Not As Smart

Everyone who knows me knows how much I value the eternal quest for self-improvement. As such, I like to set challenges for myself. This could be anything from finishing a review yesterday (failed), to making it through a hellish week of work without maiming anyone (success!!!! For now…) Today, my chosen challenge was inspired by the eternally wonderful The Norm Show, and it was this: to listen to the show’s theme song, “Too Bad”, by Doug & The Slugs, forever.

I am currently succeeding.

The Life & Times of Tim

Lesson #43: There is never a good explanation for why a hooker is on your couch.

You know you’re watching a great TV show when the main character covers for his boss’ dog by pretending that he was the one who pooped beside the elevator, and bit his co-worker on the ankle, and it earns him the respect and fear of his peers. There’s just no getting around it: it’s a sure-fire way to making a show really, really excellent.

It’s all part of HBO’s slow rise to Domination of Comedy. They’ve really cornered the market on awkward, straight-faced sitcoms. It started with the awesome force of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, followed up with the worldwide phenomenon of Flight of the Conchords, and now this: The Life & Times of Tim. There’s no way of describing why this show works – I certainly wasn’t enamoured with it at first. But after ten minutes, I was ready to pronounce it one of my favourite shows ever. It’s just that funny. And look! There’s a video beneath the cut, dear.

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Eurovision of the Future: We Won’t Win

Practicing her cheeky-cheery nil points face?

Practicing her 'undeterred despite being awarded her fifteenth "nul points" in a row' face?

So: it’s approaching quickly now, with all the malevolent glee of a crazed Dick Cheney driving a dump truck full of C4 plastic explosives towards a big Mosque. It’s the phenomenon no one really understands, and nobody wants to: the Eurovision Song Contest. A cheerful, harmless explosion of very intrinscially European insanity, all simperingly sincere bald men singing dreadful love songs, and tarted-up Eastern European ladies hoping an exotic drumbeat and some half-hearted hip swivels will sway the continent to vote for them. It’s glorious in its own drunken, self-sustaining madness: recent winners include a demonic Norwegian hair metal band, a Russian pop crooner aided by Timbaland, and computer-animated rubber band from Bulgaria (maybe).

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Brand New Look, Same Old Crooks

Yes: new theme for the blog. I was kind of sick of seeing the credit bar down the bottom skewed off to one side, making the page wider than it had any right to be, plus this one is just a lot tidier – it let me get rid of a whole lot of useless stuff in the sidebar, and look! It’s bright and white and stuff!

So, hands up: who ended up finding Hulk Hogan a fairly despicable human being after watching a few episodes of Hogan Knows Best? All of you? Good – me too. It was sort of discouraging seeing a childhood hero being a paranoid, controlling, self-serving lunatic on television, especially when his wrestling persona was the paragon of all that’s good and righteous. And then, the “Nick-Hogan-crashes-a-car-and-paralyses-his-friend-and-Hulk-blames-the-friend” debacle just completely ruined the Hulkster for me. He is a truly horrible person. He didn’t so much kill my innocence, as take it in his 24 inch pythons, bodyslam it to the mat, drop an atomic leg drop on it, then play to the crowd and cup his hand to his ear as my innocence lay gasping for breath from its crushed trachea. My childhood came crashing down, and it hurt inside. So it was with an understandle degree of trepidation that I approached his newest reality TV venture: Celebrity Championship Wrestling.

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Falling In Love

Regressing to childhood is an odd and wonderful thing. This is for two reasons. Firstly, being a child was excellent: meals were cooked for you all the time, you had no responsibility of any kind, and if you go back to when you were – say – two years old, running into a door wasn’t a problem, so much as it was an important part of your main past-time of running around and falling over a lot. Secondly, growing up is rubbish. Suddenly, we have to start taking care of ourselves, and earning money and pretending we don’t find Kenan and Kel funny. I think Mr Biffo summed it up best in the dearly-departed games magazine Digitiser:

“The great thing about being a kid is you don’t get humiliated if anyone sees you running around with a tree branch, while pretending it’s a bazooka.

“The minute you hit 15 people start giving you queer looks if you so much as make an explosion sound with your mouth, while simultaneously indicating the size of the explosion by slowly moving your arms apart.”

Being a child is express permission to find everything fascinating and entertaining and hilarious. And as we “mature”, we’re forced to let go of that wonderful openness, and accept the received wisdom that Frasier is more intelligent than Saved By The Bell, even though it’s really not, and you’re just saying it is so you look smart. It’s okay, you can admit it.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I’ve found an easy way to regress to childhood at the drop of a hat, and it doesn’t involve some sort of permanent brain damage. It’s Takeshi’s Castle, and it’s the most entertaining thing to come around since chimpanzees were invented in the 60s by film studios to make comedy even more funny.

It’s basically a contrived excuse to laugh at people who fall over in excellently uncomfortable ways. A kind of deranged Japanese obstacle course hosted by “ladies’ favourite” General Lee, it rarely has any winners, but the people who don’t win aren’t losers. They are, in fact, the entire reason you watch the show. Whether they’re collapsing awkwardly on top of stepping stone, or being knocked off a rickety bridge by a flurry of cannonballs, the painful eliminations are the raison d’etre for this show. It’s rarely high-brow entertainment, but it’s always entertaining, and in the most immature way possible. This is why it’s the most important show on television right now.

The sheer stupidity of the show is acknowledged and prodded by the English voiceover, courtesy of the cheekily charming, often irritating, Craig Charles, of Robot Wars/Coronation Street/hard drugs infamy. They don’t want you to care about the competition – they want you laugh until your stomach explodes. It wouldn’t even work if it was made in England or America – it would be too calculated, too self-knowingly “random”. It works solely because it’s absurd, and it’s different, and it’s colourful, and it’s inherently Japanese.

But really, that’s looking far too deep into it. You’ll watch this show – probably while either drunk or high, or both, but often neither – and you’ll laugh at loud at least once or twice. Sometimes you’ll cry from laughing. And it will be simply because you’re watching people fall over. Being a kid is excellent.