On Monday, Alex took you into the world of a TV Party. Here’s how it all ended.
3. South Park Episode 20 Season 7 – ‘Oh Jeez’
I could see out the corner of my eye, just as we were about to begin watching the most recent South Park episode, the lip movements of a guest in what appeared to be the beginnings of a whispered form of defiance. I had been clear from the start – this was a TV party. The object of the evening was simply to watch TV, laugh together in front of the screen and drink some beer. Why then, with all this in mind, was Channel motioning towards the Xbox and, it seemed, encouraging Receiver to suggest we play some GTA?
Betrayal is not something I take to kindly. Who did Channel think that he was? The new emperor of TV Party? Had he misread my instructions? Had he forgotten? Was he intentionally trying to set me off? Regardless of what it was, I felt I had to make a point. TV Party was sacred, a brand new tradition that would transcend us all. Our children, in their old age, would still be gather together on a Friday night in memory of their parents to watch TV, smoke cigarettes and drink beer. It had to be established that this night was to be respected.
Once I had finished navigating my way towards kisscartoon, and set the show up, I turned to Channel, pulled from pocket a loose AAA battery and proceeded to drive it up his nose, the way a builder might slip a wall-plug into a recently drilled hole. Channel fell to the ground, writhing, shaking, squirming. I don’t remember what I was shouting, with my face by his head, but the rest of the guests sat rooted in their chairs, staring at this messy scene as it unfolded before their eyes.
I pushed Channel into the corner of the room, and left him there to think about what he had done, before turning back to the television and hitting play.
The new season of South Park has been an absolute joy to watch. The switch from stand-alone episodes to larger narrative arcs has been impeccable, and each twenty minute excerpt stands well on its own, so that even those watching for the first time can follow along with its jokes without feeling like they’ve missed out.
They have missed out, I mean, if you haven’t seen the first six then Randy’s ten second memberberry puking fit probably didn’t make much sense. But then, what am I to do? The TV Party schedule has no time to consider continutity – it is there only to guide the attendees and is created by the leader of TV Party for the benefit of his subjects.
I was a bit disappointed that my fellow guests stayed silent through most of the episode, even when that guy came over the Fort Collins wall screaming about how his wife was ‘so pissed’, before eventually being shot and falling to the ground. I had to ask Channel to quit gasping for air so noticeably from his position beneath the window, and I beat him with a copy of the Private Eye after he finally managed to dislodge the battery, sending slithering tendrils of reddened snot all over the carpet. At this point, he passed out, and if I can speak honestly, I was far happier knowing he wouldn’t be talking over the next few hours.
4. YouTube Intermission – Play Your Favourite YouTube Videos
YouTube Intermission wasn’t my suggestion. It came at the suggestion of Cathode, who felt that the night needed a change of tone, owing to the heaviness of the programming up until that point.
5. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
For Cathode and myself, this was what we had been waiting for. It was 23:30. I was about to open my final can of lager, a 1664 Kronenbourg. About a month prior, we had gathered together, along with the absent dish, to watch A New Hope. It had been everything I hoped it would be, having not seen a single Star Wars movie up until that point. I was fairly well versed in the culture. It’s impossible to get to the age of 24 and know nothing of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Their importance as cultural figures mean that you are never too far from a Star Wars reference in any popular form of entertainment. Episode IV was a visual masterpiece from start to finish and I had been waiting, patiently, for an opportunity to continue my progress through the series with Cathode.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Episode V could play on repeat, for eternity, and still blow minds and entertain. Each moment captivates and enchants, whether it be Luke’s desire to conquer the Force, or Han’s witty one-liners in his attempts to woo the Princess. Iconic scenes do not grow old. They still fill us with the same excitement they did the first time, or at least that’s what they say. Despite my lack of prior experience, I knew the ‘twist’ was coming. Did I feel cheated? Not at all. Instead, I tried to put myself in the mindset of the original viewer, the young American off to see it on the day of release. What would they have thought after the great reveal? Would they have shouted aloud, in mock anger? Would they have wept, like Skywalker? I cannot know the answers to these questions, but I can ponder.
