When I was growing up in the 1980s, “Hart to Hart”, starring Robert Wagner, Stefanie Powers and Lionel Stander seemed to be on every bleeding day, and this when there was only six channels.
Running for five seasons from 1979-1984, and then ten years later as a series of TV movies, Hart to Hart held a special place for me. My parents marriage was actively disintegrating before my eyes, two people who had loved each other now swung from disdain for each other to loathing, all played out in front of me and my younger brothers.
Then there was Jonathan and Jennifer Hart. Even then I knew their smoochy childless marriage was too good to be true. Of course they were happy. They’d no kids, a nice dog, a gravelly voiced chef/driver/factotum named Max, and Jonathan was worth about $200 million, back when that was a lot of money. Watching their globe trotting holidays (where every bar, hotel and restaurant manager knew their name), I’d happily have put up with the fact that every week someone would try to murder them, Max, their friends or even their dog. To me the novelty was that here were two married people who still loved each other.
Having said that, the show was shockingly formulaic, with the following lessons constantly applying in HartLand:
1. Jennifer Hart was a lovely, beautiful, kind and well-read woman. She was also as dim as a bag of broken bulbs down a sealed well. She was forever getting kidnapped, more often than not escaping and then flagging down the car driven by the people who kidnapped her in the first place. In the opening credits, Max would announce that she was a “lady who knew how to take care of herself” That was a lie. She was rubbish at it, having to constantly be rescued by her husband. She also was incapable of detecting anyone sneaking up behind her with chloroform, a gun or even dressed as a f**king mummy. She’d just stare blankly ahead, never look behind her, and scream “Jonathan!”when someone would sneak up behind her and grab her. Looking back, I wonder was she just looking for attention.
2. You can’t help wondering if she married him, at least initially, for his money, given that every episode seems to involve the two of them on obscene spending sprees. Having said that, given that nearly every bed scene involved her letting out an “Oh Jonathan!” when the lights went out one suggests he might be one kinky bastard, and she just lies back and thinks of Tiffany’s. One shudders to think what he’d take out of the bedside drawer once the lights went out.
3. The Harts had a drinking problem, constantly quaffing champagne at inappropriate moments. Jennifer was constantly being “drugged”. If you watch the show from the point of view that it’s the drunken imaginings of a rich man’s bored wife at home getting pissed on gin, it’s a whole different show, always ending with her ever-patient husband “rescuing” her from her latest adventure.
4. Hart Industries seemed to make money, or at least Jonathan was constantly signing deals for mergers and the like. On the odd occasion you see what his companies actually make, it’s shite. HartToy Inc made, yes, toys, including a shitty version of Simon Says (that had a bomb in it. I don’t recall if that was part of it’s charm), and an even shittier robot which he was convinced was going to be a huge success, a plastic pony and a “Snake in a Box”. No, I’ve no idea either. Funnily enough, Jonathan was always terrified that other companies might be stealing his toy plans. Looking at this crap, you can’t help thinking that maybe he was drunk most of the time too.
5. Late seventies, early eighties California was a weird place. Solving the murder of rich people seemed to be beyond the purview of the LAPD who got irritated when Jonathan would ask them to solve a murder or yet another of Jennifer’s kidnappings. But then, one could hardly blame them. “She’s kidnapped again??? What’s wrong with you people? Have you considered locking her in the basement for her own good? Have you been drinking again Mr Hart? “
6. Additionally, every gun in California seemed to be adjusted to fire a bullet three feet away from whatever you aimed at. When the guy who played The Incredible Hulk tried to murder their dog on a golf course because the dog witnessed a murder (don’t ask, just keep going) they ended up chasing him in a golf cart at about 10 feet an hour, and he still couldn’t hit them. He should have stopped the cart and stood behind Jennifer. They’d never look there.
7. California also boasted the highest nationwide incidences of people bumping their heads and getting amnesia, evil hypnotists, and people who looked like Jennifer Hart only more evil and sluttier. In fact, Jennifer Hart seemed to resemble dozens of people from ancient Egyptian queens to the aforementioned slut.
8. Jonathan Hart loved jumping on people from a height. He could easily shoot someone from a safe distance (although those wonky Californian guns…), hit someone with a tire iron or just plain punch them, but no, he’ll climb on top of something and jump on them. It was his thing. And he had lovely hair. The man was trapped in a wind tunnel but his hair reset itself. Maybe that’s how Hart Industries made money. Their super hair gel subsidised all the other crap.
9. The Harts’ friends were mostly awful people, and a bunch of murderers. After the first twenty you’d think the Harts would start wondering how they surrounded themselves with these psychos. But then, they probably didn’t notice with all the drinking, sex, and Max constantly asking them if they wanted a sandwich, even when they were pawing each other on the sofa.
