Sunday, 29 May 2011

Dot Cotton is a harlot

I've started watching television again. I didn't mean to, it just happened - normally because I need something to occupy my time while tending to a home-related activity, like making sure the building doesn't become engulfed in a raging inferno caused by some overcooked chicken thighs.

I grew out of TV approximately three years ago because a) I left university and got a job and b) all the good-looking people left Neighbours and were replaced by sadists, smarmy besuited types or insanely talented 15 year-olds who could play the Crocodile Dundee theme tune on a didgeridoo while harpooning a sprinting kangaroo from 100 yards [it's just an image, OK? Jesus. To think you thought I didn't know harpoons are the preserve of fisherman. I actually wrote that particular Wikipedia page, so I suggest you go back and start enjoying that image of mindless kangaroo slaughter. Or, if that offends you, write to McDonald's and complain - they're the real bastards, not me].

During the past week I've witnessed Barack Obama playing ping pong in Elephant & Castle; watched Dot Cotton get jiggy in the back of the laundrette (albeit relative jigginess for an 82 year-old devout Christian who thinks sex is as foul as a feral cat's breath. She's still a promiscuous harlot as far as I'm concerned, though - poor, loyal Jim was sitting in the living room all the while wondering what time his dinner would be arriving. And didn't anyone tell her smoking is banned in the workplace? Is there no end to her antisocial activity?); and seen a morbidly obese man get his scaled, blistered belly out on camera before admitting that his penis had shrunk back up inside of him and that it's a bit messy whenever he goes for a piss. He felt compelled to admit, rather unnecessarily, that he "didn't have a sex life" - which is like Sister Wendy saying she avoids smoking skunk despite understanding the pleasurable side effects such an activity may induce.

Rather than making me feel misanthropic - which I had fully expected - I actually got rather a lot from the magic box that sits opposite our sofa, and particularly from the characters it contains. Barack Obama playing table tennis at a school 10 minutes from my house: exciting. Dot Cotton's scripted new love interest: charming and dapper. Obese man with wee wee trouble: morbidly fascinating. So, well done TV - you've put in a spring in my step and a smile on my otherwise soured face.

So much so, in fact, that's it got me thinking about ideas for new programmes. Listen up Channel 4 - we've had enough of Jamie Oliver's tears and blonde doctors with centre partings - it's time for something fresh, innovative and unchartered. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you BALLOON MAN. Now, I know what you're thinking - the show will either be a) a biographical documentary bore-fest on Steve Fossett, who is definitely dead or b) about a man who's so fat that his willy has disappeared… but that's been done already, remember? There is a third option, namely a show which follows the story of a man obsessed with balloons. He is balloon dependent. The mere sight of one causes body tremors, agitated excitement and slurred shouting - the kind of reaction a semi-rational person would have after ticking off five Lottery numbers and enthusiastically awaiting the  
sixth to roll out.

But even that wouldn't satiate TV viewers' voyeuristic demands. My BALLOON MAN (I'm keeping the capitals because that makes it exciting, yeah? The alternatives - 'Balloon Man' or 'balloon man' - are a little understated, like the small print on the back of a discarded Dettol bottle) has the rare and as yet uncelebrated distinction of being a cross between a man and a balloon (albeit for only a few minutes). How did he - namely 48 year-old Steven McCormack of Whakatane, New Zealand - achieve such a feat? He fell arsehole first onto his lorry's compressed air nozzle, narrowly escaping death as his neck, legs and feet began swelling alarmingly quickly with air.

"I was blowing up like a football... it felt like I had the bends, like in diving. I had no choice but just to lay there, blowing up like a balloon," he told the Whakatane Beacon.

Steven McCormack aka BALLOON MAN
Now that is truly terrifying. And darkly hilarious - a la The League of Gentlemen or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But above all, what a story. WHAT A STORY! And one that definitely needs to be told - perhaps even with a 999-style reconstruction and a Bubbles DeVere fat suit. Hell, why not bring back Michael Buerk to present the show? His calm, understated presenting style would provide the suspense-filled tension leading up to the inevitable, we-all-know-what's-coming near-tragedy that every viewer salivates over for literally minutes.

So, that's my suggestion on how to improve TV massively - for one fleeting half hour. I think an hour-long documentary on BALLOON MAN may be pushing it, unless the biological effects of having gallons of air pumping up the ol' rectal passage can be studied in detail, using the visual technology deployed in Inside the Human Body (alongside the narrative of Michael Mosley, naturally). Which is probably an excellent idea.

It's time for me to write to Channel 4's commissioning editor. Until next week, toodles.

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