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As a good ex-working class ex-socialist anarchist elitist, I absolutely adored the re-run of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY [just finished on BBC4].

You know how people sigh 'Ah, they dont make 'em like that any more!'? Well, for once, here, the cliche has a basis in real fact and detail. In this case, the SMOKING. Boy, there was a lot of smoking! There was a scene in the final episode last night, when all the shocked members of the Circus are sat around a briefing table, and they are all smoking. (Special mention for Terrence Rigby's Roy Bland, who literally smoked for England.) But this was not just random smoking, or smoking for the sake of smoking. (You know, stylish neo noir type smoking where you just know the actor had a smoking double, or rinsed out their mouth with Perrier between puffs.) This smoking was concerted, purposive, revelatory. Each cloud of smoke was a psychological portrait in miniature. Here a knobbly pipe, there an American import brand or an unfiltered Czech number ... but maybe best of all, Smiley's own occasional dandified wave of a slim white ciggy in the air around his halo-like silver hair. The only person who (I think) didn't smoke was the old 'Control', and that was because he was aready dying - lung cancer, most probably, by the look of him. The cloud hanging over the Cold War wasnt nuclear, it was unfiltered tobacco; makes you wonder if maybe the Berlin Wall didnt collapse due to secondary smoke damage...

(Did old school shrinks used to smoke when they saw their analysands? Freud and Lacan both were big cigar men. Or rather, Freud's were big; Lacan smoked those little knobbly bent tar-black Italian jobbies, like an imperious Mafioso. I won't belabour the parallels between spying and shrinkage - a la Roeg's Bad Timing - but patience, and listening, and the patient uncovering of motive... well...)

TINKER's plot even hinged, at one crucial point, on the brand of cigarettes smoked by the Russian ringmaster 'Karla', and the engraved lighter lent to him by George Smiley. I wonder if old school spies actually used to get training courses in how to smoke and drink? Smoking and drinking - or rather offering cigarettes and sharing drinks, getting drunk and sharing secrets - were part of the Game. (A bit like old style journalism, too - and there was a brief but vivid and telling scene in Tinker set in the old Fleet Street of fuzzy 3 o clock memory.)

Smoking is a way of measuring out time spent waiting; plus, it maybe half wraps you in desultory street corner anonymity; booze is a way to forget what it is you are waiing for, and half suspect will never turn up. (Or at least that's the conventional wisdom - booze as purposeful forgetting. I actually think it's a way to remember, badly, or to enjoy - differently, painfully - the trauma of memory, but that's another topic.) When Jim Prideaux, unembarrassed, started to glug vodka from the neck of the bottle (!), you knew that (if he wasn't deliberately putting on a show, giving a performance: Agent Going Going Gone To Seed, harmless old fool, lost in penitent tears and Smirnoff oblivion) he was as un-healed INSIDE as he was in the scarred flesh: that some wound persisted within and would inevitably have its high noon say.

There were some great cameo performances here, too, anchored in different styles of drinking, different modes of smoking. Truly, lost arts. And, truly, it gives the lie to the PC myth that such details are mere excisable irrelevances, mere historical 'detail' that can be clipped out with no loss to the Real Drama: cigarettes and alcohol here were not just social dressing, like kipper ties or dirty raincoats, they were variegated markers of hubris, melancholy, spoiled dreams.

Waiting, and listening.
Waiting, and listening, and remembering.
Waiting, and listening, and remembering - more or less baldly ad hoc, or only the tiniest bit better than the Other Side's other chap. (Waiting for the doppleganger Man.) Waiting, and listening, and drinking, and trying to manoeuvre other people into your version of a future, which is never really any kind of future proper, because futures are entirely unpredictable (which is also why they are hated by conspiracy nuts.), whereas your's is more like future memory in waiting you have tailored to fit whoever youre currently talking to.

A future as drearily, comfortingly, caustically inevitable as the next cigarette.

You can sleep with your best friends wife, you can betray him up to torture and soiled shaking ignnominy in some gulag oubliette, you can sell your country out for a lie you told yourself one hungover morning 40 years ago ... but only a real shit would refuse a chap a last or consoling cigarette. That is the gesture that truly unites, across the gulf of "ideology".

