Ways You Can Support My ‘Art’

•November 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

As I’m no longer able to edit the outdated list of links on the right, I’ve compiled some ways for you to help support my pumping out of the literary gold, if you so wish. For context, since the launching of the Patreon, I’ve posted over 100,000 words of free material on here each year. I hate getting into the grotty business of money, but I can’t do this if I starve to death, so here’s how you can slow my eventual descent into the skeletal realm.

SUPPORT ME ON PATREON. There are various tiers, starting at $1 a month, including access to tons of exclusive content which will never appear here on the free blog.

BUY MY BOOKS. I’ve got a number of titles available in both paperback and digital, on Amazon UK, and Amazon US, or your local Amazon of choice.

BUY ME A KO-FI, if you’d like to sling me the financial equivalent of a coffee. If it helps, feel free to pretend you’re throwing it in my face instead of letting me drink it.

CHUCK ME SOME MONEY ON PAYPAL.

Cheers.

Twenty Years Our Friend – A Rainbow Retrospective

•March 18, 2023 • Leave a Comment

This video first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could watch it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my podcast and videos, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 660,000 words of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

Owt Good On, Mam? – Sky One Originals

•March 8, 2023 • 1 Comment

[previous OGOM: The Three L’sBear SpecialWhen Game Shows Had The HornCelebrity HelpersSu PollardForgotten Sketch Shows]

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Now I feel like I’m finally getting over the trauma of Beat the Crusher, it’s time for another dip into Sky’s original programming, starting with Little Monsters from 2003, which means it’s only a few ye– sorry, twenty years old. This is right at the beginning of the mid-naughties’ obsession with naughty children and broken families, when the subclass of ‘chavs’ first began to infect the cultural class war, and feral kids in hoodies were a constant talking point for tabloids and honey-glazed audience members on Question Time. A nation gripped by other people’s young’uns going buck-wild cos ‘elf and safety banned us from giving them a bloody good thrashing like the good old days, Supernanny debuted the following year, and Little Monsters was the intersecting point between that show, Lord of the Flies, Who Can Kill a Child? and Jackass.

The recording’s straight off the Sky box, wearing a red button prompt in its top corner, simply labelled ‘David Blaine’. Opening titles begin with a scream, as a chugging guitar riff crunches over comic-filtered footage of suburban streets and family homes, where misbehaving children pull hair, upend furniture, and do farts, chased by furious grown-ups shouting “oi!” A Guy Richie-sounding voiceover informs us “society can no longer be protected, Britain’s sickest young minds are on the loose!

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The show’s format has these warped little buggers run a team of contestants through sadistic games, and like the Gladiators, each ten-year-old has a gimmick. Scuds is a wild boy. JJ’s tough. Adsy, “he’s all mouth.” Flip has a skater vibe, blonde hair and finger guns — “he’s cooler than cool” — while Bigfoot (“he’s a laugh”) is an early sprouter, 13 ½ stone and near double the height of his smallest peer. Notably there are no girls, and likewise each contestant is male; five blokes in t-shirts being prodded by sticks; with sole female face presenter Jayne Sharp. Location is an abandoned wharf alongside the Thames, and a fucked up Mad Max kids den in a warehouse. Everything’s made with that cobbled-together junk aesthetic, spires of the O2 — then still the Millennium Dome — within gobbing distance just across the river, under constant crash zooms, whip pans, and data splashes in graffiti fonts.

After being beaten out of cardboard boxes and chased, adults are lined up for the Full Metal Jacket beasting. There’s massive school bully energy to the compliance of these fully-grown men, a taunt of “if you’re a rugby captain, why don’t you just tackle yerself?!” seeing an immediate “okay!” as he hurls himself on the ground because a child told him to. Show some self re-cocking-spect! A part-time actor’s tasked with pretending he’s fallen in love with another contestant, while a security guard’s told “look after this for me,” as Bigfoot hands him a jar filled with a brown substance and labelled POO. The last chap simply gets whacked in the dick with a bamboo cane.

