Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Re-Make Yourself

As you know, I love everything in the world, with the exception of three things. One of those things that I love is Shameless.

So imagine my horror when I heard that there was going to be a US remake of it. I've seen what they did to State Of Play. And by 'they', I of course mean American people. They replaced my favourite actors (John Simm and David Morrissey) with my least favourite actors (Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck respectively) and turned one of the best ever pieces of TV into a boring lump of Russell Crowe.

So they've already ruined one Paul Abbott show, and when I heard that they were remaking his semi-autobiographical drama, I panicked. 'How will that work?' I thought. 'It's about working class life on a council estate in Manchester, how will they do that in the US?' I thought. 'Who else but David Threlfall could possibly play the alcoholic anti-hero Frank Gallagher?' I thought.

The answers to those questions, in that order, are: Really well, By setting it in working class Chicago, William H. Macy. Yeah, turns out the US remake of Shameless is brilliant. There I was, getting ready to hate it and have yet another thing about which I could say 'the Americans ruined it', when Showtime go and make it good. Dexter is on Showtime too, so I should really have seen this coming.

The main reason the US Shameless works is that its faithful to the original, but its different enough to be worth remaking. It found a perfect balance, something that most remakes find hard to achieve. It isn't shot as brilliantly as the original (the unique camera work is one of the best things about the UK version) but it has managed to retain the anarchic spirit of the show.

UK Debbie / US Debbie

Perhaps the best thing about original Shameless is the acting, especially from the Gallagher kids, and I assumed the actors used in the remake would never come close. But they do. The performances are all brilliant, and casting Joan Cusack as Frank's agoraphobic girlfriend Sheila was an inspired move.

UK Ian and Lip / US Ian and Lip

Before watching the US remake, my attitude was that no one other than David Threlfall could possibly play Frank Gallagher; David Threlfall was Frank Gallagher. But since watching the US remake, my attitude is that no one other than David Threlfall and William H. Macy can possibly play Frank Gallagher; David Threlfall and William H. Macy are Frank Gallagher. Macy has taken the iconic role and, cliché alert, made it his own. The character manages to be selfish, greedy, drunk and opportunistic, caring for no one other than himself, doing anything for money, and neglecting his children, yet somehow being strangely loveable. Only David Threlfall and William H. Macy can pull this off.

UK Frank / US Frank

All the way through this first season of US Shameless, which finished on Sunday, I was waiting before I made my final judgement of it. I was waiting for one scene. My favourite scene from all 8 series of the original Shameless. The scene in which, spoiler alert, Lip urinates out of his window on to the head of Frank, his dad, as revenge, because Frank slept with Lip's girlfriend. In the UK version this moment came in the fifth episode of the first series, and I was worried that it had been left out of the US version. But it eventually came, at the very end of the season finale. And they nailed it. And my love of the US remake of Shameless was cemented.

UK pissing out of a window / US pissing out of a window

It isn't perfect though. I don't like what they've done with the character of Frank. (It feels good to blame them for ruining things again, I've missed this.) The original Frank's drunken rants would be an eloquent mesh of biblical and Shakespearian language, whereas US Frank just seems to be racist. The show is also missing a lot of the wit of the original. (Is there anything better for a father to say to his child than the line in that picture up top?) Also, lines which are the same in both versions always sound better when spat out in a strong Mancunian accent. But now I'm just being picky.

I'm looking forward to seeing where they take this remake of Shameless. As with many long-running dramas, the storylines of the original series were dictated by actors moving on. This meant that most of the best characters left Shameless at various points. In fact, the cast at this stage of the UK version is almost completely different to when it began. Weirdly, I hope the remake doesn't follow the story arc of the original. They should keep characters around if the actors are available, rather than get rid of them when their UK counterparts departed in the original. This is a good opportunity to ask 'what if?'. For instance I'd like to see what would have happened, spoiler alert, if Lip hadn't left. Having established itself as faithful to the original with all the same characters played by all the right people in the first season, I eagerly await the return of the remake of Shameless, and I look forward to seeing where it goes. I'm also eagerly awaiting the return of the original Shameless, because its still tonnes better.

