Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hogmanay TV

Hogmanay, for those of you who don't know, is the Scottish term for New Year's Eve. Unlike a lot of the tartan-and-shortbread stuff they put on for the tourists, it's a word that's actually in proper use by normal people.

When I was a kid, they took New Year's Eve somewhat seriously on television. They certainly did up in Scotland, where the beloved sketch comedian Rikki Fulton would emerge from his dreamy retirement for his annual (and, if you ignore the final few years, generally rather good) show, to the delight of older Scots who remembered seeing him in the music halls, and the contented amusement of families. At the peak of his career, Fulton was watched by 50% of the population.

Rikki Fulton died around three years ago. My grandmother was complaining a few days back that there was nothing on for her to watch this year. She says this sort of thing a lot - for her, watchable entertainment ceased with the cancellation of Only Fools and Horses. She is, after all, 87. I generally nod sympathetically and move on. Mind you, on New Year's Eve, she does have more of a point than on most nights. With the rest of the population presumably having a party as per national stereotype, the only people watching are presumably the elderly and the families.

In fact, the BBC's schedule for the evening amounts to little more than a big sign saying "Go away, we're not in." There's the season finale of Casualty, which I suppose will get some viewers, and there's the usual Jools Holland show on BBC2. Other than that, it's a depressing selection. There's a 90-minute comedy quiz about 2006, hosted by Graham Norton, which sounds both excessive and uninspired. Astoundingly, there's a repeat of the two Little Britain Abroad specials, one of which only aired for the first time tonight. BBC2 has a repeat of the Dead Ringers Christmas Special (yawn) and a drama about Fanny Craddock that was broadcast several weeks ago on BBC4. They're really not trying.

In Scotland, however, there are regional variations to take into account, and they actually make matters worse. BBC Scotland clearly feels that the evening needs something more special, and so they've thrown in the terrestrial TV premiere of.... High School Musical. Now, I've seen a song from High School Musical on one of the music channels, and it looks like a thoroughly unobjectionable piece of Disney kitsch. Nothing wrong with that, but in prime time on BBC1? Are they serious? Plus, now clearly settled into Rikki Fulton's comedy slot, there's the Hogmanay edition of Only an Excuse, a comedy sketch show entirely devoted to Scottish football.

God knows Scottish football has plenty of comedy potential - the current predicament of Hearts, now run by a demented Russian billionaire who does things like threatening to sell the whole team if they lose, is almost crying out to be turned into a Ben Stiller film. But surely their audience are going to be out on the streets, or at least having a party, rather than gathered around the television on New Year's Eve? Only an Excuse is not a good show for this slot. It's utterly incomprehensible if you don't follow football. The last time I saw the show, I honestly had no idea whether it was funny or not - it was just a barrage of in-joke references to the midfield players at Kilmarnock.

ITV, if you're wondering, has two old episodes of Heartbeat followed by a review of the year's news, which is the most blatant schedule filler imaginable. Granny won't want to suffer through that. Then there's The 2006 Fame Review on Channel 4, a three-hour extravaganza which will presumably be the usual Channel 4 formula - a load of library clips featuring the cast of Heat magazine, with talking head contributions from the likes of Iain Lee and Boyd Hilton.

Channel 5, bless them, have failed to grasp the concept of the evening at all. They're showing Adaptation, which is a very good film, but not exactly lightweight entertainment. With an almost commendable disregard for scheduling logic, midnight for Channel 5 viewers will fall three quarters of the way through an old episode of Prison Break.

I know it's traditionally one of the lowest-rated nights of the TV year - well, post-Rikki-Fulton, anyway - but this is a pretty dismal effort. It used to be very different.

Never mind - I don't have to watch it. In a more upbeat spirit, what is on TV over the next week that might be worth a look?

Monday: The Sarah Jane Adventures (BBC1, 4.50pm) Not only has Doctor Who somehow returned to primetime after years in the wilderness, but it's started spawning spin-offs. We've already had the unfortunate Torchwood, an attempt at an adult version of Doctor Who which ended up featuring the same basic plots but with gratuitous sex thrown in. Imagine a sci-fi franchise that somehow skipped the stage of being a proper TV show and went direct to fanfic, and you get the general idea. The leaden hand of the Welsh Tourist Board didn't help it.

