Friday, August 05, 2016

BODY FREAKS: Old Face, new face or simply Dysmorphic?

Channel Five's reality documentary "Body Freaks" is for me, a rare glimpse into what was originally perceived as an incredibly shallow world.

I was wrong about that . . . almost.

To some living among us, the obsession with body image has now reached epidemic proportions. And until I watched this show, I didn't understand why.

Here's the thing; I was born with a hairlip and cleft palate.

And after years of surgery throughout my childhood, teenage years and finishing in my early 20's,  I learned to live with the bullying, tormenting, teasing and all the typical stuff those of my generation could ever throw at me.

They'd call me names like "Fat Lip" or Galen (from Planet of the Apes) or "Monkey" or my favourite, John Merrick (Joseph Carey Merrick: The Elephant Man)

Personally I always liked that last one as it gave me a pleasurable kick that I was being mentioned in the same sentence along with such a wonderful great man.

And after watching last night's episode of Body Freaks, I realised that for some; enduring all what I had to endure would have been difficult if not impossible.

There are indeed some people out there who are very unhappy with their looks. So much so that they go to (some would say) extremes to change or erase completely that which they were born with.

For me; Body Freaks (unintentionally I suspect) revealed something that had very  little to do with vanity or defects at birth but interestingly more to do with what was really going on within the individual's head.

For example there is Jordan, who wanted to look like Kim Kardashian (I can't imagine why) so he can feel like a celebrity. Now to me; that's vanity, and vanity as I perceive it is a very shallow and ugly thing.

Seeing Jordan before he changed everything via £100,000 of (I assume) hard earned cash, looked alright. By my standards; a really typical normal guy.

But in this pier pressured over glamourised air brushed world . . .
What's normal?

Then there's Heather, who clearly breaks her mother's heart by completely changing her face from what it originally was, to something that belongs in an episode of Star Trek. And again, from my perspective, seeing Heather's early photos, I saw a very pretty young girl. Am I missing something here?

Finally there is Star, for me; the most tragic of them all.

She spent fifty big one's so she could totally eradicate her childhood.
What an expensive way to get away from your past.

It seems to me that these people would have done better getting counciling instead of cosmetic surgery. And the really annoying thing about this whole business, is that the only ones who appear to be profiting from these people's anxiety, are the surgeons.

To me; Jordan, Heather & Star's problems were on the inside, not outside.
They needed a shrink, not botox.

And one other thing this "Body Freaks" show completely failed to address, was Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) also known as Body Dysmorphia, Dysmorphic Syndrome, or Dysmorphophobia.

A rather common mental condition that effects roughly 2.5% of the population whereby, the individual who suffers from it, has some aspect of their appearance which to them, is severely flawed and takes measures often extreme ones to hide or fix what is perceived by the sufferer, as an immense defect.

There was no mention of this condition at all!

Although having said that; I did go for a pee two thirds into the show and since I didn't have "Live TV" engaged, I didn't press "Pause" so perhaps I missed it?

In summing up "Body Freaks" was simply that. It didn't focus on what should have been the real issues, obsessive body image brought about by tragic and/or traumatic circumstances in childhood and/or adolescence which can lead to BDD.

I also thought the portraying of the individuals who took part in the show was negative and for me; Body Freaks failed completely to show them in a good light considering these people's clear and ongoing issues with themselves.

Or did I get it all wrong?

I'm assuming Body Freaks will be available on Channel Five's catch up service. It's well worth a watch but for me, it failed to show an unbiased balanced view of what is considered by some to be a very serious issue of these modern times.

My good wishes and sincere respects to all who bravely took part in this show.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, August 04, 2016

999: What's Your Emergency? Must watch TV or a waste of time?

If you like a hard hitting reality fix then look no further than Channel 4's latest offering, "999: What's Your Emergency?"

I thought "24 Hours in A&E" was hard hitting enough to gain a person's attention however; after watching series three of "999: What's Your Emergency?", you still get that reality fix but in a very different way.

Having missed the previous two series for reasons that escape me, I am however very glad I found out about series three before it started.

Tonight's episode in this new series follows the Ambulance service and Police in Cheshire as they attend a varied range of urgent and not so urgent call outs.

For those who have read my previous review of "24 Hours in A&E", you will already know that shows like these (in my opinion) should be put into the category of "Absolute Must Watch" TV. They are quite simply great eye openers for a variety of reasons but to prevent me from boring you to tears, here's a few . . .

Firstly; it's real, no script, no rehearsals,
what you see is what you get, as it happens.

Secondly; it makes you realise (at least for me it does) that perhaps your life is not as difficult or as uncomfortable as you might think, and that you quickly learn there is always someone who's considerably a great deal worse off than you.

Thirdly; (and most importantly) any TV documentary or show that opens your mind, makes you learn something new or in this show's case, gives you a greater appreciation of your lot in life, makes you reconsider your personal circumstances, or simply makes you sit back and say "Wow; my problems are tiny compared to some.", then this show has achieved its goal.

To some; shows like "999: What's Your Emergency?" could be viewed as way too depressing to watch, but you'd be wrong.

They are (in my opinion) anything but. They are essential watching.

