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Ten Music Videos That Completely Ruined The Song

Don’t you just hate when the video for a brilliant song totally ruins it? Maybe the singer isn’t how you’d pictured them. Or maybe seeing the video forces a dodgy storyline into your head, so that forever when you see ‘Seven Days’ by Craig David, you think of him telling the whole thing to his barber. Weird. Craig, why did you do that? Here are ten of the worst instances where music videos utterly destroyed a perfectly good song.

1. Gotta Get Thru This – Daniel Bedingfield

Poor old Daniel Bedingfield. It was always going to be harder for him with such a terribly normal name. (See also: Peter Andre). These guys would be absolutely fine working at Costa, but in the music charts? No. Usually in these circumstances, people change their names completely. Like Harry Webb who became Cliff Richard or Reginald Dwight who became Elton John. But not Bedingfield. He soldiered on confident that the music would help us see past the name and actually, he was right. ‘Gotta Get Thru This’ was brilliant electro-garage and the vocal sounded sincere and tortured, like Michael Jackson at his very best. Bravo Daniel. Your name is clearly just a mistake. But then came the video. Encouraged by his success, the video featured DB sitting on a bench in Canary Wharf, looking a lot like a magician who takes magic very seriously, with a goatee beard, a black polo neck jumper and a leather jacket from the market. Mouthing along, he runs up and down sets of stairs, whirls around, acts confused and all in pursuit of a woman who keeps making sexy eyes at the camera and swaying at the railings of Millennium Bridge. It continues in this vein, with Daniel chasing the woman all over the London transport system as desperately she tries to shake him off (and who can blame her). Sometimes he’s wearing his leather jacket. Sometimes he’s not. But always, he looks like a magician. Suffice to say, by the end of the video, ‘Gotta Get Thru This’ has lost its sparkle.

2. Believe – Cher

Cher never grows old and over the years she’s given us some killer tracks. ‘The Shoop Shoop Song’, ‘Love Hurts’ and ‘Walking in Memphis’ to name but a few. Who cares that we haven’t opened our eyes since 1989 when they snapped forever shut during the horrific ‘mankini and bodystocking’ video for ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’? That was terrible, but we got used to living with our eyes closed and over the years, the searing image of Cher’s crotch on our retinas began to dissolve. So nine years later, when we heard the brilliant fading in and out intro of ‘Believe’ and that rich voice poured into our ears once more like warm rain, we thought, ‘OK, maybe it’s time to take a little peep.’ Boy oh boy, did we make a mistake. It was the end of the millennium and ‘Believe’ had a futuristic sound, a wistful refrain and was refreshingly ballsy about auto tune. It was a dance track with a big heart. Plus, if you stopped dancing and listened to the words, they were beautiful. But in the video, Cher stars as a form of feathered witch, presiding over the dance floor like an animated corpse doing embarrassing-mum dancing. It’s scary and it’s weird. Song? Wrecked. Eyes? Shut.

3. Fairground – Simply Red

This is an open letter to Mick Hucknell *Clears throat* Dear Mick, congratulations on your career. Woooeee, it’s a good one. You must be chuffed. And really nice job on ‘Fairground’ man, what an ace track. We love how it mixes cool Bossa nova with house and pop. Also your singing is really good. But Mick listen, we’re really sorry and hopefully you won’t be offended, but if there was ever a case for not appearing in your own videos, it’s you in this one. This was such a great song and you totally ruined it but making us watch you drive around Blackpool Pleasure beach. Why are you wearing a gold suit? And then a cream mac? Why are you wearing sunglasses at night? Why are you singing into the camera lens with that strange vacant look? Is that your sexy face? We’re glad you and your friends had fun on that rollercoaster but your dancing is terrible. And your hair needs a good brush, but we’re sure you know that. Anyway, next time can you stay out of it? Thank you.

4. You Are Not Alone – Michael Jackson

A surprising turn next towards the pioneer of the music video. King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. ‘What?’ you say, shocked. ‘There are no bad Michael Jackson videos. This list is flawed’. But we’re afraid you’ve forgotten about ‘You Are Not Alone’. The one he made during his short- haired reflective period, whilst married to Lisa-Marie Presley. It was the whitest he ever looked, with his full torso out in an open velvet shirt as if to demonstrate the whiteness, and inexplicably sometimes wearing just some curtains, he lies awkwardly on the floor while a naked Lisa-Marie bends down to him, puzzled. From smooching and giggling with Lisa-Marie to arms out stretched in a desert, it’s incoherent and confusing leaving us feeling strange and worried. It wasn’t one of his best songs, but it was still Michael and therefore it was brilliant. But the video…What the…? Why was he…? Where in the…? Dreadful.