The name of this blog is a very clever, very subtle play on the name of an Incubus song, Make Yourself, the song with which I will leave you. Enjoy!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Party Politics

As you know, I love everything in the world, with the exception of three things. One of those things that I love is the New Statesman magazine.

I have a subscription to it, because it's great, particularly Laurie Penny, Mehdi Hasan and of course Mark Watson. But occasionally there are articles in there that piss me off. Or just make me go 'what?'. Here are 4 things that this week's issue have made me think about.

1. This article by Lord Falconer annoyed me. He argues that we should vote No to AV because this defeat will cause the Lib Dems to leave the coalition. Now, I'd be very happy to see an end to the coalition government, but I'd be much happier to see the introduction of a better voting system. In fact, what Falconer is doing here is, at best, misunderstanding the significance of electoral reform. However this seems unlikely, considering he was Lord Chancellor/Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs for 4 years. This leads me to believe that what he's actually doing is putting the interest of his party before the interest of the people. To Charles Falconer, party politics is more important than democracy. We all know that AV is far from perfect, but it's a step in the right direction and it's better than what we're stuck with at the moment. Falconer wants to deny us this democratic enhancement, which we've been waiting for since long before his government reneged on such a promise about 15 years ago, just so he can see the Lib Dems defeated. This is a weird, selfish, short-term attitude. Don't get me wrong, I hate the coalition, I just think that people's votes actually meaning something is more important than Lib Dem baiting, which I'm getting bored of. Remember that it was the current electoral system that gave us this government in the first place. If you want to change it, you need to change the system.

2. Eek, that was a bit too much political-grandstanding for my liking. Let's turn the page in the New Statesman to the interview with comedian Frank Skinner which I can't show you because it isn't online, hence why I buy the magazine. Frank Skinner talks about being catholic, and mentions that when he was on tour with transvestite comedian Eddie Izzard, Izzard said to him, 'let's make a pact - I'll talk about being a transvestite and you talk about catholicism,' to which Skinner replied, 'no, because people in the modern world are much more accepting of transvestism than any kind of religious belief.' It's important to say that Frank Skinner is not saying that this is a bad thing. But the thing is, I don't think it's true. It should be the case though. Because transvestism is a tolerant practice, unlike a lot of religion. Skinner goes on to answer this question: 'How do you feel about the catholic church's hostility to gay and woman priests?' He replies, 'it's like it is with friends - often, there are things about them that you don't like but all the good stuff about them keeps them back...Catholics should be ahead of the game in liberating oppressed groups, not 500 years late.' Personally, I don't think it's 'like it is with friends' at all. Of course our friends do things that might annoy us (mine don't, mine are all perfect), but these are tiny things. So we might say, 'yeah he supports West Ham, but you know what? He's my friend, and we all have our foibles, and I still accept him.' We do not go, 'yeah he oppresses minorities and halts social progress and contributes massively to the spreading of aids and defends the abuse of children, but you know what? He's my friend, and we all have our foibles, and I still accept him. Ruined my wedding though.' At least he acknowledges that catholicism is '500 years late' in liberating oppressed groups, but it seems that being '500 years late' in liberating oppressed groups is an integral part of catholicism, built right into its foundations. I struggle to work out what this 'good stuff' is.

