Film’s Music (Off the Film’s)

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There are lots of films out there. Literally over a hundred different ones, from comedy to horror to comedy-horror. They all have soundtracks but usually they’re rubbish. Film directors should not be allowed to choose the music for their own projects. When they do you end up with a collection of songs that includes Zach Galifianakis singing Who Let The Dogs Out without apparent irony.

This piece isn’t about about film scores though. John Williams, Danny Elfman, Michael Kamen and Hank Zimmerframe have those nailed. This is about soundtrack albums; the selections of drab love songs, thuggishly mysoginistic hip-hop anthems and brain-meltingly dumb nu-metal dollops that we get a cheeky snippet of during the doe-eyed kiss/car chase/bit where Jason Statham jumps sideways firing two guns. As much as I love dark tales of horror and cheesy action extravanganzas, and I could name you a dozen of each with suitably punchy metal-by-numbers records that would fit neatly alongside, and so can you. So you can do that yourself in your own head. 

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What with all the films that have had crappy soundtracks, and all the albums that were really really dead good, but weren’t soundtracks, it got me thinking. I came up with an idea that almost two people liked, which was to re-purpose existing albums as soundtracks for existing films. Try to bear with it—it’s not quite as tortuous as it sounds.

Prometheus is a terrible movie. It was never going to live up to the expectations of those of us who grew up adoring the Alien franchise. Alien was a tense sci-fi masterpiece and Aliens: The New Batch was a tasty blend of action and horror. Sadly, no further sequels were ever made. No other Alien films exist. Definitely not.

The casting is great, the dramatic set pieces are perfectly adequate and the look of it is suitably Gigery, but then someone forgot to write a plot. Well, there was a plot but it had more holes in it than that type of Swiss cheese that has lots of holes in it. Flaws in logic, ridiculous leaps from one idea to the next and daft inconsistencies left this viewer rather depressed and underwhelmed.

But imagine if it had all been underlined with the aural misery of Celtic Frost’s Monotheist. Tom G Warrior punches you repeatedly in the soul and transfers his gloom into your naked mind with every jarring atonal riff. The visual disappointment of Prometheus marries perfectly with the mortal despair buzzing within A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh or Drown In Ashes. Try watching this with sound muted, whilst listening to this

No? Okay.Well, maybe try this one then.

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Paris, Texas, by stark contrast to Piddley Scort’s rubbish, is a cinematic gem. Wim Wenders’ subtle, wistful study of a distant family relationship and the essence of love, loss and broken dreams is worthy of a more thoughtful and emotional soundtrack than it was afforded. Harry Dean Stanton epitomises the minimalistic approach to acting, saying more with a silent stare than he could with a thousand words. The dusty, angry and ultimately hopeful feel of the film always seems to me like it would gel perfectly with Peter Dolving’s 2003 solo outing Bad BloodTaking a break from yelling over thrash metal in The Haunted, he creeps through your speakers and lays his soul bare in a joyously uncontrived heap of noises. Too obscure for the mainstream acoustic rock crowd and not metal enough for the headbangers, it sold poorly and never reached as many pairs of ears as it deserved to. Brake Or Bust and the title track would nestle in and amongst the barren scenery of Paris, Texas comfortably and the final moments of the story would resonate perfectly to the strains of When You Leave Me.

Next up, from out of my head, the wonderful Wes Anderson’s third feature length production, Rushmore, is a unique and fascinating essay on boyish obsession and being an outsider in the conformist world of high school. The almost autistic nature of the protagonist drags you along on a journey into his pseudo-intellectual world of unrequited love and arrogant pontification. Enter the shimmering genius of Keith (Mina) Caputo. Having come to prominence fronting hardcore underdogs Life Of Agony, he sheared off into the world of electro-indie-rock and jazzey-pop with the remarkable and catchy Die Laughing. A multiplicitous collection of wistful ballads, upbeat singalongs and mournful dirges, it bears repeated listens and could have accompanied so many of the pivotal scenes from Anderson’s characteristically quaint movie.