5. Toca’s Miracle – Fragma

You probably first heard this on the radio and thought, ‘ooh turn that up’. Melodic and catchy with a great hook, it was an instant hit. Despite the applied special effects, the singer had a great voice with a richness that could have made her into a big star. Great start. So who was this singer? What did she look like? The video gave us the answer: She was a bad, Britney rip off, filmed through a very soft lens so we wouldn’t notice and yes, she was pretty and had quite nice hair, but catastrophically for the song was the detectable lisp which you hadn’t picked up on the radio, but now could see in all its glory. From that moment on , whenever you heard ‘It’s more physical what I need…’ the lisp was there. That, combined with some disastrous indoor womens’ football, and the song was a dead duck.

6. Mistletoe and Wine – Cliff Richard

Ok, so obviously this was always going to be a bit sentimental. It’s a Christmas song by Cliff Richard so we know what we’re getting into but if you can swallow the schmaltz, it’s a nice song. Twinkly and Christmassy, it ticks all the boxes and the video does too, with snow, children and a choir. Tick, tick, tick. But, there’s one particular bit that we look forward to every year. We rewind it and re-watch it. We point it out to strangers on the bus and encourage them to watch it on our phones. About two and a half minutes in, Cliff is singing away quite sensibly, admittedly with hair like Princess Diana, but still being fairly reasonable, when suddenly all hell breaks loose. He begins flailing from side to side, arms outstretched like Kermit the Frog, while his choir nervously begin to sway behind him, trying their hardest to make it work and looking extremely embarrassed. ‘What the hell is Cliff doing?? We didn’t rehearse this??’, ‘Just sway along, we’ve got no choice’. Aside from the turkey, that special minute of Cliff madness is our favourite thing about Christmas.

7. Katy Perry – E.T

With its catchy Queen-tribute beat, its power chorus and ethereal, haunting vocals, this was destined to be huge hit for K Pizzle from her massive album, ‘Teenage Dream’. The song is called ‘Extra Terrestrial’, so we expected a certain amount of outer-space action. However, there’s something about this video that shows way too much money was involved. It kicks off with Kayne West in a zero gravity situation and then reveals Katy dolled up like an alien, but not a normal one. She’s a sexy one. Sort of. With bulging contact lenses and a special drawn-in chin dimple, she’s got corn-rows and what looks like half a Vienetta ice-cream and half a television aerial bent round her head. She sings the song without moving her neck at all and all the while she’s plunging through space towards the Earth. It’s all parallel edited with VT of animals chasing each other and occasionally Kayne pops back up, still suffering from weightlessness and doing his rap. At the end, Katy has horse’s legs. It makes for uncomfortable viewing. Honestly, we wish we’d never seen it *throws all our Teenage Dream albums in the bin*

8. Gangster’s Paradise – Coolio

‘Gangsters Paradise’, from the soundtrack to the movie ‘Dangerous Minds’ was, for 90s kids, probably their first taste of rap. The opening bars with that menacing violin and leading to Coolio’s gruff tirade on the struggles that befall a 23 year old from the hood, it was a very cool song. Just listening to it made you want to wind down a window in your mum’s car and give evils to passers-by. ‘Dangerous Minds’ was basically ‘Dead Poets Society’ meets ‘Sister Act 2’, but with more fighting. A perfect combination. The premise is Michelle Pfeiffer inspiring a load of bad kids to pay attention at school, so there was plenty of scope for a cool video of clips from the film. But no, instead they decided have Coolio do the song, directly at Michelle across a table, in a shadowy basement. The sort of place you would never ever find Michelle Pfeiffer. She asks Coolio, ‘do you want to tell me what this is all about’ and then, exhaling a cloud of smoke, Coolio begins his liturgy, while a regretful Pfeiffer looks immediately as though she wishes she hadn’t asked. Coolio seems very cross and shadowy throughout. If this is what happens, we’re certainly never going to ask him anything.

