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.