Littlewoods hate the world and all who live in it

29 Nov



As I write, much has already been said about the latest Littlewoods Christmas advert in which children perform a play based solely on their most recent materialistic possessions bought by their collective mother.

The Advertising Standards Agency has received over 450 complaints from fraught parents, due to its suggestion that Christmas presents are in fact bought ‘my mother’ rather than made by our old friend Santa.

I too may write a complaint to the ASA, but not for this reason (I know Santa exists, there’s no way a failed department store can convince me otherwise). No, my complaint will be based on the fact that this advert is complete shite on every level conceivable. I can just see the advert’s director now picking out the black kids to do a ‘rap’ section, because that’s what they all do isn’t it? They rap and say ‘yo’ a lot. But I’ll even let that slide for now, there’s more.

Firstly, I question the songs lyrics. What kind of family has a Ben, a Jen and an uncle Ken? There are two answers to this.

1) A family who live in Trumpton
2) a family created by a grossly unimaginative advertising executive who chose to leave writing adapted lyrics to the adverts tune until 5 minutes before filming began.

Besides, no child has an uncle Ken anymore, it isn’t 1958. This limp rhyming offends us all.

Secondly, Granddad gets a macbook? They’re £1000 plus! For fuck’s sake Mum, that’s a bit excessive, especially in a recession. I’m not opposed to the elderly owning laptops, but as it is hinted that this could be granddad’s first, I’m sure he would have settled for a cheaper model. Mum has risked virtually an entire Christmas budget for a piece of equipment that far exceeds the demands of most old men ,who’ll probably only use it to send an email. Its the equivalent giving Ben a real transforming car, or introducing Jen to the world of photography by presenting her with a cloned David Bailey.

Uncle Ken must be furious. Mum has obviously gone a bit ape-shit with the presents this year, and all he got was a phone he could have got for free on a contract, while the old man hits the jackpot.

Finally, if I went to see my child in a school Christmas play and was presented with this, I would transfer them to a new school mid performance. I will spare you of a boring rant about ‘the true meaning of Christmas’ , primarily because there isn’t one (Pagans weren’t that in to Jesus) but I hold out hope that today’s children aren’t completely consumed by materialistic greed and parents can work out that having to buy your relatives’ love via ludicrous overspending represents a massive guilt complex. Any school play organisers that believe this to be worthy of a song need to take a long hard look at themselves! I bet that this is Gove’s doing.

I’m lucky, I’m not as jaded as Littlewoods. Still bitter that they are doomed to now only exist virtually, the online store have given up on humanity entirely. “They’re greedy savages, all of them!” yelled Chairman Littlewoods, “Give the bastards what they want, and make it as insufferable as possible” Rumour is they stopped short of showing a disgruntled Uncle Ken murdering Granddad before swiping his new laptop.

By the way, Littlewoods’ website describes this as ‘a light hearted look at how the family comes together at Christmas and provides some gift inspiration that is often much needed in the early stages of Christmas planning’ (

In other words “buy this shit or your family will hate you”



Bleu De Chanel – Be unexpected and/or a Sex Offender

7 Sep

I’ve always had trouble understanding television adverts for fragrances. Many of the more modern adverts follow a very similar basic formula – beautiful man/woman looks expressively into the camera and/or the eyes of another beautiful man/woman while random words/sentences are whispered by a voiceover (See: Brad Pitt). These words or phrases can be quite literally anything, and certainly don’t have to relate in any way to perfume. The whole process will supposedly lead the audience into believing that the product is classy, poetic, cool and most of all, expensive.

While there are simply too many fragrance adverts out at the minute to really comment on, two in particular have caught my eye this year seeing as they have left me completely baffled. The first is from Bleu De Chanel and boasts Martin Scorsese as its director. The second, I’ll discuss in another post  as there is a colossal amount to ponder over here.

Bleu De Chanel begins with French actor Gaspard Ulliel angrily charging through a film set chasing an unknown and presumably scared woman. He’s cool alright! But wait, he is now in a blue room full of journalists with the footage of this projected behind him. Next, we witness him at a dinner table with another lady who looks physically sick at having to be there. This doesn’t stop our man Gaspard though! Within seconds he’s leaning towards her in a threatening vampire like fashion. The action then cuts to Gaspard with a camera taking pictures of the woman he was chasing earlier through windows, bars, her bathroom (!) and even a few while he’s lying on top of her which adds evidence to this suspicion that he could well be a rapist. Is this part of the film, or is he doing this in his spare time? It doesn’t matter, it’s cool!