9. Unbreak My Heart – Toni Braxton

This maybe the saddest song in the world. It should definitely come with an advisory sticker, just in case people are thinking of listening to it when feeling a bit down. In the wrong frame of mind, it has real potential to encourage you over the railings. Don’t do it. Turn it off. Not content with singing the world’s saddest song , Toni Braxton matches it with an even sadder video. Opening with her super hot boyfriend, model Tyson Beckford, being killed on his motorbike, Braxton proceeds to cry and wail despairingly throughout. Wearing her underwear and holding her stomach in so much that its positively concave, she cries in the shower, she collapses sobbing in the hallway and she roams alone around her house, remembering the good times she had with Tyson, like that time they played Twister and then remembering that he’s DEAD. Ugh. By the end though, she’s perked up a bit and managed to get a dress on, all be it one with a massive cut out hole so we can continue to marvel at her concave stomach. It’s too tragic and too full of stomach voyeurism. We don’t like.

10. Hung Up – Madonna

Criticism of this video actually doesn’t include the common issues people tend to have with Madonna thrusting her crotch at them in a leotard, although that isn’t exactly a highlight for anyone. Madonna has worked very hard to maintain that body and she’s always been a provocative performer so, good on her we say. Go for it Madonna. The problem with ‘Hung Up’, is that she’s such a big show off. The song itself is great. Apparently Abba hardly ever give anyone permission to use their riffs, but for this one they made an exception. Madonna dances around in front of a huge studio mirror, doing the splits, wrapping her legs around her neck and jutting out her hips as if to say, ‘Look everyone. Look at my youthful hips.’ But it’s not done in a self-confident, ‘if you’ve still got it, flaunt it’ way, it’s done in a creepy and medical sort of, ‘here are my bones’ way. It’s like she’s dedicated her living body to medical science and watching this video is like being in a forensic lecture on the perkiness of Madonna’s flesh, given by Madonna. She’s a massive show off and the whole thing is a big song ruiner.

First Published by CollegeHumour.com

Behind The Scenes of May Week

PICTURE the scene. It’s a balmy June evening. Perhaps there’s the light patter of rain on your window. You kick off your shoes and sink into your favourite chair, reaching for your gin and tonic when suddenly, what the hell was that? Gunfire? Is Cambridge under attack?

Wait, don’t panic. Before you sling your G&T into a plant pot and barricade yourself in the basement with some tins of tomato soup, there’s a chance it’s just the sound of a million pounds worth of fireworks and a good old Cambridge University knees up. May Week is here.

From tomorrow to next Friday, the skies above Cambridge will be filled with the summery sound of clinking glasses, frivolous laughter, crackles and Champagne pops. Those students have studied hard. Good on them. Cheers.

But just what is going on in there?

May Ball tickets are like mythical pieces of unicorn’s tooth, even for the students themselves, so unless you’re serving drinks, working security, planning to jump over a fence or can pull off a confident ‘It’s ok, I’m with the band’ stunt, you’re probably not going to a ball and neither are we. Sigh. Well, here’s the next best thing.

Web developer James McCauley is the founder of whichmayball.co.uk, a website created to provide information on the themes and entertainment of the hottest dates in town.

James tells us: “Trinity and St John’s are the ‘top’ May Balls, without a doubt. These both happen every year, and are notoriously expensive. Last year, Trinity’s budget was close to £750,000 and St John’s was once – allegedly – named the 7th best party in the world by TIME magazine.”

So, who are the acts? Will we be seeing Katy Perry or Lady Gaga drinking in The Eagle this week?

“Funny you mention this, actually. A friend of mine got access to the WhichMayBall Facebook page and managed to convince half the student population that Justin Timberlake was performing at Trinity! Everyone totally bought it, it was quite the kerfuffle.

“We’ve had some huge names in the past. Last year it was Bastille, Gabrielle Aplin, Everything Everything, Beardyman, Clean Bandit, Rudimental, Example and Basshunter.

“We’ve also had big names like Bombay Bicycle Club, S Club 7 and Calvin Harris, as well as legends like David Bowie at Jesus in 1970, Pink Floyd at King’s in 1968, and The Who at Selwyn in 1967.

“Jesus College are renowned for their ability to attract fantastic acts, and this year they’ve nabbed DJ Wilkinson. There are 
also rumours of Clean Bandit returning to their old College [Jesus] to play a set.”

Louise Johnstone, events and promotions manager at Big Fish Ents, runs entertainment at some of the top May Balls. “In the past, we’ve done things like a silent disco at 
Clare College and at Trinity Hall. A silent disco is where the music plays through headphones. Everyone wears a set and 
bops along in silence. It looks very strange but it’s really fun!”

