Crap Journalism: it’s the idiot Heritage again

Crap journalism is an irregular series where I take various Guardian features to task. A high poportion of these are by Stuart Heritage. So’s this one.

Apparently, the former Meghan Markle wants to go back to acting with a big role in a superhero movie, leading Heritage to suggest various superheroines she might portray. The third option is Big Barda, of the New Gods. Heritage lifts the Wikipedia introdction to the character, before suggesting that Barda was created by ‘someone who wasn’t very good at thinking up characters’.

Big Barda was created by Jack Kirby, who created or co-created practically the whole Marvel Universe, who created Captain America, who created whole genres of comics, not just characters, who was, in short, the most prolific creation-machine there has ever been in comics.

Stuart Heritage is a stupid tw*t who can’t even do a second’s research when he thinks he’s being funny.

Crap Journalism: Party Lines – update

What did I tell you?

The final episode of the fourth series of Sherlock is tomorrow, but the Guardian, which has no idea of proportion, or balance, or indeed when to knock it off because it’s creating the opposite reaction to that intended, has resumed its campaign of hate against the programme.

I’m not even linking to the latest salvo, which takes the form of the TV review page in the Weekend pocket-sized supplement. The column, entitled ‘The Other Side’ is usually written by Filipa Jodelka but – warning! warning! self-important twat alert! – this week it’s been handed over to the egregious Stuart Heritage to tell us, guess what, that the long-running American series, Elementary, is a better Sherlock than Sherlock. Well, no shit, er…

It’s not even as if Heritage can muster any great claims for Elementary: indeed he damns the show with faint praise by pointing out that there already over 100 episodes and that there are ones that don’t work but, hey, so what, other ones do.

Heritage even paints Elementary as a procedural, just as much as CSI or NCIS, but argues, on the basis of no evidence produced, that it is a cut above them, seemingly more honourable.

Now I have no comment to make on Elementary. I have seen nothing of it bear a handful of trailers, a few minutes in total, none of which have inclined me to want to watch more. It may well be very good, and/or highly entertaining, or it may be the kind of sterile formula-follower that over 100 episode in five years might suggest. I don’t know, nor do I care.

But on its behalf, I resent it suddenly being talked up like this, at this time, in this very week, not out of any merits it may possess in itself but as a stick to be deployed in the Guardian‘s vendetta. This is a show so monumental and magnetic that it appears on Sky Living, remember.

The thing about this kind of full-bore piling in, slinging mud at every possible moment, is that it demonstrates just how ineffectual the Guardian is being. If it had any confidence in itself and the validity of its opinions, it would make its point (without Heritage’s unfunny witty and ‘cutting’ comments) and rest on it. Instead, it has to shriek and blare, over and again.

It used to be a decent paper, too. I’m trying to remember how far back that was.

Crap Journalism: Party Lines

It’s never difficult to tell when the Guardian has decided to take a party line on something.

There was the astonishing vehemence with which it attacked the Steven Speilberg CGI Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn back in 2011, with nearly two-dozen different articles, frequently appearing on a daily basis, slagging off the film unmercifully. This was in contrast to the generally positive tones of reviews worldwide. To the Guardian, however, the film was a personal insult to Herge, a complete misrepresentation of the series, the rape of Tintin the character himself.

Basically, the audience was ordered to boycott the film, and if they ignored that advice, to hate the film. By the time I saw it, I was determined to like it, just because the response was so hysterical, unreasoning and dictatorial. And enjoy it I did (although, despite Andy Serkis being brilliant in it, Captain Haddock still wasn’t right, because he didn’t sound like the guy who voiced the old Tele-Hachette/Belvision cartoons).

Then there’s Jeremy Corbyn, whose every word, thought and deed has been slagged off by the Guardian, relentlessly, since it became apparent that he was going to be voted Labour Party leader.

And now the screw is being turned on Sherlock.

Whilst criticism of the opening episode of the current season was legitimate to some extent, it’s plain that the Guardian has a major mad on again, and the series is to be ripped to shreds. I refrained from comment two days ago when the buffoon Stuart Heritage wrote a full-length and wrong-headed condemnation of the programme based on what hasn’t yet happened in the final episode, and they’re at it again today demanding that all of television give up including ghosts, with Sherlock as its principal target.