The rest of the TV Party attendees sat watching with what I can only describe as faux-interest. I did not let them clock my realisations. I could not force anyone to like anything. All I could do was set a program, and ensure that it was stuck to, for the benefit of the evening itself. As the final five minutes approached, I saw that all, save for Cathode, were asleep. As the credits rolled, I realised, with great sorrow, that TV Party was over. We had completed what we had come together to do. To watch TV is to watch one’s own dreams reflected back at you. Why you would need to talk over this, I may never know. I feel somewhat guilty for depriving Channel of any future ability to breath easily through his nose, yet at the same time, I feel my actions were justified. TV Party is not a joke. TV Party is a way of life.
Any resemblance to real life is intentional because most of this nonsense actually happened.
Alex returns with an insight into a totally normal TV Party. Look out for Part Two on Wednesday.
With a final-half turn of the key, the car fell silent and the young man in the driver’s seat fell out of view, returning moments later with his rucksack in his hand and a cigarette between his lips. The car’s engine cooled, sounded like crickets in a field after dark, and he waited a few moments until the sound ceased. It was a little after six o’clock, and tonight he was hosting a TV party, just like the Black Flag song.
The impetus for the evening had been a short conversation, midweek, about the pain of having to enjoy oneself in the company of those you have few, if any, real associations with. The man’s friend, Cathode, had recently lost a great deal of money in tenuous circumstances. He claimed he owed money to various high-flying gamblers in far-corners of North-West London, but unless he was nocturnal, there was little time for Cathode to spend time with these people. The games, they said, went on for days, and those who saw the poker through emerged from the dark rooms carrying what little of themselves there was left. Cathode was always well-groomed, taking constant care to part his hair in exactly the same place each day. It was assumed his financial losses were linked to his greatest love of all: Magic the Gathering.
The young man’s name was Bulb. Bulb delivered flowers to widows from young admirers and hangers-on. He ran a business that made just enough to cover his expenses, so long as his car held itself together and he based all his meals around couscous. Bulb, like Cathode, was watching each penny he came to possess and so suggested the idea of a TV Party, where the guests brought along their own alcohol and everyone simply covered whatever else they wanted to consume. Bulb offered to put together a programme for the evening’s festivities, whilst Cathode took charge of invites. On that arctic November evening, Bulb took himself to Waitrose to buy his own beer, and in the process, got sucked into a deal offering two pizzas for a fiver.
The programme handed out to the six people in attendance was as follows:
- England vs. Scotland – World Cup International Qualifier
- Have I Got News For You – Charlie Brooker Guest Presenting
- South Park Season 20 Episode 7 – ‘Oh, Jeez’
- YouTube Intermission – Play Your Favourite YouTube Videos
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The guests were pre-warned. There was to be no deviation from the schedule. Both Cathode and Bulb had committed to the order of the evening. Anybody unable to maintain focus would be reminded of their commitment to the night. There was to be no talking over key moments, unless absolutely necessary, like in the case of say a fire, or some kind of medical emergency that required professional assistance. What follows is an account from the personal diary of Bulb. In it, he documents each portion of the evening, how each part was received by its audience and how entertaining each episode was. Any mistakes are his own, as I’ve endeavoured to present it to you unfiltered, so as to be an honest and true narrator, as opposed to an intermediary
1. England vs. Scotland – World Cup International Qualifier
Watching England, like cuckolding, is a complex experience. At times it can be extremely enjoyable, pleasurable even, for the viewer, a fluid and fascinating watch that keeps you on edge at all times, awaiting the next big development. Yes, there is jealousy – these boys get payslips with tax deductions larger than your average yearly earnings. But you respect their ability and their prowess. You may find yourself angry – England have, at many points, taken complete advantage of their fans, the viewers, by promising so much and yet delivering so little. The whole three-way experience is an unequal one, but the viewer accepts this for what it is, so long as they receive some form of gratification.
As luck would have it, the England vs. Scotland game fell into the category of not too bad, which regular England fans will know is a pretty decent outcome for an international fixture. The build-up was, as is always the case with ITV, abysmal. Ryan Giggs seemed to have forgotten his own nationality, commenting ‘We should definitely be winning this’ when remarking about the England side. Gordon Strachan refused to be baited in pre-match questions about the strength of the England side, stating briskly that he was ‘…here to talk about the Scottish team.’ I do wonder whether the chaps who ask questions pre-match would be so cutting if there was a camera pointed at them. As it is they seem to get away with their attempts to induce drama because they know nobody can see them, and so therefore, cannot see their faces contort in all corners as they summon from the depths of their headline-grabbing souls a question that will please their pals at The S*n the next morning. ITV is shit, there’s really no two-ways about it, and I’ll never take a TV station seriously that cut for a one-minute commercial immediately after the national-anthems.