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Locked in a cage between games, each contestant’s shirt has their name on the front and age on the back, to remind them they are decrepit old men in their late 30s. In the first challenge, a human chariot race, they pull the kids round a course on their hands and knees like divorced horses. Each Monster has a whipping switch and a sack of rotten fruit for pelting, which makes for absolutely demented television; a post apocalyptic Ben Hur, with men whose knees are fucked crawling round a dirt track while children sat in oil-drum wagons thrash their backs and scream abuse. The soundtrack to everything is clanging guitar plus insults like “come on, smelly!” and “I fink he’s a fat dumbo!” The most popular slander is comparing them to a girl, and in extra punishments, one man’s made to dress as an old woman (as that’s how he’s behaving), while another’s singled out for smiling, and must wipe a cloth soaked in brown sauce across his face. That kind of Jackass-lite — “get in this bath of ice!” — in the same year Dirty Sanchez was airing on MTV, continues with the Whack-O-Meter; a spanking contraption from which adults must not flinch.

Following the first eliminated walking an actual plank and launching himself into the Thames, the remaining peel down their kecks to compare arse bruises and battered shins. Then it’s onto a bucking bronco while covered in eggs; to root around a pile of manure under the sound of The Wurzels; to clamber up an 80ft ladder, in a race to lick a slug placed at the top. As another three losers take headers into the river, the most disturbing aspect of Little Monsters isn’t the gross-out games, but the realisation we fell through a wormhole straight from the early naughties into today, and these men, not comedy Bullseye contestants with big sideburns who get excited at a new colour telly, are just men of now; men like me and you (if you are a man); except as I write this, they will be pushing sixty. Tomorrow, our grown grandchildren shall throw dirt on our coffins.

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After besting a semi-final involving a blindfold walk through mousetraps, final player earns the chance to win a grand, divvied up into ten £100 bags of coins, and hung over an assortment of obstacles like something from a Beano parody of Saw. With filthy old mattresses on the concrete floor for safety, he’s span in an office chair and made to balance on a plank nailed to a pair of skateboards, before climbing twenty feet to walk a tightrope in flippers, all while dancing kids taunt from below — “he’s a plonker, he’s a plonker!” — shooting him with water pistols. The wireless mic’s too close to his mouth, and you can hear his puffed-out middle-aged breathing, genuinely looking pissed and regretful at sending in the application as another £100 bag of money slips out of his grasp.

He finishes with six bags, and the chance to either double or half his winnings, by running headfirst through one of two doors. Avoiding the bricked up one, he bursts through onto a pile of mattresses with his loot, and in a real exhibition of 2003’s love for terrorising its contestants, end credits trail a double bill of Scare Tactics and a man pushing a live tarantula into his mouth on Fear Factor. Jumping back four years, rightfully this next show would make for an Accursed 90’s piece in itself, but I’ve only got the stomach for one of the 56 episodes which make up Ibiza Uncovered.

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In 1999, when charts were filled with club music, there were a raft of reality shows playing up the hedonistic island lifestyle. Club Reps, The Villa, Cream, Prickly Heat; this was 18-30 television; boozy men with their tongues out, women with their tits out, and everyone with their arses out. The first naked boobs arrive a mere three seconds into the title sequence, where a banging dance remake of Mambo No. 5 plays over footage of people havin’ it large. Shot glasses clink, people ride across the sea on one of those big bananas, and a bloke furiously motorboats a cream-slavered pair of knockers. We open in-media-res, where a group of lads in white t-shirts, beers in hand, are chanting “GET YOUR TITS OUT!” at a woman who generously promises she’ll get her tits and arse out. BOGOF, as the Safestyle Windows man used to say. Mere feet away, a girl of about ten on a family holiday looks very uncomfortable. This is a teaser for later, to which we’ll return.