And so to the obvious and almost necessary part of this ramble through Hollywood’s musical errors—The Wizard Of Oz. It was well established lore for many years that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon synchronised perfectly with the Judy Garland silver screen classic. Many a mushroom-chomping hippie would swear blind it was a deliberate and carefully crafted effort by messrs Gilmour and Waters. It wasn’t. Many have further said that even though it may not have been intentional, the whole thing fits so neatly alongside every scene of the movie, that the effect is dazzling. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t.

One might wonder how I would know that unless I had been stupid and immature enough during my student years to try the experiment myself one evening after too much Benylin, skunkweed and whiskey, hoping for a total trip, man. Well, my only thought was how much better suited Music From The Elder by Kiss would be to the flying monkeys, yellow brick road and wicked witch montage. Pedants amongst you might point out that this record was technically a soundtrack anyway, crafted by the facepainted ones as a supposed accompaniment to an imagined book/film. It was a concept album of fantastically pretentious preposterousness, brought to us by a band famed for blaring out cock rock anthems, with a frontman waggling his tongue whilst not really playing the bass and then spitting fake blood whilst staring at the teenaged girls in the front row he was intending to bed later. I bet he regrets every moment of his life.

Kiss overstretched themselves without a doubt, trying to tell a detailed sci-fi story throughout the course of ten relatively short songs that were not catchy enough to please their fans and would inevitably be laughed at or merely ignored by aficionados of prog rock or serious concept pieces. Did they want to be Bowie? Rush? Who knows. However, if you cast aside your pre-conceptions of Kiss and forgive or at least overlook the arrogance of their ambition, then what you have is a half-decent collection of background dad-rock.

Imagine that bubbling under the munchkins’ freakish and unnerving cavorting and you’ll realise that I am typing this out way past my bedtime, that I have lost the thread entirely and that I am clearly hammering one of the final nails into Demon Pigeon’s coffin.

Night night.

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Guest Blog: Blood, Set & Fears Part Three

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Editor’s Note: 

Once again, we welcome back Miles Watts and his cohorts, of Zomblogalypse fame. We like it when Miles writes for us, because not only does the reflected glamour of his filmmaking adventures make us feel far more dynamic and accomplished than we actually are, he’s also really nice.

Some months have passed since his last chronicle from the infection zone, in which more unwitting dupes were turned by the Zomblogalypse plague. Join Miles as he charts, especially for us, the exponential spread of his unique bioengineered virus.

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A lot can happen in four months: Climate change. A full and manly beard. Nearly half a baby. For us at MilesTone Films, a lot has happened and a lot is promising to happen. Winter is coming, and that usually involves taking stock, sitting back in leather armchairs next to fires with our fingers steepled together and deliberating on the year’s successes and frustrations. For us filmmakers, November/December is typically a time for winding down and preparing for semi-hibernation (and a time when no-one answers their email) as next year’s plans largely remain a vague to-do list.

Except this year hasn’t been typical. Not in the slightest.

Our last two blogs detailed our trip to Cannes to shake things up and come back with a deal or two for our zombie web series Zomblogalypse. One sales agent and a few Top Secret (by necessity—sorry, fans of secrets) irons in the fire later, Zomblog: The Movie is on a steady course into production. Scriptwriting sessions galore, meetings, monster designs; it’s been all-zombies-go.

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Post-Cannes, we haven’t rested on our laurels, and in a slick, not-at-all groan-worthy segue, laurels were what it was all about for Whoops!, our ‘gory family comedy’ that premiered at the wonderful Raindance Film Festival in September. About 4% of feature films submitted get chosen for the festival, a statistic that did not go unnoticed (by us, because we kept telling people) as we watched the film with an appreciative audience, before heading to a very loud London pub to sleepily toast our victory.

A week later, producer and directors gathered to discuss what to do with the film, after (and during) the festival circuit. Our last movie, CrimeFighters, had a cinema and festival run and then… well, we decided to put that one up on YouTube for all to enjoy for free. Thankfully, the film acted as a calling card and started up a great relationship with a producer called Steve Piper who was looking for a new creative team.

