TV

Top 10 Game of Thrones Characters

I resisted the urge to watch Game of Thrones  for years. This was a social urge by the way, not a personal one. I had assumed it would be along the lines of Lord of the Rings and not entirely tolerable but alas it’s appearance on Sky box sets meant I gave it a chance and some five weeks later, I’ve seen all fifty episodes, I’m obsessed and counting down the days until the new season.

I’m a fully-fledged bandwagoner.

So, to sate my current need to talk to everybody I knew about Thrones I thought I would rank my ten ‘favourite’, and I use the term loosely as some of these characters I don’t actually like, characters.

10. Oberyn Martell

Prince Oberyn only appeared in seven episodes but he certainly made an impression on me, if not only for his weirdly attractive unattractiveness. As a visitor from Dorne, the home of the socially liberal, free-thinking, open-minded people of Westeros, Oberyn hosted bisexual sex parties and tried in vain to avenge his sister and her children. His smutty charm and progressive attitudes created a charming charismatic persona that had us on his side very quickly. Unfortunately, his humility and ability to finish off a job were lacking, and well, you know the rest.

9. Ned Stark

Poor old Ned Stark, his appearance in just one season of the show made an impression. As we have heard persistently since that sadistic bastard Joffrey had his head removed, Ned Stark was a man of real honour, and one of the few in the Seven Kingdoms who didn’t really deserve to die. In ten episodes, Ned Stark did little to warrant anything but admiration, and his legacy, if you like, will be setting out the show’s brutal tone, where anyone can die…at any time.

8. Jon Snow

Jon Snow is a little dry a lot of the time if we’re being totally honest, but his pretty Northern face just about excuses it. Like his father, he’s a genuinely good guy, on a continent where there are precious few. He’s pretty much served as the only hero against the White Walkers. With that in mind, his ‘death’ certainly wasn’t warranted and making him the victim of hostile tribalism against wildlings, whilst the White Walkers are advancing, probably wasn’t the Knight’s Watch’s best idea. Having said that, I don’t for one second think he’s gone anywhere – but like the bastard himself, I know nothing.

7. Brienne of Tarth

The feminist icon of the series is not-a-knight Brienne of Tarth. Having faithfully served Renly Baratheon and Catelyn Stark, even after both’s deaths, she has shown her unwavering loyalty to her oaths. Plus, she’s an absolute behemoth, possibly the most fearsome warrior in the entire series, looking like Draco Malfoy’s mother with Hagrid’s power. She has uprooted gender stereotypes, which, let’s face it are probably harder to usurp in a world such as the Seven Kingdoms, and she deserves a lot of respect for it. However, I fear that her storyline is coming to an end, and if I had my wish, it would do next season, as one of her former ‘masters’ returns from the beyond…

6. Sansa Stark

For the first three seasons, I was begging and pleading for this girl to have more respect for herself. I actually viewed her as a pathetic shrinking violet but when I think back, for a young girl to lose pretty much her entire family, deal romantically with two violent psychopaths and to be at the top of King’s Landing’s most wanted list, you’ve got to be pretty damn strong. Like Brienne of Tarth said of Sansa’s mother, Catelyn, she’s got courage, and plenty of it. The best of Sansa is yet to come, for sure.

5. Cersei Lannister

I loathe this hateful cow. In fact, nothing gave me more satisfaction throughout the series than seeing Cersei covered in blood, shit and spit, walking through King’s Landing being heckled like she deserved.  That being said, any character that can stir up this sort of venom from a viewer has got to be celebrated as a bloody good one. In fact, she’s the best villain in the show. Let’s not forget that the butchering of the Starks, the imprisonment of the Tyrells and the unjust attempts at convicting Tyrion for crimes he didn’t commit, were all, in some way, orchestrated by her. What a poisonous bitch. Bravo, Lena Heady.

4. Tyrion Lannister

Yeah, everyone’s favourite character is only number four on my list. And it’s not because I have anything against Tyrion, I just think there are better characters. He’s the only Lannister who you’re always on the side of, which is a testament to him, given the bloodline of arseholes he comes from. That being said, Tyrion often seems to be there for comic relief more than any sort of epic quest, a role he plays exceptionally well but one that’s kept him off the top spot.

3. Olenna Tyrell

The legendary Dame Diana Rigg takes bronze in my countdown. As the matriarch of a dynasty that only really came to the forefront in season four, the Queen of Thorns has captured my heart in a short space of time. It’s my belief that she has everyone’s number in King’s Landing and they don’t even realise it. Her barbed tongue, sharp wit and wily plots are no match for the Lannisters/Baratheons. Plus, she killed Joffrey, she deserves the Iron Throne herself for that alone.