3. Oops, that turned into more ranting. Let's turn the page again... ooh, a bit about the Japanese earthquake. The thing that confused me about this was the phrase, 'the Japanese are an extraordinarily resilient people.' What, like, all of them? Generalisations like this confuse me. Of course, it's a great compliment to the Japanese people, and my thoughts are obviously with them. But I'm sure there's at least one Japanese person who isn't extraordinarily resilient. They might be more, I don't know, whatever the opposite of resilient is. I'll look it up. Apparently it's 'inflexible.' Yes, I can imagine there are at least a handful of inflexible Japanese people. But seriously, it's just that kind of hyperbole that journalists tend to use that makes me go, 'what?'. It's a very broad generalisation, and seems to be acceptable because its a positive thing to say. About an entire nation. If it was negative, it would not be acceptable. A journalist wouldn't write, 'the Japanese are an extraordinarily angry people', or, 'those French, what a bunch of cunts.' Well, unless they wrote for The Daily Mail obviously. (Which reminds me, read this.) It got me thinking about offensiveness, which is something I think about all the time. I'm not easily offended at all; my view is that people should be able to say what they want, as long as they're making a valid point. I'm a massive comedy geek and some of my favourite comedians use material that some may find offensive, but they use it to actually say something, to actually put across a valid idea. Some of my least favourite comedians use material that some may find offensive, but for no purpose, other than to be offensive, and that isn't enough. But anyway, occasionally I'll go on Facebook (that's always my first mistake) and see status updates cheering on the Yids, the affectionate nickname given to Tottenham Hotspur FC. I'm jewish, but only by race, not by belief, I hate religion, blah blah blah. And while this doesn't offend me, it does make me uncomfortable to see what is essentially a derogatory term for a people being thrown about by football fans who (hopefully) don't know what it means. I'm not saying this should stop, it's just interesting that it's acceptable in the mainstream, when equivalent words such as paki and nigger are, quite rightly, not.

4. Sorry, that also turned into more lefty blathering. I genuinely don't mean to do that. This blogs all gone a bit wrong. To reward you for your patience, here is a fantastic photo from the New Statesman:

I love the way it looks like Obama was mid-speech when Clinton burst in doing a Fonzie-style 'aaay!'

Anyway, thanks for reading this blog. It was named after a song by the brilliantly genred swing-core band Catch-it Kebabs. I will leave you with that song, enjoy!

Friday, 18 March 2011


As you know, I love everything in the world, with the exception of three things. One of those things that I love is Dexter.

What's that, you don't watch Dexter? Well why the fuck not? Well? Answer the question. Out loud please.

Whatever reason you just gave is not good enough. Dexter is one of the best TV shows ever. And believe me, I say that about loads of TV shows. And I've been thinking, Dexter would make a great comic book.

Let me first make one thing clear: I know fuck nothing about comic books. I own two comics, one is Marvel's 1982 adaptation of Blade Runner part 1, and the other is part 2. So I'm no expert. But I have noticed that Dexter is, as he says himself up there in that picture, a superhero, as one would find in a comic. So I've drafted an open letter to Marvel and/or DC Comics, telling them to make Dexter into a comic. Here is my open letter.

Dear The Head of Marvel (Captain Marvel, I guess.) / Dear The Head of DC (Not Obama, I mean the comic book company.)

As I was watching Showtime's Dexter, it occurred to me that Dexter Morgan is essentially a superhero, and the TV show would translate seamlessly into a comic book. In fact I was surprised that it wasn't originally a comic book (it was a series of books by Jeff Lindsay) because it has all the ingredients of a superhero comic. A comic about Dexter is even created in one episode of the second series of the show. (#2.5 The Dark Defender.)

In that episode, Dexter himself says: 'I never really got the whole superhero thing. But lately, it does seem we have a lot in common. Tragic beginnings... Secret identities... Part human, part mutant... Archenemies.'

Using these examples that he lists as well as some of my own, I will explain why Dexter is a superhero, worthy of his own comic book.

Secret Identities

The main feature of a traditional superhero is their double-life. By day, Bruce Wayne is a billionaire who does... something, but by night, he is a crime-fighting Fathers 4 Justice impersonator. And no one can tell it's him, because he speaks in a highly convincing ridiculous voice, and runs out of a room in a suit and back into the room in the Batman costume, and then back out of the room only to re-enter the room in his suit, and no one is any the wiser because The Joker has released a special gas into the Gotham City air which apparently turns all its residents into fucking idiots. Oh, and as comedian Tracy Morgan points out, when you shine a big bat-symbol into the sky, The Penguin and The Joker know you're coming. But I digress.