The Sarah Jane Adventures is going in the other direction - it's for younger viewers. The BBC tried this once before with the notorious K9 & Company, but the rumour mill suggests that they've got it right this time, and that it's (embarrassingly, some might argue) better than Torchwood. To be honest, if this actually does succeed in its remit of being the kids' version of Doctor Who then I probably won't want to sit through it again, but I'm curious to see what they can do with it.

Tuesday: This Life +10 (BBC2, 9pm) Reunion episode of the young-lawyers-in-love drama/soap that was terribly cultish among the chattering classes in the mid-nineties. I rather liked the original show, although since I was a law student at the time, I was probably biased. Many others, understandably, though it was terribly pleased with itself and unbearably middle class. (Which is a problem... why, exactly?) Still, it's a show that probably does merit a reunion, because it ended on a weird unresolved cliffhanger, and it was very much a zeitgeist thing. I expect to be slightly irritated, but I'm genuinely curious about this one.

Tuesday: The Thick of It: 2007 Special (BBC4, 10.30pm). Bizarre Christmas special of Armando Iannucci's politics sitcom - if you haven't seen it, it's basically a reinvention of Yes, Minister but with a pseudo-documentary style and a much heavier emphasis on spin. Except for this episode, they're missing the lead character (since Chris Langham is, er, otherwise engaged at the moment). Instead, it's apparently an episode about the Opposition - in other words, a completely different cast take over the show. Looks to me like an experiment to see whether they can keep the show alive if Langham's present troubles prove to be permanent. Iannucci's shows are generally worth a look, though.

Wednesday: Celebrity Big Brother (Channel 4, 8pm). Oh, I know, I know. I never actually watch these shows the whole way through. I just watch the first episode to gawp at who's desperate enough to go through the humiliation. The answer usually turns out to be "remarkably obscure people", to the point where last year, they were able to throw in a random girl off the street, and successfully convince the other participants that she was just as famous as them. The tabloids claim that the show is having particular difficulty getting participants this year, but that could easily just be part of the hype machine. In many ways, though, the more low-rent the "celebrities" get, the greater the trainwreck factor.

Wednesday: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (More4, 9pm). Documentary from 2005, which I somehow never got around to seeing. I know the story in general terms, obviously, and I'm familiar with the basic type of fraud here (accounting is somewhat subjective, so even the most honest accountant has a bit of leeway, and if you're willing to abuse it, you can appear to have all sorts of wonderful non-existent profits - for a while). The more interesting questions are about how the regulators managed to miss it, and what the auditors were thinking. Auditing used to be seen as something of a loss leader by the major accountancy firms, which can lead to all sorts of trouble if they lose sight of the basic point of auditing - as Arthur Andersen found out to their cost.

Friday: Ugly Betty (Channel 4, 9.30pm). Do I want to watch this? Not really, to be honest. It's been hyped to the heavens, to the point where I'm sick of the adverts before I've even laid eyes on the show. But it is getting very good reviews from the previewers, so with some reluctance, I suppose I'll give it a chance. I did quite enjoy The Devil Wears Prada, after all.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Luke Haines & Richard X

I feel I ought to post something else before Christmas, even though I don't really have time to write it. So here's the video for Luke Haines' last single, since I've had it on repeat the last couple of days.

Arguably the UK's most curmudgeonly singer-songwriter, Luke Haines used to be the man behind the Auteurs, who were briefly tipped for mainstream stardom at the dawn of Britpop. But Luke Haines is not a marketable man. He doesn't do love songs and he doesn't do politics. He does enigmatic bitterness, obscure references, and sardonic contempt.

Haines' back catalogue reads like the work of somebody almost desperate to remain in obscurity. Having written the genuinely excellent and sensitive ballad "Unsolved Child Murder", he somehow got it into his head to release it as a Christmas single - as a double A-side with this.

He put out a concept album about the Baader-Meinhof terrorist movement. He formed a side project, Black Box Recorder, alongside a lesser-known member of the Jesus and Mary Chain, in which a middle class woman lectured the audience over a gentle musical accompaniment, and somehow persuaded his record company that this was the ideal lead single:-

Somewhere around here, there was a terrible lapse in judgment, and he actually had a hit single. This is it. It's great.

Clearly alarmed by the possibility of success, Haines quickly retreated into obscurity, releasing a lo-fi solo album, a third Black Box Recorder album which reportedly isn't much good, and a soundtrack to an unreleased film version of Christie Malry's Own Double Entry, featuring such surefire winners as "How to Hate the Working Classes" and a cover version of "In the Bleak Midwinter" which consisted entirely of a pre-existing record by a boys' choir, with Haines sneering additional lyrics over the top. He started making an awful lot of records about modern art, which he doesn't like.

