off without acknowledging our change of Government in the UK this year, from an unpopular Prime Minister that nobody voted for to an unpopular coalition that, well, nobody voted for.  Unfortunately, I was one of the many people who the Liberal Democrats made a complete twat out of, although, in my defence, I was personally attempting to re-elect the affable and effective incumbent Carshalton & Wallington MP Tom Brake.  The fact that the whole party suddenly became the one which I agreed with most was just a happy coincidence.

With the introduction of proportional representation/preferential voting instead if the antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system, the scrapping of University tuition fees, higher taxation of the super-rich and people who earn up to £10,000 a year paying no tax on their income, this was a party I felt I could get behind, after feeling well and truly betrayed by the Labour Party.  I’m not sure that anyone could have seen coming, however, the fact that nobody got an overall majority and the Lib-Dems, holding the balance of power, deciding to form a coalition with the Conservatives, rather than their more natural political allies, Labour.  Of course, all of the Lib-Dem campaign promises have gone out of the window and they have lost a huge amount of support and credibility, as they are seemingly fitting  in with the Tory ideals and policies rather than having any great influence on the present political events.  It’s all very disappointing, but what makes it even harder to swallow is the fact that my vote was, effectively, a show of support for those bastards who are currently in power.

Well, tomorrow will be 2011.  It’s just another day, very much like today, but a new year is often a symbolic event for people.  It’s a time when you can put the events of the previous twelve months behind you and start anew.  As for me, I’m looking to continue building my life with my beloved Corinne and our family, to maintain and build relationships with my two daughters from my previous marriage, to plan for a wedding in 2012, to completely transform the house we live in and, last but not least, to learn to drive.  Yes, although I’ve been driving trains for years, I don’t actually have a license to drive a car.  Shocking at the age of 35, I know, but I’ve never really ever felt the need, until now.  I’m also resolving to keep writing this ‘blog.  That may be good or bad news to you – although if it’s bad news, why are you reading this in the first place?  Are you a masochist, or something?

Other things I’m looking forward to in 2011 are new albums by Iron and Wine, Ron Sexsmith, Teddy Thompson, R.E.M. and the follow-up to The Seldom Seen Kid, one of my favourite albums ever, from Elbow.  I’m also rather excited (already) that I’ll be seeing Elbow at the Brighton Centre in March.  I’ll be very surprised if that isn’t one of the best concerts I’ll go to next year.  In the pipeline are new albums by Coldplay, Julian Lennon, Foo Fighters and Rush.  I’m still hopeful for a new Jeff Lynne album, perhaps a new George Harrison release and maybe even Noel Gallagher will break his post-Oasis silence.  Liam’s group, Beady Eye, are releasing an album at the end of February, but surely that isn’t going to be much good… is it?  As for television, I’m also anticipating the return of Torchwood.  It’s been too long.

Well, it’s customary at this point to wish you all a very happy, healthy, prosperous 2011, full of good fortune, tasty sandwiches, interesting and varied days, wine, song, love, sex, sexy love, lovey sex, vitamin c, decent coffee, frequent refreshing cups of tea, baths, showers, bidets, immersion heaters, step ladders, sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, lucky pennies, dogs, frogs, hogs, logs and snogs.  OK, not snogs.  I hate that word.  So… yes.  I wish you all of that.  Feel free to miss out the parts you don’t want, but life often brings you many things you don’t want, so it’s often better to have an unwanted immersion heater than a poke in the eye with a pointed stick.  That’s my philosophy, anyway.

Happy new year, you fuckers!

Time for Teletubbies, Time for Teletubbies, Time for Teletubbies…

*Jaunty Theme Music*

Hello children.

Hello Tinky-Winky.

“Eh Oh” said Tinky-Winky.

Hello Dipsy.

“Eh Oh” said Dipsy.

Hello Laa-Laa.

“Eh Oh” said Laa-Laa.

Hello Po.

“Eh Oh” said Po.