But hang on, maybe it’s all about to blow up. We cut back to our criminal hero who is about to get a severe grilling from the press about the fucked up stuff he’s been doing. But there are no questions. Just a look from his chased victim, who as luck would have it, seems to have been an undercover journalist all along. Knowing he’s rumbled, Gaspard prepares to speak. “I’m not going to be the person I’m expected to be anymore” he sneers, before walking off with the room destroying itself around him.

To my astonishment, the advert ends here – a voiceover telling us we should be unexpected, just like this chap. While I have no reason to doubt that Gaspard is indeed ‘unexpected’, the overall message of this advert is, frankly,  bizarre. What I can gather from it is this – “if you’re a man/vampire who chases women, pins them down and takes lurid photos of them as they struggle, make sure you wear Bleu De Chanel, as this will make this behaviour  ‘unexpected’ rather than ‘criminal’.  You’ll go scot free! Even if it is in all the newspapers the next morning!”

Martin Scorsese is a vocal fan of the 1960 masterpiece “Peeping Tom” and it looks as if this was his inspiration for this advert given the camera and the overall creepy disposition. However,  I struggle to find a reason as to why he thought a Mark Lewis character was suitable to sell men’s rose petal water other than he knew he could get away with it – “I’m Martin Scorsese for fuck’s sake” he thought,  “No one at Chanel’s marketing department is going to question me”.

Chanel, and companies like it, seem to let anything go when it comes to their adverts – none of them make sense anyway so why not have a sex fiend as your leading man? As long as he looks cool, he could be Ian Huntley for all it matters – perfume will not judge you! Unless you’re ugly, obviously.

Scorsese therefore can only be taking the piss out of Chanel. Oh how he must delight in telling his buddies Rob De Niro and Leo Di Caprio about how he managed to get Coco to pay him a shitload of cash to make a commercial for what is essentially ‘Rapist’s Choice – Blue Flavour”.  “Oh Marty, you’re so unexpected” they’ll no doubt say. Well, I’m on to you Scorsese!

Senna. If I have to force you to a cinema at gunpoint, I will

8 Jun

Last Saturday, I left a Soho cinema visibly exhausted and with no doubt in my mind that I had just experienced one of the greatest cinematic events of my life. “Senna”, on paper, is a documentary about an individual I know little about, and heavily features a sport I have very little interest in. I therefore have fears, that despite near perfect reviews across the board (the poster highlights the 5 stars given from both “Top Gear Magazine” and “Grazia”), ‘Senna’ will pass some people by for the reasons I have just mentioned. Here I want to briefly explain why this film left such a strong impression, and why I would take immense pleasure in hunting down and slaughtering anyone who may summarise it as “some film about that dead formula one guy”.

Perhaps the primary reason is the subject matter itself – Ayrton Senna was, based on the masses of footage the filmmakers have managed to acquire, an extraordinary personality. From the very beginning of his career in F1, Senna was a driver who performed feats that would drop the jaws of even motor racing dunces like myself. He won races with faulty gear boxes stuck on sixth gear, from crash positions which would prompt most drivers to walk from their car, and in perilously wet conditions where he would appear to glide even faster than usual where others would understandably show caution.

His love for pure racing and dislike of the politics behind it was apparent throughout, his wins fuelled by pure adrenaline and a firm belief that God would protect him rather than tactical manoeuvring . This put him at odds with Alain Prost, the French world champion – known as the ‘scientist’ by his peers, due to his extensive tactical preparation and his obsessive sticking to it on the track. Senna’s ongoing rivalry with Prost, who in racing and character terms was the exact opposite of Senna, provide the most exciting moments of the film.

Handsome Alain Prost

His personality and beliefs also put him at odds with the F1 men of power– a clash that resulted in the 1989 championship being taken away from him in highly suspicious circumstances. Ayrton Senna simply didn’t fit the mould of a formula one driver, especially when he went home to Brazil where he was seen by the public as a God. There is much footage of Brazilians expressing in no uncertain terms just how much they loved him and the love was very much mutual. His pain inducing efforts to eventually win his homecoming Brazilian Grand Prix and his ecstasy that followed shows just how much it meant to him and the country.