Somehow, despite all this, he remains great. If you're interested, a good place to start would be his modestly titled Best Of album, "Das Capital: The Songwriting Genius of Luke Haines", in which he re-records some of his favourite songs with the help of an orchestra.

His latest solo album rejoices in the unwieldy title "Off my Rocker at the Art School Bop", and it's a curious mix of utterly unmarketable subject matter with a hint of electropop and glam. This time round, the record company spotted a possible single in the lead track and had the good sense to hand it over to producer Richard X for a polish. X has dutifully turned it into an electropop stomper, but to be fair, 90% of this was in the original - he's just tightened it up a lot. There's a pop songwriter in Haines trying to get out, but he's too damn twisted to go there.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Armageddon 2006

The final WWE PPV of the year, and this time it's a Smackdown-only show. This one is a pay-per-view in the United Kingdom, and suffice to say I won't be buying it. There are good matches on this card, and with some neutral headlining matches I might have been interested. But the Undertaker/Kane v Kennedy/MVP feud is one of the dullest things I've ever witnessed - it consists essentially of the villains getting beaten up repeatedly week after week while they ask nicely if they can leave now. It takes up two matches on this show, and probably lengthy ones at that. I regularly fast-forward past their segments on Smackdown; I'm not spending £15 for the privilege of fast-forwarding past them on a PPV.

So, let's keep this one relatively brief. By my standards, anyway.

1. Batista & John Cena v. King Booker & Finlay. A curious main event that betrays the lack of challengers on Smackdown for Batista's world title. It's a tag match in which Batista and the Raw champion John Cena join forces against Booker (the last Smackdown champion) and Finlay (who used to be Booker's lackey, then kind of wasn't, and now kind of is again). Traditional wrestling logic says there are two possible outcomes to this match. You certainly don't involve Cena in the decision because he's a guest and there's no follow-up. You don't have Booker pin Batista because that sets up a match they've already done several times. And you don't have Batista pin Booker, because he's already won that feud and they might as well start rebuilding Booker for future storylines. So either Batista pins Finlay, the minor member of the heel team, or Finlay pins Batista to elevate him and set him up as a future challenger - not the worst idea in the world, since Finlay is one of the best wrestlers on the Smackdown roster.

The match itself is likely to be good to decent. Batista has been wildly inconsistent since returning from injury; Booker is apparently working injured. But Finlay is hugely talented, and though Cena isn't exceptional on a technical level, he always works hard and he's good with the crowd. Should be alright, then.

Incidentally, in a sign of how incoherently the WWE plan ahead, they're trying to push this as a "first ever" teaming up of the Raw and Smackdown world champions - not much of an achivement considering the Smackdown belt was only invented a few years back. More to the point, didn't they do this exact same match on free TV just a few weeks ago? That was before Batista won the title, so it doesn't actually invalidate their claim, but it's a match they would never have done on free TV if they had planned to try and sell it so soon after.

2. Inferno Match: MVP v Kane. An "Inferno Match" is one of wrestling's more ludicrous gimmick matches: the guy who gets set on fire loses. MVP isn't very good and Kane is alright at best. The history of this feud suggests that MVP will get almost no offence, and then after fifteen minutes of tedious pummelling, either he will lose clean, or he'll win on a meaningless fluke. Either way, it'll involve a stunt sequence. Also, since Kane only wears tights, and MVP has a full body suit, it doesn't take a genius to work out who's losing this one. Kane will win, MVP's offence will consist of five punches in the fourteenth minute, and I will be delighted to save my money.

3. Last Ride Match: Undertaker v Mr Kennedy. See above, except this time the loser is the first guy to get bundled into a hearse. Both of these guys are capable of being entertaining, but this feud has been so one-sided that it's utterly devoid of interest. As MVP is losing the Inferno match, I would guess that Kennedy wins here on some sort of bizarre screwjob. But frankly, I couldn't care less, and I'm confident that the match will be unbearably dull.

4. United States Title: Chris Benoit v Chavo Guerrero. Continuing the feud based on a frankly tasteless storyline in which Chavo is somehow exploiting the estate of his late uncle Eddy (who died over a year ago, for heaven's sake, but they still won't shut up about him), while Eddy's friend Chris Benoit tries to work out what's going on. Since Benoit is the US Champion, that means they're going to wrestle over the belt for the second show running, even though Benoit won clean the last time. Ah, planning. As before, the actual wrestling should be very good, as long as the storyline is kept to the back. Benoit is one of the best of his generation; Chavo's good enough to hang with him. Since the storyline is nowhere near completed, I imagine Chavo wins the belt here. But then, that's what I said last time.

