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Questions, questions. February 28, 2003

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The War on Iraq IQ quiz.

Makes you think.


Does God Like Gareth Gates? February 28, 2003

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Your Primer on British Culture:

Every couple years the BBC runs something called Comic Relief, where every British comedian, no matter how offbeat (except Chris Morris) gets together with the BBC for one night performing all sorts of wild’n’wacky stunts for “charidee”, interspersed with footage of the same comics getting all earnest and serious for a moment, as they explain that this money that people are pledging for fun is going to starving kids in Africa.

One of the main methods of raising money is through the selling of comedy red noses which people are encouraged to buy and wear for the entire day. Yes, that’s right. For one Friday in March every couple years since 1985, half of the population of Britain walk around wearing clown noses.

It’s sick, I tell you. Sick.

The other main merchandising opportunity (and there are tons: books, magazines, tshirts, everything) is the Comic Relief Single, which is invariably destined to go to the top of the charts… because it’s for charity. It began with the unlikely pairing of religiously inclined waxy-faced granny pleaser and bona fide National Institution Cliff Richard and anarchic “alternative” comedy ensemble The Young Ones, performing a funny-the-first-couple-times spoof version of Cliff’s 1950s hit Living Doll.

This year’s single is no exception, but especially upsetting because the culprits – well, some of them – are normally pretty good when they’re not being earnest.

Let me explain this.

What makes The Kumars at Number 42 such a great premise for a show is that it pretty much defines what a whole stratum of our culture thinks of itself, namely third or fourth generation Anglo-Indians.

The Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in the UK are pretty unique – they’re very British, but at the same time taking on their own identity. They’ve got their own radio stations, fashion, pop music, everything. And they’ve affected British culture for the better too. The British “Indian” restaurant is a case in point, serving uniquely British food made with Indian ingredients in an Indian style.

The Kumars at Number 42
The Kumars

Anyway, what the Kumars do is genius. It’s ostensibly a chat show in a big studio, with real celebrity guests – and pretty desirable guests, too – presented by a good-looking and fairly confident thirty-something called Sanjeev Kumar (played by the show’s writer, Sanjeev Bhaskar).

The joke is that Sanjeev, like lots of Generation X Anglo-Indians, still lives at home with his family – in fact, the studio was built by Sanjeev’s dad Ashwin behind the Kumars’ semi-detached house in Wimbledon (because he wants his son “to make something of himself”). The hapless guests arrive at the front door of the house, sit on the sofa, are plied with tea and cakes and made part of the family’s crises, and then shown through to the live studio audience at the back of the house.

Sanjeev’s show imports the American idea of co-hosts, but subverts it. Instead of a guy sitting on the couch next to the celebrity who laughs at the presenter’s jokes, Sanjeev’s mum, dad and grandma share the couch with the celebrity and basically undercut the poor guy (actually a mass of insecurities) at every move. Ashwin keeps on trying to elicit financial advice from Sanjeev’s guests and tells pointless anecdotes. Sanjeev’s mum radiates crushing disappointment at her son’s inability to find himself a wife, while at the same time idolising and fawning over the celebrities (“why can’t you be more like Charlotte Church, Sanjeev?”). And Sanjeev’s ancient, cranky and irritable grandmother considers him an idiot, lusts openly after male guests and belittles and insults poor Sanjeev at every turn.

It’s sharply observed and very funny, not least because of the reactions of the guests, who don’t have a clue what’s going to happen.

Why, then, is their take at a Comic Relief single so bloody awful?

A great deal of the blame must go to the pop star they’re sharing performing duties with: Gareth Gates. Fresh-faced butter-wouldn’t-melt Gareth became a star in Britain over a year ago now when he appeared on Pop Idol, a show so insanely popular that not only did one tenth of the entire population of the UK phone in to vote for a winner, but that the US wanted it: an American TV company – I forget which one – bought the format and one of the presenters and called it American Idol (funnily enough, a US network recently bought the format of The Kumars, although the US version won’t be Indian, obviously).

Did Gareth actually win Pop Idol? No, He was the runner up. Yes, he came second. The winner was a high camp no-not-in-the-least-bit-gay chap called Will Young. But I digress.

aw. bless.
Gareth Gates: aw… bless.