Which brings us to now, and the possibilities that next year is currently shining in our faces.What we’d like to do is see Whoops! in cinemas and in people’s homes in 2014. We’re starting work on writing the follow-up movie with our other producer, Sam Robinson, as soon as the New Year hangovers fade. Zomblogalypse continues apace, and we have a glut of other movies we’d like to make and release over the next few years, with a group of filmmakers who share the same vision as we do: To blow things up in fields, torture actors and tell stories. Because that’s what it’s all about (mostly the middle one). Oh, and also to develop the York filmmaking scene and all that stuff.

Happy hibernating, and don’t forget to ignore your email!

Why I hate the BBC (well, a section of it).

Note: This article was intended to be ‘having a go’ at the NME, purely as a way of driving traffic to this site. Yes, they’re awful and have a very poor attitude in general to metal (see their recent baiting of nu-metal). But you know what? Fuck the NME, there are far more worthy targets of my bile and poor wordsmithery. Also please note that the generic term ‘metal’ below is used to refer to all genres of metal/hardcore/death/experimental/post blah blah whatever, before anyone cries.

I don’t want to get all Daily Mail on you but I’m thinking of writing to my MP, MEP, parish councillor or even the Metro letters page. Outrage! Seriously though, I am annoyed. Well, maybe slightly miffed.

Something has always puzzled me. It’s regarding the musical output of the BBC, particularly on its visual platforms. Where is the metal?

There just isn’t any, at all. Saying that, there is very little live music on the BBC full stop. Joooools “Hootenanny” Holland occasionally has something interesting but it’s never metal (Lou Reed & Metallica and Alice in Chains don’t count sorry). The Trans-Atlantic Sessions were very good. I think they did some ‘Guitar Heroes‘ stuff that refers to 70s metal. There was, of course, the 90-minute retrospective Heavy Metal Britannia, although that was a firmly backwards-looking affair. And, um, that’s about it.

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If you take any particular sub-genre within metal, the best thing about it is seeing it live, played by people who love what they do and make very little money doing it. Because of this, there is a credibility to metal that other music simply lacks. Strip back any reference to contemporary metal, and you’ve got yourself a lovely BBC4 show synopsis. So why Mr. BBC, do we not have any shows dedicated to it?

Let’s have a look at the excuses:

Would it really upset middle England? Well no, seeing as the vast majority of ‘metalheads’ are well to do middle Englanders themselves. No way! Shyeah right! Etc. Yes, it pains me to say but I am delightfully middle-class, as are most of my friends who like metal. Those kids with the scary clothes and piercings going through their respective ‘phases’, yup, all middle-class too. So we can mark that excuse off the list.

Would there be an audience for it? Well I’m sure there are as many fans of metal as there are of classical music and we get no end of flag-waving Proms (which always comes across a bit racist/UKIPpy to me). We get coverage of Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds that feature plenty of artists that in terms of popularity/sales (let’s be brutal about this) would be on par or lesser, than established metal acts. I don’t know how many viewers the abysmal Kerrang! channel or any other harder-edged music channels get, but the fact they exist, and have done for quite some time, would suggest that, yes, there is an audience for it.

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Would it suit the ethos of BBC4? The output of BBC4 seems to be directed at the more discerning/intelligent viewer, hence the reams of documentaries and focus on the arts. Yes a lot of metal is stupid but are the likes of Cult Of Luna not worthy of artistic recognition? Here you could insert any band on Neurot, any band from Umeå, technical death/black metal, hardcore (the good stuff, obviously). Pick your favourite band. Them. Do they not fit the bill? I’m not expecting hours dedicated to Slipknot (and I don’t think anyone wants that) but if we can dedicate several hours to the Proms, then why not?

I have snipped this from the BBC Trust section of the BBC website:

The BBC exists to serve the public, and its mission is to inform, educate and entertain. The BBC Trust is the governing body of the BBC, and we make sure the BBC delivers that mission…

…Our job is to get the best out of the BBC for license fee payers.

We set the strategic objectives for the BBC.  We have challenged the BBC to:

  • increase the distinctiveness and quality of output;

  • – improve the value for money provided to license fee payers;

  • – set new standards of openness and transparency; and

  • do more to serve all audiences.

I have emboldended two parts of this ‘mission statement’, which I believe the BBC is failing us on.

