Mine’s a zappuccino

Mine’s a zappuccino

However much everyone envies the 1960s generation, part of me suspects I would have hated them – because cool, trendy people always annoy and depress me. After a few days of hanging around hippies I would have been practically begging the military to take me to Vietnam. At university I was baffled by the romantic success of a man who could name all the “trip-hop” acts around, spoke with a cool trans-Pacific inflection, knew every happening night club in town and wore T-shirts with pretentious logos. He was ultimately just a waste of oxygen and had the stupidity to ask whether the IRAwas Republican or Unionist. And he stole my food. I lost contact as quickly as possible but would not be surprised to find him living in Hoxton, the former East End slum now taken over by fashionable bars and ironic Tshirts. The last time I visited the place, the barman had arrow-shaped sideburns and wore a hugely expensive Tshirt with fashionable rips down the middle. He looked like he’d just been assaulted by a wild animal, and he had paid through the nose to look that way. And he charged about £4 for a bottled beer. So perhaps Hosegate, the fictitious setting for Nathan Barley (Channel 4, Friday, 10pm) might be slightly exaggerated in that it looks set in some strange post-industrial world where western civilisation has gone past decadence and into total irony. But only just.

Nathan Barley is the only sitcom character to have emerged from a spoof television-listings website, namely Charlie Brooker’s TVGo Home . Brooker’s attack on trendy London media types was taken up by Chris Morris, the Stonyhurst-educated satirist best known for his Brass Eye paedophile special. While the enigmatic Morris, who has made a career out of upsetting radio and TV controllers, has attracted all the press attention, it is Brooker who is making the braver move in writing a television show. He is, after all, the most acidic, nastiest television critic in the business, and has a unique knack for chronicling British television’s rapid decline. Might TVtake revenge on this greatest of all snipers?

The title character is a “selffacilitating media node”, a depressingly recognisable character who shouts down his Japanese mobile/MP3 player, which he uses to watch internet clips that his equally pointless friends have made. In the daytime this parasite hangs out in a studio his parents’ money has paid for, drinks “zappuccinos” and bullies his website creator Pingu through a series of unfunny pranks. Barley’s unwitting foil is Dan Ashcroft, the knowing fool stuck at ultra-trendy magazine Sugar Ape and author of articles attacking the idiots around him, “the selfregarding consumerist slaves, they babble into their twit machines”. The problem is that Ashcroft is a living legend to the very people he despises, and is forced to sit through an ideas meeting with a bunch of magazine prats deciding what is “cool”. Actor Julian Barratt has adopted a wonderfully prematurely haggard expression for the role, one that can only be that of a bitter, broke and resentful journalist. But it is Barley (Nicholas Burns) who is the star – a modern urban stereotype, inexplicably making more money than you, having a better time than you and probably sleeping with your sister to boot. At least this is the nightmare scenario for Dan, whose sister Claire is an idealistic but rather stupid wannabe filmmaker – in the first episode Barley allows her to use his expensive editing equipment, but at what price? My only concern is that, since The Office, comedy has become so cringe-worthy to watch that we need to stuff about three cushions in our face just to watch it.

Ashcroft’s interview with the Weekend on Sunday newspaper, where he stumbles through feature ideas while the editor strums on a guitar, is as painful to watch as anything the Discovery Channel’s real life plastic surgery show can throw up. But provided every viewer can find someone to share the pain with, the show looks promising. Media types will claim to get the joke anyway, in the hope that it is not on them. At any rate, Nathan Barley is something for me to bring up next time I’m having an expensive Japanese lager with my guerrilla film-making friends down in my favourite bar in Shoreditch.

This article was published at The Catholic Herald

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