Tuesday, 1 December 2015

BBC TV's Strictly Come Dancing: Murder on the Dance Floor!

Strictly Come Dancing Judges
Len, Darcy, Craig and Bruno

Well, not quite murder...but the stench of jealousy and spite surrounds the latest series of BBC’s successful Strictly Come Dancing. Allegations of fixing and manipulation in the scoring are being flung about, with ex-pro dancers and others taking a swipe at the way judges score the contestants. The suggestion is that “star” performers have been over-marked to assist the final result. The BBC, judges and contestants like Esther Rantzen (from the second series) and Peter Andre (voted off this week) have defended the show and its integrity. 

In terms of audience figures Strictly is way ahead of its rival, Simon Cowell’s X-Factor and in keeping with media tradition, if it is successful tear it down! I do think that the show has moved away from the original premise that contestants were “non-dancers”, but those from a showbiz and stage school background will inevitably have had some kind of dance training and are most likely to score high. 
That’s a little unfair on the genuine novice and there have been times when I, as a viewer, have wondered if the judges were watching the same performance! I did wonder about a couple of markings in this latest series, but I put that down to them being experts in their field, while I am just a mere mortal.

 One story made much of the judges watching dress rehearsals on monitors backstage, but so what? It doesn't mean they are passing notes to each other, or that producers are whispering who they want kept in. Performers and judges can come and go, but the show is bigger than any of them. It has maintained its production values and, although the current series has not had the stellar contestants as previous series, some of the routines have been the best yet. We all have our own subjective views on performances and it is that which makes the show the hit it has become. Keep dancing!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Donald Trump: Americans are weird....but not that weird!

Donald Trump - does he represent the American Ideal?

Americans are weird. I mean what other nation get a “rush” on just one cup of coffee? I have never experienced that! However, I forgive them their little ways because some of the nicest people I know are from the USA. They value friendship and love their country, the latter often too much, because some bad things have been done by people cloaking themselves in the Stars and Stripes and uttering “my patriotic duty” as a defence.

But, overall, the United States has been on the side of the righteous, so it beggars belief that Donald Trump has been ahead in recent polls for the Republican nomination.  The man is sad and nasty. I was going to write “an utter joke”, but with his ratings holding, despite his controversial and insulting remarks, that would be a lie. A joke he is not. The pollsters suggest that he may draw crowds to his rallies, but his real constituency represent a minuscule number of potential voters and that there is not a chance in hell of the Republican Party giving him the nomination.  I hope that’s true, for it would be a sad day if he was seen to truly represent the American ideal

Politics is dirty, but surely not that dirty?

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Well done George Osborne: More than a number in John's little Red Book.....

So, George Osborne escaped his own trap and deftly removed the tax credits problem by dealing with it head-on. He decided not to proceed with them. Just like that! What a man! Such power! He took everyone by surprise, including those nice working people who thought they were going to lose substantial amounts of money and spent weeks of sleepless nights wondering how they would cope without the tax credits lifeline. 

He listened, he learned, he quickly realised that his bid for the party leadership, when Cameron goes, would be dead in the water if he wasn't prepared to address the issue. Like a man, he stood at the despatch box, faced down his critics and made his announcement, confounding everyone, who thought he might just meddle with the timing of cuts. 

Margaret Thatcher would have been proud, even if it meant that here was a man quite prepared to turn and turn again if it assisted his bid for ultimate power. Will his casual attitude come back to haunt him at some point? Apparently, since July the fortunes of the UK have taken a upward swing and the future is much brighter than we thought. Don't just take George O's word for it. That respected body the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) revised its forecast recently suggesting that the country would earn more over the next years than previously envisaged. It gave the Chancellor an opportunity to rid himself of the tax credits debacle without even the hint of a blush over his U-turn. I assume the OBR is an independent body? I'm only asking because the revised figures proved lucky, lucky, lucky for George O. 

John McDonnell, the Labour Shadow Chancellor, was not so lucky though. He had a brilliant opportunity to slaughter the Chancellor over the U-turn and some dodgy pie-in-the-sky figures. Instead he decided to wave a copy of Chairman Mao's Red Book, quoting from it and then tossing it to the Chancellor who was able to use it to highlight Mr McDonnell's extreme left-wing credentials.

It was a stupid "joke", although he has been on TV today, believing his gesture worked because it enabled him to highlight the government's sale of assets! To quote a man responsible for the death of between 40 and 80 million of his own countrymen as if he was an economic genius was not very clever. Looking at the shocked faces of his Labour colleagues I got the impression that he should watch his back. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Chancellor George O: Loadsa Money for Planes, Boats and Trident!