So what’s it like to actually be in there?

“There are loads of people in tuxes, 
all you can eat and drink, beautiful college grounds, fireworks. It’s a very posh all-night party and a really incredible experience to attend. There’s always a story to tell the next day.

“Depending on budget, most students 
will try and go to two balls, one big and 
one smaller event. Failing to get a ticket, I have heard numerous stories of attempted break-ins. Sometimes successful…”

Two May Balls?? Lucky so-and-sos. 
So that’s what they’re up to in there. 
Has this helped at all? I think we’re more jealous than ever now. If you’re going, we hope you have an amazing time. Gritted. Teeth.

Did you know May Balls always have themes? Here’s our top five for 2014:

Jesus College – lost in the woods (oh no, not again.)

Christ’s College – Emerald city (I don’t think we’re in cambridge any more…)

King’s College – Subterranea (Not literally surely?)

Pembroke College – Tales from the Toybox (To infinity, and beyond!)

Trinity Hall – Mardi Gras (The carnival? or the pancakes? oh, who cares? They both sound great).

First Published in Cambridge News

World Cup 2014 – Survival Guide

There are some dates you just know, aren’t there? The Battle of Hastings (1066), Neil Armstrong walking on the moon (apparently) (1969), The Great Fire of London (1666) and then there’s 1966. The first, last and only time that England have won the World Cup. It’s the date we’ve heard about since we were children. The date we see in the eyes of the elders when they get that thousand-yard stare.

Most of us have no idea how winning even feels. Oh sure we’ve had Andy Murray. We’ve had Johnny Wilkinson. We’ve won the Ashes. There’s a treasure chest of gold medals from London 2012. Sure, we’ve felt some sporting joy. But football? It’s been nothing but cup after World Cup of tears, disappointment and our England shirts in the bin.

Four years ago this summer, the sun shone, England flags were painted optimistically on our faces and our hopes were raised once more, but then… England lost 4-1 to Germany. Our faces smudged with tears. We went home. Nothing can ruin a barbecue quite like an England World Cup loss.

Well, steel yourself England because on June 12, World Cup 2014 kicks off in Brazil.

National tension and anticipation mounts. Will the lads have enough time to acclimatise or will they feel too hot? Will Rooney sparkle or flop? Will the venues just be muddy building sites? Will the host city Manaus be flooded by Amazonian rains? Will everyone contract Dengue fever? What is Dengue fever? These are the questions that pray on our minds.

Whether you’re a football fan, or you just plan to avoid the whole thing, it could be a tricky couple of weeks to navigate. We’ve put together a helpful list of dos and don’ts to guide you through it.

Dos

Not a big football fan? Do sporadically shout out any of the following if you’re a bit unsure of what’s going on: ‘Ref’, ‘Handball’, ‘That’s got to be a card’, ‘Offside’, ‘Nice’, ‘Get up there’, ‘Come on England’ and ‘Yes Rooney!/No Rooney…’.

Similarly, if you’re not that bothered about watching, do your shopping while the game is on. You’ll have the supermarket all to yourself.

If in the pub, do buy your drinks just slightly before half time to avoid being crushed by thirsty people in a massive rush.

Do, at all costs, avoid a jumping up and down headlock from a taller stranger in the event of an England goal. Beer in the face anyone?

Do appreciate it if your friend has dragged his TV into the garden, even if it’s raining. Electrical hazard, yes, but well worth it for the al fresco experience.

Do cover young children’s eyes and ears if things take a turn for the worse, but at least let them have a hot dog before they’re ushered into the car for the silent drive home.

Dont’s

Don’t beep your car horn in that annoying way. You know what we mean.

Hopefully this time it’ll be a more appealing sounding instrument, like maybe a harp, but just in case, don’t take a Vuvuzela to the pub with you. Very annoying.

No matter what, don’t attempt to cheer anyone up in the event of an England loss.

Look very solemn and respectful. Perhaps even go home.

Don’t say any of the following: ‘It’s only a game’, ‘Roll on 2018’, ‘Shall we see what else is on?’ l Don’t book something unimportant, like your wedding, on the day of any of the England games. Lots of your guests will hate you. Alternatively, if you’re trying to trim numbers, especially unwanted ‘partners’, this could be an excellent plan.

Don’t say anything regretful about the nationality of the opposing team.

