Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

One of the most dispiriting experiences currently available is any commercial break during a televised football match. In a Champions League game, within seconds of the half-time whistle you are pitched into a garish carnival of crap which glaringly and proudly condenses Everything Wrong With Modern Britain into three bombastic minutes, beginning with the laughably pompous Champions League choral theme and then going downhill from there. Adverts follow for gambling, drinking, and borrowing money, along with violent computer games and cars.

A multi-millionaire actor will exhort recession-hit viewers to bet on the next goal, via a handy app. Glossy couples and sexy croupiers make online cash fleecing look like a James Bond casino.

To pay for this, why not take out a loan from one of the friendly moneylenders with their CGI grannies that make debt look so cosy and respectable? Then you can spend it on Death Kill 6, whose in-game footage lets you see just how realistically you can blow people up for fun. But to remind you that you can't really afford any of this, here's a series of plutocratically rich sports stars being paid to sell you over-priced trainers which will, through magic, make you just like them.

By the time its back to Adrian Chiles, I'm so depressed by the parade of tat that I'm switching to BBC4 to watch a reassuring documentary about restoring canals or the history of wallpaper. The extraordinary part is that the endless gambling ads and jolly TV loansharks are the legacy of a Labour government. I'm sure Attlee would be proud.

Comic stereotypes die hard, and frequently linger in the culture way beyond their sell-by date. I am travelling on trains a lot lately; up to Leeds for a corporate gig, down to Bristol for a recording, and in and out of London constantly. Every train has been on time, and railway stations are quite pleasant places to be; noticeably nicer, cleaner, and with a better variety of food and drink than they had even ten years ago. Jokes to this effect do not work.

Audiences like to hear that trains are always late and stations are urine-stained hellholes selling ancient sandwiches. The fact that neither has been true for years does not seem to matter. There ought to be a term for this - 'Humorous Image Retention Syndrome' - the tendency of a joke to outlive its source material. …

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