Perez darling, you’re giving us bloggers a bad name

I haven’t written about entertainment TV for a long time. Odd really considering that the category I tick most when preparing blog posts is ‘Arts, Culture and Entertainment’. I watch quite a bit of it too (I blame my partner) and enjoy it. Big Brother included. So, I’m using Big Brother and a recent evictee from the house as a way of dipping my toe back in the water.

This year’s series of Celebrity Big Brother has been particularly absorbing. Once the usual cries of “they’re not proper celebrities – certainly not celebrities I recognise” have died down (what is ‘a proper celebrity’ anyway?) and the dodgy opening night outfits have been abandoned, the programme turns into what it also has been: a free ticket for daily people watching. I still love it for that.

Perez Hilton – celebrity blogger – has been particularly interesting to observe. I began by admiring his pluck. I identified with him because of him referring to himself as a blogger, his appearance on the show appeared as an endorsement of a medium which is often derided, an endorsement that gave Perez a triumphant narrative.

He seemed warm and outgoing, at first. His bubbly persona in part explained his celebrity blogging success. I filled in the blanks. Here was someone who had identified what his core skills were, had worked hard at infiltrating anywhere and everywhere there was a celebrity worth blogging about and translated that into a successful online product. Hats off to the guy. No, I wasn’t jealous of him, I felt a smidgen of vindication. Oh and that considerable weight loss was a massive achievement too.

But some way down the line me and Perez grew further and further apart. His arguments with Katie Hopkins became boring and repetitive (Katie Hopkins never really emerged the victor either – her childish taunting revealed an equally dark side) and once he’d started pretending to hump everything in the Big Brother garden, it quickly became apparent he was trying to manipulate the public in order to get out of the show and retain his fee. It was at that point our relationship had broken down. Perez darling, you’re giving us bloggers a bad name.

When he did finally achieve his goal of leaving the Big Brother house (last night) he did something far worse. He appeared happy to leave the house without saying ‘goodbye’ to his housemates. Once in the studio in his post-eviction interview, he repeatedly tried to dominate the interview, trying to pre-empt, avoid and generally steam-roller questions with answers which appeared to come from a rather dark place inside of him. Of course, such things shouldn’t really matter in an entertainment interview. He compounded his ever-diminishing reputation by refusing to answer a question in the final 20 seconds of the broadcast saying, “Save that for the after-show Emma!” in a belligerent, patronising tone.

I expected him as a paid participant on Big Brother to pay respect to the basic conventions of the format and of TV. It disappointed me that he couldn’t let himself be seen to bury the hatchet with his colleauges on the ‘Perez Show’ when he left the house to the booing crowd. I wanted him to be a bigger person and to understand that when he crossed the threshold back into the real(er) world, that his Big Brother persona was no longer necessary. I wanted to see him make his peace; wanted to see him appreciate the thing he claimed he always wanted: freedom from the whole thing.

I would have liked to have seen him display a little more civility in his interview with Emma too. And at the end of that interview I didn’t want to see him being crass and arrogant to refuse a question on the basis that he was saving the good stuff for the later live broadcast. It gave the impression that he thought himself bigger than everyone else on the show, managing the entire process from beginning to end. The last time I spent time on a TV production, I recall being struck by the collaborative nature of the project – that extending to the talent as well as the production staff.

It makes me wonder whether anyone who agrees to go on live television thinks carefully about how they present themselves. Television amplifies the ugliness in the world, just as social media has a tendency to highlight the extremities in personality.

Arguments are fine. Differences of opinion are to be expected and, in some formats, encouraged. Being respectful of oneself and others is what makes those things acceptable in the conventions of the reality format. Paying attention to what ones legacy could be at the end of it perhaps the most important thing of all. It saddens me when I see someone on TV who doesn’t realise that.

And it strikes me that by not doing any of that, one well-known blogger has missed out on some excellent material for his blog.

Jade Goody

“It’s all bollocks!” was my considered response to a colleague when I found myself skating towards a conversation about Jade Goody I didn’t want to engage in.  

I didn’t mean the Jade Goody machine per se, more the story in which the OK! production team defended the early publication of “that” tribute issue saying that the Goody family supported it. It did all seem like bollocks to me. Bollocks because it was a redundant act. I didn’t want to hear about it.

Marina Hyde’s column in the Guardian on Saturday reassured me, indicating the family’s feelings may not have necessarily been as accurately portrayed in the OK! press release as first thought. Who knows. I mean really. Who knows and, given that Goody died this morning. who really cares now?

Paddy O’Connell on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House described the Big Brother star as someone who polarized opinion, something borne out even this morning on Twitter by @almostwitty. @rfenwick tweeted this account of a Bishop giving his view on Sky News.

There are others, of course, who don’t necessarily feel the same way. At the time of writing a an emerging trend on Twitter was “RIP Jade Goody”. People might be tired on celebrity news and celebrity exclusives, but it seems as run of the mill and relatively common experience death is, it is her final act which is connecting people. The Canon at Motherwell church invited prayers to be said in her memory during Radio 4’s morning service this morning.

What BBC London’s Leslie Joseph described as the “sweet irony” of Goody’s death coming in the early hours of Mothering Sunday makes her relatively bizarre life to some extent even more enthralling.

Born in South East London, plucked from obscurity and thrust into the bright lights of the mainstream media as a result of an appearance on Big Brother in 2002, Goody exploited the notoriety she achieved as a result of the personal traits she was criticised for.