However, it is the filmmakers themselves that really make “Senna” an incredible cinematic spectacle instead of a bog standard TV biography. The scenes showing the races themselves are heart stopping as they accurately capture the break neck speed at which the cars are racing – something that F1 television coverage rarely gets across due to the wide or high camera angles often used. Senna’s battle with Prost (on and off the track) is detailed with all access, fly on the wall footage that is wonderfully put together – the behind the scenes meetings involving the drivers and the powers that be are often as tense as the races themselves. Senna’s life before his F1 career is mentioned but rarely touched upon, and all interviews are audio only – often giving the footage which they are played over more context and gravitas; your eyes never off the action.

Senna's crash

Where the acquired footage and skills in editing best come together however is at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix that ultimately claimed Senna’s life. A clip of fellow driver Roland Ratzenberger – killed a day before Senna on the same course – relaying fears about his control of the car to his engineers is extremely poignant. But knowing what waits for Senna as I watched him react to Ratzenberger’s crash and prepare for his own final race took this to another level of intensity. This intensity transformed to emotion as footage of Senna’s funeral is shown – the streets lined with countless devastated thousands outside the church, as his family, lovers, colleagues and his main rival Alan Prost approach his coffin to say farewell.

Funeral procession

To sum up, “Senna” brilliantly captures the spirit of Formula One’s brightest star with enough critical faculty to stop it from being an all round love in. It sufficiently, and subtlety, explains the nature of Formula One and its characters for even those, like me, who have little background knowledge. To really get the full effect, I think it is a film that has to be viewed in a cinema rather than at home and I can not express enough just how much you should do this. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

Top of the Pops 1976. A ‘blessed with hindsight’ review

15 Apr

In 1976 there were two staple TV shows that brought music to the nation’s youth – Top of the Pops and the Old Grey Whistle Test. While acts could be heard on the radio or read about in music magazines, only TV could offer the magical combination of seeing and hearing them at the same time from the comfort of your own home – a role in which the Internet has since eclipsed television. What a disappointment therefore to have to choose between a league of stupidly hairy men each playing 20 minute wanky guitar solos on Old Grey, and a league of stupidly hairy men ogling at Pans People whilst charismatically introducing The Wurzels on Top of the Pops.

"Hey kids, lets earnestly rock!"

BBC4 has begun showing a 1976 episode of Top of the Pops every Thursday – each episode being exactly 35 years old to the day when shown, and what an eye opener it is. As a fan of the BBC’s excellent TOTP2 series, I have seen many performances from this era. However it isn’t until you see an episode in its entirety, viewing each performance in context with others at the time that you can really get an understanding of 1976 pop music. It is simultaneously a fascinating and depressing affair.


So far, BBC4 have shown three episodes, each with a different host – Noel Edmonds in week one, then Tony Blackburn and finally Dave Lee Travis. Out of these three, only the perma-smiled, cheese-tastic Tony Blackburn comes across in any way likeable. Edmonds has the look and sound of a man who looks royally pissed off in having to be there, sneering through his episode with ostensible contempt for both the performers and the audience. Edmonds clearly dreamt of bigger things and on this evidence, had seen the future – a glorious 20 or so years lined with house parties, gunge and insane right wing political campaigns. TOTP is a mere stepping stone toward future light entertainment domination.

Laterz, losers!
Dave Lee Travis meanwhile, is frankly, a massive Bellend. The self proclaimed ‘Hairy Cornflake’ introduces Pan’s People twice, both times claiming that he’ll visit their dressing room after the show (no doubt to give them some of his hairy cornflake) and even poses after Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” with two unassuming and visibly disgusted looking young ladies to show that he’s NOT all by himself. Travis, it can be said, is like a prehistoric Jay from The Inbetweeners – obviously way behind Edmunds and Blackburn in the groupie count and needing to verbally compensate at any available opportunity.