2. Daenerys Targaryen

Is there a person alive who doesn’t love Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, mother of Dragons? I can think of no character more deserving of being called fire, like, she literally is fire. Whether she’s liberating oppressed slaves or resurrecting the coolest mythical creatures known to human folklore, our Khaleesi has often possessed the most enthralling plot lines in the series. If we were honest, we are all desperate for the day, Daenerys and her dragons fly to Westeros and take back the Iron Throne she truly deserves. All hail Khaleesi!

1. Catelyn Stark

An unconventional choice, I know, but not a surprising one if you’ve spoken to me at any point over the last few weeks. There has quite simply been no person in Westeros dealt a worse hand than Lady Catelyn Stark. Her husband is beheaded, her son crippled, her daughters held captive or missing and then her family and allies brutally murdered at her own brother’s wedding. Sure, sympathy isn’t enough to place her at the top of the list but her poise in dealing with all this hardship is admirable. She never wavers. She even faces her brutal untimely death with the most poetic air of peace possible. Catelyn is the strongest woman in the show, right until the end she is defiant in her instinct to protect her family. Perhaps, she is so loveable and so respectable because she is the only character who acts selflessly, and whose motives aren’t fuelled by a desire to better her own social standing. Here’s to Lady Stoneheart in Season 6. Please.

Nadiya’s Victory Is Socially Important

The most watched television programme of the year was the final of a baking competition. Almost a quarter of the nation tuned in to see Nadiya Hussain win the Great British Bake Off, a competition comparable to those held at village fetes the nation over. But Hussain’s victory is much more important to British society.

For many of us it seems bizarre that a programme about baking is so revered at all and probably that extra bit bizarre that it has the power to help change social attitudes in this country. I wish Nadiya’s victory was as understated as the victories of her predecessors – but it isn’t, because she’s Muslim.

If we were in any doubt that Islamophobia and xenophobia weren’t still high on the list of Britain’s social ills, we were shown that wasn’t true this last week. The Conservative MP and Home Secretary Theresa May made a disgusting attack on mass immigration an affront to ‘cohesive society’ this week and was upstaged just a few days later when the aforementioned Hussain, a British woman of Bangladeshi heritage, scooped TV’s biggest prize.

After Nadiya’s win, The Daily Mail tenuously and disgustingly made every pathetic effort to stringently link her heritage and ethnicity to terrorism, indirectly attributing her to the 2005 bombings in London by referring to the fact her wedding took place in the same year as relevant…seriously.

Xenophobia and Islamophobia are still rife in this country. In London, one of the nation’s most cosmopolitan and presumably tolerant cities, Islamophobic hate crimes rose by 70% over the last year, and 60% of those crimes targeted Muslim women. Why? Because of the repugnantly stupid assumption that being Muslim and having Islamist sympathies are mutually exclusive.

And despite immigrants being a net contribution to our economy, and despite the fact that Britain is in fact only filled 2% to capacity, immigration is the biggest concern for the nation’s voters and 57% of people think immigration should be ‘reduced a lot’.

After Nadiya’s victory, she said ‘I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can do it. I’m never gonna say “maybe”. I’m never gonna say “I don’t think I can”. I can and I will.’

Yes, all Nadiya did was step out of her comfort zone and bake, and bake well for that matter. But, without trying she has endeared herself to millions and counteracted the damaging messages from the right of the political spectrum that British Muslims are less British than the rest of ‘us’, and that generations of immigration damage the fabrics of society. We need more messages of equality, inclusivity and tolerance in this country – and a baking competition is doing far more than our government to promote that. Nadiya Hussain is the deserved winner of the Great British Bake Off, but her greatest victory isn’t her dazzling lemon drizzle wedding cake but her unintentional yet vital uprooting of stereotypes and bigotry.

5 TV Characters I Would Have as Dinner Guests

I’m having a dinner party and there are six seats at the table, including one for myself. Who do I choose to join me?

Leslie Knope

Who could not want such an infectious positive energy at their dinner party? Leslie is fun, vivacious and entertaining, okay she can get a little annoying but she’s probably really hilarious when she’s drunk so if I encourage her to drink loads it will be great. Also, she’s political so just imagine the glorious conversation we could have

Cameron Tucker

Now, if you know me, you know I live for Modern Family and funnily enough Cameron is not my favourite character, he’s not even in the top five but as a dinner guest, he’s probably the best choice. Again, he can be quite over the top but these are TV characters they’re supposed to be, and he’s good for a story or three.

Selina Meyer

I need even more political women in my life and Selina Meyer is just the sassiest woman to ever grace the fictional version of the West Wing. Seriously she’s funny, catty and downright vulgar, I would absolutely have her sat next to me in case our other dinner guests get too irritating and we can delight in each other’s bitchiness. She can bring Gary too and he can wait on the tables I guess. Also, imagine a drunken Knope vs. Meyer debate – a dream come true.