For example, we totally depend on the Italians for coffee, pizza, ice cream and stylish clothes. In two weeks’ time, you might wish you could take back all the expletives you yelled in your local Italian delicatessen.

Don’t drink in the morning. It’s never OK. Not at the airport, not on red letter days, never. Unless you want to feel hungover and weepy by 5pm. Zzzzz.

Don’t bother buying a new England top. They cost £40+ and you can never wear it again without looking like ‘the person wearing the England top’. Just get your old one out of the bin.

Don’t fix a gigantic England flag to your house or car. It comes across as aggressive.

Don’t walk around town wearing an England flag as a cape. Again, aggressive.

Where to watch?

The Maypole, Portugal Street, Cambridge – watch here for a screen in every bar and a lively, friendly atmosphere. Open until late for that first England game.

The Avery, Regent Street, Cambridge – a projector upstairs, plus eight other screens, a Parker’s Piece view and two bottles of beer for £6.

The Regal, Regent Street, Cambridge – they’ve installed a new screen especially for the World Cup, have a busy atmosphere and are open until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Just watch at home – front row seats, free drinks and close to the bathroom.

The Games

Round One: England Matches

June 14 – 11pm

England v Italy

June 19 – 8pm

England v Uruguay

June 24 – 5pm

England v Costa Rica

Blurred Lines

If you switched on your TV last week, this is what you’d have seen: Two hundred and seventy six school girls kidnapped in Nigeria, Oscar Pistorious on trial for murdering Reeva Steenkamp in his bathroom and media personalities accused and convicted of terrible sex crimes against young women and girls. Tough going. Then to relax in the evening, there was new BBC drama ‘Happy Valley’, which is not happy at all, just very violent and quite rapey.

Sexism and misogyny have always been there. The ‘stay in the kitchen’ jokes, the ‘changing a plug’ problems, the ‘being overlooked at work in favour of a younger and less qualified boy’, the leering weirdos, but just lately, it all feels louder. I’m a girl. I’m the mother of a baby girl. And I’m starting to feel, for the first time in my 31 years, a little bit threatened.

‘Blurred Lines’ (BBC1) on Wednesday night was a heinous patchwork of sexism in all its most gruesome glory and asked where the ‘lines’ are. Is it OK to have a chortle at a sexist joke? Is it OK that young people learn about sex from pornography? Is it OK to play a computer game where your digital self can have digital sex with a digital woman and afterwards, digitally kick her to death? Is that more OK if the ‘game’ is rated 18? I couldn’t imagine anyone would think, ‘yes’, but on Twitter as usual, there were lots of people (men and women) who couldn’t really see a problem with it.

Girls themselves aren’t helping matters. Female entertainers are increasingly naked, and aggressive and so are lots of our young ladies. The ‘empowered’ woman’s reaction to sexism seems to be provocative and goading. Miley and Rihanna are marketed to us as women who can do whatever the hell they like with their bodies (hang on that’s actually a Gaga lyric isn’t it?) as now they’re in control. Yeah! Hi five sister! But no matter what they say, whether it’s about control, empowerment, ownership of your own sexuality, it still feels a bit wrong doesn’t it? It feels dangerous. It feels like giving validation to a sinister sub section of people with bad intentions. And if something feels wrong, it probably is.

I have no problem planning the conversation with my daughter where I tell her she can be whatever she wants. I believe our society has a great and normal structure where women can get any job and be treated respectfully as the citizens which they are. However, I do struggle to imagine how I’ll explain sexism or misogyny to her. Do I explain it? Or do I let her find out about it for herself online, and then blink up at me with those baby blues, puzzled.

Games like ‘Grand Theft Auto’ are profoundly negative. It’s just not possible to see them in any other light. After ‘Blurred Lines’ I went onto Twitter to search desperately for people who felt the same as me and reassure myself that a hell-mouth hadn’t opened up and swallowed our planet. I tweeted that a game where you could be abusive to children or to animals wouldn’t be allowed, so why was this? Someone replied and said, ‘Perhaps if you played the game instead of jumping on the anti-GTA bandwagon, you’d know you can kill animals on it’. Oh. Wow. Well, I am firmly on that bandwagon my friend. I have a front row seat on that particular wagon and you should be sitting next to me, not sitting in your bedroom pretending to mug people and kill animals.