(One of the most chillingly memorable scenes in Tinker is where Karla actually refuses this complicity: he takes George's cigs and lighter, to smoke later, alone, but refuses to do so with or in front of George: I refuse your proffered reflection. It was like a circuit breaker, a flag going up, a refusal of convention, as with that inevitable scene following 5 nights of torture when the Master offers the Slave not just a light, but the light of reason in whispered parenthesis: "This is so silly, because, when it comes down to it, we are alike, you and I..." And perhaps this "alikeness" is the true object of Service/Literary nostalgia, now that the Other chap is no longer merely Left or Right, Commie or Capitalist, but right off the mirrored board... : the new enemy isnt a reflection via negativa, but a True Believer, a bloody apostate from the hinged and monochrome game of disappointment, deferral, the next drink, the clink of ice cubes, the creak of mattress springs, the abyssal swirl of cigarette smoke up to the ancient ceiling....

Can't talk to these new chaps, dont you know. Nothing to discuss. No breathing room. (No smoking room.) They've already tried everything we have to offer, and found it wanting. Other side is offering Paradise, now! Thats game over. We've only ever been able to offer a better version of Purgatory: waiting. Waiting, and smoking, and ...

The last episode of TINKER focussed in bleak, limping anti-crescendo all the previous episodes' suspended, clammy, spectral movement and counterpoint. Betrayal, you couldnt help but think, was the human God that came through in the breach, in the absence of any ideological God that worked. Betrayal didnt let anyone down. Everyone got their own special lick of betrayal, at the end. (Even if, as with Control, it was your own body that betrayed you.) The episode ended in a double echo - Prideaux and the old friend who betrayed him; and Smiley and the spectral Anne. (I dont know if it was deliberate, but there seemed to be an echo set up between the wily feminine nomens of "Anne" and "Karla", made concrete by - what else? - the cigarette lighter, which turns out to have terrific sub-textual resonance. Another easily missed detail: the traitor, "Gerald the Mole", is double in another sense: he sleeps, guiltlessly, with both boys and girls.)

Betrayal is something that these characters both understand, inherently, as brual fact, but cannot process, completely, as emotional truth. I think this is probably the third time I've seen this Le Carre adaptation - and like some of the best popular art, it has had a different flavour at each different point in my life. It ages with you. Each (re)view reveals more about you, as much as it. (I can actually remember vividly the last time I saw the last episode. I was drinking whisky, alone, on New Years Eve. There was a telephone call. I ... but that's another story; more Greene than Le Carre, as it happens...)

I suspect that the rhapsodic unveiling of Anne, post climactic coda, literally right at the end, outdoors, away from London - away from the smoke of the Smoke - is meant to signal a return to 'normality', to Life lived without fear, to womanly warm blood and Anne's "truer" reading of men and men's silly games of betrayal and duplicity and sneak. But last night I suddenly thought: she's an idiot. She doesnt get any of it any clearer or better at all. Especially Smiley (her ex husband), who she quite possibly mis reads entirely...

Maybe there's a lesson there - although whether it applies, outside the confines of a certain public school and Oxbridge educated man of a certain generation, a now dead or dying breed, gone like smoke ...
... BUT: there might be a whole subtext developed here on different modes of education, on how the Russians were taught to 'interpret' texts, and what texts, and by whom, and ditto the English. Formalists vs Leavisites, say. The weakness of the English, ultimately being NOT - as the silly feather headed Anne thinks - that they are "puzzled by Life", that they are joyless tacticians or technicians, interested only in the echo of the trace of the secret motive, as dry and concentrated as a double martini (barely even stirred, never mind shaken), unable to jump in to or embrace Life, all those cliches... but actually very nearly the opposite.
The flaw in the English 'Circus', is that they continue to read everyone by their own light, which is, in fact, all too fatally human. They can't go over to any dry, scientific formalism or structuralism or Marxism; they can't even believe that the other side really believes in all that nonsense.
Surely we're all human in the end, old boy ... And therefore they can only conceive of compromised human motives, never truly ideological ones. Humanism is the cigarette everyone ultimately shares - that is the hope that is, hopelessly, clung on to. Down to the last phlegmy breath.

