Posted by Colin in March's Magazine
Apparently Jeremy Beadle is long dead – that’s not a schoolboy feedline along the lines of, ‘Ken Dodd died last night’. ‘Did he?’ ‘No, Doddy’. Though I confess to having genuinely fallen into that very same titter trap, perfectly timed by my prankster of a flatmate.
I had barely surfaced from a miasmic hangover in my Bernard Street gaff one Sunday long ago when said flatmate told me Princess Diana had copped it. That didn’t upset me as such, but I was vulnerable and open to suggestion. In such circumstances Ken Dodd going on the same night seemed strangely believable – almost desirable. Needless to say, the death of a princess is, for me, always associated with that joke.
But where was I? Ah yes, Beadle, stalwart of Saturday night horseplay, unfairly lampooned levity merchant. That stunted hand of his… yep, there was no getting away from the hand in our school playground. As a young whippersnapper at high school anything was fair game any man-made or natural disaster, any terrible accident, any sex crime. All just sport for us sneering juveniles.
Come to think of it, before social media, trolling, and all the bile that now passes for discourse, a revolting ditty about say, oh…the NASA Space Shuttle explosion sung to the tune of TV’s Rainbow really was the equivalent of sharing with ‘Friends’ and securing ‘Likes’. Now it’s all memes, snapchats and cyber-bullying. New tools, same old vile behavioural patterns.
So it was that Jeremy Beadle’s malformed hand became what would now be called a trending topic. Behind the viciousness of youth was respect though. It didn’t matter that Beadle’s set-ups always ended with him disguised as a heavily bearded traffic warden in shades (no one cottoned on, so I assume it was regulation get-up for all traffic wardens at that time). We loved – and lived for – the big reveal, such a cruel catharsis for an unsuspecting stooge about to swear their way to a stroke.
Why all this reminiscence? Well, the absurdity of this year so far in terms of the outré outpourings that pass for global affairs, really does beg the question: is this some kind of elaborate prank? Is this – to paraphrase the wonderful intro to the incomparable Spinal Tap – a ‘cockumentary’ we are living through (given the preponderance of cockish behaviour)? And will it end with Beadle emerging from the pit and slapping a ticket on our collective windscreen with a smiley on it?
It’s tempting of course to subscribe to the view that we shouldn’t give a fig because it will all be done and dusted (sorry again, Doddy) in 4 years, when the world will surely right itself. But of course, that’s like hoping mum will come in with a wet flannel and a mug of cocoa to soothe your fevered brow when you wake up screaming from that recurring dream about the Wombles perishing in a helicopter crash. Mud, fluff and gore littering the scene. Terrifying, ‘cause they really hated litter.
In recent days, the response to such wanton doom mongering has been variously: ‘Resist!’ ‘Keep it off Facebook ’ and ‘Stop being snowflakes’. I don’t think I fall into any of those categories. Certainly not the last one, for if a finale is required I will gladly windmill into Steve Bannon’s pudgy pus before the first secret service round takes my bonce off. Idle promises of suicidal righteousness aside, I wish to take a less visceral pop, by positing some possible endings for this grim reality show.
The Neighbours Ending
Soaps love a cliffhanger. But what they love even more is dressing it up with some dramatic incidental music or, better still, a sonic ‘sting’. Eastenders has cornered the market now with the Phil Collins drum solo outro. Yet back in the day, the aural gods at Mushroom Records who did the same for Aussie layby tosh, Neighbours, knew a thing or two about putting the dreary dramas of Ramsay Street to music. Their finest moment was an A# crescendo when the Alessi twins discovered they’d been using the same hairspray at the end of episode 98, series 145. So the Mushroom boys could bring this mess to a halt with some deft tinkering at the ivories. And we could all shuffle off for tea.
The Scooby Doo Ending
A shameful lift from Wayne’s World this one. But who’s to say that Old Man Withers from the Haunted Mine/Amusement Park/White House; isn’t to blame for this state of affairs? Surely the mask must slip soon? Then we can enjoy a ten-storey sandwich with extra baloney and some canned laughter while zooming off in the Mystery Machine to a groovy cook out in the woods – please let it be that. Not the slow decline of civilisation into a charnel house of hate. Again.
The Buster Crabbe Ending
No, it’s not a venereal disease, it’s lantern-jawed hero Buster Crabbe who starred in Flash Gordon in the 30s and was often upstaged by the insanely irascible performance of Charles Middleton as the villain’s villain, Ming the Merciless. (Middleton’s fury always seemed strangely prosaic, like an angry uncle who had just received a really big gas bill.) In Crabbe’s world – shown every Saturday morning on BBC2 when I was a nipper – last week’s disaster was always averted. Even if, quite clearly, all was lost he could bend time and make things right again by next week.
So that’s it. We don’t need a miracle we need a Flash Gordon for these dark times. It’s either that or a Dummies’ Guide to Global Conflict Resolution. Pronto.