Heritage chooses to describe the programme as ‘gutless’ and professes his personal and projected disappointment at the cliffhanger which, in case you didn’t watch it yourself, consisted of the revelation of the third Holmes sibling as being female and shooting directly at John Watson’s face.

Apparently, the programme can only be tolerated – not appreciated or enjoyed – if Watson is dead. Otherwise, it reveals itself as being permanently contemptible. What can you say? Would it help to mention that the Sherlock Holmes novels, and every last colourable adaptation from them, are about the duo of Holmes and Watson? No, the party-line is in. A cliffhanger has been set up and instead of the hero freeing himself, by one mighty bound or, more likely some ingenious twist (is the pistol actually loaded or is this another element of the psychological game Euros Holmes is playing with her younger brother?), the idiot Heritage puts himself in the stupid position of demanding that the co-star dies.

I mean, it’s a complete misunderstanding of the basis of the series that we expect a complex, implausible escape and the fun is finding out how it was done. Only the Guardian, in its new, get-Sherlock phase would imagine anything different.

But it’s today’s piece of idiocy that makes plain there is an agenda. Gwylim Mumford’s piece is ostensibly an attack on a TV trope, which he describes as cheap and lazy writing, and demands it be banned instantly. The piece quotes other series guilty of this factor, which has been overused to the point of cliche, except on Mr Robot, where it’s apparently fundamental to the series’ success. Hmm.

But no, this is another excuse to slag off Sherlock. The trope in question is having dead characters appear on screen as psychological projections visible only to the audience and to the grieving character to whom they relate. This is Mary Watson turning up and having conversations with John, during which she reminds him several times over that she’s dead and has no more knowledge than he has.

One problem is that Mumford analyses the problem as being that “(w)e all know exactly how the dead person vision will pan out. The dead person appears to the living person to help them work through something monumental. Because the dead person is aware of the deep truth about the living person, they’re almost always an insufferable know-it-all, prone to saying things like “I see you’ve finally figured it out” while lying on a chaise longue reading the newspaper. These people aren’t just dead, they’re dead smug. Then when the living character has finally realised what was causing them such angst, the dead character disappears for good, leaving the living person staring into space and looking confused.” And the apparition of Mary Watson does none of that.

But no, the party-line demands another attack, in case the audience gets a bad case of thinking for itself, and decides it knows its own tastes better.

In a couple of months time, I will have been reading the Guardian for thirty-six years. I started buying it not long after it started publishing Doonesbury every day. I haven’t kept buying the paper this long because of that alone, especially not when it went into daily reprints. But day by day, as the paper betrays every (small l) liberal and social instinct it once had, as it gets rid of good writers because they cost and installs ever more right-wing writers who tell us that Theresa May is the ideal Prime Minister, I re-evaluate that decision, day in, day out.

At the moment, the biggest factor in keeping me buying this excuse for a newspaper is the Cryptic Crossword. Doing it on-line just doesn’t compare. And some of the sports writers are still good.

But crap journalism like this grows ever more prevalent. I wouldn’t mind if it were just a difference of opinion, argued out by someone who doesn’t think he’s a great wit or that his personal opinion is the word of a secular God. I like reading dissenting opinions, testing them against what I believe. But that’s not what I’m getting, and the cost of the paper each day becomes harder to justify to myself.

A Post about Thunderbirds

Still brilliant after all these years

I’ve been reading The Guardian for over thirty years, and The Observer for over a decade, and I continue to read a combination of the two papers on a seven days a week basis, though increasingly it’s on the basis that everything else out there is even worse, and I’m basically stuck in a cycle of inertia.

Besides, I’m dependant upon the Crossword.

But increasingly one or both newspaper has no-go areas, writers whose work I will simply bypass, knowing from long experience that they hold nothing that interests or entertains me. It all started with the Barbara Ellen Observer column, which long ago transmuted into the kind of Daily Mail hag-bitch, be-shitty-about-everything format that, if I want to read, I’d buy the Mail and read its endless array of poison-bitch commentators. But it’s expanded ever since.