Connor Walsh

Okay, this guy’s character is far less exciting as the others, he’s a sociopath, a little evil but importantly he is absolutely stunning. Connor can sit opposite me and play footsie with me while I enjoy the meal, then he can spend all of five seconds trying to seduce me and we can go to a different room for dessert. He may be a smaller personality but he’s super hot and hugely endearing. sjdasjfsjfqjpqoptpwq

Gabrielle Solis

I actually might fancy this woman more than Jack Falahee (aka Connor Walsh). She’s seriously stunning. Gabrielle Solis is a loveable bitch, she has so many selfish tendencies but always seems to redeem herself with kindness. She’s funny, intelligent and glamorous, I just need a spicy, petite Latina diva in my life and she fits the bill perfectly. Also, Eva Longoria called me sweet once so you know…

Honourable mentions

  • Edie Britt
  • Every single other Modern Family character
  • Robin Scherbatsky
  • Roger from American Dad
  • Raven Baxter
  • Zack Morris
  • Jane Kerkovich-Williams & Brad Williams

Celebrity Big Bother

Back in the day, I loved Celebrity Big Brother and the civilian series too. It was trashy, fun, intense, dramatic, real and surreal all at once. Channel Five have done a great job of recapturing that essence with the two series I have, as some people would consider, ‘deigned’ to watch since it moved from Channel Four. That’s why I’m devoting this post to talking about this series and it’s absurdly brilliant yet frustrating housemates.

Katie Hopkins and Perez Hilton are the two stand-out housemates this year as they’ve come to blows time and time again. Let’s get one thing clear; they’re both arseholes. Who’s the bigger arsehole? Well, I’ll answer that in due course but it’s definitely worth remembering that they’re both arseholes and both professional wind up merchants. There seems to be three camps in the house; Team Hopkins consisting of Katie H, Michelle, Cami and probably Calum just about. Team Hilton is Perez, Nadia, Alicia and just about Patsy. Finally, there’s Team Snore fronted by Kavana, Katie P and Cheggers.

Let’s pick them off one-by-one. Katie P is harmless, she is absolutely filthy and maybe shouldn’t be disclosing the naughty secrets of her ex-husbands to relative strangers on national television but they shouldn’t be arseholes either. Kavana is the ultimate bore, he seriously does nothing and I would not miss him should he disappear and neither would Cheggers, who is nice enough and occasionally funny but too a bit drab.

Now on to Team Hilton. Patsy is wonderful. Bizarrely juxtaposed as irreversibly repressed yet uber calm, a lovely woman who seems to be as close to allergic to noise and conflict as one could be, I actually want her to win due to the sheer lack of truly likable characters this year. Alicia is sweet but naive, she gets a bit touchy about the process of the show but fundamentally, she’s a nice person and more than capable of standing up to Katie Hopkins. Nadia too is wonderful, whilst loud and abrasive at the start and perhaps even hard to like, her moral compass and conviction in standing up for what’s right should earn her more plaudits than it does.

Team Katie are slightly more divided in my view; Calum is an inconsistent dud, painfully boring even though he’s finally been coerced in to picking on Alicia. Cami is a horrible brat, vicious, conniving, underhanded and nasty, she thinks she’s untouchable but one day someone will put her in her place. Michelle is false, not in the sense that she’s deliberately two-faced but she’s not who she says she is. She’s not a defender of the outcast and she isn’t the beacon of moral objectivity and guardianship. She was so promising but she’s been Hopkinised which is a true shame.

Now to the other two. And here’s my answer to the earlier question; Katie Hopkins. Katie Hopkins is the bigger arsehole. Yes, Perez Hilton is an irritant, a narcissistic, depraved, sad and at times vile individual who will go to any means to get attention. He, like Katie H too have their good sides that we have seen from time to time too but let’s focus on the controversy. Perez acts this way for attention, I assume he feels like an outcast that Michelle supposedly represents and has no idea whatsoever what to do with it. He shouts so loud and acts so vibrantly because he doesn’t think he’s seen and that doesn’t come across well to others. I don’t buy Nadia’s protestations that all of Perez’s acting out is due to the wall of hate he experiences from the housemates, but I’m certain it’s part of the reason.