5. Cruiserweight Title: Gregory Helms v Jimmy Wang Yang. Jimmy Wang Yang is an Asian guy who thinks he's a redneck. Isn't that just hilarious? Why, my sides are splitting just thinking about it. God help us.

That said, as a wrestler, he's actually very good. Although we're apparently supposed to have forgotten, this is the same guy who worked for WCW as Jimmy Yang in its last few years. It's also the same guy who played Tajiri's henchman Akio. The silly gimmick doesn't seem to have affected his impressive matches, and he should have a good showing here with Gregory Helms. Unusually for a Cruiserweight Champion, Helms is actually being treated as a credible wrestler by the writers. It's unfortunate that they feel the need to prove that by having him wrestle guys out of his weight class, rather than actually building any meaningful challengers within his division. But it's better than nothing. Helms has had the belt for months and it's probably time to start thinking about moving it on. This match isn't the time - not enough build-up - but it'd make sense as a starting point for a series of rematches.

Helms wins, and the match will be good.

6. Mike Mizanin v The Boogeyman. Yes, that Mike Mizanin. The one who was in a season of The Real World five years ago and seems to have been doing the rounds of reality TV shows since, including the WWE's own Tough Enough from 2004. Given that he was obviously hired for novelty value, he's actually a lot better than you'd expect. He has natural heel charisma as the most annoying man in the world; wrestling is one of the few professions where this could be considered a boon. He'll be wrestling the Boogeyman, a ridiculous freak character who specialises in eating live worms, and who is arguably the worst wrestler (on a technical level) on national television. There's a good reason why his matches very rarely involve actual wrestling: he's extremely bad at it. Still, this will be a comedy segment, and it'll be fine on that level.

It occurs to me that neither of these guys has actually lost a singles match, so in theory there's an undefeated streak on the line. I'd give the match to Miz, though, because he's worth more to the company in the long run. At least he has a reasonable clue what to do once the bell rings; there's always a role for somebdy like him in the midcard. The Boogeyman is just a novelty act who can't actually wrestle, and his fifteen minutes of fame are probably up.

7. WWE Tag Team Titles: Paul London & Brian Kendrick v. William Regal & Dave Taylor. Announced at the last moment, but they've been building this up for weeks. The veteran English wrestlers Regal and Taylor are obviously being set up as the heels who the plucky champions can't beat, and in any event, London and Kendrick are clearly in the early throes of a break-up angle. (Why? Who could possibly think they're more use to the company separately?) They've had the titles for over six months now, so it's probably time for a change. A question mark hangs over Dave Taylor's health after his surprisingly early return from a recent leg injury, but aside from that reservation, I think a title switch is probably the smart bet here. There ought to be a massive style clash here - high-flying babyfaces versus old-school mat wrestlers - but it's been fine in the matches to date, so I'm expecting this to be good.

Worth buying? Well, if you're a big fan of Undertaker and Kane, yes, because they'll do their schtick at tremendous length, and the rest of the show will be just fine. Me, I can't face sitting through two long matches from that storyline, so I'll let this one slide. If the word is that it's a great show, I might consider getting the replay.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The ITV Chart Show

With hundreds of digital satellite channels searching for cheap ways to fill time, it often seems that almost any show is guaranteed an afterlife on satellite. But it still comes as something of a surprise to find the Vault (way up on channel 356) repeating entire episodes of The ITV Chart Show from the early nineties.

According to Wikipedia, the Chart Show ran for 12 years from 1986 to 1998. It was very much a programme from the tail end of the pre-multichannel era. Quite simply, it was on for an hour a week, and it played music videos. Or rather, it played the middle two thirds of music videos, because it was trying to cram everything into an hour a week. Dispensing with the services of a presenter altogether, the show simply jumped between videos, put up loads of captions, and could be relied upon to enliven the middle eight with spectacularly banal information. It was also rather keen on mock-VCR graphics, since VCRs were terribly cutting edge in 1986. And it baffled kids by periodically inflicting an indie chart on them, despite the fact that Britpop hadn't started yet, and indie meant the New Fast Automatic Daffodils.