On-point voiceover Lisa I’Anson informs us Tenerife is a popular destination for young, free and single Brits, as b-roll of the beach lingers on topless holidaymakers who’ve no idea they’re on camera. Hour-long episodes jump between a handful of subplots, cutting back and forth between the antics of various island folk. This week’s main focus is a group of nine Swansea lads on their first big-boy holiday without parents, and we meet on the morning after a heavy first night. Following forty bottles of vodka and “gallons and gallons of lager,” the villa’s bedroom resembles a civil war battlefield, laid around absolutely hanging; sheets of newspaper soaking up vomit and piss. One lad asks his mate “what have you been doing?” In response, he rubs a pair of bloodshot eyes and honks “having a fuckin’ shit.”

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Another, who we will come to know as Russell, lays on the bed in just his jeans, cradling a sickly stomach, look on his face like the kid off Come and See. His friends explain he’s been sick “seventy-odd times. He come back last night, sick everywhere again.” Having downed a litre of vodka in twenty minutes, he mumbles “absolutely fucked… game of snooker.” They castigate another mate in the shower as a useless bastard — “good morning, did you get your end away?” He did not. Path-e-tic. But there’s still time, as we follow their final day, first on an 18-30 booze cruise, where jubilant cries go up like a waiter’s dropped a tray, a victorious “come onnn!” as one of them vomits into an on-deck rubbish bin.

Then it’s more beers, ignoring a whale frolicking nearby to get it down their necks. As always, it’s funny to see the 90’s bodies on display. This lot wouldn’t get anywhere near a modern ‘sexy young people sexing around’ show looking like that. There’s boat games of downing a pint then licking cream off a woman’s body, while Russell’s on his 13th beer of the day. Always finishing another any time he’s in shot, as the boat arrives in Spaghetti Bay for a belly flop competition, he staggers zombie-like into a seat, sun-cracked lips and a drink in each hand, sliding down the floor until all that remains is a gelled fringe peeking over the top of the bar. He’s roused when they pull into port, spotting a neighbouring boat and pointing out “there’s families on there,” before yanking down his shorts and slapping his white arse at them, bent double, tongue hanging and anus gaped at holidaymakers as his pals cheer like he just scored the winner at the World Cup.

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Hard cut to a voiceover about a woman called Jenny who moved to Tenerife from Essex with her two kids after suffering a brain tumour. Now 42, she’s decided to do all the living she missed out on as a young mother, having been completely tee-total — until now. Accompanied by a friend, she’s climbing a nearby volcano “for some sort of charity,” and the pair go collecting donations in empty baked bean tins, yelling “you tight gits!” at jeering blokes on balconies. She swaps kisses for coins with drunk lads on the strip, while her mate ‘frisks’ them below the waist, and it’s here we collide with the opening teaser. “JENNY GET YOUR TITS OUT! JENNY GET YOUR TITS OUT! LA LAA LA-LA!” As it’s for a good cause, she promises “a fausand a piece and I’ll get me tits and me arse aht!” They do, and she does. Men fist-pump the air, pleased to have seen some tits and an arse. Jenny ropes in another friend; and her boobs, and we cut to the pair onstage in another club, as a Scottish DJ demands “get them fuckin’ oot for the boys!” Out they come, and for a Brucie bonus, Jenny steps onto a chair to give her bottom another airing.

Off to karaoke night at a club called Princess Di’s, Jenny straddles a 60-year-old moustachioed compare, dry-riding him in front of a middle-aged audience, dress hiked up so the harris is out again, in an unrelentingly grim spectacle. “Am I allowed to move as well?” he asks, slightly shell-shocked at her energetic grinding, over the tinny cover of Time of my Life. As she pops her legs over his shoulder, one hand covering her fanny, and the suspiciously dark haired compare almost-certainly fires 3ml of past-its-self-by-date cum into his trousers, one suspects it’s just what Princess Di would’ve wanted. For her charity ascent, she’s accompanied by a young guide named Ramon. “What can I call you for short?” she asks. “Ramon,” says Ramon. Three hours into the hike and one joke about joining the mile-high club later, he leaves her to it, taking seven hours to get to the top, where she remarks “oh, it stinks!” having raised £400 for her chosen charity, the parachute regiment.