A DLT special

Then there is Pans People, a group of five young female dancers who jive to the tunes of acts who can’t be bothered to show up that week. Pan’s People, as many nostalgia based television programmes have mentioned previously, were eye candy ‘for the dads’. What the nations children made of their fathers lustfully drooling whilst the family all watched together is perhaps best left undocumented, but the Tony Blackburn episode in week 2 must have left perverts the land over terribly disappointed. In the link below, Pans People shoddily stumble across a crappy jungle set in explorer outfits while other folk in atrocious (and in some cases, frightening) animal costumes plod along with them.

Having grown up with 90s and 00s TV dancers being painstakingly perfect in increasingly complicated routines, watching Pans People is more funny than erotic. It is unfair to criticise their routines as they would have had to learn several every week in a very short length of time, but by today’s standards they are somewhat shambolic. This, coupled with the dancers themselves often etched with a glum or distant expression, is where Top of the Pops has aged the most. You would never get this on TV anymore, but in a strange way that is actually a shame – constant perfection can get rather boring at times.

Glum expressions are also highly visible on the faces of the audience. Compared with later editions of Top of the Pops the 1976 audience seem, like Noel Edmunds, rather unhappy to be there. Tony Blackburn claimed in an accompanying documentary shown by BBC4 that the atmosphere on the show was electric, but from viewing the three episodes shown so far I wouldn’t have been surprised if there had been mass suicide after every broadcast – gunshots rapidly fired all the way through Brotherhood of Man’s ‘Save all your kisses for me”. Each song, regardless of sound or genre is clumsily shuffled to and a pre recorded applause, rather than the audience themselves, ends every performance.

In all fairness to the manic depressives, the music on show is nothing to write home about – perhaps best verified by the number of reissued Beatles’ songs in the chart countdown (shown at the start of the show, oddly enough). Twice we have been exposed to Sailor’s “Girls Girls Girls” (three of Dave Lee Travis’s favourite things, so says our increasingly desperate host) – a largely confusing mash of jangly piano and loud harmonies. Another performance sees a solitary man leaping up and down on the stage claiming that ‘We’ve got Reggae like it used to be’. The man is Paul Nicholas, and his song is anything but Reggae.

In this context, Abba and Fox’s “Single Bed”– a performance I had seen before via TOTP2, really stand out as head and shoulders above the rest. Fox’s especially is a good song and a pleasing performance when seen individually, but is practically Mozart when shown in comparison with everything else on 1976 editions of the show.

The aforementioned Brotherhood of Man have been number one in every edition shown so far with a twee childish number that would even make your grandmother vomit. To add further insult, the TOTP studio has a gloomy brown decor, which although is typical of how many rooms looked in the 1970s, gives the impression that steaming piles of manure would not look out of place if it were dumped in various parts of the studio.

In conclusion, by showing Top of the Pops 1976 in full, future generations such as mine are now able to see in much clearer detail why Punk was so desperately needed. I genuinely pity the youth of 1976 if this was the music that sound tracked their earliest experiences, and this was the show that brought it to them. Top of the Pops 1976 was the nadir before the revolution, and I for one am glad the BBC are able to show those who weren’t around to see it, exactly how the British pop music scene was about to change forever.

God bless you, Malcolm Mclaren

The Gillette Fusion Pro Glide Challenge. Some Thoughts

6 Apr

To be completely fair to Gillette, they have never been a company that has concerned themselves with sobriety in their advertisements. Everyone has fond memories of their terrific “GILLETTE! THE BEST THAT MAN CAN GET!!!” power ballad jingle played over images of bouncy haired athletes, stock brokers and bride grooms. Since this highlight, Gillette adverts have rarely broken from the tried and tested brand of shouty voiceover and earnest hunks shaving in front of their visually satisfied women. Gillette is for winners! Only winners use Gillette! Gillette can and will scream this in your face if necessary!

As society’s fascination with celebrity increased into the 21st century, Gillette  brought in the talents of Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and Thierry Henry to accommodate this. Stockbrokers and bride grooms were out, victorious sport stars were in. Despite the fact that all three stars looked deeply uncomfortable in each other’s company, Gillette confidently informed us that by using their new ‘Fusion’ razor, you can join their high achieving gang! Only losers use Mach 3, real men use 5 blades!

"This Guy..."

