As another year looms and everyone gets their hopes up it is worth remembering that we have had many things to be ungrateful for in 2019. I’m sure lots of you thought this year would be filled with joy but once again the human race has let itself down, and when it does this (which is almost all the time) it has to recalibrate so that somehow people are fooled into thinking that shit doesn’t stink; we lend praise where none is due and we inflate the flaccid to give the illusion of erect.
Take ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Although it came out last year it took until this year for it to finally settle on the cultural ocean floor, with the whale carcasses and the big, scary crabs. By the time it was done it had made over $900 million at the box office and was being hailed by some with taste deficiency as a masterpiece. But it isn’t: it’s a disjointed, badly paced, variously over acted or not acted at all, and all in all a sumptuous, feathery let down. Just like the band it seeks to portray it has its moments, but ultimately it’s all glitter and no grip. And just to prove my point they gave Rami Malik an Oscar for doing a not bad impression. One should remember that impressionism also requires acting to be considered acting. We watched ‘Rocketman’ recently and it was altogether a more satisfying, likeable and entertaining film. But then Elton John, for all his flaws, made far better music than Queen: a band that did extremely well out of being not much more than a series of farts in a scented bubble bath. They remain rock music’s most heinously over-rated confection.
Perhaps I’m being harsh but it is for your own good that I point these things out. You only have to read the Radio Times of Empire magazine to see how distorted some film reviews can be. This isn’t a criticism, it’s an observation. Perhaps we need new reviewers. At least Freddie Mercury had some talent, which is more than can be said for Joe Lycett, a man who has, after many years of keeping well away, suddenly popped up on my radar and my radar isn’t very happy about that. And even worse, now my radar keeps asking me questions. Who is Joe Lycett? What is Joe Lycett? Why is Joe Lycett? In fact that last one should be: why is Joe Lycett and why is he everywhere I point my eyes and ears at? Have we really become that desperate?
I would sooner live in a world without laughter than be expected to find Joe Lycett funny. There is absolutely no reason why camp can’t be funny, but it definitely needs some jokes for it to work. Camp on its own is just pantomime and expectation, and it doesn’t give you the right to pretend to be amusing without saying something worth laughing at. Every time I encounter Joe Lycett in some dark, empty, thoroughly humourless light entertainment cul-de-sac I can feel my brain shrivel up and my toe nails stop growing. He is an insult to laughter and a red, angry brand on the hide of comedy. How did this happen? Alan Carr, Julian Clary, Tim Allen – all funny. Because they say funny things.
The final bitter observation for 2019 is the third of the great mysteries that currently haunt me – the continuing popularity of ‘Gavin and Stacey’. I did try it early on and it never stuck. People kept saying I should try harder and so I did, but you know in your heart when something isn’t working. And so as everyone got all hysterical about the continuing adventures of Smithy and Nessa and Bryn and so on I just got more resentful that something so slight and forcefully unfunny could distract so many otherwise intelligent people. This Christmas the return of ‘Gavin and Stacey’ became the most watched festive programme of the last 10 years and if you listen hard enough you can hear me gasping for breath. Let us not dismiss too hastily that this show gave the world both the boundless irritant that is James Corden and the witless query “what’s occurin’?”. For this alone it should be hanged, drawn and quartered.
There, a mini dig compilation to round off the year. There’s a very good chance I’m way off the mark but there’s also a chance that I’m not. If you disagree then jolly good for you, we’re all entitled to our opinion and we should all be free to voice it. Next year is 2020 and so it seems appropriate that we should have the clearest of vision when it comes to tipping the sacred cows of entertainment. We are all allowed guilty pleasures and cheap thrills but we live in a world where mediocrity has become a gold standard and I will never be able to sit comfortably with that as a status quo. Demand better, you simply must, and when it doesn’t happen have a go at what you’re left with. That’s my motto for next year. May yours be equally happy!
G B Hewitt. 31.12.2019