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We’ll also follow the romantic dramas of a young club rep, and the appearance of Limahl, who’s performing at an 80’s revival night. I regret to inform you, at time of this airing, it was 16 years since Too Shy was a hit, while the gap between Tenerife Uncovered and now is 24 years. Like Art Garfunkel, Limahl’s got a wig of his classic haircut for the punters, donned for a Robbie Williams ‘you sing it!’ performance in front of a small, pissed-up crowd, swaying and making wanker signs. Before going onstage, there’s footage of what is definitely not Limahl wittering on and jigging from one foot to the other as he comes up on an eccie. Energy-sapping television, with every person slurring, eyelids going haywire, and multitude shots of strangers open-mouthed kissing, I’m relieved the adverts have been left in to give me a breather, but really thrown by one for the DVD release of Run Fatboy Run, meaning this is a repeat from 2008.

Uncovered‘s most germane figure is self-described ladies man, Alan; introduced approaching a group of women he doesn’t know and pointing at a clothed breast with “you wanna put that away before I chew it off!” Alan and his mate Manny promote singles parties, giving them cause to walk round the island, pitching to random girls; “one mad night… loads of sexually orientated party games if you wanna take part in them. If you’re any good at fakin’ orgasms, get on the old banana and see what you can do!” Love to, mate, but unfortunately I’ve already made plans to throw myself down the stairs over and over again until I’m just liquid. Aged twenty-five, he claims a (possibly literal) bodycount of over a thousand, and his method appears to be just grabbing women in the street and complimenting how big their boobs are — “we’re talking about two goddamn footballs here!” Moments later, he’s taking her top down having a gnaw on one while she laughs uncomfortably. The day #metoo started, he must’ve made straight for a Saddamn style underground bunker.

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His pals describe him as “an animal” who “holds the world record for shagging,” and for a treat, we tag along on a night out, him and mate Tommo gelling their hair into spikes, downing a couple of vodka Red Bulls and shaking hands with a well-wish of “good hunting!” Hunting? You mean like predators do? Alan simply cannot stop pawing, grabbing and holding women he doesn’t know, arm round their shoulder, taking their hands in his, and first victim is an Italian girl, of whom he asks re: her boobs “have you got a licence for those?!” He’s thrilled she doesn’t speak English, and clinging to her like they’re on honeymoon, tells us “she’s a very nice girl, and SHE LIKES IT DRIPPING OFF HER NOSE!” Clearly understanding all too well, she pulls away disgusted and strides off to safety.

After a bottle of champagne and a grope of “a little bottom” belonging to a woman walking in front, it’s off to his favourite spot; lurking outside the ladies toilets in a nightclub; kissing loads of girls, but leaving one with a face like thunder when he shoves her off to climb on a tiny stage and lead the crowd in some Travolta dancing to Stayin’ Alive. After losing a drinking contest to the DJ, on the one night he had a film crew in tow, remarkably, Mr. 1,000+ can’t find anyone to have sex with. But you can’t live this life forever, and in his final piece to camera, he speaks from the heart about eventually wanting to settle down with a nice wife and loads of kids, and to tell their sons about all the shagging dad did when he was younger.

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In closing, we must return to those Swansea lads, following their final blow-out, in a repetitive story of entering a club where Russell drinks until he collapses, and is carried into the next one like Weekend at Bernies, interspersed with footage of the others getting off with random girls to the strains of Sweet Like Chocolate. After puking into the gutter accompanied by the overjoyed chants of his friends, everyone’s big 90’s shirts soaked through from sweat and the spray of beer, Russell staggers along the street. “I’m gonna fall over in a minute, FUCKIN’ WANKERS!” he yells, at nobody. Carried once again through security, every action is given terrace-like clamour; falling over; puking; drinking; getting their arses out. WAAAAAAAAY! Russell becomes horizontal, “I am fuckin arseholed,” and by the end, there’s just a big heap of semi-conscious lads on a bench, piled up like a black and white photo of some horrible genocide. Dripping wet, Russell’s jaw flops open to blare into the night one final, plaintive cry — “I’m absolutely fucked!