Hello Teletubbies. What are you doing today?

“Teletubbies waiting for fwiend!” said Tinky-Winky enthusiastically.

“Waiting for fwiend!” agreed the others.

The Teletubbies were waiting for a friend.

Just then, there was a knock on the door. Laa-Laa rushed over to open it. It was Barney, the big purple dinosaur.

“Eh Oh Barney” said Laa-Laa.

“Hello Laa Laa” said Barney, cheerfully.

“Eh Oh Barney” said Dipsy.

“Hello Dipsy” said Barney, a little less cheerfully.

“Eh Oh Barney” said Tinky-Winky.

“Oh, knock it off, will you?”, snapped Barney, “I really don’t have time for this shit.”

“How wude!” exclaimed Tinky-Winky.

Poor Tinky-Winky.  Barney was rude.

“Does Barney have our stuff?” asked Po coyly, wringing his hands.

“Yes, Barney has your stuff”, replied the grinning dinosaur, “but Barney needs the cash up front.”

Dipsy stamped his foot, impatiently. “Dipsy all fucked up – Dipsy needs a hit.”

Dipsy was going through severe withdrawal symptoms.  Poor Dipsy.

“In a minute”, chuckled Barney, “But I need my money first.”

“Barney want Tubby Toast?” enquired Tinky-Winky.

“Look – don’t fuck with me”, smiled Barney, revealing a gold tooth, “Shove your motherfucking Tubby Toast up your motherfucking ass along with your stupid gay motherfucking handbag and give me the motherfucking money, or I’ll fuck you up. I’ll fuck you up bad, you bitch-ass motherfuckers!”

“Oooooh!” gasped all of the Teletubbies together.

“Hey – where’s The Nu-Nu?” asked Barney, “He’s not hiding out back, packing heat is he?  You don’t want to play games with me, Tubbies!  Remember what I did to those bitches in Lazy Town when that Sportacus tried to jump me?”.

The Tubbies all shook their head in protest.

“Nu-Nu not here!  Nu-Nu overdosed on coke!”, laughed Laa-Laa, “Nu-Nu had seizure and looked funny!”

“Tubbies said ‘again, again'” chuckled Po, “But Nu-Nu was dead!”

Poor Nu-Nu.

“Nu-Nu dead!” roared Tinky-Winky and the Teletubbies all fell to the floor laughing, apart from Dipsy who was going through cold turkey and had the cold sweats and shakes.

“Need a fix”, muttered Dipsy shivering violently, “Need a fix”.

Poor Dipsy.

The other three Teletubbies glanced at Dipsy and then all looked at their big purple friend expectantly.

“Oh OK then”, groaned Barney, “but I need the money tomorrow and you’d better pay me.  Double!  You wouldn’t like me when I’m mad.  That bitch Elmo didn’t pay me and now I have his balls in my backpack.  I fucked his shit up real good!”

Barney removed two little furry balls from his backpack and held them up, proudly.

“Ooooooh!” said the Tubbies, wide-eyed as Barney danged Elmo’s testicles in front of them.

“Now remember the song”, laughed Barney;

“I love you,
You love me,
Remember Barney’s money,
Or he’ll break your fucking knee
With a great big knife,
He’ll perform a vasectomy,
Don’t even think of fucking with me”.

The Tubbies finished singing along, all nodded solemly and held out their hands expectantly.

“Tank-oo Barney” said all of the Tubbies, taking their baggies eagerly.

The Tubbies loved their skag.

After handing over the drugs and watching four contented, wide-eyed Tubbies shooting up, Barney stepped over the icy-white corpse of the Nu-Nu and wandered home, past the happy hopping bunnies and pretty flowers.

Time for Tubby bye-bye, Time for Tubby bye-bye… oh – they’re ripped off their tits on heroin and are really quite unconscious.  I do hope Barney hasn’t sold them some bad shit.  We’ll see in the morning, children, won’t we?

