Saturday, April 29, 2006

Grumpy Old Millionaires

I watched a bit of the BBC2 series Grumpy Old Men last night. I wouldn't normally make a great effort to see it, but it does sometimes raise a few chuckles. I had a rather unpleasant shock, however, when I was informed by the voice over narrator bloke (Geoffrey Palmer) that the grumpy old men category covers those between the ages of 35 and 55. Leaving aside the obvious problem here - where do the over 55's fit in - aren't they precisely old men? - I was more than a little alarmed to hear that in 4 years time I am officially old and grumpy. True, I'm possibly a teensy bit grumpy already and last time I had reason to check I was indeed a man, but old in 4 years time - me? 35 still seems like a relatively young age to me. I suppose it would, though, wouldn't it.

Once I had managed to repress a mild sense of panic occasioned by this definition of old age, the rest of the programme was just irritating. I'll leave Will Self out of the following general condemnation - one of the only interesting and really amusing contributors to the programme. It doesn't hurt, either, that his rants, unlike those of the other contributors, are underpinned by a socially liberal, Old Labour kind of outlook. Most of the others, however, strike me as a privileged and reactionary bunch of whiners. OK, maybe it seems rather silly to call the contributors 'whiners' - the whole point of the show is to provide a series of tongue-in-cheek, 'grumpy old men' semi-comic whinges - but, even so, the sight and sound of that right wing multi-millionaire, Tim Rice, and professional old Etonian, Nigel Havers, banging on about how awful their existence is leaves, I think, a bad taste in the mouth. One of the things that particularly annoyed me, last night, was when Rice, Havers and fellow millionaire Rick Wakeman (the one with the permanently lank, Stringfellow-esque long hair) ranted on about call centre workers. Now, sure, being cold called by someone trying to flog you 'financial services' is annoying and shouldn't happen and I don't doubt that the new directory enquiries services are shit - but I have to say that my sympathies are with the minimum wage workers in the call centres, rather than with a mildly irritated Tim Rice on the other end of his gold plated phone in his second mansion. I worked in a call centre once (the only job I was ever fired from - I was marched out of the building by security guards and everything) and it was fucking awful.

It's also a bit rich, I think, to see wealthy media people, who've all done very, very well out of our consumer society and service economy, berating the evils of new communications technology and of our low attention span, disposable, commodified culture. It's not just that they are amongst the major beneficiaries of this very society they pretend to loathe, it's that most of them, in their own different ways, have done more than their fair share of contributing to its generation and reproduction in the first place. Once Tim Rice apologises for all of the muzak 'musical' shite he's churned out over the years (Evita in particular) then maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't mind him complaining about the awfulness of the modern world.

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