The match itself was not one for history books, and England started poorly. Luckily, Scotland were even worse and so we ended up winning 3-0. Headers seemed to be the order of the night, and we all got to see Daniel Sturridge’s big tongue. Cathode, a football refuser, commented that it would have been more exciting if while celebrating, Sturridge had pulled a stanley knife from his pocket and sheared off his taster, before lobbing it into the crowd, or perhaps alternatively into the face of a nearby defender. I did wonder about Cathode right then, whether in fact his lack of money could be some kind of mysterious front to cover a successful life as a torturer.
Fifteen minutes before the end of the match, everyone else turned up. There was Channel, Remote, Receiver and Aerial. I got a text later on in the night from Dish, apologising for his absence, on account of the fact he was stuck on a roof somewhere and couldn’t get down.
2. Have I Got News For You – Charlie Brooker Guest Presenting
In the late nineties, I would find myself kneeling by a table, covered in empty curry boxes and bottles of red wine, listening to the sound of my parents laughing at the jokes emerging from Ian Hislop’s mouth. These evenings at my uncle’s house were golden and Have I Got News for You was like the friend you invite round because you just know they bring that element of class and humour that you simply don’t have. Watching it now, very little has changed except the episodes seem far shorter and Ian Hislop’s got three new chins he gets to play with.
It’s been a rather strange week in the world, and Have I Got News for You seemed well placed to lampoon the week’s events, to try and cheer everyone up just a notch or eleven. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they ‘knocked it out the park’, but there were several moments of wonderful comedy, delivered largely by Hislop and Paul Merton (although his extended, repeated gags in relation to the Toblerone scandal grew quite tiresome) that kept the TV Party vibe alive. By this point, most of us were into our second beer and I was onto my fourth. On Friday, it takes a long time for me to feel relaxed, having spent the day in the motor, surrounded by bouquets, feeling light headed from the variety of olfactory delights in my little Polo. Beer is a wonderful settler, gradually building itself from a mild warmth to a full on straightener. In the company of the television, it works charms, giving each joke that little bit extra punch. Perhaps Have I Got News for You wasn’t that funny? Either way, we all laughed at least once a minute for half an hour, which is the intention behind a comedy panel show, right?
Check back on Wednesday for more TV Party.
If streets could speak and talk and tell,
Of all the feet that upon them fell,
Perhaps they’d tell of tents and purists
Replaced by birds, trainers and tourists,
Bemoaning that they cannot feel
A semblance of feelings real,
Where once there was an air of change,
A simple switch seems out of range.
The plastic bullets they swept away,
The handcuffed boys have done their stay,
The blood’s been washed from marbled tiles,
Replaced by fake asbestos smiles,
And all the while I look around,
Remember bodies on the mound
Remember splattered crunch of teeth,
Remember smell of cannabis leaf,
Remember hands that begged for water,
Mother cradling her daughter,
A group together now disbanded,
It seems post-truth has finally landed.
Each morning, to the sound of my alarm, I wake up with the same thought in my head. Stop biting your nails. It’s a thought that’s been ever present since the age of eleven, after my first and only relapse.
I had been rather successfully bribed into kicking the habit for a few years up until that point. My parents bought me a rather special Subbuteo set, complete with miniature versions of starlets like Michael Owen and David Beckham. There was a little scoreboard, with interchangeable names, that you could position at the edge of the grass-green mat upon which the game was played. The allure of it all was far too strong. When presented with the ultimatum, the nails or the game, I jumped readily at the game and flicked those little players around the pitch for months.
And so passed a few years of pleasant, clean nails. It’s no coincidence that this coincided with the halcyon years of junior school. Those shimmering days, stripped bare of strong colour in my minds eye, like peering out into the ocean through a telescope, watching the water reflect back a blurred scene of calm serenity. There was no latent anxiety then, as I played the Mayor of Hamelyn in a fluorescent pink leotard. There was no humming fear as we won the local junior’s league and lifted the trophy at a local school hall. There was no need to chew my nails into oblivion, really, until I was shipped off to secondary school.