Join us tomorrow when Po and Dipsy are forced to sell their bodies to The Fimbles in order to pay Barney, Laa-Laa takes up mugging to pay for his habit and Tinky-Winky gets some bad news from the doctor after years of sharing needles.

Bye-bye Teletubbies!

*Jaunty theme music*

What could you possibly have against The X-Factor?

I loathe X Factor and make no excuses for expressing my disdain.  This also goes for Pop Idol, American Idol and all of those similar musical “talent” shows – they all share the same format and disregard for actual artistry.  The fact that yesterday’s show was a Beatles special only added to my irritation and my dislike of the whole fake format.  Knowing that those fame-hungry wannabees under the “guidance” of talentless, populist purveyors of lowest-common-denominator “entertainment” such as Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole and the other one (is it the less attractive Minogue or the Irritating Irish Twat?  I genuinely don’t know!) were murdering the songs of perhaps my favourite band of all time was like knowing that an apprentice brickie was attempting to re-build the Taj Mahal.

I wouldn’t particularly care if the programme didn’t present itself as if it was anything but mindless, meaningless entertainment – but when they cover real, genuine, talented artists’ music, like they have with Elton John and The Beatles, they cross a line.  Some music is just perfect the way it is and shouldn’t be touched by any but the most careful musician.  There have been some great cover versions over the years, but none have come from people who have graduated from the X Factor.  People may argue that having people do something different with a song can be interesting, different and better.  Well, yes, sometimes.  However, if you have a perfectly beautiful Labrador Retriever, you don’t shave it and paint it purple just to make it different – because that would be an abomination.  That’s exactly what the X Factor does to good songs… shaves them and paints them purple.

I’m not denying that some of the contestants on these shows have had a good pair of lungs on them – but being a good singer isn’t enough.  I’ve seen karaoke singers who are just as good as the vast majority of contestants I’ve witnessed on X Factor.  In fact, my other half has a fantastic voice and could probably go far on a programme like that… but I wouldn’t want to see her publicly picked apart, which is what tends to happen to any contestant who makes it past the first few rounds.  That’s the nature of the programme – it’s not about art, it’s not even about music, it’s about personality, heroes, villains, winners, losers, victory and public humiliation.  The Romans had a place where they put on similar shows – they called it a Colosseum.

There is a real paucity of quality music programming on television.  In fact, the only real remaining mainstream programme which consistently presents interesting and varied musical artists is Later With Jools Holland.  You get a good mix of fringe and leftfield artists, together with world music, mainstream pop, rap, indie and stadium rock.  However, Jools is relegated to very late at night on a Friday whereas X Factor and the like are given the prime Saturday evening spot.  To me, it seems like it should the other way round.  The public are literally force-fed the mainstream drivel while the really good stuff is tucked away in some place you really have to go out of your way to find.

Maybe I’m just frustrated with the public’s general lack of taste and willingness to accept low standards.  The fact that people seems to swallow whatever rubbish they’re told to like and never seem to demand something with a little more meaning.  Maybe it just annoys me that brilliant artists who produce thoughtful, original music and lyrics have minimal success whereas the heavily produced pop slush (much of which originates from shows such as the X Factor) featured on radio stations such as Radio One, Heart and Capital sells by the bucketload.

Maybe I’m just a grumpy, old musical snob who wouldn’t appreciate this sort of thing at my time of life?  Grumpy?  Possibly.  Old?  Does 35 count as old (don’t answer that!)?  Musical snob?  Debatable – the inclusion of Abba, ELO, Erasure and a few less than respected others in my collection would probably counter the kudos I’d receive from Uncut or Word readers who may nod approvingly at my Midlake, Elliott Smith, Decemberists or Hold Steady.  As for whether it’s merely my approaching middle age making me dislike this sort of thing… well, to be honest, I’ve never cared for mainstream pop (as a rule)  or poor musicians (or even non-musicians) meddling with songs they’re not artistically qualified to touch.  It’s not an age thing, it’s a me thing.