But it all went wrong. Badly wrong. The switch to 5 blades was evidently too much for two of the triumvirate. Not long after the adverts had aired, the once untouchable Thierry Henry cheated his way into a world cup via a scandalous handball against the Republic of Ireland. If this defilement of a previously untarnished reputation wasn’t bad enough  the following world cup campaign itself proved to be comically disastrous. Shortly afterwards,  Tiger Woods hit the headlines for his rampant adultery that came to light after he crashed his car into a lamppost.

Even though Roger Federer continued to win championships like it was going out of fashion, the damage was done. The public were terrified of Gillette Fusion – if it was powerful enough to nearly destroy the careers of the best, no man in his right mind wanted to go near it.

Gillette, at crisis point, needed a new set of adverts with a brand new approach. Simply shouting that their razors were the “best that man could get” wasn’t cutting it anymore (pun intended). They desperately needed a new strategy to convince the public. Step forward, the Gillette Pro Glide Challenge.

That's close enough

The latest Gillete Fusion advert begins with an unidentified man and a camera crew jumping out of a van, marching through the entrance of a gym and announcing in a faux macho manner  that this  “is the Fusion Pro Glide Challenge”. The crew then burst  into a changing room, surprising a solitary Asian man. “Woo Buddy” shouts the mystery host, before asking the chap who is in no way an actor and just so happens to be shaving in a public changing room, how his shave is.

Rather than do what 95% of people in this situation would do and angrily ask “Who the fuck are you and why are you here?”, Buddy appears to magically change into a completely different person with a broad Scottish accent, and instead says something largely incomprehensible to the fleeting ear.

Assuming Gillette did not run in to a supernatural being with the ability to morph into other forms, it is implied that the team have done this many times in this very gym and many times have found one man on his own, wishing that somehow he could  shave without uncomfortable tug and pull.

Then comes the science. Mystery host pulls out his iphone and shows his victim directly how thinner blades means all the world’s problems are now solved. Cue clips of several men shaving whilst saying “glide” a lot, all of whom Gillette informs us were sceptics, but are now believers. Its clearly not enough to simply use this razor folks , you have to believe in it! For every one person who says he does not believe in the Gillette Fusion Pro Glide, a razor somewhere dies. What’s more likely is that our host and camera crew will cut off the heads of those who remain a sceptic – you can see it in his eyes, this guy will not take no for an answer.

This is later proved in the closing moments of the advert where the increasingly annoying host ‘playfully’ wrestles with what appears to be Liverpool striker David N’Gog.  N’Gog puts on a brave face but clearly does not want to suffer the same curse as his fellow countryman Thierry Henry so early in his career. Gillette however, have him cornered – “Take it” orders the host. But N’gog does not take it. Without warning, the Liverpool striker acts quickly and soon the host is embroiled in a headlock and may be forced to give in. The outcome of this final battle remains unknown, a study of David N’Gog’s career from this point can be the only true way of knowing if Gillette Fusion has won or lost.

God speed, David N'Gog

To put it bluntly (another pun entirely intended), Gillette can not cope with ‘real people’ in ‘real situations’. After years of blisteringly over the top visuals and metaphors, Gillette are simply unable to appear as if they have ever engaged  with ordinary members of the public. The advert is so embarrassingly staged, one can only imagine that candid camera pioneer Jeremy Beadle is rolling in his grave.

Hence the curse of Gillette Fusion Pro Glide continues. There will be no challenge. There truly can be only one way to sell the Fusion Pro Glide – return to the heady days of floppy haired athletes, stock brokers and bride grooms that has served Gillette so well in the past. Today’s society has many parallels with the 1980s anyway (Royal Wedding, bastards in government, public interest in Charlie Sheen), one more surely can’t hurt us.

Gillette, once again, be the best a man can get.

Fucking Hell, that's way too far!

Tragic and astounding advert from KFC

14 Mar

This has very quickly become my favourite advert on TV, to a point that I can recite it almost word for word.

The exact reasons for this are unclear, but they largely centre around how something so laughably awful could ever have seen the light of day.

We begin with a trip round a supermarket with a jolly northern chap who claims to have seen a LOT of changes in the 20 years he has worked in the food business. He’s privy to all sorts of secrets not fit for public knowledge, as evidenced by his snigger upon his utterence of ‘a lot of changes…’. However, he is able to reveal that people expect more from their food – “home grown produce, fresh not frozen.”