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my videos, my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s a ton of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

Beginner Hauntology: The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town

•February 28, 2023 • Leave a Comment

This video first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could watch it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my podcast and videos, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 660,000 words of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

X-Fire

•February 19, 2023 • Leave a Comment

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X-Fire understood exactly what it is that all blokes want more than anything — to pretend they’re in the SAS. Pronounced crossfire, Channel 4’s paintball-based game show was made for your neighbour who plays Call of Duty with the volume right up while his wife puts the kids to bed, as one of those series attempting to be a live-action videogame; specifically a Counter Strike style shooter, with added X-Files trappings. In translation however, it’s the pre-drinks warm-up for your stag weekend, smashing it with the legends from the call centre. These days, I’m more used to watching paintballs thud into Steve-O’s bare bollocks, but in 2001, they were being fired into boiler suits at 6pm. The format was devised by James Bagshawe, brother of Louise Mensch, and its host is Ed Hall off The Sunday Show. With the vibe of someone who’s throwing batteries at opposing fans of a Saturday afternoon, Ed resembles a younger Phil Mitchell, still just in that period before the perception of buzzed heads evolved solely past an indicator of thuggery.

Opening credits mix thumping techno and military radio noise over a dizzying highlight reel as we cut to Ed — trenchcoat and grey polo neck — up a radio tower in an airfield, welcoming us to “the game show that leaves you a whiter shade of pale, or whatever colour of emulsion was on offer at the time!” What, mate? Ed’s quips make you wish you were roly-polying through a minefield, performed with that late 90s/early 2000s deadpan irony, from a script that was wheezed out by the Lad-era’s dying breath. What we’re about to see, he says, is “James Bond gone mad; gadgets, explosions, gorgeous women… alright, I wish!” He holds up a clunky paintball gun straight from Roger Corman’s prop shed — “an emulsifier, one beast of a weapon!

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Never a ‘gun’, the emulsifier’s awkward name speaks of X-Fire‘s intent to pre-empt complaints about violence, as participants shot with paint aren’t killed, but “emulsified.” Each week sends a team of contestants on an operation split into three missions, during which they’ll face X-Fire‘s Special Forces; an in-house team like the Gladiators or Ice Warriors. Sadly, they don’t have cool names like Pipe Bomb or Sgt. Fuck, but rather, Andrew J. Dickens and Morgan Johnson. Regardless, every video game archetype is present, all angry and dressed in black, and presented like a character selection screen.

Dickens is a former Royal Navy officer with a pick-up artist biro goatee, while Dalia’s the requisite sexy-yet-dangerous blonde-bobbed Eastern European gymnast — special skills, “a high jumper.” There’s also Helmut Strabul, jacked Austrian Rambo manning a gatling gun; Anna Luong (“speciality: martial arts, linguist”), whose call-sign is ‘Little Yin’, and Vanessa Upton, call-sign ‘Clawz’, a 90’s model known for appearances in the videos for Country House and David Brent’s in-show vanity single. Notably, Dalia and Clawz’s leather tops have a boob window for showcasing big cleavage; cleavages which are quite clearly made of plastic, with the classic y-shape you’d do if you were quickly sketching a low cut top. The mystery of these secondary tits, sat on top of the real ones, will explain itself as the show goes on.

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While Special Forces act as the bosses, levels are riddled with anonymous “grunts,” functioning as cannon fodder. But given the main crew are a mix of models and jobbing actors, if they went mad and took Ed Hall hostage, even I could probably parachute in and John Wick the lot of them single handed. Up against Channel 4’s best are a strike team of six carpenter lads from Derby — captain Jono, Mazza, Tony, Pete, and a pair of brothers called Daz and Trav. No doubt they’ll be giving hearty “here comes trouble, they’ll let anyone in here!” to any combatant entering the field of battle. The stats display reels off various facts, like “Mark is known as Mazza,” along with strategic strengths ranging from “born leader” and “renovating houses” to “none.” In the category of stamina, the captain boasts “football and clubbing.” They’re kitted out in jumpsuits with orange legs, and used to the “pack mentality” of hitting the clubs, Ed suggests they target Special Forces the same way they do women on a Friday night; as the enemy.