It opens a window for an hour each week into a world that some of us are aware of, but seldom look closely into.

And if you did take the time to have a close look into this world, the world you also live in,  then you would see that there are indeed others who's journey through life, be it due to their own actions or not, is considerably a great deal tougher than yours.

It shows you that everyone out there; has their story.
And this show tells their story, very well.

Good reasons for watching me thinks?

Episode Five of 999; What's Your Emergency? airs on Channel 4 at 9pm Thursdays. Give it a go. I challenge you to write back to me & say, I've wasted your time.

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

THE X FACTOR : My TV Nightmare returns

For me personally; there are certain times of the year that I quite literally dread.

For example; dental checkups, general health checkups, TV license renewal, my annual performance review with my boss, my annual finance statement from the bank (that one always makes me cringe) my fishing rod license and club membership fee, Britain's Got Talent and finally; The X Factor.

The X Factor . . . oh dear.

There are few things that can try the human soul to the very edge of its endurance, to the very hairs breath of utter madness, that has this unswerving ability to bring you to the very precipice of the ever lasting pit of TV doom and despair!

And The X Factor for me; does all this with unyielding relentlessness.
It's emotionally draining, almost physically painful to watch and yet . . .

It's so mesmerizing it's virtually impossible not to watch.

I feel like I'm one of those rabbits dazzled by the headlights of an approaching car. I know what's going to happen if I (the rabbit) don't move, trouble is; I can't.

I have to see it through right to the end.

This new series of X Factor will be the thirteenth (I think) I have watched and to this day I still don't understand why I put myself through it. But I do.

I would have thought by now, we would have run out of Pop Wannabes but like the rain in this country, they keep on gushing down onto our TV screens with  relentless persistence.

And if that wasn't bad enough, this year Simon Cowell (the creator of my worst TV nightmare) brings back from the show's archives some old "Has-Been's" in the shapes of Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Nicole Scherzinger.

Even Dermot is back! Will my nightmare never end?

Maybe I'm being a little harsh here?
I mean there are some good bits.

The end credits are well worth watching as you get that big rush of relief in the knowledge that the show is over for another week. It feels a bit like that nice soothing feeling you get after your first fag of the day, or your first tea or coffee.

Yeah it really hits the spot. But it doesn't last.
The show returns seven days later.

And I must be fair here; the show has indeed produced some very worthy winners. For example there's Leona Lewis . . . erm . . . Leona Lewis . . .  ah yes and not forgetting  . . .  Leona Lewis.

OK, help me out here; can you name last year's winner without googling it? Or can you name 5 past winners in chronological order or in any order?

Nope? Me neither.

In fact when you think about it; the runners up in this crazy competition typically do much better than the winners themselves. For example we all I'm sure remember JLS, Olly Murs, Diana Vickers, Fleur East, G4 and One Direction (actually they came 3rd in series 7) not forgetting Ray Quinn and Rhydian Roberts.

So really when you think about it, winning the X Factor has the same kiss of death effect to your potential professional singing career as being chosen to be the United Kingdom's next hopeful in the Eurovsion Song Contest!

You see that? That's your music career running
toward the horizon with its arse on fire!

Cheers Simon.

And yet; in spite of all the above, I'll be watching X Factor when it returns. Not because I'm a big big fan of the show but simply because I'm morbidly curious as to who was brave (or stupid) enough to audition in the first place . . .

And who the hell will actually win the bloomin thing.

One things for certain, in a year from now; I probably won't remember who it was. But I'll remember to tune in when the next new series (if there is one) returns.

It's "Rabbit in headlights" time again. Enjoy the show.

The X Factor returns mid August me thinks.
Hope you've bought some anti-cringe pills.

You're going to need them.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

24 HOURS in A&E My weekly dose of Humble Pie

Right now there are very few TV shows, documentaries or programmes that would tear me away from enjoying the BBC Proms Season but 24 Hours in A&E is definitely without doubt one of those that can achieve the (almost) impossible.

Channel 4 are brilliant when it comes to Fly-on-the-wall documentaries. In fact; I would go as far to say that what Channel 4 have done documentarially is greatly envied by many documentary makers on the other channels.

And without doubt (in my opinion) the finest example
of this TV genre is 24 Hours in A&E.

This Real Life fly-on-the-wall  Medical Documentary aims to give the viewer an "In Your Face" insight into the goings on within an A&E department during a 24 hour period. In the early days, this series played out within the walls of King's College Hospital but later moved to St George's Hospital Tooting London.

The professionalism of the staff, the standard of care and the variety of emotions openly displayed by staff as well as patients and their families are intimately captured thanks to the many cameras placed throughout the A&E department.

What they catch is quite literally; as it happens.

For people like me who (and for the moment thankfully) are not regular visitors to A&E departments, this show is one heck of an eye opener.

Personally; I have always had a high regard and a deep respect for those who work in our emergency services and these feelings are greatly amplified each time I sit down to watch an episode of this programme.

And it doesn't end there.

The world as we all know can sometimes feel like a cold, hard, uncertain, dangerous and dark place to live in. The news channels and daily national newspapers often tell us stories of the darker side of Human Nature which could make you feel that there is precious little to smile about out there these days.