Dexter Morgan leads such a double-life. By day, he is a donut-wielding blood-spatter analyst and all round nice-guy-family-man, but by night, he is a scalpel-wielding serial killer and all round serial killer. You'll also notice the donut-link between Dexter and Iron Man as depicted above. Coincidence? That seems WHOLLY unlikely. (Because Whole sounds like Hole which you get in donuts.)

Part-human, Part-mutant

Superheroes tend to be half-man half-beast. And in a way, aren't we all half-man half-beast? Except women obviously. Spider-Man is part-spider, and Dexter is part-monster. There's no difference, other than the fact that Dexter doesn't look a total dick. Whatever it is about the human condition that this idea is trying to convey, Dexter manages it with more subtlety and less spandex. And you'll notice the parallels between Spider-Man's webs and Dexter's spatter-strings in the picture. Coincidence? You won't see me getting CAUGHT UP in that theory. (Because things get Caught Up in webs.)

Tragic beginnings

I don't want there to be any spoilers in this blog, because the great thing about Dexter is how it twists and turns and keeps you guessing. I'll just say this: Dexter has a tragic beginning. Like most superheroes. We all remember Spider-Man's tragic beginning, as Uncle Ben utters his iconic dying words, 'with great power comes... ackk', then promptly dies, leaving Spider-Man wondering what he was going to say. 'With great power comes... money? Happiness? Pussy? Sweet.' And if anyone knows about success it's Uncle Ben, inventor of the famous instant rice. Check out how similar the young Dexter and the young Spider-Man are with their respective paternal-mentors. Coincidence? I FATHER doubt it. (Because Father sounds a bit like Rather.)


As well as having a load of fairly insignificant enemies, superheroes have archenemies, their main, worst enemies, in which the hero sees a dark side of himself. This means there's an element of mutual admiration in the relationship between superhero and archenemy, as shown by Batman and The Joker staring lovingly into each others' eyes, seen also between Dexter and The Trinity Killer. Coincidence? Coincidence my ARCH. (Because Arch sounds exactly like Arse. Exactly like it.)

Vigilante Justice

The whole point of superheroes is that they are the harbingers of justice. When the police aren't up to their job, superheroes step in and stop crime. Dexter does exactly this by killing murderers. He carries out his own unique brand of bloody, vigilante justice. He is a superhero. His angelic heroism is depicted above by his wings (which he obviously does not actually have, this is simply a stylistic promo shot) which are similar to those on Thor's helmet. Coincidence? FLAP off. (Because Flap sounds like Fuck and I'm getting tired.)

Super Powers

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, 'why am I reading this?' and 'shut up.' But you're also thinking, 'Dexter doesn't have any super powers you utter moron.' Firstly, don't be so rude. Secondly, not all superheroes have super powers. Now who's the moron? In fact, the best superheroes have no powers; think Iron Man, Batman, and Charlie Sheen. Instead these superheroes have gadgets or weapons or tools or Tiger Blood. Actually, Charlie Sheen does have super powers. As you can see from the picture, Batman's utility belt is remarkably similar to Dexter's surgical tools. Dexter's tools are just scarier and cooler, even though he has no shark-repellent-Bat-spray. Coincidence? You'd be a TOOL to think so. (Because Tool sounds like Tool.)


While Dexter may not wear spandex, he does have a costume, like a superhero. When his 'Dark Passenger' takes over, Dexter dons the grey top, black leather gloves, pocket-ey trousers and brown boots, like how when Bruce Wayne's 'Bat' takes over, he dons the Bat-clothing. (I should have pointed out earlier that I may not know a huge deal about Batman.) You'll notice from the above picture that both Dexter and Batman wear costumes while crouching. Coincidence? To think so would COST YOUme. (Because Cost You sounds like Costume without the M.)