You can see that in the tears starting to form in Jim Prideaux's eyes in his final scene: returned to 'normal' life and job, but still haunted, still wracked. The flaw is not, as the cliche goes, that all these all too proper chaps can only live life at one or two removes - no. Rather, the all too English "flaw" is that there is this persistent, stubborn, ineradicable haunting belief, somewhere in the back of the mind or the depths of the heart, in, as Greene put it, the Human Factor. They refuse to give in entirely to ideology - the unhealthy transgression being that they continue to read the Other Side by this measure too. They would prefer human weakness to ideological strength - a strange sort of nostalgia, but at least it is identifiably human. At least you can sit down and have a few night cap drinks with it, and know that it will share its last cigarette with you ...

+ + + +

Somehow, I doubt there will come a time, 20 years down the line, when I will be sitting watching a repeat of SPOOKS with tears running down my cheeks. That show's running jumping Clinique-faced "agents" wouldnt know what to do with a cigarette. They'd be frightened they might get sued by some secreatary for secondary smoke inhalation. They are avatars of Zizeks low tar, decaffeinated, fat free new world: agents without ideology. No smoke in your "I", no ideological mirror stage.

The well tailored tinkers of Le Carre's 'Circus' appeared to have no 'home life' whatsoever. Smiley's London flat was the nearest we got to any such thing, and that was haunted by the absence of the fragrant Anne, now elsewhere. (Indeed, the repetition across episodes, in different tones of voice and insinuendo, of the word "Anne", turned it into something like a code word for "elsewhere" or what was or might have been.)

It was, in its own way, a remarkably UN-sentimental piece of television, undeviating, monotone, but depthlessly rich. (At times it felt something like a Noel Coward script, being played by a Pinter cast; or, maybe, vice versa.)

The old Game of spying was all about memory; in the new world, nothing ever disappears, so you will never be able to forget anything long enough to have the pleasure of trying to foggily remember it, later on. Like the programme SPOOKS itself - everything is much "better", more professional, higher tech, seamless, well paced, well spun and advertised, higher production values, probaly more accesible and less (cough cough) "elitist"; fitter, clearer, cleaner faced and cleaner lunged, but ... rather facile and emptily flash. A world of stylists and spin masters, who wouldnt know a pithy Classical reference if it knocked over their bottle of Armani scent. (Theyd just GOOGLE the Classical reference - and get the fact of it, but not the pith. A bit like the Middle East, really.)

And aaah but now, the cruellest paradox of this throwaway world, is that nothing is throwaway: with hi tech surveillance and the ineradicable trace work of emails, life has become one long permanent record.

Worse still - there's nowhere left to smoke.

posted by Ian 9/06/2006 07:00:00 AM

somewhere i have a long email exchange with r*b white ex of the bfi abt smiley-stuff -- books and TV -- which took place during the last re-showing i guess... i will see if i can dig it out, if it has not got eaten up by time's cybermoth

he was obsessed with the "male culture" dimension of it, a lost world he slightly regretted possibly (he is a bit over-attracted to a spectatorish vibe!): but he is a good sounding-board on aspects of imperial and post-imperial all-maleness in english society (it was one reason why he was a good editor for "if....")

i very much like the "but they're ALL idiots" reading -- not least cz i think le carre is a bit of an idiot also (having read ALL his books except possibly some very recent ones): apart from two or three, they are INCREDIBLY patchy
here is my off-the-cuff explanation why eg SPOOKS has no resonance -- it's because its representation of the omnipresent computer-interface is not just shallow, but totally bogus

"memory has been instrumentalised" -- this is the UTOPIA of computer systems, but unbelievably far from the reality; the computers in serieses like spooks are no better than MAGICAL BOXES w/o ORGANS; the compacted human activity which went into their construction and organisation never enteres the story [unlike cap-R Real Life, as anyone who's spent anytime on-line in the last ten years knows: IT-life is ALL ABOUT the return of the instrumentally repressed!! the revenge of human error!!]