Distinctiveness is very hard to achieve in any endeavour, what with everyone lapping up the same tripe day-to-day, mouths open to the damnable media corporations and bloody loving it. Oh please Mr. Cowell, tell me more about that show you do and how you get a nice annual bonus from rigging the race for Christmas number one! Can I see another elite chef cook something I won’t ever attempt to make? Can you shovel more shows about wealthy retirees buying millions of pounds worth of second homes into my gaping face? Please?

Shouldn’t we expect better from the BBC in regards to even acknowledging that we as fans of metal exist? Is there anything on any of the other mainstream channels that is like this? No. So it’s not difficult to decipher where I am going with this: Metal is distinctive. Take that BBC!

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Secondly, I pay my license fee religiously, as do most adult metal fans (what with us all being painfully middle class) and so that last statement, ie ‘do more to serve all audiences’, leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I (mostly) love the news output and I am reliably informed that the Kids TV isn’t too bad either (alright I do watch some of it ‘cos it’s like totally trippy, man’). I love, actually love, the documentaries on whatever creature/tribe/crisis is flavor of the month (well done BBC). But are the BBC serving fans of metal?

Even non-fans, intellectuals or random channel hoppers could find something to enjoy from output dedicated to metal. Even if that response is vehement dislike, that is a valid response. Art, whatever it is, is meant to evoke some sort of emotional response, not set the cash registers off. So serve me, you bastards!

How difficult would it be to get an agreement to broadcast from a venue in London or Manchester? When a band is on tour, you get them to come in, play some songs, talk to them? That almost sounds too easy. Or perhaps have cameras at a metal festival? Wouldn’t even cost them that much money to make a large section of the public happy and acknowledged. They could even do it on the radio, like they do for other music, and for a tidy extra saving (cross off the value part off the mission statement).

Or how about showing some of the great metal documentaries that are already out there, made by tiny independents struggling to get by, wouldn’t it be good to support this area? Such Hawks, Such Hounds, Blood, Sweat and Vinyl and the Metal Evolution series would be a great fit on the Friday night music doc slots on BBC4.

So, BBC, I challenge you to do something about this. Reward our faith in public service broadcasting. Sack Will.I.Am and force Jooooooools to host a night of pornogrind. Not that this article will ever pass through the black-rimmed lenses of a BBC executive, so I’ll just be left seething in my room, cry-wanking myself to sleep while they’re all busy turning a blind eye to systemic child abuse.

Guest Blog: Blood, Set & Fears Part Two

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Editor’s Note:

Hello everyone. Please welcome back the chiselled and dapper Miles Watts of Zomblogalypse, today kindly acting as your undead annihilation correspondent.

When last we heard from him, he and his intrepid cohort of indie film makers were about to impress the socks off everyone at the Cannes Film Festival, which is in Cannes. But what happened next? Would Miles and his pals be forced to arm themselves with sticks to fend off a howling throng of glassy-eyed, mouldering movie moguls driven by hindbrain lust for a new underground smash?

Read on to uncover the truth!

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We got back from Cannes nearly a month ago and we’re still kind of processing what took place. First of all, there was a lot of free booze due to our producer’s uncanny skill for knowing where and when each party was happening. Champagne, nibbles and people we didn’t know from Adam flowed past us merrily on balconies, while in the glittering streets below, paparazzi and desperate fans clamoured to see DiCaprio, Cotillard and the Coen Brothers attend their various premières.

Those were cheerful, glitzy enough aspects of the 66th Cannes Film Festival—the elements I talked about last month as being the most superficial and the least interesting—but then I’m not a party animal. We were there to meet people who might be interested in the films we’d already shot—Amber and Whoops!and the proposed feature version of our cult web series Zomblogalypse.

After a few days of not quite knowing who was where and what the hell and why, we secured a meeting with Kevin Williams of KWA, an international sales agency whose catalogue is broad and interesting; everything from genre horror and comedy to action and art house. Thankfully he agreed that the Zomblogalypse movie fits in with their releases and, a few days later, this rather gorgeous little article appeared in Screen International.

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For those still in the dark, a sales agent is someone who can help get your film made but also get it out there when it’s done. Many people make films but then have nowhere to go with them; Kevin Williams Associates can get Zomblog to an international market. So yay to that.

