Let’s start with ITV4. Yes you heard right. That slightly slow member of the ITV fold, that an Edwardian family would have locked in the attic and pretended didn't exist. But it does. And it’s home to a bewildering array of hybrids, remakes and cast-offs from the more mainstream channels. This week I came across a reality programme named Duck Dynasty. To call it a programme in any true sense of the word, is stretching things a bit. It’s a 20 minute an episode series following the lives of the wealthy Robertson family – who have, apparently, made a fortune selling duck whistles to hunters. Killing things is big business in the US.
The Robertson men all have accents south of Deliverance and beards north of Lapland. They look a bit like a homeless Charles Darwin, who’s stumbled onto the set of Dallas. The women, on the other hand, are buffed and glossy southern belles, without so much as a cuticle out of place. It’s essentially a cross between Dynasty and King of the Hill, but with all the dramatic tension of a Time Team Special.
This week, the duck hunting specialists turned their cross-hairs on some poor-old turkeys. Not content with having Mad Max style assault rifles, the Robertson’s also use face paint and lures to hunt their prey. The men waited behind a hedge - with the firepower of a Liberian terrorist - until a turkey the size of a chest-of-drawers ambled past, and then blasted its massive head off. There’s shooting fish in a barrel and then there’s filling the barrel with 50kg of semtex and throwing it off a cliff.
Staying with the faintly ridiculous, last week saw the launch of The People’s Voice – a new internet TV station launched by David Icke. Yes, the worryingly popular, lizard-bothering Alan Partridge now has his own TV and radio station. For those that don’t know, David Icke is the sports presenter turned (self-proclaimed) messiah, turned illuminati investigator, turned conspiracy creator who thinks the world is run by evil shape-shifting reptilian over lords (really). David Icke is the sort of person who sees a shadow and assumes it’s a ghost. (Actually, he’s the sort of person who sees a shadow and assumes it’s a giant gecko, in the shape of Anthony Wedgwood-Benn). Reason doesn't come into it, and the only evidence he needs is his imagination.
The new channel is a cut-and-paste amalgam of hocus-pocus, posing as journalism. It’s like a noticeboard you might find in a run-down leisure centre, advertising classes run by people named after geographical features, like River or Longshore Drift. It has programmes on alchemy, astrology, psychics and all the other pseudo-science you can think of. The programme I saw was called The Richie Allen show, which was a run through of the papers with Richie Allen and David Icke. Imagine Andrew Marr on Sundays, with peyote, Des Lynam, and sets by QVC.
Aside from the usual global conspiracy stuff, Icke made some wild and extraordinary allegations about dead politicians, based on what he always calls “provable fact.” Aren’t “facts” already proven? Not if you’re David Icke their not.
But beneath all the scalely accusations there are, very occasionally, some legitimate points.(Bare with me). Towards the end of the show, Icke fell back onto his favoured crutches of Orwell and state control. He said that with the internet, CCTV and the like, the next generation (us) are undergoing a “normalisation of state surveillance.” A good point. Surveillance has become so routine as to be mundane. So ordinary that we don’t even notice, and forget what is was like when we didn’t have nanny looking over our shoulder all the time. Perhaps he’s on to something after all? Just go easy on those lizards.
Something that really has changed the world is, according to Charlie Brooker, videogames. The misanthrope-in-chief was, for once, talking about something he actually liked, in Channel 4’s Videogames Changed the World. The programme was pretty much a geeky reminisce about computer games, starting with Pong and ending with beating prostitutes to death in GTA V. Charlie had assembled all his mates to talk about how Space Invaders and Tetris were actually the most significant cultural events since Gutenburg got cramp in his index finger. Or something.
Anyway, it was quite enjoyable looking back on all those classic retro games. But the most enjoyable thing in the show was actually Peter Serafinowicz’s hair, which looked like a spirograph drawn by Oliver Reed. Now that’s retro.