Katie Hopkins on the other hand is vicious, she’s taken a disliking to Perez, and I can’t blame her for that, he’s said and done some out of line things. Such as taunting Alexander O’Neal and calling Katie herself ‘homophobic’  which was possibly unfair at time but has since been proven to have some merit since she gloated about her kids having two parents unlike Perez’s son. I wonder if she boasted in front of the loving family she broke up by stealing her children’s other parent? Too, she wasn’t exactly outraged when Alexander O’Neal blasted Perez as an ‘ass faggot’ and neither was self-professed ‘LGBTQ champ’ Michelle Visage for that matter. The point is is that she is visibly obsessed with Perez, constantly seeking him out to hurl her tirades of abusive, unkind comments at him, well just because she can. It’s the most petulant emnity I’ve ever seen; kiss blowing, tongue wagging, name calling, threat making etc. She smacks of an insecure woman, who takes out her complexes on others, it would certainly explain why any praise reduces her to a blubbering wreck. Both of their pathetic crusades to recruit floating housemates in to their gang is sad, as is Katie Hopkins’ destruction of house property, threats against physical well-being and her columns that bash the housemates she’s too afraid to criticise to their face. Alicia Douvall summed Katie up brilliantly a few days ago; ‘if she’s so smart then why does she have to make a career by being nasty?’. She’s malicious to put it plainly, she possesses minimal quick wit and has continually embarrassed herself on the programme. Both of these two morons have a lot of issues to work out but they don’t allow themselves to process that and instead have both manifested an inflated ego that they’ve convinced themselves to believe in. They’re both twats but the fact is is that Perez Hilton is Katie Hopkins-ing Katie Hopkins and she has no idea how to deal with it.

How To Get Away With Half-Hearted Representation

How To Get Away With Murder is taking the US television scene by storm in the new season. However, its fresh take on legal drama is not what’s drawing unique attention. Instead, the uber-conservative cross section of American viewership is up in arms over the ‘controversial’ depiction of passionate gay sex scenes.

It’s utterly absurd that such a programme would obtain censure for what can only be defined as a truthful narrative of how some same-sex pairings engage in intercourse. It’s long been a taboo on television for same-sex affection to be portrayed on equal-footing with heterosexual intimacy. While it’s true that representation of LGBT+ characters and couples has been growing on the American TV scene since the 1980s, it is still lagging far behind with its tackling of physical love. The bold moves to allow Ellen Degeneres’ character to come out on her self-titled sitcom, which then led to gay couples appearing on more recent series such as Glee and Modern Family have helped normalise gay issues but ultimately there is still a large portion of the gay lifestyle that remains discriminatorily alien over the dread of a polemical storm.

Controversy… HTGAWM’s Connor has sex

I suppose you could even be excused for thinking, given the relative success of the latter two shows that LGBT+ acceptance has sky-rocketed to near equal echelons to that of heterosexual couples on the small screen. But that’s hardly the case, while there is a much fairer representation of gay characters on television than ever before, their active sexuality, the only thing that really differentiates them from any other character is fundamentally constrained or regulated. Particularly on American television, homosexual intimacy is generally intimated rather than actually shown. How To Get Away With Murder neglects that tradition and does illustrate indelicate gay sex scenes. And, all too tritely some people aren’t happy about that;

As it happens, these racy gay sex scenes are the same as any we’ve seen with straight couples from US TV shows for years and years. On the big four networks in the States; Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC, we’ve seen numerous TV shows in recent times represent zesty sex; Melrose PlaceGossip GirlScandal and even Friends to name just a few. And that’s just from the top networks, taking others in to account you can add Game of ThronesGirlsMasters of Sex, Sex and the City and the US version of Shameless to the list too. This racy heterosexual content is never perceived as problematic to the viewer as it would be if it was homosexual – and we supposedly live in a tolerant time. I notice that nobody complained about the oral sex scene between a male and female in How To Get Away With Murder‘s pilot episode, or the repeated raunchy sex scenes between straight pairings, but did so when a man kissed another man’s back. Maybe you think that niche programming like The L Word and Queer as Folk should encompass all the gay sex we see on television but is that genuinely representative of modern life?

Inconsistent… Viola Davis’ character’s oral sex scene went largely uncriticised.

It’s even the case with British television too. Just this year on popular soap EastEnders, they introduced a reticent and reserved gay character who flitted from gay character to gay character, as if corresponding sexuality alone is adequate enough to forge a partnership in the LGBT+ sphere. It’s certainly not archetypal of the plural attitude we’ve come to expect of modern media. Come to think of it, does television ever depict confident young gay people on television? Other than Glee’s Blaine, I am struggling to think of one. Homosexuals are as diverse a social cross-section as any but TV seldom reflects that, it seems that most people think as long as gay characters are not being harassed or attacked with bigoted vitriol then they’re being represented equally, but this minimising view is simply not true and simply not enough.

Believe it or not, gay people have sex as zealously as straight people. It’s not good enough to have heterosexual sex shown to be as passionate as network regulators will allow and then relegate homosexual intimacy to passing inference. Television has a crucial part to play in changing culture and should be the driving force to rid gay sex of its taboo label. People may not enjoy watching same-sex pairings go at it on screen, the same way some people won’t appreciate opposite-sex scenes but it’s vital we treat both alternatives on a storytelling par. Any problems viewers have specifically with depictions of gay sex are carrying around an unharnessed homophobia. Television is supposed to mirror life, and sex is as big a part of life for gay people as it is for heterosexuals. Any problem a viewer has with that is their problem and certainly not that of the scriptwriters at How To Get Away With Murder. Of course, if it has become that pertinent an issue, they could always change channels instead of trying to slow the rate of progress to match their own parochial regime.