Was it the whirlwind of change? Or the presence of the larger, older ghouls that floated through the hall and punched you in the arm? I can’t quite be sure. The relapse came just a few days into Year 7. In an English lesson, I found my eyes wondering to a point at the bed of my fingernail where earlier that morning I had picked away a piece of tomato ketchup that was still there from last night’s sausage and mash dinner. The sauce fell away with ease, but in the process, took with it a somewhat large chunk of cuticle, leaving the behind a mess of spaghetti and unconnected flesh.
I stared at this warzone with interest. Surely, it wouldn’t be so hard just to clean it up with a click nibble? It’ll be easy. Just take that tiny bit off, tear the bit to the right in half, grab at the middle and then it’ll all be gone, ready to regrow.
Sure enough I was a master, and bringing my finger up to my eye, I could see that I had indeed ironed out the mess left by the ketchup. Like all good habits, I didn’t immediately kick off again, going at each and every finger without thought. In fact, the next day, I didn’t bite my nails at all. Towards the end of the week, I took a hangnail off with my teeth, but it didn’t hurt and drew no blood, plus I’d seen other people do that, so what was the harm?
The next week, after a particularly bad telling off for a reason I seem to have misplaced, I chewed my little finger nail half way down, leaving the nail-bed exposed to the sunlight, and soon after caught an infection there too. The finger throbbed for days beneath a plaster I changed each-day. At night, I would wake up to find it seeping salty green juice across my pillow and I vowed never to raise my fingers to my mouth anymore, such was the pain and embarrassment of a ruined, misshapen finger.
Thirteen years later, I stare now at my digits, with their torn faces, and curved, shallow shields. The nails are crooked, jagged, scattered. They are sick, weak like starving children, begging for sustenance, for a chance not to be suffocated in their growth. I am an active bringer of sadness and misery to the family of fingers that live on my hands. Like a cruel headmaster, I bring meaningless punishment unto these creatures that help me each day, to text, to eat, to type, to write. I wake up each day with the same thought, though it is, now I think of it, more a regret. I can’t help myself. As soon as I think quit, I cast down my eyes and see there, before me, my fingers in my mouth. You know what? Fuck it, just take them from me. Give them to someone who deserves them, who won’t bloody eat them.
That’s all I am these days. A quivering muncher of fingers.
drunk when i get on the bus and the driver is looking at me weird.
‘good morning, you alright?’
he smiles then, lucky me
upstairs, floor smells like dank
always a consistent feeling up here
everything tired, sleepless eyes
like my own, staring at myself in the reflection in the mirror
maybe today is gonna be my day
no need to sleep
bus driver still driving
led screen tells me i’m close
sterling corner, sterling evening
still stinks of dank up here
i’m a wreck a bastard scum
still stand up and shout out a request
‘yo, any of you lads got some dank?’
one more attempt
‘so no one got any dank?’
blank faces, i think i’m drunk
must be, floor looks like a swimming pool
can’t stand straight so i
hold onto the bar
supporting myself as a bird sings
soft melody in c major
top of the charts in mind
off the bus into the cold
breathe like i’m steady
wave to the bus driver and thank the lord
he waves back
down my road, i’m almost home
back inside my comfort zone
one more piss before i enter
using up the time i have alone
breakfast time calling
something along the lines of bacon and eggs
go for a shit in the toilet
forget to wipe
upstairs friend sleeping downstairs
wide open mouth, a useless cavity
talk is cheap that’s why i’m writing
It’s just after midnight in Alimos, a small suburban part of Athens and I’m locked in the throngs of a time-warp. The weather is mild, as it always in Greece during the summer, and my wet head rests upon a pillow, still chilled from the cold water that came tumbling out of the communal showers that belong to the marina. In the morning we will set off on a short sailing trip around the Saronic Gulf, but right now, I’m struggling to figure out whether I’m in 2016 or 1998.
