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Best in Show
The Friday Speed Read
Every week The Friday Speed Read sits down at the piano to improvises then record a wild and moving sonata to accompany a clip montage of the week’s biggest news stories. These recordings are available from Deutsche Grammophon for modest fee.
Everyone likes a winner, don’t they? Winning’s great and the people who do the winning are our secular gods, deigning to walk among us while we cushion their immaculately pedicured feet with scattered rose petals, Instagram stories and photos splashed across the tabloid front pages. This week kicked off with a double dose of winners: the footballing men of Manchester City won the Premier League title with more points (and more billions spent by the state of Abu Dhabi) than would have been conceivable in less glorious times and the (swaggeringly excellent) television show “Killing Eve” won lots of BAFTAs for being brilliant and its stars and (unusually and superbly) its writer were all smiles and expensive gowns on the Monday newsstands.
But the winning itch was not scratched last weekend, not a bit of it. This week has been CHOCK-FULL (which looks very odd when capitalised) of winners as this column will valiantly try to illustrate by adopting this leitmotif throughout its length before inevitably failing in this aim when realising that real life, even when filtered through the cafetière of media coverage, doesn’t take easily to generalisation.
So, let’s kick off our roundup up of the week’s winner by chalking up a rare victory for good sense (see? the theme is already struggling) following ITV’s cancellation of the depressingly popular Jeremy Kyle show. Tuesday’s tabloid front pages were splashed with the news that a guest who had appeared on ITV’s most-popular daytime show had killed himself after failing an on-screen lie detector test. From a media studies point of view (if you’ll forgive a little amateur sociology) this event, however tragic, presented something of a challenge to the editors of the papers that put it on their front pages: how to defend a programme that had clearly failed to protect a guest when said programme is hugely popular among its readers? The fact that most didn’t even try (“Kyle on trial” – The Sun; “Theatre of Cruelty” – The Mirror) sounded the death knell for JK even before concerns were expressed in parliament.
24 hours later and The Jeremy Kyle show was no more; “I am utterly devastated” / “I am heartbroken” (The Sun and the Mirror respectively) and in Mental Health Awareness Week, the demise of a show predicated on the parading of damaged, vulnerable members of society for the entertainment of a television audience certainly feels like a victory.
Another big winner this week was that good-old beer-swilling-foreigner-baiting man of the people Nigel Farage whose Brexit Party tour of the UK has continued with ever-growing numbers of old white people turning up at church-halls to chant his name and shout the word “betrayal”. You get the sense that next week’s European Elections is going to provoke the daddy of all protest votes and, given that the Labour Party’s position on Brexit seems to be “Um, well . . . oh look over there! There’s a really pretty butterfly playing jazz trumpet” Mr Farage is going to get that winning feeling in such concentrated form that his furred arteries may well struggle to cope. Oh, and if you were wondering what policies the Brexit Party has up its pin-striped sleeve (aside from the obvious) then Nigel says please don’t worry, he’s changing politics for good and in his brave new world there’ll be no need for pesky things such as policies. Policies are for losers. And Nige is a winner.
Science chalked up another notch on its bedpost of recent victories with a widely reported potential “cure” for cancer arriving within the decade. “New dawn in cancer war” – The Mail; “Cure for cancer in 10 years” – The Sun. Despite being, clearly, very good news, a little digging into the details of the story revealed that the Institute of Cancer Research was saying that the new drugs in development would mean “effectively managing” cancer, rather than curing it. But you know what, given that likely everyone reading this will have had some experience of cancer, directly or indirectly, then this is surely reason for celebration and optimism.
Also punching the air in a slightly embarrassing way this week was the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs who have FINALLY persuaded TM the PM that the “PM” element of her title must soon be dropped. Following what was described as a “lively” (in the same sense that the Battle of Agincourt was “lively”) meeting, Theresa May has been given one final chance to bring her Brexit deal back to parliament where it will be inevitably defeated for a fourth time and then she’ll be off. “May ends in June”, said the Mirror, pleased with itself. And who is lurking in the wings ready to assume the leadership of our country in these dark and uncertain times? Well, pretty much every Cabinet member with a pulse it would seem (not every Cabinet member does have a pulse remember) plus one high-profile ex-Cabinet member whose name rhymes with “oh god, for the love of all that’s pure and right world no no no no no anything but that” – that’s right, comedy’s Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Be afraid.
The design department of the company formally called British Telecom has also celebrated this week as its new logo was unveiled to the world via an email to The Guardian. Without wanting to sound like the kind of mouthy punter that swaggers up to works of art in Tate Modern and loudly declares to anyone unlucky enough to be nearby, “Call that art? That’s not art! I could do that! My dog could do that! etc etc.” . . well . . . Call that a logo? That’s not a logo. I could do that. My dog could do that (had I a dog). Yep, the new BT logo consists of the letters B and T written in a fat pen and put in a circle. Winners.
A quick ski down the “other news and off-theme” piste and we find the entirely unsurprising revelation that Brits drink more booze and get more drunk than anyone else in the known-universe; a lot of white men in Alabama have voted to make abortion illegal in their state even in cases of rape or incest; organised crime in the UK is growing steadily with 181,000 career criminals now plying their trade according to the Express; Brexiteers want us to leave the Eurovision Song Contest which, let’s be honest, is an easier sell than leaving the EU; we’ll have to get used to eating jellyfish crisps and cricket burgers if we’re to stave off an environmental apocalypse according to a “Future of Food” report published this week; and an online petition is calling for the final series of Game of Thrones to be remade entirely because the first attempt is really rubbish. Apparently.
And our final winner this week is Elton John. Not just for being Elton John which, is a pretty solid victory in itself, but for the fact that the premiere of his “biopic” Rocketman (starring Taron Egerton as Reg) in Cannes received reviews ranging from “yeah, pretty good” to “this is absolutely the best film about Elton John’s life that’s ever been made”. So, here’s the man himself in his pomp:
See you next week.