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.