We are then transported, without warning, to a KFC restaurant where it is revealed that our hero, with his vast experience of the food industry,  in fact serves fast food behind a counter . He shows off his fresh chicken on the bone which will later be fried to an inch of its life, in his mind proving his earlier points of  higher customer expectation.

To the audience however, it becomes quite clear that our man can no longer be trusted and is, at worst, a fantasist. All his previous statements have amounted to KFC without even a hint of irony. His 20 years plus experience have taught him nothing, and on this evidence he is unlikely to learn any more about food even in another 20 years. This is a heartbreaking sight, as he gleefully hands over a bucket of chicken to an unappreciative family. The fruit of his loins, his farmer assured British Chicken, prepared with love and hand breaded by trained chefs, devoured and spat out by a more fortunate family. They can leave the restaurant when they finish, he must stay and repeat the process. Again, and again, and again.

Other than the fact that KFC have missed how terribly depressing this advert is, I think there are three main points from it that fascinate me:

1) 20 years of the food industry and you’re behind the counter at KFC. This is a genuine tragedy and KFC are shameful to exploit it.

2) Fresh healthy produce = KFC? How have they made this connection? I could connect sausages with immortality but I can’t prove it. This is effectively what they’ve done

3) The terms ‘restaurants’ and ‘trained chefs’. I understand our man is making the best of his situation, but that’s taking it a bit too far.

After some research however, you’ll be pleased to know that this entire advert is complete bollocks. Our man has not worked in the food industry for 20 years and certainly does not serve behind a counter. He is an actor called Mark Morrell and his website can be found here

I’m glad I no longer need to lose sleep about this

“Scouting for Girls are Killing Music” claim Industry

14 Apr
Key players in the UK music industry including X Factor judge Louis Walsh and members of Radiohead, Pink Floyd and Kandy Rain have met to discuss the impact of  legally purchasing music by Scouting for Girls on the music industry for a BBC documentary.
Killing Music?
The record industry has claimed that since Scouting for Girls introduction to the British charts in 2008, nearly £200m a year has been lost collectively due to potentially buyers of new music stabbing themselves repeatedly in the eye with a fork after hearing a song by the Harrow band. Such actions have therefore prevented any new music to be bought by the victims, and the industry claims that younger, lesser known musical acts are suffering as a result.
“If you buy a record by Scouting for Girls, you are stifling creativity, and you are hurting the music industry” says Editors  lead singer Tom Smith. “Its not hurting bigger, more established artists who have already made it; what you are really attacking is those on the fringes and the smaller scale of the industry – newer artists trying the break through”.
Ed O’Brien of Radiohead however, takes a contrasting view. “Although the music of Scouting for Girls is an obvious scapegoat to the cause of music fans impaling themselves, I think radio stations and major labels that insist any band they sign should ‘sound a bit like Scouting for Girls’ are also damaging the industry” the guitarist explained. “ It is a wider argument that extends further than simply erasing the appalling sound of one band from musical history”.
Best selling solo artists Lily Allen and Elton John have given vocal support to the idea proposed by the industry to punish those that buy Scouting for Girls records.
“I think Scouting for Girls  are having a dangerous effect on British music, but some really rich and successful artists like Nick Mason from Pink Floyd and Ed O’Brien from Radiohead don’t seem to think so” Allen wrote on her Myspace blog.
“Punish buyers of SfG” Says Allen
“Newer artists are suffering, as record labels are less inclined to sign them due to there now being half as many music fans in the country as there were two years ago. Something has to be done before it transcends into complete disaster, and if that means punishing buyers of ‘She’s so Lovely’, then I support that action”.
Billy Bragg however does not agree that punishing music buyers is the answer. “The industry has failed to modernise since my heyday of 20 years ago, and it should have made more progressive steps to limit the distribution of Scouting for Girls records. This, rather than those who bought it, is the real reason why so many people are dead. Punishing consumers is something I will never be comfortable with”.
To see the full debate, featuring contributions from Eoghan Quigg,  Faithless and TVs Fearne Cotton, watch Panorama “Are Scouting for Girls Killing Music?” on BBC1 this Thursday at 9pm.
(Warning: Certain scenes may feature music by Scouting for Girls and opinions from Fearne Cotton)