[also the current reality of "security orgs" seems to be a proliferation of willed-reality bunker bureaucracies battling largely with one another over funding territory and technique as sedimented ideology -- and further than EVER from a monolithic systematised overview of the outside world]

(the nightmare of a society of panoptical oversight by THE MAN is -- i've said this before -- the sign of a secret IMPERIALIST NOSTALGIA on the part of paranoiacs: the hope that at least SOMEONE knows what's going on and is in charge)
two quotes from CASINO ROYALE are also apposite, re the life of a spy:

"The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning" (=the opening lines)

and (p.13, and my favourite line in the book)

“… Bond undressed and took a cold shower. Then he lit his 70th cigarette of the day… ”
I agree re the computers thing. It shoul simplify and instumentalise everything but has if anything the opposite effect (or 'affect'?) - a universe of unconnected ropes, frayed twines leading nowhere. We had a leak in our ceiling a couple of weeks ago - in the 'old days' some estate manager who knew all the buildings inside out woudl have taken one look at it and gone 'Ah, right,that means ... X.' and fixed it. it took a week and a half, 3 dozen phone calls (each time we called back no one had a record of the previous call, so we had to repeat the entire narrative from beginning again) and at one point someone at the other end of the line in God knows where actually admitted to us: "... we have two new computer systems and THEY DONT TALK TO ONE ANOTHER." I dont need to itemise the number of Govt and police (and secret service?) cock ups over the past 10, 15 years in similar persepctive. (No to mention all the hushed up hackings, which are apochryphally LEGION.) We had 15 different phone centre operatives, two different plumbers (not "plumbers" a la Watergate, i mean: actual plumbers), a security man and THE FIRE BRIGADE. We nearly had the police called in at one exasperated and exasperating point. (And thru all of this, I dont think we actually spoke to an actual representative of our Housing Assoc ONCE. All pragmatics - as well as responsibility - had been "farmed out".) If this is all for a small leak in a bedroom ceiling - you can just imagine how Social Services and Social Worker scandals slowly arise.

Plus, of course - re the rise of Muslim Fundamentalism etc, there is no point in Mi5, MI6, the CIA and Homeland Security having the best info processing systems in the universe - if they have no info to process, or no way of verifying its veracity.

The 'old' Smiley world wasnt a "wilderneess of mirrors" (who actually said that?), it was a COMFORT ZONE of mirrors, for the paired Opposite But Same of the USSR and USA/UK. There was no chance of anything truly "surprising", but that it would occur within the realm of an already decided Expected.

Re: Le Carre.
I've only ever read The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - which I thought was better than the film. (This could partly be because I *never* liked Burton.) I'd like to read Tinker Tailor in original Le Carre form, but am worried it might now be a let down. Here is one instance where TV making something MORE ambivalent might be to its advantage.

Maybe a more profitable comparison might not be SPOOKS, but 24. (Although I cant quite believe there are still people out there watching its increasingly ridiculous flatulent performance .... !? I always thought it was a ONE shot ONE series thing, strictly. It seems to have turned into ane cho of Iraq - should have been In and OUT, job done; now seems never ending, unmoored from any verifiable "reality"...
wilderness of mirrors = from eliot's gerontion, as quoted by (of course) james jesus angleton

tinker tailor and smiley's people are both pretty good -- not quite as bleak as "in from the cold"; both have lovely vivid minor characters

(re memory: connie -- beryl reid in the TV -- whose entire role is to be the HUMAN CROSS-REFERENCING SYSTEM... she is emotional, alcoholic, an empath and old-fashioned county-set lesb -- cf the TWO LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN for the ur-type -- hence cast out of the system for all the above sins against modernisation)
didnt Reid first play version of this in KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE? (which i remember as bizarre gothic film, but one of those bizarre gothic 60s films which are better remembered/imagined than actually sat through...?

I also remember a 9/10 year old I.P. saying to parents "sister GEORGE?! thats a FUNNY name for a girl..." and parents t hee-ing and snort snorting to themselves, so theyd obviously seen it... i thin it had that rep at the time - something "risky/risque" you went to see, a la Sid James & mate & wives at start of Carry On Camping, or (even better) the Steptoe & Sun episode that makes sweet mention of "I Am Curious: Yellow"...
haha i recall cath carroll writing a snarky review of sister george viz that it "for the FIRST TIME told the TRUTH abt what women did in bed together viz DRINK EACH OTHER'S BATHWATER???"
computers "not talking to each other" is like a middleclass stageplay about life in a small village
Ha... maybe one day there will be an episode of MIDSOMER MURDERS, and at the end John Nettles will find out it was *actually* the quiet anti-social anarchist hunt sab COMPUTER wot did it...
might as well get CC's gag right: "for the FIRST TIME a film told the TRUTH abt what women did in bed together viz SMOKE CIGARS and DRINK EACH OTHER'S BATHWATER???"

it would make an awesome episode of ROSEMARY AND THYME (even more unwatchable that 24 in my experience)

tho it did inspire cause me and my friend tokyo rosemary to spend a happy evening inventing FORTHCOMING odd couple COP DUOS
I just read the COP DUO list.
"Piss and Vinegar' is brilliant.