I must admit I balked when the new figures for Trident were published. £30 odd billion and a few quid more tucked away just in case. Holy God, it might be cheaper to re-build after a nuclear war. With the country in dire straits are we wasting money on these deadly capsules? If it was anyone but Jeremy Corbyn I might have agreed with them.

But, well, I really don’t know....do we need a nuclear deterrent to keep us secure, or is it about our place at the top table in world affairs? Are both objectives effectively the same? Why can’t we share one with our friendly Americans? Is it a status thing that we have to have two or three parked up while one swans around the oceans?

I like the thought that an enemy would not send a nuclear weapon our way, just because we have our own on standby, somewhere roaming the seas, to return the compliment, as quick as it takes Mr Cameron to say “Boo!” Plus, of course, we have thousands involved in the industry that builds these deadly machines and it wouldn't do to make them redundant.

More planes are being purchased for the military, no problem with that, but I am a little hesitant in my approval for a luxury jet to ferry the PM and his hangers on, plus The Queen and hers. We are told that money will be saved long-term and our leaders and betters will arrive in foreign countries feeling equal to the despots and others they visit.

Fine with me, I really don’t mind. Let government ministers use it, let Her Majesty, Prince Charles or other royals use it, but NOT, EVER, NEVER, let me see Prince Andrew emerge from this craft. Of all the free-loaders he is the one we would most resent abusing his position at our expense. I don’t care what trade mission they send him on, it should be written in law that he never sets foot on this new airplane.

For a country with no spare cash, doesn't it say much for the genius of our Chancellor George Osborne that he is able to magic up the additional billions? Of course we must respond to the security threat and ensure our armed services are up to the task, but it’s going to be difficult explaining to someone losing tax credits the viability of a luxury plane for our lords and masters.

In a few hours time George O will stand up in the Commons and present his spending review.
It could decide his own future.  

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

X Factor: Simon, Simon....what can the matter be?

Simon Cowell must draw comfort from his bank balance whenever his mind drifts back to the current series of X Factor. What the hell went wrong with a show that once attracted over 17 million viewers for a final and acres of media coverage?  Every week of the show must have felt like Christmas for Syco, ITV and those advertisers who paid loads to be part of the feel-good factor it created.

Mr Cowell is no idiot, but the past three series have been woeful and with his return to the show you would have thought he had plenty of time to get it right....other than accept he should have used the 10th Anniversary a couple of years ago to end it. The lovely Louis Walsh was sounding off in The Sun (again!), suggesting he and Dermot O’Leary should return next year, but the reality is that the whole format is now stale and should be laid to rest for at least a decade.

Of course, the show was never about the contestants, but the dynamics within the judging panel which made it interesting.  We watched for bitchy Louis, beauty and the beast in the form of Cheryl / Dannii Minogue and Sharon Osbourne, or any other combination of females and “the daddy” himself, Simon, who knows nothing about music but an awful lot about making money from it.

The problem is that over the years the viewers began to see how it worked. The put-downs, the build-ups, the rehearsed ad-libs and the contestants who were not always the amateurs they were originally supposed to be. With the exception of Mr Cowell, none of the current judges have the intelligence or gravitas to provide strong and witty critiques on performers often more talented than themselves.  

What Simon Cowell did do convincingly was restore Saturday night to a family audience. Strictly Come Dancing is likely not to have happened had it not been for those early viewing figures for X Factor. Clinging on to a stale and dying show may be adding to his bank balance, but at the expense of his reputation. Best he goes away and returns with something else.

Monday, 23 November 2015

ADELE: The 24-Carat Star!

Adele is a genuine 24-carat home-produced world star and the release of her third album 25 was eagerly awaited right across the globe. Not many artists would be able to command prime-time on the BBC, as she did last Friday, with Graham Norton obviously happy to play her humble sidekick. (I did wonder if her great friend Alan Carr spent the night gnashing his teeth and sticking pins in his Graham doll while sobbing “It should have been me!”).

It was a hard act to follow her second album 19, but overall it has had superb reviews and amazing exposure. Even those reviewers who were lukewarm about some tracks couldn't bring themselves to be too critical. It is difficult for any act to make it in the UK, but to do so worldwide is an incredible achievement, so the artist herself must have been under enormous pressure to deliver a hit album. From what she has been saying there were a couple of false starts, so you can imagine the relief at the record company when they finally heard the finished product! The jobs of more than a few were no doubt on the line.

Adele comes across like someone who is not only talented as an artist, but savvy enough to know her fan base and its expectation that she remain “grounded”. However, it would be a tragedy if she overdid the “I’m still the same” persona....unless she plans a TV career like “our Cilia”. We do expect some Diva behaviour from our superstars, but not too much! 

So, with her career and her personal life soaring high, what is she going to do for the follow-up? She can’t keep writing about HIM – he’ll start asking for royalties!