Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!!!

I would like to wish everyone who have found this blog, read this blog, supported this blog and contributed to this blog a very merry Christmas, and an extremely happy 2011!!!!!

Now I’m off to prepare the mulled wine…. xxx

Advertisements

Blackward Television

We are in 2010 – on the cusp of 2011.  Can you tell me how many black UK television shows we have?  It’s ok I’ll wait, I’m in no rush…… No?  Any?  None?  Just what I thought.

How is it that in the new millennium we have no black TV shows or comedy shows on television?  Does it make sense that up to 20 years ago we were being entertained with shows like Desmond’s, The Real McCoy, Blouse & Skirt and Brothers & Sisters (not to be confused with the recent US show), and yet in 2010 we have nothing?  And I’m referring to terrestrial television, not satellite.  There are teenagers who probably have no idea what these programmes are.  You would have thought that by now British television would be catering to all races, but I don’t think it is.  A lot of things, to me, still feature the “token” character.

I read an article on the Guardian online, from April this year, which was about the black stand up comedy circuit in the UK, but it also touched on black comedy on television too:

” Black comedy on TV is severely rationed. “It’s one in, one out,” says (comedian Stephen K) Amos. “Richard Blackwood had his own show, then Jocelyn Jee Esien had hers [Little Miss Jocelyn].  But I can’t remember when two black comics were ever on TV at the same time.”  BBC3’s hidden camera show 3 Non-Blondes, featuring Esien, got two series in 2003 and 2004, as well as rave reviews; but its performers decided against a third series when they became too well known (the comedy depended on disguise).

Because there are so few black comics on TV, each performer shoulders the fortunes of the whole scene. So when 2004 series The Crouches flopped, “the BBC pulled back and said, ‘We can’t do black sitcom’,” says Le Mar. “That’s too much pressure.  Why do we always have to be fantastic, or die?”

Ah… The Crouches.  The poor old Crouches.  They were the BBC’s attempt at providing us with a sitcom featuring a black family as the protagonists, from 2003 – 2005, but it didn’t go down too well.  This was initially put down to the fact that the writers were all white, led by Ian Pattinson who was the creator of the dirty, drunken Scottish character Rab C. Nesbitt.  By the time the second series arrived, armed with new black writers, viewers had pretty much given up.  Even though it featured established actors and entertainers such as Rudolph Walker, Robbie Gee and Mona Hammond, I think that in a way it would probably have been given a better chance if it was shown on Channel 4 or even BBC2, which are channels we are used to seeing culturally diverse programming.  But because it was BBC1, which has the stiffest upper-lip reputation, people shot it down pretty much instantly.  I wanted to like it, I really did, but I found it a bit too corny and “try-hard.”

The cast of BBC1’s ‘The Crouches’

I guess the problem is as comedienne Gina Yashere says in the Guardian piece – television is run by white, middle-class men, and realistically they don’t want to see what they can’t relate to.  But execs please, try it… you might like it!  So many of us are enjoying the current series of ‘The Family’ on CH4, something that many black/African families can relate to, because the family featured are of Nigerian origin living in London like so many of us.  So execs, I’m not calling for a complete TV black-out, of course not – just please acknowledge that we have stories too…

The Book That Changed My Life: ‘My 2002/03 Diary’ by Stavros Williams

 

Stavros Williams is a writer of short stories and poems, currently working on his ‘Eloquently Saying Nothing’ podcast project (http://neo-nerd.com) as well as his debut novel, which he aims to have published by mid-2012.

How did you come across the book?

I found it somewhere while I was cleaning up.

Give us a brief synopsis of what it’s about.

Basically it shows a young man in love, but lost.  It showed a man with low self-esteem.  A man battered daily by verbal, physical and mental abuse in a relationship that he still didn’t want to leave.  It showed a shell of what I am now, emotionally and mentally.  It showed me that ignorance and innocence can be dangerous when placed in the wrong hands.

How did it affect you or change your life?

Affect is a better word than change.  It made me realise how much I had grown since writing it, and how small a person I was even though I was an adult, how I had made so many mistakes, and it made me appreciate where I am now.  I have the worst memory in the history of mankind, and I had forgotten most of the days and incidents in the book.  When I read it I felt sad while re-living and remembering the things I had gone through.  The lows of the recent loss of a brother, the highs of getting a dream job, the high of finding love for the first time, the low of finding love for the first time.  The domestic abuse in all its forms was the most prominent thing that hit me.  I had put a lot of those mini-sagas at the back of my mind, and it was hard to believe I could have let these things happen to me and at that time.  It was gut-wrenching to read the things I had done too.  But it was an extremely empowering experience to go through it all.  I know how far I have come in life, how much I have grown as a man – a real man.  As mad as it might sound, I don’t regret the experiences.  As much as they hurt, I learnt, I grew, and I wouldn’t be the man I am today without going through all that.  So I am saluting myself on documenting probably the toughest time of my life, but also the most liberating.

Describe the book in five words.

Powerful, sad, informative, enlightening, truth.

Have you recommended it to anyone?

No I haven’t, although I guess it wouldn’t kill me if someone read it, I’m not exactly gonna hand it out there.  Saying that though, I do plan on writing a book with sections of it included, so who knows!

Battle of the Sexes: Are music award shows boring because music nowadays is boring?

Wendi Writes:

I definitely think so!  Recently the MTV Europe Music Awards were held, and I actually didn’t give a shite.  Generally I’ve always found the EMAs to be far less exciting than the MTV Video Music Awards anyway, but I do enjoy award shows for some reason, so I would always tune in regardless.  This year I saw it being advertised, and mentioned on Twitter etc, but I had absolutely no interest.  Similar can be said of the MOBO Awards in October.  Although I tuned in and it was OK at best, if I didn’t catch the show, it would have been no skin off my nose.  They were celebrating an anniversary, so they showed clips of past shows, and sorry, but I think it rather highlighted that it was once a lot more exciting than it is now.