Make Britain Tolerant: Leicester Is British

What exactly is British? Winston Churchill? Cups of tea? Rain?

‘British’ means anything you want it to. I had hoped that too would be the message of Channel 4’s Make Leicester British documentary which aired on Monday night – yet it wasn’t to be.

From the introductory seconds, the programme started on with the anti-immigration attitude I quietly dreaded. Several clips positioned at the front of the documentary insinuated that Leicester had been conquered by settlers, that ‘British’ identity was being vanquished in the city and that Britons, white, black and Asian alike were all amalgamated in their derision of the new economic and crime scapegoats; the Eastern Europeans.

It appeared that the documentary was loaded from the start, with the ostensibly biased casting including an unemployed Somalian Muslim on benefits, a Polish woman whose very slight toil with the English language was opportunistically latched upon by the sensationalist eagles at Channel 4, and of course, two sympathetic White Britons who were not once publicised in a damaging light, unlike the other six participants. The programme went on to explore how these people could co-exist together, continually emphasising Leicester’s afflicted obligation to verify that multiculturalism is a feasible reality in modern Britain. The viewer was afforded a few moments of modest redemption in which the participants from diverse cultures were able to enrich the lives of the others with their alternative lifestyle. However, those peeps in to multiculturalism at work were habitually misplace in between the near single-mindedness on division, in which the documentary was even left on the note of two women of differing religions re-entering in to an irreconcilable conflict.

The researchers led the spectator to believe that Leicester is a city of tribal conflict, that citizens from every sub-culture were left fighting a silent war of acrimony on the city’s very streets. However, the real experiences of the people of Leicester generally rejected that opinion. In a small poll I ran on my social media page, 78% felt the show misrepresented the city and only 29% of Leicesterians felt there was any sort of ethnic tensions in the city whatsoever. In truth, growing up and living in Leicester is for many people a very heartening experience. It’s a city where Christmas and Diwali hold similar status in the eyes of the council and the locals alike. Growing up in the city’s suburbs, I was educated on the city’s varied population and given the opportunity to visit Gurdwaras, Hindu Temples, Churches, Synagogues and Mosques, all of which were hospitable, enlightening and crucially, integrated.

Regrettably, the tone of the piece is very much indicative of the climate of xenophobia that has spread across the country. As mentioned, the documentary was profoundly dependent on migrant typecasts such as immigrants being benefit thieves when in fact research shows the contrary. Immigrants are 45% less likely to claim benefits and recent settlers have made a net contribution of £25bn to the national tax fund; £8.8bn more than they withdrew, 26% of NHS doctors are foreign-born. The programme demonstrated an impassioned row with plenty of xenophobic rhetoric was – it seems the recipe for media viewership at the minute is to villainise and segregate the ‘other’. Yes, experiences within the city will fluctuate but any difficulties are few and far between.  The programme’s subservience to the far-right tabloid agenda was incredibly disheartening and particularly insulting to the wonderfully harmonious city that I call home.

It is thoroughly inappropriate for Channel 4 to stir the pot of neophobia with loaded titles that intimate a city is not authentically ‘British’. ‘British’ to me means tolerance, respect, diversity and equality. In those terms, Leicester is as prototypically ‘British’ as you can get. The same cannot be said for the British media, works like Make Leicester British continue to fail and insult the British public.

It always puzzles me as to what people’s issues are with immigrants. I want to close this post with what’s hopefully a sobering thought; your hometown, no matter where you live, is full of strangers. Why does it matter what ethnicity those strangers are?

How 9 Years of Television Were Just About Saved in Four and a Half Minutes

And relax…at the end of last week, the highly anticipated alternative REAL ending was leaked on to the internet and thank goodness it was. I really really like How I Met Your Mother. It never made me laugh consistently but it had a lot of heart, a great story, a unique gimmick and characters you cared about. Yeah, it was quite funny and easy to watch but its biggest triumph was making characters care so much about Ted, Barney, Robin, Lily, Marshall and Tracy. In April, I wrote about how Carter Bays and Craig Thomas’ ill-conceived finale basically ruined the nine years of TV that preceded it, so it seems only fair that now they’ve tried to correct their glaring faux pas, that we look at what went right and what still didn’t…

+ Ted didn’t end up with Robin

Hallelujah! The fact that the blue french horn peskily found a way to trump the yellow umbrella back in March was without doubt the worst part of the finale – and that’s no mean feat! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Ted and Robin make no sense. Maybe they did in 2005 but after nine long years of watching the pair develop, there’s simply no way. I’m still annoyed at the ridiculous U-turn of the writers in the original ending especially because it was probably just so they could use archive footage. Urgh. Thankfully, Robin can be my favourite character again. The meeting (what the show was about) between Ted and Tracy was sufficient for the viewers and it was right to end the episode there.

