TV Review – The Tipping Point, Twenty Twelve, Classic Albums: Paranoid, Blackout

Study The Machine

Ever since Children’s TV got relegated to Freeview, the slots once occupied by John Craven’s Newsround have to be filled as cheaply as possible. Endless versions of quiz and antiques shows are regurgitated, each with a different twist to try to stave off boredom.

The twist in The Tipping Point (ITV1) is that it’s a quiz show based on those seaside arcade novelty machines where your 2p bounces onto a moving platform and you somehow think it’s going to knock out far more 2ps. I’ve always wondered what those machines are called. Maybe this show will tell us. Anyway, onto “the quiz were our players live on the edge of their nerves whilst you live on the edge of your seat,” as bubbly, bland host Ben Shephard puts it.

In the first round, four players answer questions in order to decide who gets to put their over-sized 2ps in first. Only these 2ps are worth £50 and they come out surprisingly easy, thereby confirming the long-held suspicion that those 2ps in seaside arcades are largely made of glue. Whilst Shephard tries to inject excitement (“Have you been studying the machine? She’s looking generous”) the contestants are urged to fill the time waiting for the coins to settle by commentating on their ‘tips’. Even John Motson would struggle at that, but the contestants gamely give it a go. This mostly consists of going, “ooooooohh” or “aaaarrhh” or “whoooooaaa” with the odd “looking good” or “come on”. Shephard cheerfully ignores this embarrassment. “See you after the break!”

Twenty Twelve (BBC2) returned for its final few episodes now that the actual Olympics have arrived to spoil the joke. As with writer/director John Morton’s similar series People Like Us, it’s the voiceover that contains most of the fun (David Tennant here, as opposed to the unfortunate Chris Langham on People Like Us), especially when recounting everyone’s job descriptions in a dry-as-dust monotone. So in the Headquarters of the Olympic Deliverance Commission, Head of Deliverance Ian Fletcher has organised a breakfast meeting with his staff, Head of Sustainability Kay Hope, Head of Infrastructure Graham Hitchens, Head of Contracts Nick Jellet and
Head of Brand Siobahn Sharpe.

Head of Sustainability Kay Hope has the job of getting rid of the stadium once it’s all over. Since, as in the real world, Tottenham and West Ham have pulled out of Sustaining the Legacy, Hope is reduced to hawking a 60,000 seat stadium to the likes of Dagenham and Redbridge, whose home gate is more around 3,000, and the already shut Walthamstow Dog Track, whose biggest fan, “lifelong Irishman” Brian McLoughlan boasts about how Madonna once racked up there with Guy. “It was a long party”.

Meanwhile, Head of Brand Siobahn Sharpe (“ya, totally”) is meeting with her Senior Trend Analyst Coco Lomax, Information Architect Barney Lumsden and Viral Concept Designer Carl Marx, “breaking out the magic dust” on the Travel Advice Pack for visitors to the Olympics. This mostly involves coming up with a slogan (“Way To Go”). She presents the pack to the rest of the team.

“What’s she talking about?” asks Head of Infrastructure Graham Hitchens.

“Don’t ask me,” says Head of Contracts Nick Jellet.

Elsewhere, there is a meeting of the Special Catastrophical Unit, headed up by Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Rachel Crane, looking nervous in a job that clearly lots of people have run screaming from. They welcome their American counterparts, who have all taken an interest in a rumour that someone is converting starting pistols to fire live rounds. One killed a seagull whilst starting a 400m race. The Americans are naturally very interested in guns of any kind, so a very nervous Deputy Assistant Commissioner Rachel Crane takes back an example of the starting pistols and accidentally shoots Head of Deliverance Ian Fletcher.

Only one episode to go and “there are still a lot of things to get through if July 27th is to happen on time, as originally planned.”

“Come on!” “Aaaaarrrrr,” “Stay where you are!” How are things going back on the seaside arcade? They are down to three players and the tension is ratcheting up. There are even replays after a particularly exciting ‘drop’. “There are plenty of juicy overhangs in the machine,” says Shephard. ‘Machine’? What’s the thing called Ben!