We became hungry not just for the salacious detail or the disparaging comments (itself nothing more than a way to feel better about ourselves), but also to figure out whether we were being conned by a well-oiled, self-publicising machine. Was she really that dim? Or did she know exactly what she was doing and was milking it for all she was worth? Little wonder some people’s views are negative this morning.

As much as some may wriggle uncomfortably at the success she has achieved and the way she has achieved it, as well as the attention her life will continue to get, in playing out her death in the mainstream she has succeeded in doing one of many things.

Apart from the obvious financial benefits for her family after her death and the raised profile for cancer prevention and treatment in the UK, Goody has held up a mirror on society, forcing us to look at the way in which they react to her and the Goody machine.

Did she deserve to be on Big Brother? Did she deserve to get the media attention she did because of it? Were we applauding mediocrity and did the industry feed the mediocrity? And in dying did we owe her more respect or might she have forgiven us for being a little bit bemused and confused about how it was her life panned out ?

TV: Celebrity Big Brother & Million Dollar Traders

We were without the internet last night thus my mind was working overtime and my notebook getting filled up with random scribbles.

It was an oddly liberating experience. Normally, I’d be sat in the lounge with my laptop fired up. This particular evening there seemed little point. After a long hot soak in the bath during which I discovered the piano music of Nielsen wasn’t anywhere near as squeaky as I assumed it was just from his name, I concentrated on the TV.

First, Celebrity Big Brother 2009. Despite my earnest promise to our friends that me and significant other wouldn’t succumb to the reality show, I have found myself watching it fairly regularly. It’s easy TV and a programme which does from time to time still challenge my gut reactions. The previous Big Brother outing saw me realise that it is actually OK to dislike (and at times be incredibly annoyed) by a blind man. This Celebrity series saw me surprised at my reaction to see mini-me Verne enter the house. The reaction was neither negative nor positive. More, why do I find it difficult to look at the man?

I’m happy to say that the initial reaction I had has now passed. Now my attentions are on Ulrika and Terry, pleased to see that people who suffered with bad reputations have now had new life breathed into their public personas. (Yes, I know it’s the point of shows like Big Brother. I’m just justifying why I’m watching it.)

As to who I would like to see win? Frankly, I couldn’t care. All I know is that I wouldn’t mind seeing the likes of Ulrika, Terry and quite possibly LaToya on TV again.

I had hoped we might shuffle up the wooden stairs to bed-fordshire post-Big Brother. Instead significant other proposed the first episode of BBC Two’s Million Dollar Traders.

It’s not my kind of TV programme. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) filmed during the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stuff, Million Dollar Traders didn’t fill in the gaps of my woefully poor grasp on the financial markets. I’d hoped for a little bit more although I suspect that if you like The Apprentice you’ll like this. I’m not the target audience, I fear.

We got half an hour in to the first episode before tiredness and guilt-fuelled responsibility kicked in. At an hour long it may be worth me catching-up on the bit I missed, although with the prospect of a sooper-dooper, knee-trembling Sky HD+ box being installed (and the internet being down at home for the next few days) Million Dollar Traders will need to be broadcast on BBC HD otherwise I will definitely miss it.

Window on the world

There was a time when my Saturday morning trips to the nearby Co-Op mini-market at the bottom of the road were both frequent and pleasurable in a less is more kind of self-indulgent way.

Yesterday was the first time in a long, long time I had visited the shop however, something brought home to me when I stood in the doorway and marvelled at the surprise new layout of the store.

Gone was the messy magazine area to the left of the sliding front doors. Instead, fresh fruit and vegetables as far as the eye could see. Everything looked clean and new. Excitement beckoned.
Somewhere behind me the voices of two girls in heated conversation jolted me out of my slightly strange sense of new store layout related excitement.

“That Mohammed is boring as fuck. He should have gone. He’s too boring for Big Brother.”
The two girls were, I was sure, passing comment on the same edition of Big Brother I had seen only the night before in which one housemate was evicted hours after another (Dennis) had been removed for “unacceptable behaviour” (spitting in a housemate’s face) towards another housemate (Mohammed).

Without stopping to think, I swung round on the two tenneagers. “Mohammed got spat in the face,” I hissed, “No-one deserves to be spat in the face. It’s a basic human right.”

Their response was immediate, giggling their apologies before nervously acknowledging their agreement.

As I followed them around the store noting the new position of the frozen goods, they didn’t make any further mention of the programme. (Before you comment on it, I realise I should have stopped and thought before I opened my mouth. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, after all. )

During a 48 hour period, however, in which we have seen a Big Brother contestant allegedly spit in someone’s face, as well as see footage of internationally successful 23 year old artist Amy Winehouse allegedly punch a member of her own audience *, I can’t help thinking there’s much more to be done before news of another murdered teenager becomes an unusual story.

I don’t want to consume news where the key headline is the latest tally of murdered teenagers. It sickens me every time I hear it.

At the risk of further emphasising the fact that I am middle-aged before my time and damaging what ever liberal image I might have succeeded in fostering, I have to use this opportunity to nail my colours to the flag.

I’m a firm believer that the likes of Amy Winehouse and the likes of reality TV contestants have a responsibility to promote a considerably more positive image of their respect for themselves and others than they have done to date.

<div* Frankly, I can’t really make up my mind for sure watching this.