Action Figures

'I'm with you so far,' I hear you say, 'there's just one thing I need to address. Superheroes are made into action figures. Is there an action figure of Dexter?' Yep. Look at the picture. While Batman comes with Batarangs, Dexter comes with a knife and a bin bag full of body parts. Coincidence? I don't see how that would FIGURE. (Because Figure sounds like Figure.)

Don't worry, it's over now. That is my case for Dexter being a superhero, and that is why you should make Dexter into a comic book. Dexter is just screaming to be made into a comic. Screaming a blood-curdling, bone-drilling scream.

Thank you for reading,
Daniel Meier

Having written all that, I don't particularly want Dexter to be made into a comic book, purely because its perfect how it is. The characters, the writing, the acting, the moral issues, its all just right. This blog is named after a song by the brilliant band The Skints, the song with which I will leave you. Enjoy!

Friday, 4 March 2011

See Emily Play

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and one of them is The Emily Effect.

You may not have heard of this phenomenon, probably because I just made it up. The Emily Effect refers to the introduction of an annoying English character to a US TV show. Surrounded by cool, fast-talking Americans, this English character goes on to spend their time on the show being relentlessly annoying, mainly because of their own stupid voice. When heard alongside American accents, the English accent sounds stupid enough as it is, but the English actors tend to take their Englishness to the extreme in US shows, because apparently the American audiences love all that. This idea is brilliantly spoofed by Charlize Theron's character in Arrested Development, by 30 Rock's hilarious Wesley Snipes character (Michael Sheen) who does things like insist that in England bikes are called 'foot-cycles' (that's him in the picture up there), and also by Mr. Wick (Craig Ferguson) in the underrated The Drew Carey Show. Anyway, here are 5 instances of The Emily Effect that come to mind.

1. Emily Waltham (Helen Baxendale) - Friends

As you may have guessed, The Emily Effect is named after this character, who appeared in episodes such as The One With The Fucking Annoying English Woman and The One Where Friends Got Shit. Not only does Helen Baxendale suddenly forget how to act, she also ramps up the poshness of her English accent to the point where she could be in the Cabinet, were it not for her being a woman, obviously. Emily is also a horrible character, and as she was England's representative in the US for most of the 1990s, she has done more to damage Anglo-American relations than Tony Hayward. She sums up the entire problem, hence lending her name to it; to the American audience she portrays English people as posh, stuck-up, ear-wrenchingly whiney and evil.

2. Lila Tournay (Jaime Murray) - Dexter

This character proves The Emily Effect, because in Hustle, surrounded by English people, Jaime Murray is perfectly agreeable. But as soon as she arrives in Dexter, her whiney English accent, again turned up to monarchy levels of poshness, leaves the audience wishing Dexter would just hurry up and kill her.

3. Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves) - Frasier

Interestingly, Daphne shows that the English character needn't necessarily be posh for The Emily Effect to apply, they just have to have an unrealistically annoying accent of some sort; Jane Leeves takes it stupidly far in the other direction, using a comically broad Manchester accent. She'd sound out of place at an Oasis concert, never mind fucking Seattle.

4. Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) and John Hooker (Ryan Cartwright) - Mad Men

The English characters who enter Mad Men in season 3 show that The Emily Effect applies to male characters too, with their, yet again, unfeasibly posh voices. It is more relevant to Hooker who is utterly unlikeable, while Pryce turns out to be a great character. Hmm, maybe I haven't thought this one through...

5. Nora (Nazanin Boniadi) - How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother has gone from being one of the best sitcoms I've seen, to a big pile of sentimental mawkishness. The only good thing about it was Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), precisely because he wasn't like that. But now even he is becoming a big pile of sentimental mawkishness, thanks to this character, Emily 2.0.

