Accept No Irritation

May 2, 2009
bitter
(Bitter, lesbiany T-shirts available at http://www.redbubble.com/people/boxcutters.)

Last week we talked about Henrie Stride and – let’s be honest – I wasn’t very complimentary. In fact, I was downright irksome.

You may remember that Ms Stride is convinced that people are only interested in “pretty” and “upbeat”, so how did my low-level sniping affect the popularity of The Outland Institute? We had a massive spike of readers and Wednesday the 29th had the most visitors the Institute has ever seen. Why? Because misery loves company. Everytime I write something that drips of bile – like this review of BBC’s Survivors – the numbers shoot right up.

I think the truth is that “contented” is not the same as “interesting”. As our old friend Leo Tolstoy once said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. He’s a laugh-riot, isn’t he? You should see the thing he wrote for Adam Sandler.

I had been pondering on what this all meant when I found myself at a party, trying to talk to someone I hadn’t met before. The conversation was stilted, so in desperation I said, “Tell me five petty things that annoy you“. And let me tell you – it’s an ice-breaker. Soon we were all getting along like a house on fire. A funhouse on fire. Full of clowns. A funhouse full of burning clowns.

When it comes to misanthropy, of course, no-one beats the British. The BBC have an excellent television show called Room 101, which is like Enough Rope for the terminally depressed. A celebrity guest comes on to discuss the things they hate, hoping the host will remove them from existence (which is to send them to Room 101, in a strange conceptual mangling of George Orwell’s 1984). Starting life as a radio show in 1992, it moved to TV in 1994 and has even seen a Dutch spin-off (presumably as a form of revenge for Big Brother). And that’s without mentioning the “Grumpy” franchise, which started with Grumpy Old Men (2003), then led to Grumpy Old Women (2004), Grumpy Old Holidays (2006) and will presumably soon include Celebrity So You Think I Love The Make Me A Grumpy Old Supermodel, Get Me Out Of Here House (2010).

101

And I find I like Will Self more knowing that he hates airport architecture. Knowing Meera Syal dislikes Austria is strangely comforting. And seeing that Michael Grade still feels the need to openly despise Doctor Who – nearly 20 years after he cancelled it – says more about him than the program in question. I find these petty dislikes give me a much better view of the person – they feel more intimate, somehow, and less filtered than hearing them talk about their love of fine wines, or charity work. (Remember how on Perfect Match everyone used to like “travelling, raging and meeting people”?).

So do the things we hate define us better than the things we like? I sent an email out to a number of the Institute’s Friends and Leavers Of Comment, to gauge their opinion, and to ask them to list five minor things that annoy them. I swear I have NEVER seen emails come back so fast. It would seem people love to talk about things that irritate – but does it give you an insight into their character?

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Review: Survivors (episode 1)

December 3, 2008

Generally we try to avoid reviewing new material at The Outland Institute. We feel there are plenty of places to read about new films and books, and our efforts are best directed toward looking at 20 year-old annuals and exploring the importance of the moustache in 1970s television. After all, who else is going to review vampire-themed Sweet Valley High Books or take a new look at Storm Boy? This stuff doesn’t happen by itself, people.

But the new version of Survivors covers so many of the Institute’s obsessions – illnesses on screen, retro television, great theme tunescheap science fiction, Paterson Joseph – that it would be churlish not to talk about it. Beware, minor spoilers lie in wait.

For those who came in late, Survivors was a British television series that ran for three seasons from 1975. It’s premise? A man-made virus wipes out the majority of the world’s population, the few left behind trying to start anew in an unfamiliar world (so it’s a bit like Ugly Betty). It was created by Terry Nation, who also created the Daleks and Blake’s 7. Not a bad resume. Certainly better than working at Lidl.

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Eight Theme Tunes No TV Show Could Live Up To

September 23, 2008

A television theme tune serves many purposes – it establishes the start of the show, and it stops all the programmes running together and becoming totally incomprehensible. (“Jon Pertwee was battling the Daleks, and now there’s a man reading the news? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???”).

It also sets the tone for what is about to follow.  Exciting – spooky – newsy – scantily-clad – all these ideas can be conveyed in theme tune form. The theme tune may be on the way out, with shows like Lost and Torchwood abandoning the concept of the title sequence, but a great theme tune can live forever.

But what if the theme tune is… too good? Is it possible for a theme tune to promise something so exciting, so spooky, so newsy or so scantily-clad that the television show simply cannot live up to it?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Following are 8 theme tunes that no show could live up to. It doesn’t mean the shows were bad, it just means the themes promised such excitement, such drama that the shows were – perhaps – found lacking.

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Sick

September 1, 2008

I spent most of last week being quite ill.

Like most people, when I’m sick I assume it’s the beginning of a global pandemic that may well end life on this planet. You say it’s the sniffles, I say it’s the opening credits of Survivors. Remember Survivors?

With all the bioterror angst around, I’m surprised the BBC hasn’t decided to remake Survivors. Mind you, I guess if they did it now it’d have to be all gritty and northern, and they’d probably stick half the cast of Doctor Who in it. What? They already have?

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