Violence and crime aren’t fun. They’re not games. They’re not fantasies or hobbies and shouldn’t be made available as those things. If you feel like you need to indulge dark sides of your character, I’d suggest having a cold glass of water, taking a very deep breath, doing up your anorak and walking quickly to a psychiatrist. ‘Hello, my name is X and I think I need some help’. Off you go. Chop chop.

Jockey School

We’re familiar with this format. A group of sour faced, moody teenagers are sent somewhere uncomfortable and muddy to get shouted at by ruddy-faced adults. At first they resist and then they transform, usually for the better. This time, in a slight amendment to the format, there were also horses.

The programme focussed on three charming (I’m being sarcastic) teenagers. Sixteen year old Stacey, expelled from school and who had a penchant for fighting, her mother tells us (with a giggle, for some reason). ‘If some other lass fancies the same lad as Stacey, then that’s when she might fight’ she says, speaking as if Stacey were an animal, who would fight under particular circumstances. Or maybe at certain tides, or times of year? Sure enough, next time we see Stacey she’s at the Police Station after a fight. She’s says worriedly, ‘If I hit anyone else, I’ll go to jail for 90 days’. Oh Stacey, if only you had a clearer idea of what to do. Stacey’s not all bad though and seems to find comfort in her horses. Or her ‘orses’. One lucky horse in particular has had his likeness tattooed onto Stacey’s back.

Also expelled from school is the freckle-faced, Tyler, who comes from a ‘traveller background’ and likes to career through the town on his horse, bareback, like a bad, skinny Braveheart. Tyler wants to be a jockey and says if it wasn’t for this opportunity (Jockey School), he’d just be ‘riding around with horses and signing on the dole’. Wouldn’t we all.

Finally, there’s sixteen year old Shona. Poor Shona had been bullied out of school and into a pale shadow. Her only friend was her horse Gilly who, she said, doesn’t have a ‘bad bone in his body’, but then she tells a story about how two years ago Gilly bolted and threw her into a barbed wire fence. She hasn’t ridden since. Hmmm. Sounds a bit bad. Bad Gilly.

On arrival at Jockey School the teachers lay down some basic rules. Boys and girls are separated at night. No make-up to be worn. No fighting. Stacey says if they carry on telling her what to do, ‘someone will get punched in the face’. I’m betting she means it as well.

After a hard first day’s horsing around, Shona is crying with the pressure of it all. Isn’t horse riding supposed to be a hobby? Fun? You never see people sobbing over their stamp collections saying, ‘I’ve got to keep going! I can’t give up!’

On we go with the usual trials and tribulations. Stacey meets a boyfriend (the lovely Liam) and then threatens to ‘punch Bethan in the face’ for flirting with him. Alright Stacey, pack it in now, can you do anything else? Tyler gets called a ‘pikey’ but says he isn’t bothered and horse trainer Malc calls Shona ‘a wimp’. That’s a bit strong Malc. Poor Shona.

At the end, precious placements in the riding industry are handed out. Stacey is too naughty to get one, but feels she ‘has matured’. Shona is sadly too much of a wimp to get one, but is returning home ‘an adult’ and amazingly, Tyler actually gets a placement. His dad nearly cries. Nearly. He is a traveller after all.

So that’s horses taken care of then. I can’t help but think maybe they should all go back to actual school instead? All in all it was a bit of an obvious format, and lacking a bit in content, seeming to race from beginning to end without much of a conclusion. When it comes to moody teen programmes, I’ve seen better.

 

Monkey Planet

Dr George McGavin looks like a cross between Richard and David (Attenborough). We’re on first name terms. I can’t help missing the Attenboroughs when I watch a nature programme presented by someone else. But with a white beard and khaki shorts, George had clearly done his very best to dress up as them, so I was prepared to give it a go. Yes I know, Richard is a movie producer, but I still missed him.

This was the first in a three part series about monkeys. Now, before we go any further, I must tell you, monkeys really freak me out. They have human eyes, saucepan lid faces with fur, and they often look angry, or accusatory, or indifferent. Happily, George tells us (and this isn’t verbatim) that no matter how creepy we find them, they are part of our family. Not mine *nervous laugh*. But yours.

Whereas normally I would run a mile from monkeys, off we went around the world with George in search of them.

First it was Orangutans (that’s ‘tans’ not ‘tangs’ – who knew?) in Borneo where we watched the creatures behaving in a ‘human’ way at the edge of a stream. They were sailing in little boats, drinking from cups, washing with soap and writing with pens. Honestly, I was nearly in tears. George proudly enthused, ‘Look! We share a similar face!’ Speak for yourself.