So that concludes my case for The Emily Effect, thank you for reading. This blog is named after a Pink Floyd song that I don't want to leave you with, so I'll leave you with a cover that I had to leave off my list the other day; Blue Man Group's version of Baba O'Riley by The Who. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Duck And Cover

As you know, I love everything in the world, with the exception of three things. Here are five of those things that I love.

On Saturday I went to a brilliant gig featuring New Riot, The Skints, Suburban Legends and Reel Big Fish. Before The Skints' set, a song came on the sound system which I recognised; it was Us And Them by Pink Floyd. But it wasn't. It was Us And Them by Easy Star All-Stars featuring Frankie Paul, as I found out when I got back by googling "Us And Them reggae cover". Because that's what it was. A reggae cover of Pink Floyd's Us And Them. And it was so good that it got me thinking about other cover versions that I love. So here's my Top 5 Cover Versions. Well, its some of my favourite covers that I can think of.

5. Pedorazu - Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra: There are ska covers of practically every song you can think of, and as you probably know I love ska, so I could easily fill this list with ska cover after ska cover. But I wont, which some of you (Simon) will be pleased to hear. But this cover of the Tetris music (I know!) as performed by these Japanese ska legends had to go in. The tune lends itself perfectly to a great horn riff, and this cover is both fun and clever. Plus there's brass solos, and everyone loves brass solos. Everyone. Brass solos.

4. I Feel Love - Blue Man Group: Venus Hum's Annette Strean simultaneously sounds better than Donna Summer and wears the coolest dress in the world. The three blue men and their band speed the song up, turn it into rock and introduce their unique percussion instruments, most notably the PVC Pipes, which always sound distinctive and awesome. For want of a better word. But I don't want a better word. Awesome is exactly how it sounds.

3. Águas de Março - Bossacucanova: The original, by Antonio Carlos Jobim, was recently voted the best Brazilian song ever, and it has been covered by about 50 different artists. (Seriously.) Bossacucanova do what they do best, and create a chilled, relaxing version of the bossa nova classic, the ambient lounge sound mingling perfectly with Cris Delanno's beautiful vocals, bringing to life the picture that Jobim paints with his lyrics. It always makes me smile at 1:08 when the drums and bass come in, completing the latin-lounge feel of the song. I love all of Bossacucanova's work, they are the masters of fusing classic samba with their own cool electronic sound.

2. September - Nettai Tropical Jazz Big Band: Yes, another Japanese band with an unwieldy name, this time dramatically improving the Earth, Wind & Fire song by giving it their own flavour of latin infused jazz, making it tighter but at the same time more fluid, and taking out the fucking annoying vocals. Oh, and of course by adding brass solos. Which everyone loves. Brass solos.

1. Us And Them - Easy Star All-Stars: And so, like a man with one leg shorter than the other trying to navigate a straight line in the arctic, we have come full circle. (Spot the Mighty Boosh reference.) Easy Star All-Stars, who, as I said, I hadn't heard of until Saturday, do reggae covers of loads of popular music, including The Beatles and Radiohead, and as a reggae fan, I now love them. Their dub cover of Us And Them, from their album Dub Side Of The Moon (a reggae cover of the entire Dark Side Of The Moon album!) is better than the original. And I love Pink Floyd, particularly that album. But this dub version feels deeper, spacier, trippier and other made up words, than the original. Like all good dub music, it strips down to drums and bass but loses nothing in the process. In fact it seems to grow. I also love the close vocal harmonies.

So there were 5 of my favourite ever cover versions. Comment with yours! Or something else. Anything. Anything's better than the empty, hollow loneliness. This blog is named after a song by The King Blues, but it isn't a cover, so instead I will leave you with a ska-punk cover as a reward to myself for being so disciplined in excluding the genre from my list. Reel Big Fish have done tonnes of ska-punk covers, most famously A-ha's Take On Me, but I'll leave you with their take on (haha) Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison. Again, the riff lends itself perfectly to horns, and with the ska-punk beat it becomes even more danceable and uplifting. Enjoy!