I first heard of Black Sabbath back in the eighties, when they were an aging, desperately trying to keep in touch, bloated, over-the-hill band with a revolving door policy of members. These days they’re four affable brummies/national treasures who can afford to look back at their earliest work with fondness, when they accidentally invented a whole new genre of music: heavy metal.

Classic Albums (BBC4) focused on Paranoid, their second album and a time when they were getting on. They’re still not, as Bill Ward’s pulling out of the recent reunion tour reveals, but they’ve got nothing but fond words for the time when they didn’t get out of their heads every night and severely disappoint each other. There’s Ozzy, who loves Bill’s drumming. There’s Geezer, who loves Tony’s guitar playing (“He had the incredible knack of knocking out riff after riff after riff. It was the magic of the band”). Tony, in turn, loves Geezer’s bass playing (“Bass players don’t seem to exist like that”). And everybody loves Ozzy. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for what a talent he had. Ozzy was always great at interpreting. It sounded like it was coming from deep down in Ozzy’s soul,” says an awestruck Geezer.

The Classic Albums series is not a place for criticism. Even the truly terrible Electric Funeral (sample lyric: “radiation minds decay”) is commented on without horror, although an engineer is allowed to say “all the verses are like this” in apology. Paranoid was hated by more vocal critics at the time, hardly surprising given some of the subject matter (Ozzy on lyric writer Geezer: “He was always into that sci-fi shit. I didn’t know what the word meant”). But elsewhere, Paranoid stands the test of time, whether it’s the nihilistic riffs of War Pigs and Iron Man, which had simply never been heard before, or the Vietnam lyrics of Hand of Doom. Unlike a lot of their protest singer contemporaries, Sabbath had played at US Army bases and discovered the GIs were taking heroin to get through their experiences. The critics were wrong and the kids who bought Sabbath in their millions were right. Sometimes, music should just be an unlovely howl of rage.

“Aargghhhh!” Is it Ozzy interpreting from the bottom of his soul? No, we’re back on the Tipping Point. “Come on, push!” “Will it settle?” “Stay where you are!” With the reduction of contestants, the commentary is getting more sparse and desperate, not helped by Shephard joining in. “Is that where you wanted it?” “It’s not where I wanted it.” In the end, Renee wins it, simply because she answered more questions right than anyone else. The nameless machine is entirely irrelevant. “Join us next time when four more players hang in the balance.”

This week’s effort to do The Wire a la Angleterre features the knockabout Blackout (BBC1). In the first episode Christopher Ecclestone was a binge drinking corrupt council officer who kills a friend. Only he can’t remember, because he drinks so much he gets blackouts. Feeling his life has hit rock bottom he goes to see his lawyer sister (Lyndsey Marshal) at the high courts, but he achieves redemption when he leaps in the way of a drive-by meant for a supergrass. Acclaimed a hero, colleague Ewan Bremner urges him to run for mayor, because that’s a really important job that can make a difference and not a job usually reserved for the likes of Boris Johnson or a guy dressed in a monkey suit.

In this week’s episode, Ecclestone is now mayor after a presumably speedy election. But he’s got more monkeys on his back than his colleague in Hartlepool. Aside from the aforementioned drinking and drugs problem, corruption and possible murder, he’s also got MyAnna Burning, a part-time prostitute who witnessed the murder and has somehow fallen in love with him, Andrew Scott of Moriarty fame as her ex-husband, who also happens to be a police officer looking into the death, Rebecca Callard as the daughter of the dead man, who wants his help in solving the murder, his wife Dervla Kirwan, who has found out about the corruption, Bremner and Marshal, who are seeing each other and separately mucking up Ecclestone’s plans to turn the unnamed city into a socialist paradise, and a secret cabal in the police who may be fitting up people to take the fall for Ecclestone.

You remember how Lester Freeman said all the pieces fit? What happens if you’ve got too many pieces? This won’t end well.

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About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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