The next great thing that happened is that some other—let’s call them ‘people’—saw the above news and got in touch with us about… well, we actually can’t say right now but it should hopefully take the movie a few steps closer to being made. After one or two very exciting meetings, we now await more exciting meetings.

The final bit of great news is that as we put the finishing touches to our last feature, Whoops! and submit it to some cracking film festivals, we may have also secured a sales agent for our previous feature Amber. None of this is set in stone yet, so as usual we remain hopeful yet realistic. If it all comes off, we’ll be soaring.

Right now we’re working hard, coasting along on our momentum, with the hopes of enjoying the fruits of our hard work and looking forward to a hectic and work-filled future. With hefty dollops of fun along the way!

Good on ’em, eh? You can follow Zomblog’s exploits regularly at oneandother.com and via their Twitter and Facebook streams of social babble. You can also watch the whole series of Zomblog at Zomblogalypse.com and see what you’re missing.

Guest Blog: Blood, Set & Fears Part One

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Editor’s Note:

If you are not familiar with Zomblogalypse, the web series set in a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested York, you really should go and rectify that, because not only is it chock-full of zombies, it’s also smashingly funny, heartwarming and it has explicit full-frontal tea-drinking.

Following the exploits of a bunch of housemates trying to navigate the apocalypse, Zomblog has—over three seasons and assorted extras—grown into a cult hit, and now the makers are putting together a film version for viewing in those talking movie houses you hear so much about these days.

They’ve recently been to Cannes, where they’ve managed to secure worldwide distribution rights, betraying a degree of focus and success that terrifies us. So sensing a bandwagon we could pretty hastily climb aboard, we asked one of the show’s creators, Miles Watts, to tell us about the journey from blog to backlot in a series of guest posts—and quite incredibly he didn’t just delete the email without reading it; nor ignore it, like we would have done.

Here is the first installment, sent just before the intrepid filmmakers jetted off to sunny Cannes.

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When you’re a film-maker, bumping into old friends and being asked what you’re ‘up to these days’ is a curious thing because ‘I’m making films’ is such an uncertain response (and indeed, way to earn a living). So being able to answer their follow-up enquiry of ‘and how’s that working out for you?’ (or words to that effect) is a lot easier when you can say, ‘oh, we’re off to Cannes next week.’

Cannes is one of those events that elicits a great deal of excitement from film and non-film folk. The non-film folk imagine the sun, sea, drinks, possibly naked ladies and red carpets but the film folk know that’s not really what it’s all about.

There is some glamour attached as it’s a kind of Busman’s Holiday for us film-makers, but Cannes is a huge opportunity as much as it is a glamorous location. You can go there and drink yourself half to death and crash a lot of parties, or you can take every opportunity to network, schmooze and talk your way to the next stage of your film career. If you’re very energetic I imagine you can do both.

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Me and my cohorts—co-creators of our zombie web series Zomblogalypse: Hannah Bungard and Tony Hipwell and our producer Steve Piper—are heading out to Cannes on the 15th of May to follow up on the work Steve did last year in gathering interest for a proposed movie version of Zomblogalypse.

We have been making the series for nearly five years, and four other features along the way. Our latest two, Amber and Whoops! will be out later this year after hopefully getting into some festivals. One’s about a bunch of friends getting drunk in a house, the other’s about an accidental serial killer. So, diversity. And then there’s Zomblogalypse, which is about friends getting drunk in a house and not-quite-so-accidentally killing lots of zombies.

We just raised £9,000 to get the film started on IndieGoGo and that’s also where Zomblog differs from our previous films: We made our first, second and third movies for about that amount combined. With Zomblogalypse, we decided it was worth gathering support, going out to Cannes and throwing everything at the wall to see what stuck.

So far, we have a lot of international interest from investors in various countries and a good stab at getting the money and distribution deals we need to make Zomblogalypse a bigger, wilder movie than anything we’ve made before. Plus, you know, French sunshine and sea. So it’ll be an intensely fun week.

Thanks for reading. See you when we return!

You can follow Zomblog’s exploits regularly at oneandother.com and via their Twitter and Facebook streams of social babble. You can also watch the whole series of Zomblog at Zomblogalypse.com and see what you’re missing.