Obviously, in the days before MTV, there was some sort of point to a show like that. By 1998, it had long passed its sell-by date. It didn't help that a bizarre scheduling decision meant that the show aired on Saturdays, one day before the singles chart was actually announced, forcing the show to use a wildly erratic chart that frequently failed to match the official version at all.

But there's a weird charm to sitting through this week's hour-long show from 1992 again. We tend to end up with a very lopsided memory of pop music, since we only remember the stuff which was either genuinely good or at least distinctively awful. Watching the actual show from 1992 reminds you of the vast quantities of drek in the middle. Yes, this was the week that "Safe From Harm" by Massive Attack came out as a new release. It was also a week when "Gypsy Woman" by Crystal Waters was in the Top 10, and at least that's a memorable record, whatever else might be said about it. And a minor Pet Shop Boys single had just come out. ("Jealousy".)

But it's also a week when Sonia was in the Top 10, when Marillion were touring for a grateful nation, and when the producers somehow overlooked Massive Attack for their single of the week in favour of a long-forgotten dirge by Sinead O'Connor. Jason Donovan was still around. People were actually buying Amy Grant's "Baby Baby", which has a video of her cuddling a puppy, and lyrics like "Baby baby, I'm taken with the notion / To love you with the sweetest of devotion."

And the number one that week was "I Wanna Sex You Up" by Color Me Badd. In fairness, it's actually nowhere near as bad as I'd remembered, at least musically. But time has not been kind to their fashion stylings. Come to think of it, I remember thinking they looked like total idiots at the time, so it may not just be the intervention of fifteen years. Still, though...

This is the compellingly bleak reality of early nineties pop music - a mixture of records you'd mostly forgotten, linked by staggeringly poor animation. Yes, you can find most of this stuff on YouTube... but you'd probably never even think of bothering. Thank god for satellite.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

ECW December to Dismember 2006

Yes, that's right, it's the second WWE pay-per-view in as many weeks. And this one's got the stupidest title of the year! It gets worse - in a fortnight, there's a Smackdown show. So that's three shows in four weeks. They're testing the audience to destruction here. Oh, and there's another show in the first week of January, too.

ECW, you'll recall, used to be the number three promotion in America after the WWF and WCW. Granted, it was a huge step down from number two, but ECW was also clearly a level above the rest of the indie feds. They had TV. They had PPVs. And they were hugely influential, as the 1990s wrestling equivalent of a major league indie band.

ECW and WCW are both long since dead, and the renamed WWE picked up the rights to both names on the cheap. Earlier this year they attempted a full-scale relaunch of ECW, which has been a bit of a bizarre affair. The show airs for one hour a week (compared to two hours for the other two brands), and for no discernible reason, it's on the Sci-Fi Channel. Well, that's not entirely fair. There is a discernible reason. Nobody else wanted the show.

ECW gets much lower ratings than Raw and Smackdown, and it's unquestionably seen as the C-show. Fans of the original are also faintly appalled by it, since frankly, it's a travesty of what ECW used to be - basically, a third-rate WWE show with some half-remembered, Chinese-whispers-filtered ideas about ECW half-heartedly slapped on top. The cast consists of a handful of surviving wrestlers from the original ECW (almost all long past their prime, obviously); a bunch of cast-offs who were buried in the midcard of other WWE shows (Matt Striker, the wrestling teacher?!?); and the occasional fortunate newbie who got called up from the feeder leagues. They've also parachuted in a couple of more credible people from the other brands, but basically, it's a strange Frankenstein show that doesn't know quite what it wants to be. And nominally running the show - but in fact with a very tenuous degree of influence - there's Paul Heyman, who owned the original ECW and can't exactly be thrilled with what's now being done under the name.

December to Dismember - presumably named in honour of the original ECW's show November to Remember, which was still a pretty bad name but at least wasn't actively ridiculous - is the first ECW solo pay-per-view since the brand was relaunched. It goes without saying that the schedule, only a week after Survivor Series, is deeply unhelpful. But let's see what matches they've announced...

1. ECW World Title, Extreme Elimination Chamber Match: The Big Show v. Bobby Lashley v. Rob Van Dam v. CM Punk v. Sabu v. Test. The Elimination Chamber is a Raw gimmick match, but somebody obviously thought ECW could use the help. Basically, it's a cage match with six competitors. The cage contains the ring and four little cells. Two guys start in the ring, and the other four start in the cells. Every five minutes one of the cells opens and the guy inside joins the match. Elimination occurs by pinfall or submission. Last man standing is the winner.