I'd watch it!

...He said, like this was some mark of taste and discimination. From the man who sat and watched THREE STRAIGHT HOURS of "Punk'd" on saturday, a programme he doesnt even like (in fact, more, edging towards actively HATES...

I *actually* watched one episode TWICE in one day! (Altho, it was the one where Simon Cowell gets Punk'd, which kind of explains & excuses it, altho in my opinion he wasnt punk'd NEARLY enuff.

I think I got hook'd on the figure of Kutcher - his between-prank bits. He's obviously a pretty smart (and actually quite funny) (and enormously 'ambitious' in straight cut-throat Hollywood terms) dude. But you could see the mouse peeps of paranoia start to register in his eyes at one point - or so it seemed to me; this grotesque set-up where Britney Spears is trying to 'get in with' Kutcher and be one of the boys, and they turn the tables on Kutchers producer and best friend, in what i thought was acutally a really unpleasant - and unpleasantly protracted - scene.
8 out of 10 punkees seem internally seething and NOT AT ALL amused in any way shape or form but put on a just about happy face for the camera, tho more in rictus than true laughter. Some skateboard guy - he'd gotten a call from the (fake) police about his son (but he didnt know what or why). Now THAT is NOT funny - you could tell the guy was freaked.

Thers something early to mid Howard Hughes about the whole thing. (Prakishness, new technology, obsession with both 'control' and Hollywood politics, rank, hierarchy, just how far you can push same... and i dont doubt that in 15, 20 years Kutcher will be the next Warren Beatty or s/t, the undeclared 'King of Hollywood', a *real* power broker. (The Kutcher-Moore liason has served them both *so* well; talk about a boardroom fuck.) (I wonder what HHughes feelings were about fake boobs? Hmmm...)

(I hope such a grand sounding conclusion - and attendant speculations - doesnt come off like me trying to justify the shameful waste of 3 or 4 hours of my life... It does?
BTW - did anyone catch the Simon Cowell Desert Island Discs? I think it tells you a lot about what is wrong with POP IDOL at its heart.
(I mean - fair dues, there are CLASSY records here, records I personally love, too, - but he is SO stuck, so time warped, its like pre Simon Dee, its like a 1963 Hugh Hefner bachelor pad pile of records...) Viz

1. Mack the Knife
Performer Bobby Darin

2. This Guy's in Love with You
Performer Herb Alpert

3. She
Performer Charles Aznavour

4. Unchained Melody
Performer The Righteous Brothers

5. Danke Schoen
Performer Wayne Newton

6. If You're Not the One
Performer Daniel Bedingfield

7. Summer Wind
Performer Frank Sinatra

8. Mr Bojangles
Performer Sammy Davis Jr

Daniel Bedingfield (!) is his sole concession to post modernity, to POP as such. Which tells us a lot. (He's actually schizo-phonic: camp-Morose !!!?) I mean - WAYNE NEWTON!?
I dont think any of this is even 'jokey' (as might be claimed of his book - Hollywood Wives - and his special object: a mirror oh ha ha HA.)
You look at tht list and think: Bob Dylan could have turned up with full band and done Like A Rolling Stone [or: substitute song/performer of your choice] and he would have said: Useless. Cant sing. Too moody. Take those silly glasses off and go home and think about what youre *really* good at ...

It sure looks like he doesnt even have enough of a popular culture remit to grok the humor of that old infamous Kit kat ad.(Cant sing, cant play, cant dance - you'll go FAR!.') Its a lsit that betrays such a Daily Mail idea of what 'adult' is, a darkly shallow dream of how silly trashy pop music might see sense one day, and finally 'grow up' ...
didn't cowell say recently somewhere that pop would never again reach the sunny uplands of the RATPACK? which y'know, whatever floats yr boat, but it does cast a weird reflection on what the official gatekeepers think they're meant to be doing!!