Fulfilling… Ted meets Tracy and she doesn’t die! Hooray!

+ Ted’s recap of the series

I don’t usually like self-appreciating shows but HIMYM probably deserved a moment of reflection in the finale. Ted recapping the long journey that led him to the mother, was far more respectful to her character and the show itself than having him disregard this journey as an afterthought in order to pursue Robin. It gave us a happy reflection on Ted’s irritating quest for the one, allowing the series to cap off it’s achievements on screen.

  Ted not visibly addressing the kids

I know, it’s a really small detail but it seemed right that the last line – “and that kids, is how I met your mother” – was spoken visibly to the children by future Ted, just before the visual credits. Of course, had they gone with the correct ending in the first place I’d imagine that small creases like this would have been ironed out.

+ The implication that Barney and Robin got back together

As a fervent supporter of Robin & Barney over Robin & Ted this was the most satisfying part. The finale’s ending wasn’t the only thing that was wrong with it – the rest wasn’t good either. I had real concerns when the alternate ending was announced that Robin and Barney would remain separated. After all, they broke up earlier in the episode and no new footage was filmed to piece together a different climax. However, future Ted’s narration about the tribulations of life and how things “things fall apart, things get put back together” as the camera pans to Robin and Barney exchanging glances at Ted and Tracy’s wedding. It also bodes well that in Ted’s recap of his story that Barney and Robin falling for each other was included and their divorce wasn’t. Long live Stinsbatsky!

Reunited? The right couple may have survived after all.

  The change of music

I’m definitely being pernickety here but my favourite thing – scratch that – basically the only thing I liked about the original ending was the music. The Walkman’s ‘Heaven’ carried on a long tradition of the show using great songs to escalate the emotion of certain moments and it was the perfect nostalgic track to see the show out. I seriously love that song.

+ The clip of the dancing yellow umbrella

After all, the yellow umbrella was what the show was all about. Not the blue french horn. It was NEVER about the blue french horn.

So there we have it, the alternate ending was simply unquantifiably better than the original. Thank you, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas for rectifying your horrendous blunder. I think it’s best we all pretend that the original ending never happened. At least now, I won’t have to sell my HIMYM boxset on eBay.

Can the FA Cup Final be England’s ‘Super Bowl’?

A little over a week ago, the sports world basked in the occasion of the 48th annual Super Bowl.  The Seattle Seahawks embarrassed the Denver Broncos, dispatching them 43-8. Most of us on this side of the pond will have already forgotten that scoreline, but the spectacle itself will remain a little fresher in our minds.

In truth, the Super Bowl is more than just an American football match. It’s an occasion. The NFL have managed to fuse sports and culture perfectly to make it an event that the whole country is enveloped in regardless of their individual interest in sports.  People gather, TV stations change their schedule and the whole nation, for a day or two, is gripped by one singular sporting event. For instance, the Super Bowl has a grand history of spectacular half-time shows including performances from Beyonce, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and more. Coupled with its corporate tradition of debuting spectacular adverts during the many intervals from play, there is genuinely plenty on offer to entertain all sorts of people.

Prominent… The NFL’s showcase game regularly draws in over 100 million US viewers. [Photo: Wikipedia]

The FA Cup final is the obvious contender to compare with the Super Bowl for English sport. A famous tournament of the nation’s favourite sport, settled by one single game that airs on terrestrial television. In fact, the comparisons end there. Now, I’m not saying that I want the FA to fervently promote the final by shoving Jessie J on the pitch at half-time, in a feckless attempt to maintain any interest in the event. But I do think Britain’s footballing body could do more to make the FA Cup final a bigger occasion on a national scale. There’s no reason why the FA Cup final can’t be an experience that grips the entirety of England in the days leading up to the event. There’s certainly no need for us to try and emulate the Super Bowl to too great an extent. The cacophonous pageantry of American Football and the orgulousness required to call the winners of a domestic trophy ‘world champions’ is not found on these shores but their blue print for sporting spectacles is certainly to be admired.

Super Bowl XLVIII brough in 111.5 million viewers for Fox last Sunday night meaning around 35% of the USA was tuning in, making it the most watched television broadcast in the nation’s history. In stark contrast, the most recent FA Cup final which saw Wigan Athletic upset the odds to beat Manchester City was viewed by 4.10 million on ITV (8% of England), being outperformed that week by an episode of Off Their Rockers and Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs. It’s not like a boost in attention for the FA Cup final wouldn’t favour TV channels, if American trends are anything to go by. Fox’s comedy New Girl received 26 million viewers, an 867% increase in viewership on it’s season average.