Then, the Tarsier monkey. These have ultrasonic hearing and eyes so wide that you feel like shaking them and saying, ‘What is it?! What’s wrong??’ If you suffer from anxiety, do not look into the face of a Tarsier.

The fluffy, Japanese Macaque lives in a minus 20 degree habitat. To demonstrate how cold that really is, George takes all his clothes off, turns to the camera and says, ‘eventually I’ll go into a coma, from which I’ll never wake up’. George, really that is not necessary. We get it. Put your clothes back on man!

The Chacma Baboon has a face like one of those heavy duty office staplers and while he’s out hunting we sneak into his cave for a look. Bats, spiders, dung, animal skulls – it’s nice. To be fair, he’d probably have smartened up if he knew we were coming.

When visiting a group of monkeys in the jungle, George climbs a tree and hangs from it in canvas bag saying, ‘this is actually very alarming’. George, again, not necessary.

Lar Gibbons have faces a bit like a Scream mask, and also a bit like when you see a homeless man drinking on a bench. Grey, whiskery, rough and sad.

The Aye Aye monkey has ‘the ears of a bat and the tail of a squirrel’. They tap on trees searching for insect lava and then probe it out with a long, spindly finger. Oh my God. Horror.

Most miserable looking monkey of all is the Black Howler. No, that’s not a Hogwarts spell, it’s a monkey. Its face looks like the embalmed corpse of Tutankhamen, and when George makes a (pretty crap) monkey sound up at the tree, it sets the Howlers right off. Again, horror. I think they saved the post-watershed monkeys for the end.

It went on and on. I’m sorry to say there wasn’t one cute or nice looking monkey in the whole thing, although I’m sure all you monkey fans will disagree. Weirdos. Big or small, they all have human eyes. I feel like they’re looking at me. I’m not sure if I can bear episode two.

Monkey Planet airs Wednesdays on BBC1 from 9pm

First published by TVGuide.co.uk

Joanna Lumley meets Will.i.am

People will probably be cynical about this programme. Will.i.am is an unusual guy and therefore quite easy to pick on. Musician, producer, philanthropist, weird clothes, gentle with an asexual demeanour – he’s a bit like Michael Jackson with a corporate make-over, like when coffee shops go ‘authentic’ and hang black and white canvases of Italians laughing over coffee. Anyway, after watching this, I can’t help it. I like him a lot. I’m a brand new Will.i.am fan.

Not only is Will a bit strange, but Joanna Lumley is a strange choice of presenter. She has a Louis Theroux-esq, faux-naive style of documentary making, but if it’s possible, she’s convincingly genuine. Maybe she really is? Who knows.

On arriving at Will’s house, Joanna is met by a host of assistants, including Will’s brother Carl who cuts his hair full-time. Yep.

Will comes down the stairs like a gentle breeze, wearing his trademark ridiculous jacket made from what looks like a cross between a wetsuit and a Galaxy bar wrapper (more on this later). Like an enthusiastic child, he eagerly shows Joanna his awards cabinet, which also contains pictures of Will with Obama, Oprah and his family. Joanna comments (as an aside) that things in Will’s house seem to be switched off and locked as (we guess) he spends so much time away. This is where I had my first pang.

Joanna is invited into the ‘heart of Will’s family’. We met his best friend and band mate Apl.De.Ap (who is a Filipino man, not a robot as his name suggests). Later, Joanna heads over for supper with his mother (he never knew his father), his uncles and an old friend of his Grandmother’s. Clearly, the older you are in the i.am family, the greater respect you’re shown. Watching Will at the table you could be watching a little boy being careful to mind his manners.

Raised to have a strong Christian faith and with a strictness that forbade him to say words like ‘lie’ or play outside the boundaries of his postage stamp sized front lawn, Will obviously maintains a respect/fear and deep love for his family. Again, I felt a pang.

The programme moved through Will’s various ventures, of which there are an exhausting number. Telling us curtly that he gets 4 hours sleep a night by saying ‘think what you can do with 20 hours a day’. My mind goes blank. All I can think is I could do a whole lot of mooching around the house in 20 hours. Will and I are worlds apart.

His involvement in a technological investment, the nature of which was too secret for us to know, meant cameras were ousted from a meeting, described by Joanna as some kind of ‘techno wizardry’ – said with a completely straight face. Theroux would be proud.