popstarz as a format utterly fascinated me as it seemed for a while SO WIDE OPEN to be gamed by a canny mclaren type, plus some boy or girlie or group even w.with good overthrow-the-cheeseboard gumption --- make the set-up the subject; the show becomes yr own haha ROCK OPERA of possibility and failure (i mean the way SWINDLE or HERE MY DEAR is an opera of its production)

sadly the x factor largely marks the shutting down and boxing off of this potentially explosive format i think -- it is too big not to be highly policed and pre-judged off-screen -- tho i remain interested in the fact of the gatekeeper moving so clearly into the spotlight and becoming themselves the "issue" (and in fact the content)
there was hint of what i'm getting at when kym marsh confronted nigel thingy on popstarz abt her weight -- and brilliantly gamed the public response to get him to back down (ie opened up the "rules" to work in her favour)

similarly a smart post-dylan post-mclaren rocker could -- this wz my claim -- turn the spectacle of clash of aesthetics into the reason to be watching the show; make aesthetics the core of competition (so that even if they LOSE they win) -- bcz the basic assumptions of the format have gotten put into hazard

and to be honest i read it as a TOTAL lack of creative intelligence and ambition on the part of the massed representatives of this culture that no one stepped up -- an old skool post-punker like martin fry or billie mackenzie would have got my point in a second; or the POP GROUP (ok yes i know the pop group wd never have got it)
Yes, and they so obviously have NOTHING TO LOSE, given that 9/10 "winners" (and runners up) end up NOWHERE, or only one rung further up the scampi & chips/cruise ship ladder. (Scampi and chips dates me : what would be the proper equivalent today? Any suggestions? Bacardi Breezer n ...what?)

But i suspect that if anyone did "rebel" (evensimply to the extent of refusing the CRAP M.O.R songs they are GIVEN to sing and picking something outside the Cowell remit) - it would just be edited out. Too much money now riding on it all now to let the REAL Oz like mechanics be glimpsed. (I.e. - cross reference to other COMMENTS box and questions of ECONOMICS as invisibly & pwoerfully determinant...?)
HA HA HA! In the style of The Hits video channel gimmick '6 degrees of seperation' - how to get from George Smiley to Simon Cowell in one afternoon! (Thesis: media as new 'intelligence' world. TOP SECRET no longer applies to Russian agents but to pics of Tom Cruise's baby! A kind of 'wilderness of mirrors' paranoia certainly at the heart of both Kutcher and Cowell, surely, indeed... Discuss.
Talking of talent show TV - has anyone caught LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU [weekdays, BBC2 of all places, 4.30] ? Now, as should be obvious by now, I have a pretty high non embarrassment factor as far as bad tv goes - but this is something esle again, so godawful, cringe making, unbelievably cack handed... it's like something from daytime ITV local tv, circa 1973. I mean - it's saying something when *I* can't watch a tv show, because my standards are practically non existent...
'x-factor' is desgined for maximum laffs now; there's a late-'big brother' freakshow thing too, but last weekend had this enormous build-up to this regulation-goth girl, with the 'i am too indie for this but my mum made me do it' -- and she goes into the room and starts singing... "oh i wish i was a punk-rocker with flowers in my hair...". whoever edits it deserves a medal.
With his brutal manipulation of TV and the pop charts, his philistinism, his reactionary nostalgia, and his contempt for the 'masses'; Cowell is the Goebbells of pop.

Like Goebbells, he may appear evil to rivals, but his influence wil be far-reaching. Pop impresarios will be taking notes on Cowell's 'synergy' methods. When Cowell faces his (surely imminent) 'gotterdammerung'; his influence on media manipulation will be far-reaching.

Hype about 'network' websites breaking music neglects to mention that these acts will mainly be as transient as the shite Cowell throws up. The Arctic Monkeys are so over now they've won the Mercury Music prize! Kiss of death for any promising act...
paris hilton is hitler, simon cowell is goebbels... it's a fine thing that there are no actual dictators in the world. oh, no, hang on...
Well, this is a 'pop' site, no?
Didn't you ever cover similies or metaphors in school HKM? Or do you take everything literally?
cowell's personal legacy will be negligeable -- the format shifts simply aren't driven or controlled by him; they're a product of vertical and horizontal media integration, and the territorial struggles of the different media being integrated; also (as HKM says) they've already shifted towards a "laugh at the losers" mode, which -- while still potentially gameable by "undergrounders" -- becomes just such a dreary proposition for anyone with much competent ambition for mainstream light entertainment