Overlooked: FA Cup Finals are convincingly outperformed by entertainment variety shows. [Photo: Wikipedia]

Unfortunately, the FA Cup is a distant after thought behind the much preferred league campaigns, which I can certainly appreciate. England has two cup competitions. The Football League Cup has long been disregarded by the ‘bigger clubs’ unless they reach the latter stages; only then do they usually field their strongest sides. Even Championship clubs see that tournament as a chance for squad rotation. In recent years, the FA Cup has been heading in the same direction with many clubs simply not trying to compete, illustrated by falling attendances and of course ‘weakened’ squads.

It’s not like England wouldn’t embrace a grander spectacle, we see how much football fever takes hold of the nation every time the European Championships and World Cup roll around. And, it’s certainly not beyond us to forge such a special sporting event, given the overwhelming success of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. In theory, everything is in place for the FA Cup final to be a truly global sporting event. We really ought to be giving English football’s grandest competition a less bathetic climax, otherwise what is the point? But, until the FA and indeed the football clubs themselves start to take the world’s oldest football tournament seriously; it’s likely to remain a distant dream.

(Thank you to Kyle Andrews for helping with this article. Read his stuff; chrispowellsflatcap.wordpress.com)

TV Characters We Would All Hate In Real-Life

Joey Tribbiani

Frustrating… Matt Le Blanc as Joey Tribbiani

To be honest, I hate him anyway. I’ve never understood his appeal but to some people, he’s the funniest character on Friends. I doubt the general public would be as loving of him if they knew him in real life. For a start, he is stupid and although it can be charming, he must be frustrating to deal with seeing as he cannot grasp simple conversations. He’s sleazy, sleeping with and then ditching multiple women with no remorse and he often barges in to Monica and Chandler’s apartment demanding food and freeloads off of them in general. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the whole French debacle.

Eric Cartman

Chickenlover

Respect My Authoritah… Evil Eric Cartman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is there to say? We all love watching him on South Park but let’s not lose sight of the fact he’s a horrible little kid. He regularly exhibits racist and anti-semitic views, he tricked Butters in to thinking the world was ending so he could go to Kyle’s party in his place, he tried to exterminate the Jews, he injected Kyle with AIDs and he killed a boy’s parents and then made them in to a chilli that the boy unknowingly ate. A very sick individual that I’m sure none of us would like to know.


Ted Mosby

Let it go… Nobody is sure why Ted continues to pester Robin

It says a lot that the main character of a five-piece ensemble cast is the show’s least popular. The whole concept of How I Met Your Mother is based around Ted telling his kids the lengthy story of how he met their mother. Unfortunately, he is sidetracked by a whole lot of neediness, pathetic pining for ‘the one’, despite only being in his twenties. The whole Ted and Robin relationship is the most draining and irritating one to ever take place on the small screen, and since we love Sparkles so much, we blame it on Ted. We’re then left scratching our heads as to why he tells his kids about his various sexual conquests too. He just seems unbearably in need of constant emotional support.

Brian Griffin

Brian Griffin

Smug… Family Guy‘s Brian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The epitome of ‘liberal douche’ is Brian Griffin. I’m not against Liberalism, I’m actually a Liberal myself but the insufferable way Brian goes on about his political and moral views like he’s some sort of prophet is very irritating. Quagmire sums it up best when he calls him out for pretending to be smart when really he isn’t all that. Plus, if his pompous attitude isn’t enough to turn you off, he’s also a dog, nobody wants to be condescended to by a canine.

Piper Chapman

Naive… OITNB’s Piper in puppet form

If you’ve seen Netflix’s drama sensation Orange is the New Black then you’ll know what an anti-hero Piper Chapman is. She is the show’s protagonist and from the start, we are led to feel sorry for her but then she starts putting her foot in her mouth far too frequently and getting herself in to all sorts of problems that causes us to abandon her. And whenever she is forced to defend herself, she naively states that ‘she never meant for any of this to happen’, will she ever learn?

Charlie Harper

Promiscuous… Charlie Harper

Like Joey Tribbiani, Charlie Harper is a heartless lothario who shows no remorse for the many, many, many women he has wronged – it’s no wonder one of them pushed him in front of a train. And is it me or does he never actually seem to be working?  I don’t watch Two and a Half Men as much as the other shows referenced in this list but I’m certain I would much rather live with Ashton Kutcher.

Susan Delfino

Cutesy… Teri Hatcher as Susan Delfino

Okay, we liked her ditzy antics in the first season of Desperate Housewives and the other housewives seem to tolerate her but I like to think I’d treat her with the same contempt that Edie Britt does.  She’s slyly selfish, constantly putting her needs before others, shown perfectly by her desire to rely on her teenage daughter, Julie for empathy. Her cutesy act would quickly wear thin as would her clumsiness and her apparent inability to keep hold of Mike, the ‘love of her life’. Urgh, she should have been fried by a power line – not Edie.