Admit it, if Kanye West hadn’t stormed the stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech last year, would you have cared much about what happened at the MTV VMAs at all?  Would you even have noticed that it was taking place?   I was only really looking forward to seeing what they would do in tribute to Michael Jackson to be honest, and that consisted of Madonna talking at length (probably out of guilt).  This year… well… erm… all I remember is the continuation of the Kanye/Taylor Swift drama, and of course there’s good ole Lady Gaga having to spice things up with yet more controversy.  This time it was in the form of a dress supposedly made of meat.  Nice.

The problem is that there is no one I look forward to seeing.  No one’s music grabs me right now.  I know some people will name artists of various genres that they rate highly, but most of the time they are jazz or neo-soul artists, or straight up hip-hop and I’m not much into those.  I love artists who can sing as well as dance.  I like to be entertained and made to feel like being in the audience isn’t enough, I want to jump up on stage and join in!  Michael Jackson is the only artist I would say I was an actual full-blown ‘fan’ of, but I also love Janet Jackson, and enjoy artists like Ciara, Missy Elliot and Usher.  Problem is most of them aren’t doing as well as they should, because everyone is jumping on this Europop/dance type of music, and I’m not feeling it.

When I think back to the 90s, we didn’t have to search high and low for good mainstream music – it was just there!  Saying that though, maybe it’s an age thing.  Maybe I’ve now entered the “back in my day” phase.  I’m sure that people my mother’s age thought that the 60s and 70s were when music was at its peak, and similarly I think music was best in the 80s and 90s (and maybe the early to mid Noughties).  Look at the recent spate of concerts by the old school artists like En Vogue, SWV, Faith and Brian McKnight.  I attended the En Vogue show and it was so good because of the nostalgia.  Are there any songs out now that will be considered classics in years to come?  Nowadays the standard of music has declined, because it’s far too much about the business, less about the passion and even less about the talent.  It’s not fair that we have to dig deep to find good music.  Music is an escape, it should be there readily available for the times we need to unwind.

As for award shows… maybe I’ll have to start looking to the non-music ones for my fix. When are the National Television Awards again?

Mr Lanrizzle writes:

The 2010 EMA’s.  Europe’s biggest awards show, with the music industry A-listers turning in performances notable for…er…well…nothing in particular.  Hmmm… well, it’s not a big deal because at least we had the MOBO awards, which had guest appearances from… er… Nelly… and… er… some Everton footballers. 

Ok, ok, not to worry, because the MTV VMAs had the real A-listers: Usher, Eminem, Rihanna, Kanye West, Taylor Swift (only included because she tried to diss Kanye), NERD, Ciara, Drake, Mary J Blige.  I mean, with a line-up like that, you can’t fail.  But somehow, in my humble opinion, this did.
 
Is music to blame?  I think it’s too easy to place the blame at the hands of the artists. Last time I checked, Usher, Eminem and Drake all made pretty solid albums. Mary J Blige always puts in the work.  Kanye’s latest album is a classic (go purchase that).  And Wendi, I’ma let you finish, but Lady Gaga is one of the most exciting artists of all time.  Not necessarily my cup of tea, but still a darn good pop star.


 
I would say music, and pop music in particular, is as strong as ever.  I think there are just way too many award shows, and that much quantity can only lend itself to laziness, sloppy performances, and lack of ideas.  How many times are we gonna see the same faces churn out the same performances time after time and still expect them to come out fresher than the
meat on Lady Gaga’s dress?  I’ve seen Usher dance his little heart out many a time this year.  For some reason, no matter how many light shows, stage tricks and leather pants he wears, it’s almost hard to give a damn.  And he’s not alone. Many an ‘A-lister’ seem to be putting on big shows at these award shows, but it all just seems to be a bit…tired.
 
Maybe I have my rose-tinted Topman sunnies on, but award shows used to be an event and would only come round once in a blue moon and the performances that were put on had the whole playground talking the next day.  Remember Britney Spears and that snake? Oh boy…
 
In June 2009 we lost the King of Pop Michael Jackson (RIP).  MJ was renowned for his showmanship and amazing stage performances.  Out of the one hundred and fifty to eleven thousand awards shows out there, we were left with a weak BET awards “tribute” and a few minutes here and there on the MTV VMA’s (hold tight the Grammys for that 3D nonsense).  Call me a cynic, but I’m thinking a few years ago, we would have had the mother of all tributes on at least one of these shows. It took a year before Chris Brown tore that stage down (and wet the mic with his tears), but still I was left thinking Big Mike could have been honoured earlier.
 


Another thing that adds to the general crapness of these shows is that they just don’t seem that credible.  I know it’s pop music and all, and maybe I’m getting too old to really enjoy these shows, but JLS winning their umpteenth award and seeing Anthony Hamilton in the ‘best reggae’ section are both frustrating and, well, perplexing (MOBOs, I’m giving you the most severe side-eye right now).
 
The standard of music is not to blame for these blatant assaults on popular culture. I blame the people at the top. These awards shows cater to the masses primarily, the industry bigwigs and then the rest of us just have to grin and bear it.  There’s definitely plenty of good music out there. There’s also plenty of rubbish out there too, and sadly the rubbish is getting a lot more shine at these shows than the good stuff.

*Update: I just saw R Kelly’s performance at the Soul Train Awards – good music is definitely still there. Braaap!*