At the Guardian, which can offer such delightful, inventive and entertaining commentators as Marina Hyde and Hadley Freeman, my bete noire is Stuart Heritage. Heritage writes light-weight articles and columns for the light-weight end of the Guardian‘s range, but basically he’s crap at it. His style is faux-chatty/bitchy, frothy put-downs and superficial cynicism based on a supposedly superior set of standards that are never articulated.

Again, nothing wrong with that, always room for amusement at such things, but Heritage is no good at it. Whimsy, by its very nature, must come over as effortless, light-hearted and instinctive, irrespective of how much hard work it takes to prepare one’s bon mots, and Heritage hasn’t got it. He’s just not naturally funny to begin with, and his copy suffers from the underlying sense of strain to find an apt line which, coupled with the inevitable falling-short of genuine humour, makes his work deathly dull and trying.

I’m posting this because today I’ve broken my self-imposed ban on reading anything under his by-line. He’s got up an article about the latest, CGI, plastic attempt to remake Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s finest creation, Thunderbirds, as Thunderbirds are Go. The theme of the article is that purists shouldn’t complain about any deficiency of quality in this atest version (of which I had not heard before today and which, on the single promo photo attached to the article, looks even worse than the dire 2004 live action film).

Mr Heritage advances three primary arguments against making a fuss about the new Thunderbirds, which roughly break down as follows; it’s been repeated and remade so often that Thunderbirds never actually went away (that is if, like Heritage, you gloss over the thirty year gap from the 1960s originals and the 1990s revival); it’s stupid for grown men and women to get stroppy over a fifty year old kids programme; and Thunderbirds was actually crap all along, from the start.

Heritage has this to say: “This is another reason why you have no right to whine about what they’ve done to your beloved Thunderbirds – because Thunderbirds was never that good in the first place. It was boring. It was cheap-looking. It was full of interminable pauses. There were too many Tracy brothers, and none of them had distinct personalities. It was, simply, not much cop.

“My theory is that Thunderbirds has endured for two reasons – first, because it’s easy to wobble your arms around and do an impression of Parker, and second, because people only watched it because their parents made them. Parents in the 60s made their children watch it because there was nothing else on, and every subsequent generation of parents have made their children watch it because they’ve found themselves trapped in a tragic cycle of behavioural abuse. I fear what will happen when the children who were made to watch the 2004 Thunderbirds film reach child-rearing age. I only pray that social services will be on standby.”

Those couple of paragraphs should be enough for the non-Guardian readers out there to realise why avoiding Heritage’s output is so conducive to a despair-free day. It’s also sufficient to demonstrate the main flaw in his argument: he’s utterly wrong. As a child of the 60s, I can bring actual, true knowledge to the subject, which is that everybody, as in everybody, watched it. Shot off home from playing games so as not to miss it. Drove their parents spare asking what time it started. Parents couldn’t have stood for a moment against the force of will with which every kid approached being in front of the telly at the right moment.

Now, in reality, I couldn’t give a fig for Stuart Heritage’s opinion on anything. Indeed, if he ever agreed with me about something, I would nervously examine my taste for its inevitable flaw. Nothing he has said or could say can ever impinge on my memories of Thunderbirds, and its continuing excellence. Fifty years later: still bloody brilliant. And I still reserve the right to join in the mass slaughter of any updated version that changes so much as a single rivet in Thunderbird 2’s wing.

Not that Heritage truly disapproves. After all, the article ends with a wink, just to let you know he’s so fey and mercurial, and amusing. There’s a last line: “That said, though, if anyone comes for Terrahawks, I’ll cut them.” Laugh? I nearly washed the pots. Apart from the cliche, I mean Terrahawks? Even Gerry Andreson knew that sucked.

So why make a fuss like this? I used to have a Guardian account but I had it deleted years ago. I can’t leave a comment telling Mr Heritage he’s full of shit, and it would only get deleted if I did. This is just to tell him he’s full of shit, and the comment will stay up.

Thank you for listening. Have a link to the awesome title music and credit sequence on me.