Since this is ECW and they have a vague, half-formed notion that it ought to be different, this is an Extreme Elimination Chamber. This turns out to mean nothing more than "Oh yeah, and there are some weapons in the cage too." I am amused by the implication that all previous Elimination Chamber matches have merely featured a Moderate Elimination Chamber.

In theory, it's actually not a bad gimmick. These "guys enter every few minutes" matches are ridiculously unfair, but then when you're building a wrestling match, that's a positive advantage. In practice, though, the handful of Elimination Chamber matches to date have been fairly underwhelming. That probably reflects more on the participants than the gimmick - after all, the last time they did this match, it featured people like Chris Masters.

The Big Show has been the dominant heel champion virtually since the launch of the brand. By all accounts, the guy has terrible back problems and is looking to either call it a day or at least take a long, long time off, so it's almost guaranteed that he's losing. In the circumstances, he's likely to put his heart into it, and when he's motivated, he's generally good in his role as a destructive giant.

Bobby Lashley has been parachuted in from Smackdown out of nowhere, and it seems pretty likely that he's the chosen successor. He's probably the least ECW wrestler imaginable, being a big bodybuilder type, but he's not bad. Storylines would more logically point to Rob Van Dam, but most rumours suggest that the WWE still hasn't forgotten about the last time they made him world champion, and he promptly got arrested by the cops for smoking hash while driving. Mind you, it's only the ECW title, so it's possible they might let it slide.

The wildly inconsistent veteran Sabu, and the rather banal thug Test, are really just midcarders who've been thrown in to make up the numbers. On the other hand, the rising star CM Punk is still undefeated as yet, so they're going to have to be careful in how they deal with him. Unusually for an ECW wrestler, he actually seems to be catching on with the audience. I can only assume he gets beaten in some totally unfair way by Test, since he's obviously got to feud with whoever breaks his winning streak. And there's no point in that being a fellow babyface, or the absent Big Show. Which leaves Test. (So badly written is this show that, even though the story theoretically involves manager Paul Heyman bending over backwards to protect his champion, the heels are outnumbered 4 to 2. Don't ask me.)

The match is likely to be a total trainwreck. RVD and Sabu are spot monkeys, and you can't rely on them to hold it together. Test is a dreary midcarder. Big Show is on his way out, and he was always more of an effective roadblock than a compelling wrestler in his own right. Lashley is promising but inexperienced. And CM Punk, talented though he is, is more of a "one-on-one technical wrestling match leading to a respectful forty-five minute time limit draw" kind of guy - this match really doesn't play to his strengths at all. Prediction: Lashley wins, and it won't be pretty.

2. The Hardy Boys v. MNM. Continuing their reunion from Survivor Series, Matt and Jeff Hardy have issued an open challenge for this show, which has inexplicably been accepted by the reunited team of MNM. MNM were the Smackdown tag champs for a good few months before being split up when Joey Mercury was despatched to rehab, leaving Johnny Nitro to pursue a happy and productive solo career on Raw. There's no real storyline to this, and given that neither team has any connection whatsoever with ECW, either in reality or in storyline, I have no clue why it's on this show.

But it's two good teams, and they'll probably have a good match. It doesn't really matter who wins, since it's a short term reunion either way, but conventional wisdom says that when it doesn't matter, you let the good guys win and send the audience home happy.

3. Er...

4. That's it.

Yes, believe it or not, the WWE have announced a grand total of two matches for this show, which starts in just over 24 hours time. (Supposedly, Sandman v Bob Holly is also on the show, but if so, nobody's told the WWE website.) The original ECW used to do this sort of thing all the time - but then, the original ECW was a unique product with a cult audience, and people really would tune in just to see an ECW show without knowing what was on it. This is a very different ECW, and it can't get away with that. Besides, it's not like it worked out so well for the original ECW, in the long run. They did go bust, after all.

Reports are that the ticket sales for this show are, shall we say, sluggish - as in, 75% of the tickets are unsold. I can't say I'm surprised.

Worth buying? You must be joking. It's going to be a total disaster. Luckily for me, it's not a PPV in the UK - it's airing on Sky Sports 1. And that means I get to enjoy it in full FiascoVision without shelling out any more money. Believe me, it's the only reason I'm going anywhere near it. But in a perverse kind of way, I'm looking forward to seeing how horrible it can be.