First mission takes them behind enemy lines, to retrieve an unknown object which crashed through Earth’s atmosphere, described in the onscreen briefing as “a meteor or satallite [sic] or something much more sinister.” Spoilers, it is obviously a UFO, and ironically, the show was filmed on the grounds of the decommissioned RAF Bentwaters station, close to where the Rendlesham Forest incident occurred, and later location for C4’s astronaut hoax series Space Cadets. Before entering the crash site, where extras in hazmat suits pretend to scan wreckage, the lads must locate and inject an anti-radiation serum from the Special Forces ambulance. But as they pile out of a Ford Transit van, it’s immediately clear, no matter how they dress it up, this will never elevate itself beyond televised paintball.

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Shots are dubbed with pft-pft shooty noises, while every death– sorry, emulsification has a splat followed by a SFX groan — “hurgh!” — with the same soundclip used for every victim, forced to lay still with their eyes closed. The sound adds to the distancing from KILLING and DEATH, as it’s the exact way you’d pantomime vomiting when shown a pair of soiled underpants someone tried to hide in the cistern during a family party, which you definitely haven’t seen before, and anyway, you always go commando so that doesn’t prove anything. As none of the cast are stuntmen, the death-falls are of the ‘trying to con £500 out of You’ve Been Framed‘ school; arms flopping dramatically, and occasionally a post-mortem roll if they happened to eat it on a slope.

Morgan gets splatted, allowing Maz and Daz to raid the ambulance and grab the syringe; part of the show’s awkward quasi-roleplay element, as we saw on Scavengers, with a load of slightly embarrassed lads running round play-acting they’re going to inject themselves (“ssss” noise as it goes in) and find a UFO. The inherent problem with these types of shows is that the central concept, no matter how padded with plot, has to work around the limited function of its sole game mechanic. In Scavengers, it was collecting scrap, while here they have to eke as many variations as possible out of firing paintball guns. Even Masterspy had trouble designing tasks to fit its setting, but paintballing’s so limited, each mission quickly becomes another repetitive assault on a building to collect a McGuffin and run it back to the van.

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It’s not helped by the staging, giving no sense of where or who anyone is, everyone masked and in identical jumpsuits, with shakycam shots cutting between disconnected footage of both teams firing, under a non-stop rip-off of Smack My Bitch Up. Add in the constant graphic pop-ups, dubbed on sound effects, black and white headcam angles like in Aliens, and Ed Hall’s witticisms as he pretends to watch from the tower through binoculars, and the ad breaks must’ve felt like a six-month silent retreat at a monastery for viewers. “Leg it, mate, get back to your Bunsen burners!” says Ed, as our team clear the crash site before making their escape across a wasteland of overworked smoke machines, with silver cardboard ‘debris’ under their arm.

If you can force yourself to pay attention, a few things become apparent. As the camera’s always perfectly on them for their big moment, most of the death-blows were shot in pick-up and cut in after. Similarly dishonest, the clock disappears from screen for great swathes of the game, re-emerging only to demonstrate the team’s ALMOST OUT OF TIME — oh phew, they’ve done it with three seconds left; again! And then the boobs. During the action, a couple of unforgiving close-ups of Clawz — emulsified, and then jumping from behind an oil drum to unload — reveal the pink edge of the fake cleavage sat against the skin hue of her actual flesh — double cleavage. Her and Dalia are essentially wearing moulded plastic boobs over their real boobs, like Gazza, one assumes because producers wanted some knocker on show, but health and safety wouldn’t allow the risk of a paintball to the jugs, (and Clawz does take one to the falsies) so this was the compromise.