The point is, young Gareth has teamed up with the Kumars to cover cod-Gospel classic Spirit in the Sky. Gone is any kind of zip to the video. Gates delivers the song straight, while the Kumars insert “funny” lines inbetween his singing. Added to the irony is that Gareth has replaced Cliff Richard as the Godbotherer’s pop-star of choice, since he outed himself as a good Baptist who loves his mum. Doing a gospel song in a Hindu stylee with the Kumars making mildly sacreligious comments about this Jesus bloke he’s singing about will disappoint many and no doubt be seen as a betrayal by some.

I could forgive them if it was actually funny, but it isn’t. The jokes are all far too good-natured, and the best thing about the Kumars – their constant subversion and belittling of Sanjeev – just isn’t there. The best part of the entire video (having replaced the t.A.T.u. video as the number one pick on the pop video channels – which is another reason to hate Spirit in the Sky in and of itself) is right at the end, where the camera pulls back, and we reveal that the Kumars have been watching the whole Bollywood-style spectacular on the TV. Sanjeev flicks the remote control and says “what do you think?”, only to met with disappointed looks and Granny saying “Have we still got Will Young’s phone number?”

I’m not entirely sure that Will could have saved it, to be honest.

Goddess! Forgive me! (Part 1) February 26, 2003

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This just in:

dearest miss M. You don’t mean what you do or say, I think you just need some good old fashioned applesauce to calm you down. I will make it for you from scratch. The apple tree is in the back yard, and you can help pick them. However Miss M, you must dress like a country girl and throw away your whip and fire engine red lipstick.
– A good ole country boy.

Gosh. Miss Monica hasn’t been misused this magnificently since the uber creature tomb sprouted wings and sprang from her hellish dungeon. Makes her misty-eyed with perhaps sentimentality at the remembrance.

(tomb, wherever you are: we miss you, madly.)

(The whip stays.)

When you’re a freak with only half a brain, you just take each day as it comes. February 26, 2003

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To quote today’s Scary-go-Round would be to do it and its author a grave (no pun intended) disservice.

Just go and read it, OK?

Das Die Nogonyat! February 26, 2003

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How could I ever hope to compare these... beautiful... young... things with Miss Monica? Um... well...
Still at the top!

No words about the sociological import of t.A.T.u. today, I just felt like posting another picture of them.

When there’s teenage Russian lesbians being the toppermost of the poppermost, you know that all is well with the world.

Mistress! Goddess! Light of my life! February 25, 2003

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How could I ever leave Miss Monica for another?

(Although the Teenage Russian Lesbians are rather nice…)

Should Miss Monica be jealous? February 24, 2003

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Monkeyboy, Miss Monica’s webgimp, just has a thing for fallen ladies. Hence: medieval prostitute saints, teenaged Russian lesbian pop tarts, and barking Barbies. Miss Monica awaits an explanation.

Yikes! February 24, 2003

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Who would have thought that a bunch of insane megalomaniacs hell-bent on total world domination would, in all seriousness, set up a website explaining how they’re going to do it?

Someone, tell me this frightens you as much as it does me.

Do not think! February 21, 2003

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Only obey…

Yes, all you Brits out there, Americans can do satire! February 21, 2003

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Right-Wing Extremist Barbie: what won't they think of next?
“Ann Coulter”: a bizarre, monstrous, hilarious comic creation.

Being but British, I’d never heard of her before, but someone showed me the website of one Ann Coulter this morning (yes, while this blog is set for Miss Monica’s convenience to PST, some of us work on GMT. Strange but true).

For a moment, I thought that it was real. But a quick perusal of Ms. Coulter’s archive reveals that it’s satire at its best: over-the-top and brutal in its indictment of the kind of stupidity that creates a group of evildoers out to destroy us and gives them a bizarre blanket term (be it “liberals”, Jews” or whatever) because it’s easier than dealing with the problem. One thinks of Britain’s own media terrorist Chris Morris as a similar kind of satire purveyor. It’s good to know that satire is alive and well with our cousins in its most vicious form.

I mean, a cryptofascist barbie-doll sex symbol? That’s too bizarre to be true, right?