Who Wants To Be An Alan Sugardome Champion

The Apprentice, 2013

Perhaps it’s that I’ve been living in the shadow of the business sector for three years, or maybe it’s dealing with the current difficulty of obtaining a job, but there’s a very special place for businessmen as part of the pain in my ass. That’s probably why I so severely despise the absolute bastards on BBC One’s The Apprentice.

People continue to say that The Apprentice has become (or indeed always has been) a sitcom. I’d actually prefer to argue that it is an anime. There’s Tsundere Senpai Lord Sir – or is that Sir Lord? – Alan ‘Al’ Sugar, a bunch of narcissistic big-haired snobs in shiny suits and chic dresses. There’s a quiet monotonous pointdexter who will probably win it, and an anime Don Draper.

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And all of them, every last one, a complete and utter bell end.

What are you doing, British Broadcasting Corporation? What are you fucking trying to do to me? I’m a graduate, looking onto a burgeoning grey future as an Emerging Services Worker, indebted to the government for what employers consider to be fuck all. Meanwhile, to get my mind off all that, I get to watch week after week as slobbering rich half-wits snivel at a human ballache. It brings me to a strange new reality where I simultaneously find I’m ashamed of myself for failing to reach their status, yet appalled by their sycophantic begging. I come away from the faint distraction of 50 minutes of television feeling a soreness in the pith of my heart.

The Apprentice starts every episode thusly: Balding Saruman emerges from his den of iniquity atop the shard, followed by raven Karren and wise-owl Nick, who perch at each of his shoulders. Balding Saruman yells at the hobbitses until they are ejected from Amstrad HQ with one objective: Steal money from the public.

Let’s be honest here. What they are doing isn’t ‘business’—it’s a highly evolved form of stealing. They buy shit, for shit money, and sell it to people who are either being harassed in the street to the point of exasperation, or receiving a stultifying terrible pitch from idiotic dicks in suits towing along a camera crew. They make products which don’t work or fit their brief, and then they sell them using lies. They buy products from Costcutter and deliver it to the consumer as fresh organic produce. And these are the people to aspire to be. The ones who made it: The Crux of London City.

And then, inevitably, they will cock it up. Cue Balding Saruman harrumphing into his gunmetal and brushed glass boardroom (more like BOREDROOM) like a pound-shop Steve Jobs to a hushed audience of over-moisturised children in business suits—like the baby from the Soft Soft Soft Triple Velvet ad. Despite ripping off the public, small businesses and even having a go at the big nasty ones too, they fuck up. The producers of this programme manage to successfully manipulate each situation into a near-unsalvageable disaster. Why? So the unemployed, the redundant, the graduates with nowhere to go (and nobody who wants them) can sit and watch entitled bags of shit be laden with opportunities and pampered—or conversely, ejected out of the Sugardome ‘process’ and back to their cushy lives with their big cars and executive jobs.

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They always say the same fucking thing, don’t they? It isn’t ever their fault. Business is supposed to be respectable, supposedly honourable, and yet they scream and cry and point the finger, desperate to avoid Lord Sugar’s axe. Rumour has it they stopped filming on several occasions because somebody had a stinky nappy, or done did a mad tinkle of distress all down their twowser weg.

Raven Karren (with TWO Rs) mumbles profits out of her bee-sting pout. Wise-Owl Nick flutters his huge obsidian wings and hoots a number out of his cat-bum lips. I feel a pang of inadequacy at being unable to figure out the winning total because of my dyscalculia (idiocy) and then the BOY’S TEAM lets out a whoop and a cheer as if at a tribal ceremony. Or an Arsenal match. Essentially the same thing.

But nobody wins, in the end. I certainly don’t. One of the participants of The Apprentice will win the series, and earn more money for it than I would earn in a lifetime of eating out of Alan Sugar’s thick, un-calloused palms. Or, for that matter, any of Al’s places – un-calloused or otherwise.

The best I can hope for is to come away from my television feeling temporarily a little bit better than them because they dress like dickheads and don’t understand basic ideas.

Woo.