I suppose that if it didn’t take itself so seriously, if it wasn’t such a grotesquely successful money-maker, if it didn’t tackle and subsequently ruin great songs, if it didn’t swallow up and spit out the contestants so mercilessly, if it wasn’t so transparently a pantomime and if it was actually produced and presented by people who have an interest in producing music with originality and integrity rather than just making mountains of cash, then I may actually take an interest in it.  But those are a hell of a lot of “ifs”… and it’s not likely to happen soon, is it?  Until then, I’ll just be here, quietly grumbling, doing my best to ignore it – but it’s quite difficult when it’s everywhere you look.

You’ll have to excuse me now.  I have to tend to my purple, hairless Labrador.

How To Improve Television, Parts 1, 2 & 5

Daytime TV couldn’t possibly be worse, so I’ve come up with some ideas for alternative TV programmes.  Just brainstorming.

Homes Under The Hamster

You take one hamster and put it on the roof of your house.  That one hasn’t got past the “concept stage”.

Mash In The Attic

Take 5lbs of King Edwards, boil in lightly salted water for 25-30 and then go up to your loft to mash the bejesus out of them, with a bit of milk and butter.  Mash In The Attic.  Brilliant.

As Yet Untitled Project

How about a David Dickenson-hosted show where people go round local brothels in search of the cheapest vaginal intercourse. It could be called Bargain… something or other. Haven’t quite perfected the title. But it’s a winner!

Animal Hospital

Yes, there’s already a programme called Animal Hospital – but this one is different.  It’s a real hospital run by Animal from The Muppets, who gets to perform violent, unnecessary surgery on unsuspecting patients using only his drumsticks, with hilarious results!

Eel Or No Eel

Contestants plunge their hands into different numbered tanks in order to be left holding the tank containing the electric eel. Losers are electrocuted – winners receive 20 Silk Cut and a copy of Razzle.

Through The Arsehole

A celebrity colonoscopy programme presented by David Frost.

The Jeremy Kyle Shoe

A daily documentary about a single parent, asbo-ridden piece of chavvy footwear.

iBarley

A kids’ programme about a precocious, enterprising ear of corn with it’s own internet show.

Wacky Racists

Adolf Hitler, Jade Goody, Oswald Mosely, Ron Atkinson and those lovable rogues the Ku Klux Klan star in a cartoon where they all compete with Jesse Owens to stop him from winning any medals in the 1936 Olympics, with hilarious results!

Nudesround

John Craven bares all in an informative current affairs programme for children and perverts.

How Clean Is Your Spouse?

Make sure you wipe properly because Kim and Aggie are donning their rubber gloves and following up complaints of poor personal hygiene from disgruntled husbands and wives!

Thongs Of Praise

Religious programme where people sing hymns in their skimpy underwear.

Mouse M.D.

Hugh Laurie stars as a grumpy, but brilliant, diagnostician who is, however, convinced that he is a small rodent.

Harry Hill’s TV Burp

“But it’s already on!” I hear you cry. Well, not when the TV stands for Transvestites who need winding by the bald-headed funnyman.

How To Cook Good Naked

Keith Chegwin gets his diminutive tackle out again to host a cookery programme that features recipies suitable for the poorly-endowed culinary nudist.

Blankety Wank

Jordan, Kerry Katona and Jade Goody’s Mum all star in this wholesome slice of family fun where celebrities get tossed off under a blanket by the ‘glamorous’ hostesses. The winner is the one who can last longest without shooting his load. The prize is a weekend in Mablethorpe with Jimmy Saville. The first contestants are Russell Brand, Wayne Rooney and Graham Norton. Norton is said to be “quietly confident”.

…and finally:

How about a new late night BBC show utilizing the latest CGI technology, where perverts get to step back in time and fulfill their prehistoric fantasies – Wanking With Dinosaurs.

I thank you.  I’ll be here all week, apart from on Friday, when I shall be painting eggs.