Barney Stinson

Barney Stinson

Compulsive liar… NPH as Barney Stinson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’d have to include Barney for the same reason as Joey Tribbiani and Charlie Harper. He is an absolutely nightmare to women. He uses them for sex and then chucks them plus his compulsive lying would make him exhausting to be around. He’s the sort of person you’d have out grown in high school but may keep him around because you feel sorry for him.

The X Factor USA: Top 16 Evaluation

The X Factor USA’s live shows are rolling around in just two weeks and given the rapidly declining standards of my country’s edition, I am truly grateful. Once more, the Stateside version has produced 16 top class acts. Here is how they are shaping up going in to the final rounds.

Kelly’s Over 25s

Rachel Potter

Can she sing?
Yes, very well in fact. Rachel surprised everyone at her first audition with her impeccable high notes. The Four Chair Challenge didn’t go as well for her and she was put through based on her first audition.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Hmm… this is debatable. She can definitely sing and she was likeable in her first audition and the country market in the US is huge but she did herself no favours by rattling off excuses in her second performance. I think Victoria Carriger would have been better received by voters.

Jeff Gutt

Can he sing?
He’s actually got a great voice. It’s very much suited to rock ballads but he can sing, he was unlucky not to have made it to the live shows the season before.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Not really. Sure, he’s likeable as a good singer and being a single father supporting his son but he doesn’t look like a star and he doesn’t have much charisma. He could do well from this but I can’t foresee him being a global star.

James Kenney

Can he sing?
Another yes, here. He’s not a strong a singer as Jeff but his voice is soulful and unique within the competition.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Not really. Sure, he’s likeable as a good singer and being a single father supporting his son but he doesn’t look like a star and he doesn’t have much charisma. He could do well from this but I can’t foresee him being a global star.

Lillie McCloud

Can they sing?
Can she ever! Vocally, Lillie is a cut above the rest of the competition. It says a lot that she is the only act to have received two standing ovations so far this season.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
You may think a 54-year-old grandmother has little to offer mainstream music but the stage presence she carries is that of a seasoned veteran. She has the look, she has the talent. Can she connect with a younger audience? Maybe not but with a voice like hers, that shouldn’t be problematic.

 

Demi’s Girls

Khaya Cohen

Can they sing?
Vocally, she’s arguably the strongest in Demi’s category.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Meh, probably not. She’s enthusiastic and likeable but does she stand-out? Not really.  That’s why I’ve just used those generic terms to describe her.

Ellona Santiago

Can they sing?
Yes, she can. Simon picked her out as the star singer when she was part of Season 1 group InTENsity.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Again, she’s very forgettable. She’s just your average girl. She’s yet to show anything that sets her apart from any other female singer with a good voice.

Danie Geimer

Can they sing?
Again, she is a very good singer with amazing control for a 15-year-old.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Thankfully, she may do. She’s certainly more memorable than her two predecessors. She’s the geeky girl at school that no one pays attention to, until they realise how talented she is. I bet that story will resonate with many of the show’s younger voters.

Rion Paige

Can they sing?
Yes, she can. Excellently, in fact, for a 13-year-old.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
She’s arguably the most likeable contestant in the whole competition, her resolute positivity in the face of her disability is simply inspiring. I almost want to see her succeed more for her mum than herself.

Paulina’s Boys

 

Carlito Olivero

Can they sing?
He can but he’s definitely one of the weaker singers in the competition.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Sort of. He’ll appeal to certain audiences but he’s nothing special.

Carlos Guevara

Can they sing?
He can, very well in fact. One of Paula’s strongest singers.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
He’s certainly likeable given his triumph over Tourettes Syndrome whenever he sings, but he isn’t the most charismatic.

Tim Olstad

Can they sing?
Yes, he is a very good singer. That’s about all he is.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Not all. He is easily the dullest contestant left. Simon was spot on when he said he’d only appeal to older audiences.

Josh Levi

Can they sing?
There are better singers in the competition, but yes he can sing.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
I think so. The girls seem to love him, he’s confident without being arrogant and his stage presence is impressive. There’s no reason he can’t go far.

Simon’s Groups

 

Sweet Suspense

Can they sing?
As they’re a manufactured group they can all sing equally well. Well, there’s one stronger singer but…

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
Potentially. They’re fairly likeable and will probably be popular with young teenage girls.

Restless Road

Can they sing?
Very well, particularly together.

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
Absolutely, it was a genius move of Simon’s to put together a group of three young male country singers. I’m certain they’ll do well.

Alex and Sierra

Can they sing?
They have unique voices. They’re not powerful but good, no doubt.

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
I think so. They have a unique style and are actually likeable as a couple, you want them to succeed because of how down-to-earth they are. I love them.

RoXxy Montana

Can they sing?
You bet they can. Coming from a gospel choir, their voices are very soulful too.

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
They could be the new Destiny’s Child. They’re very talented, great performers but they’re not necessarily as likeable and charismatic as the other acts. They might not do as well as predicted.