The Killing

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Fine. For fuck’s sake, I admit it. I am one of those insufferable people who says “I don’t watch TV. Me?! Oh, I don’t have a television.” I’m also aware that saying something like this to most people is pretty much equivalent to “Me? Oh, I don’t know what day it is,”or “Me? Oh, I don’t breathe air.”

To be honest, I kinda find it hard to see what all the fuss is about. When I visit other people’s houses and walk in on them watching something like Made in XFactoridolshore Teenpregnantbake-off Brother 2012, my brain usually just starts hazing up. All I end up seeing is a fog of ‘lads’in sweaty white vests and strobe lighting, gourmet cuisine spat out by whining judges; flailing, dancing and fidgeting that would annoy even the most medicated of us. And all I end up hearing is bad singing and screaming. What’s the big deal?

In fairness, this is exactly what I see anyway most days, given that (a) I live in London, fuckdork capital of the world and (b) I’m a student. But after a day surrounded by gurning manbabies, the last thing I want to do is come home to more of the same. So when I was introduced to The Killing, known on Danish television as ‘Forbrydelsen’ (literally, “the crime”) I found it a breath of fresh and miserable air. Just what I wanted, and needed.

The Killing is a spirit-crushing piece of television. Dismal. Like a stranger’s sneeze on the back of your neck in a packed train carriage. It’s The Thick of It, if you were to take out the jokes and replace them with depressing conversations about awful crimes. A fusion of political and police drama, it involves a fair bit of concentration; partly because it’s in Danish with subtitles, and partly because it’s somewhat complicated. Rather than put me off, this actually engaged me so much more. It’s really easy to get engrossed in the show – the atmosphere is intense and the arc so well paced that at the end of every episode you come away debating whether you should watch another, despite the fact that each one is almost an hour long, and in an entirely incomprehensible language.

The Killing follows a different murder investigation each season, and the effect they have on all parties involved. Rather than focus on the grotesque nature of the crimes, The Killing involves a more mature hook – people. It’s a show that is very good at presenting people, unlike a lot of British and/or American productions (okay, Breaking Bad is obviously to the contrary, and a few others). It’s set for the most part in urban Copenhagen, so we also get some interesting political drama. The murder of the first season is committed during a hotly contested election, squeezing a little bit more stress into the already intense storyline.

I think part of the reason this series has managed to grip me so effectively comes down to the lead actress Sofie Gråbøl, playing the fairisle-jumper-fetishist DI Sarah Lund. Inattentive mother, grubby obsessive and not exactly the most well liked at the cop shop, Lund is a character that disperses bleakness into every moment she is on screen.  Gråbøl is incredibly convincing in her role and she does not overact – when I say she’s bleak I don’t mean she’s some kind of cartoonish anime tsundere. What I mean is that she’s real – something of a marvel in the world of genre writing. Lund compliments the dark and sinister nature of each season’s plot-line like she is married to it.

Gråbøl isn’t the only strong acting presence in the show, either. The entire cast is brilliant. There are some real shady bastards who you immediately pick out as suspects (adding to the suspicion and intensity hanging over the entire show like a noir fart), as well as some surprisingly good performances from children and young adults. To balance out the bleak there are some incredibly sympathetic characters, too. In particular, I think the way the show continues to follow the victim’s family during season one gives The Killing something that so many other crime dramas fail to give focus. Seeing the dramatic effect the death of the first season’s victim has on her family makes you even more desperate to know who the murderer is. And they draw it out over twenty brilliant episodes – making the pay off well worth the journey.

So why am I talking about a series that began airing in 2007? Well, the third season has just begun, which means that for once, one of this website’s reviews is actually current enough to be useful. And since my word is GOSPEL TRUTH for most if not all things, I highly recommend this show. It’s airing every Saturday at 9.00pm on BBC Four, and the first episode is available on iPlayer. If you don’t fancy an eyeful of some dumbfuck twirling about in a ballroom dress, if you don’t feel like watching some ‘masterful chefs’prepare celeriac seven ways, and if you don’t feel like listening to some children flatly serenading a table of ‘celebrity’ judges, maybe The Killing will be up your alley.

Like right up there. Jammed up there. Stuck in it.

Watch The Killing.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017h7m1