Take your phone out of your pocket and open whichever application it is you choose to listen to music. If you can, load up Eiffel 65’s ‘smash-hit’ Blue. This is a song that came out when was perhaps eight. I can remember, hazily, watching the video on MTV. The 3D rendering looked incredible then, as the little men danced around the screen regaling their tale of a world so blue, dabadedabada. I clapped along and danced at an age where novelty was all I sought in music. With little to worry about in my life, save for the prospect of Manchester City spending another season in Division Two, I had no need for music with any real message. The bounce of the beat was enough.
Blue is currently blaring out of the speakers of the marina nightclub. It’s quickly followed by Destination Unknown and then Tom Jones’s Sex Bomb. You can load these songs up too if it will help you drift deeper into the scene I’m describing. Better yet, take your phone and place the speaker in front of your mouth. Open and close your mouth, wide and then pursed so that you cut the lows and the highs, and give it that sweeping effect. That’s the sound ringing out over the harbour, past the masts and halyards and carefully through the hundred or so hulls that sit resting on the water. I’m at a loss to figure out why it is these songs are being played. I would put it down to some kind of themed late-nineties, early-two thousand nostalgia night. But just yesterday, whilst swimming in Aegina, I walked past a group of small children playing a type of volleyball in the water and together, as a group, they were all singing Blue. Then it hit me. It’s still 1990 in Greece, and they have no will or reason to change. From my cabin, if I stare out the portholes, I can see a row of cars. There’s a BMW 320i from the late eighties, square and rigid. I took a glance inside and it had only done forty thousand miles. There’s an old Golf GTI, cubic once more, but with fresh leather seats. Whilst the miles were slightly more, one hundred thousand in this case, it still looked as though it were a car recently released from the factory. This theme is consistent across Greece, and is not simply confined to Athens and the surrounding islands. In fairness, if something isn’t broken there is little reason to go out trying to get it fixed or replaced. The only reason we do so in England is this perpetual fear of appearing to stagnate. You must always be on the hunt for your next car, your next pair of shoes, your next dream job. Feeling content is a feeling for fools and slackers.
The DJ plays something from 2010, it might be that Party Rockers track, but then again all those songs sound the same. Quavers on the snare for four bars, then semi-quavers for four bars, then a further set of sub-divisions before finally a drop of the one and BANG, distorted, compressed 808 kicks and a female voice, autotuned soul. Woah, oh, ohhhhh. Each song almost identical, employing a kind of triplet, expertly designed to match the swing of a female bottom.
You know the sad thing about all of this is, as I was walking back from my shower, I stopped to take a look at the party that was taking place. It appeared to be a function for a group of young sailors I’d seen wondering around during the day. Their hats screeched in white letters MAKE AMERICAN YACHT WEEK GREAT AGAIN, a tongue-in-cheek reference to everybody’s favourite presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The DJ is playing a song with a chorus asking everybody to take a selfie.
The DJ is playing that song that sounds like Stephen Hawking is singing the chorus that goes ‘Push me, and then just touch me, so I can get my, satisfaction. That song wasn’t too bad and I masturbated to the video several times.
I paused outside the party and looked on in. Everyone inside was beautiful. The boys were tall and handsome, with tanned biceps that bulged in their t-shirts. Their golden legs were mostly hairless. Their sunglasses didn’t make their heads look small, even when their heads were disproportionally smaller than the rest of their bodies.
The girls were all stolen from advertisements for white teeth, spray tans and bondage gear.
In my pockets sat seven euros, probably just about enough to buy myself a neat brandy. But I know that I never would. Music like this depresses me. Without meaning to come across as a knob, its lack of soul eats away at me anytime it enters my ears. The DJ keeps wrecking the mix, fading too early or too late or not at all. Everyone there doesn’t care. They just want to have a good time and music is beside the point. As long as there’s a beat, there’s no problem. I would only go in there, get my glass of overpriced liquor, stand at the side looking moody and hope that someone would come over and speak to me. I wouldn’t go over and speak to me, with my sour face, judging everyone in there just because they’re enjoying themselves. I would avoid me. I would talk to the chap who’s pouting and pointing to the sky, whooping in rhythm to the build up and then trying to start a chant of OI OI OI OI when the beat kicks in.
I retired to bed just as that song with the sax at the beginning started. I still have to listen to their shitty playlist, but at least here I don’t have to feel sad watching other people revel in commercial chart music and overpriced alcohol.