But you'd be wrong.

Sometimes; something comes along that makes you reconsider all that.
And for me; that something is 24 Hours in A&E

And whilst I often cannot get my head around all that medical jargon, I have no difficulty understanding the commitment, compassion and dedication repeatedly shown with unswerving ability by the staff of A&E.

The kindness and care clearly expressed by family members for their sick or injured loved ones, the humour, and the sorrow; is also well noted.

Some episodes have been deeply moving because all of what you see and hear is  not scripted, not rehearsed, it's Real Life Drama; pure and simple.

Anthony Philipson's narration as well as Richard Spiller's music emphasizes and enhances the shows many mood swings. Also 24 Hours in A&E can deliver a big dollop of Humble Pie to perhaps some who watch it.

Something I'm sure some of us could use from time to time.

When you think about it, we are all so very lucky in this country. We have a National Health Service that is the envy of the world and for the moment, it's free,

Yes; it's struggling and yes its always short of cash.
But it's always been there.

And as long as the NHS remains, there will be those whose hearts are big, their compassion strong, and their commitment unyielding who are willing and able to make those who arrive at A&E, feel better by the time they leave.

These people are life savers, they're heroes who without programmes like 24 Hours in A&E would probably not receive the recognition and respect they all so richly deserve but rarely get.

I'm not certain if anyone who works in a hospital will ever read this but if they do, I hope they will see that due to the efforts of Channel 4 , there are people out there now (myself included) who greatly appreciate all the great work they do.

So why not make an appointment to watch 24 Hours in A&E and have a dollop of Humble Pie? You'll feel much better for it. Trust me; it's worth watching.

The 11th series of 24 Hours in A&E continues
on Channel 4 Wednesday's at 9pm

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, July 16, 2016


The 122nd season of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts began last night at the Royal Albert Hall in London and for me personally, these concerts bring back so many happy memories of my early life.

My mother (may her soul rest in peace) was a music nut and in between all those Andy Williams LP's she would play on her radio-gram, she would often assault my young ears with various pieces from Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Greig, Shostakovich, Vaughan -Williams, Bizet, Rachmaninov, Schubert, Lizt, Brahms, Bach, and so many others I could list but I reckon you've got the idea.

And as the years went by all too quickly it seems, my mum & I would tune into BBC Radio 3 around this time to listen to the BBC Proms. Once there we would embark  on a nightly musical journey of imagination accompanied quite literally by some of the greatest classical music ever composed.

Those were good years.

Mum sadly passed away 12 years ago and to this day, I still tune in and hope that somewhere up among the stars or maybe at the Royal Albert itself . . .

She too is listening.

And of course had it not been for Sir Henry Wood's brilliant idea back in 1890 to bring, conduct classical and popular music to the masses at low prices, we would not be enjoying the Proms (as they are now affectionately known) today.

Sadly too; Sir Henry died in 1944 but his legacy lives on and I have to say quite happily, that it shows absolutely no sign of dying.

Quite the contrary; it becomes more lively with every passing year.

Now I know to some who may be reading this, Classical music is not your cup of tea but here's the thing. These Classics have been playing for hundreds of years and to be honest, they'll still be played long after the likes of Justine Beiber, One Direction, Nuclear Pusscat or Lady's Permitted have gone the way of the Dodo taking all their music (hopefully) with them.

Last night's "First Night of the Proms" on BBC Four was a blast and also very moving from the beginning.

Music really is a language we all can understand and it was a lovely gesture at the start from the BBC Symphony Orchestra to play La Marseillaise (the French National Anthem) as a mark of respect in the light of the terrible events in Nice.

France; we are with you.

This was shortly followed by Tchaikovsky's Fantasy Overture of Romeo & Juliet. A moving piece that's been unfortunately featured in many a comedy love scene.

After which came Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor. Now I had not heard this for a very long time and I must admit that I'd forgotten how beautiful it is.

Then came the Russians with Sergei Prokofiev Cantata 'Alexander Nevsky.

Even for me this was heavy stuff as I sometimes find Russian Classical music just as heavy and complicated as their language however; there is an intriguing beauty about it which kept me listening.

I should have really watched this on BBC Four but I've always listened to the Proms on the radio. I find it easier to just lie back, close my eyes and simply listen.

After all; why change the habits of a lifetime?
Besides; I feel it brings me closer for a little while to my mum

In summing up I think the Proms are well worth a listen. If you're tired of the latest storyline from Coronation Street or fed up of Phil's constant heavy breathing in EastEnders, or even if you have never listened to Classical Music before . . .

Why not give the Proms a go?

I mean who knows; you might just like it. And it may surprise you to learn that you've already heard some of it before elsewhere.

The Proms are on every night for the next two months and for those who love this music genre have plenty to look forward to. Failing that you can always catch up on the concerts you've missed through the BBC's iPlayer service.

It's all there for ages so you have plenty of time to catch up on them all.
As for me; I'm looking forward to two months of pleasant ear therapy.

It's a nice way to pass the Summer evenings. Let the music begin!

Rest in peace Mum; and thanks for the musical memories.

And thank you too for reading.