one of the reasons i think this shift into the limelight of a certain kind of geatekeeper is interesting is because -- long-term -- i think, by placing THEM at the public's whim, it strips them of the power they had in the shadows (it simply shines too ruthless a light on the "mystique of judgement"; it's not a critique even, just an overexposure -- which means cowell has to find the chops to game public boredom with his shtick, and turn the backlash into a haha flucht nach vorn) (= "leap into the future"), or be humiliated by growing disinterest

he is no jonathan king -- neither as sinister nor as gifted
part of the problem for "the x factor" is that -- from c.1955-85 -- the "people who ran pop" knew that they DIDN'T have a bead on "how pop worked" (ie "what the rising public would like"): so they bounced their instincts and old-skool vaudeville or broadway or las vegas supperclub ear off of the running poll of the charts, and were sort of willing to acknowledge that "SOUNDS LIKE HORRIBLE NOISE to me" maybe meant that [whatever] was GOOD to the rock massive

ie "everything we know is wrong" was for several decades a kind of leisure-industry rule-of-thumb -- which allowed the roll-over of successive generations of rock etc, and the (often frutiful) confusion of planned obsolescence and "teenage revolution"

but you can't replicate that kind of tension retrospectively -- cowell et al are physically too YOUNG to have any natural sense of the pre-rock settlement

and someone like king -- who understands it much better -- can't be deployed as an on-screen representative of the "Drama of the Judge", bcz he so publicly embodies the predatory subjectivity that "everyone knows" is so much factor in this wing of the business (the "casting couch" meme predates hollywood --- you can find it in balzac and dumas)

(haha guess where i first came across the phrase "flucht nach vorn"? in SMILEY'S PEOPLE!!)
i didn't see enough of BB this year to know if it had actually jumped the shark but one of its great weapons is that big brother is a reified figure of judgement who STAYS ENTIRELY IN THE SHADOWS -- this allows endemol to turn fuck-ups into brilliant coups de theatre; precisely bcz we never see the moment of doubt pass across BB's face

the great untold story of endemol is the story of the teams of live-stream editors converting an unreal mass of supertedious material into "stories" IN REAL TIME

(haha this is ANOTHER thing the wire should cover -- it is an AWESOME AVANT GARDE TRIUMPH hiding in plain sight)
Hard to be a pedant when you have written such a pleasurable and interesting piece, but you cannot, must not, should not, say "..are sat around", in any circumstances. They either are sitting or were sitting or they sat down.

This is the old "I was sat" malarky which has permeated the media and hence everyday parlance to an astonishingly annoying extent: even people who know their grammar perfectly well are slipping into this Yorshire-ism while reporting from the bombed out towns and villages of Lebanon.

Here in Norfolk we have the "I weren't". This is dialect. And so is the " I were sat" business. It has no relation to good grammar: it is simple the speech of a region. There is no excuse for people who were not born into these ways of speaking to use any of them in writing.
Anonymous you are wrong, I think

The following is not ungrammatical:
"He sat us down." It means that he -- a teacher, let's say -- required we sit down, how and when.

"We were sat down by him" = the (clumsy) restatement of the first sentence in passive mode.

"We were sat down" (with the agency of the teacher -- or whoever -- now merely implied). This means something like: "Circumstances required that we be sat down"

"... all the shocked members of the Circus are sat around a briefing table..." -- if you just had "are sitting" or "are seated" here, you would lose the hint of the involuntary, the unwanted necessity suffusing the situation...

(haha in Shropshire we use the word "doubt" as follows: "I doubt the bus will be late" means "I think the bus will be late" --- I *really* like this very local and confusing usage, and VERY OCCASIONALLY in my dayjob -- as a copy-editor -- get the impulse to introduce it... )
Sightline Payments Kirk Sanfordpoker guideone of the reasons i think this shift into the limelight of a certain kind of geatekeeper is interesting is because -- long-term -- i think, by placing THEM at the public's whim, it strips them of the power they had in the shadows (it simply shines too ruthless a light on the "mystique of judgement"; it's not a critique even, just an overexposure -- which means cowell has to find the chops to game public boredom with his shtick, and turn the backlash into a haha flucht nach vorn) (= "leap into the future"), or be humiliated by growing disinterest
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