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Post-mission, a scorecard awards credits for stuff like marksmanship and bravery, which captain Jono spends on resurrecting his slain team members. According to Ed, whatever landed, “it ain’t no meteor,” and for mission two, they need to breach a secure hanger and take photos of it. It’s just more shooting, with a pure FPS set-up, everyone crouched behind barrels and shipping containers. Ed congratulates them for walking, “nay, running into that mission as though you were entering a club on ladies night,” before the final task, breaking into baddie HQ to get evidence of alien bodies pulled from the wreckage, which, once again, they manage with three seconds to spare. This last level has a difficulty setting, giving a choice of Easy, Standard, or EXTREME!! where Ed reveals the two genders — “are you Stallones, or are you Stilettos?” They are of course, bloody Stallones, going extreme, and very pleased with themselves as Captain Jono brags “just a walk in the park,” for the others to add a choreographed punchline of “FLAT!” How many days do you reckon you’d last in their office before killing yourself?

Anyway, it’s more paintballing, this time in an office set, taking cover behind desks and CRT monitors. Clawz defends the stairwell — “Wouldn’t mind her defending me,” says Ed — while Dalia gives a warning to the camera in broken English “they haven’t any chances run away from this building.” Special Forces Morgan massacres damn near the whole team, then retreats for reasons of not ending the game too early, before last lad standing Mazza comes upon a pile of meat on a table. “What I’m seeing at the moment can only be remains of… some… species.” He pilfers x-rays and test-tubes, but gets cut down by the ladies, having to stare blankly at the ceiling while Dalia stands over his corpse with a mocking “Englishman have such small guns without bullets, ha!” Ed commiserates the team, but hails Mazza for ending with “the three special forces girls on top of yer,” and joking that, though they didn’t prove the existence of aliens “Richard Ashcroft was all the proof we ever needed.” Sir, you are just saying things.

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There’s no prizes, barring placement on the X-Fire league table, with the highest scoring team returning for a world-saving series finale. Episode four is pretty much identical, except with an evil military dictator who’s splicing human and alien DNA. The team of four men and two women work for a professional paintball company, which seems like cheating until they get going, and it’s obvious they’re the accountants or cleaners. At no point does it seem like the ladies want to be there. On meeting them, Ed greets the team with a cheeky “from clones to clowns. Only joking,” before more of the same; running, shooting, retrieving. This does feel a bit more war-like, with smoke grenades and explosions, though for safety reasons, they’re noticeably just waiting for them to stop, as you couldn’t run into a field of live bombs.

Next, they’re stealing DNA samples from a hospital “more heavily guarded than Clawz’s bedroom, and no I won’t ask if they can clone her instead!” and for the final mission, the mad doctor’s lab must be destroyed, to stop him breeding human/alien hybrids, “which certainly explains Gail Tilsley!” Mate, you look like a potato. Contestants peek round corners over a soundtrack of heartbeats, shots, splats, and hurghs; spinning warning lights reflect off Dalia’s plastic milkers as she gives incomprehensible threats, while quad-titted Clawz fires from the roof. But the team get wiped trying to stop a big jar of green goo being helicoptered away (offscreen), leaving the most nervous member as lone survivor, taking a look up the stairwell and mumbling to herself “I’m not gonna make it, there’s too many,” before her mask splatters with green paint, and she has to lay on the floor. Game Over.

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Episodes close with Ed’s warning that we mustn’t try anything we’ve seen at home (bad news for plastic-tit manufacturers), and that viewers should join a real paintball club if they want, plus a website address to register for the X-Fire text messaging game, whatever that consists of, and a call for entries to series two. The latter was irrelevant, as despite combatants clearly being emulsified and not dead, five weeks into its run, X-Fire was taken off air, deemed a bit tasteless against the burgeoning war in Afghanistan, with all but one mysteriously redacted episode (titled ‘Star Wars’) airing the following summer.

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my videos, my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s a ton of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

When Barrymore Was The King of Summer

•February 8, 2023 • 1 Comment

This video first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could watch it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my podcast and videos, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 660,000 words of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

3-2-1 at Christmas

•January 25, 2023 • Leave a Comment

This video first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could watch it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my podcast and videos, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 660,000 words of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

 
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