Will himself tells us he has a deep sense of social responsibility and a ‘need to help’ so there are numerous philanthropic projects to discuss such as ‘i.am College’, a school set up by Will to educate youngsters in his old community.

Of course, there’s fashion. He explains how plastic bottles are used to make high quality fabric, or headphones. Joanna buys a tailcoat for her conductor-husband for $2000.

Then last but not least, there’s the music. Sitting next to Joanna in his studio he casually knocks out a new track called ‘Alright’. It’s not amazing, but it’s definitely ‘alright’. Certainly, a million times better than anything we could have come up with in 4 hours, or ever.

At the end, Will was at the O2 Area on his first solo tour. I felt nervous for him, being so far from home and his mamma. A sensitive child-man, in his smart little jacket, with his hair all done ready (Good old brother, Carl), just wanting to do some good and to please people. It was pang-central. Perhaps he’s more of a bastard in real life, I hope so anyway. It’s a bit scary out there if you’re very nice.

Catch up on Joanna Lumley Meets Will.i.am on BBC iPlayer now.

First published by TVGuide.co.uk

Mayday: The Passenger who Landed the Plane

This was the incredible survival story of 77 year old John Wildey. A kindly, British sort of Grandad, with coffee coloured teeth, watery eyes that sparkled with jokes gone by and nerves of absolute TITANIUM.

It all started fairly nicely for John that evening. He’d decided to go for a jolly day out at Butlins and instead of driving he thought, ‘why not take the plane?’ Wow. Most Grandads would suggest the bus, or a day watching the snooker. But Butlins? Just for the day? And in a plane? I loved John already.

Along he chugged in his Cessna, his trusty pilot at the wheel, when (as always in a Channel 4 documentary) disaster struck. The pilot said, ‘I feel a bit sick’.  John was instantly worried about getting sick on his trousers and quite rightly so – who wants sick on their Butlins trousers? Soon after, the pilot started breathing heavily, threw his head back and died. (Poor chap. RIP). John reached over and felt the pilot’s forehead. It was cold and clammy. That can’t be a good feeling. We, the viewers, did not feel good.

Finding yourself suddenly alone with a corpse, in an aeroplane that you don’t know how to fly, is the point when most people would do the decent thing and freak out massively, before sending some heartbreaking goodbye-texts from the cockpit, looking for a minibar, and sobbing at the controls until the inevitable happened. Fortunately, John who had worked as a desk clerk in the RAF and, we’re told, ‘knew some flying terminology’, was made of stronger stuff. Don’t knock it. I’ve spent my entire life basically muddling through on zero knowledge and a bit of terminology.

He radioed down to deliver the bad news to air traffic control, ‘Mayday, I’m not a pilot’. The words every controller hopes never to hear. ‘An innocent day had turned into a full blown emergency’, said the narrator. We’ve all been there.

Then began a united effort by Humberside Airport, RAF Search and Rescue and a Flight Instructor named Roy, to help John land his hopeless little plane, in the dark, without being able to see, as he couldn’t work out how to put his dashboard lights on. Oh John again, we’ve all been there.

The team suggested John aim for ‘Runway 26’ which was a small, unlit runway. Let me just pause for a moment and let that terrible advice sink in. The tenuous reason presented for this awful, AWFUL idea was that the wind would be ‘ahead’ and therefore, it would be safer. However, I suspect the real reason was that Humberside Airport didn’t want a plane to crash on its main, lit and international runway and then have to spend the evening delaying flights while poor John was scraped off the tarmac. Shame on you, Humberside Airport.

Anyway, John valiantly flew his aircraft at the dark, little runway-of-no-return, before bailing out and diverting to the more sensible and real runway. I’d imagine air traffic control went, ‘oh for God’s sake OK, let him do it’, before muttering angrily to themselves, ‘this is going to be a long night’.

It was nerve-racking viewing, but to be fair, we knew he got down safely because we knew the programme title. After much tension, the realisation that John had to fly over a main road and an oil refinery to get to the runway, which, had he crashed onto Hull, could have caused massive improvements (sorry DAMAGE, massive damage), John amazingly pootled down and landed the plane. What an absolute LEDGE.

He said it must have been his lucky week as he went on to win £6.70 on the lottery. What a testament to keeping your cool.

Catch up on Mayday: The Passenger Who Landed a Plane on 40D or tonight on 4seven from 9pm

First published by TVGuide.co.uk