10. You were never sure whether Max was a higher functioning retard or not. He could drive OK, and was a pretty good chef, but seemed to be taken in by whatever passing fad was on the go at the time. You always wondered would they arrive home from some glamourous fundraiser to find him dead, hanging from a door with his belt around neck, trousers around his ankles and Freeway licking chocolate sauce from his balls. Max seemed the sort of guy who’d give anything a go.
“Of course,” They blurt out, like a verbal innoculation, “I’m not racist. I don’t care whether someone is red, yellow, black, brown or blue. But we need to look after our own first!” They then expand on their deep, deep concern about the homeless, poverty, and how, of course, we must help the Third World, but only after we have solved ALL our own problems first. Poverty, disease, cellulite, the length of time it takes to get a sandwich in O’Briens, once we have fixed all those problems, then we can worry about the rest. Curiously, the compassionate racist doesn’t have any time to actually donate to charities helping “our own.”
In fact, he, or more recently, she, tends to have had no problem stepping over the homeless until there were different coloured faces appearing on the streets, and now she’s concerned. She goes to mass, of course, and is a good Catholic, although not happy with rumours about the new parish priest being black. She’s no problem with that, just that she doesn’t think it would be “appropriate” for the area. If she’d ever met Jesus she’d almost certainly be onto the Garda National Immigration Bureau to report a scruffy looking Palestinian Jew who is certainly up to no good. I mean, look at all that bread and fishes he’s giving out? Who’s paying for that, hmm?
Every US presidential cycle we hear the same thing: that this election will be THE most expensive in terms of campaign fundraising. This then triggers huge debates about the influence of big money on elections. So, here’s a thought. Rather than constantly try to devise ways of policing it, which will be circumvented, how about you change the law and let candidates actually hand out cash to voters?
Think about it for a minute. Would it be corrupting? Possibly, but no more so than how that money affects politics now. The difference would be that the ordinary voter could actually benefit from the vast money. The voters know all about the enormous amounts of money being raised, and with the web could actually take advantage of it. Individual voters could auction off their votes, knowing full well how much other voters were being offered.
True, some swing voters in key primary states or swing general election states would make much more money as their votes would matter more, but wouldn’t that only force other states to start offering proportional voting in order to allow their voters benefit from the bonanza?
But that’s not the good part: the good part is that the secret ballot would remain, so it would be the candidates who would be on tenterhooks hoping that the voters kept their promise to vote for them. After the elections you’d see downtrodden candidates who had handed out hundreds of millions of campaign funds bitching about how they’d been screwed by the lying voters. Come on, don’t tell me that wouldn’t be fun!
At a special session of the Employment Appeals Tribunal convened in camera under the Official Secrets Act, Commander X, formally of the Royal Navy and Secret Intelligence Service today lost his appeal against dismissal from the service.
X had been dismissed 18 months previously after numerous warnings about drinking on duty and making sexual advances on both fellow employees and targeted individuals. The final incident was a fracas caused by X in the service’s quartermaster branch. The head of the branch alleged that X had turned up after lunch “with the usual four Martinis on board” and proceeded to berate staff for not being able to provide him with a discreet way of carry prophylactics. “You’ve no shortage of lasers n’ shit, but you can’t get me a handful of fucking rubber johnnies! Have you seen some of the quim I have to bang for Queen n’ country? Do you know why they call her Octopussy?”
This had been the second incident involving the Q branch. X had previously been disciplined for trying to use a dart launcher to give himself a penicillin injection. A service doctor later testified that X was “riddled” with STIs.
A number of women, both from within the service and without gave evidence of X’s inappropriate sexual advances, using service equipment to remove their clothing without consent, and searching out particularly emotionally damaged women who were vulnerable and seen as easy prey.
“The man was like a vulture if there was any woman in a 5 mile radius who’d recently lost a love one through violence. I think it got him, you know, going. And don’t get me started on age. 18 and up, he was in like Flynn,” another member of the 00 section said.
The same agent disputed a claim by X that this was all part of “serving Queen and Country”.
“That’s nonsense. The other three of us are all happily married. He’s the only one charging around pissed like a rutting rhino. It’s a complete lack of professional standards. At the MI6 family day he made a pass at my 18 year old daughter. Poured champagne on her and then tried to help her out of her wet things. I mean, does that even work?”
The head of MI6, Alex Younger, admitted that X had not been dismissed earlier because he had been a useful asset in the past. “The man is so conspicuous and incapable of doing anything discreetly that we would use him to distract attention from our real operations. He spends his days driving around in ridiculous cars and trying to bed anyone in a skirt whilst our real operatives are quietly, you know, gathering intelligence. The problem has been that he is so effective at getting attention from foreign intelligence agencies that they immediately go on alert looking for our real agents when he arrives in the f**king airport. Now we just send him to places like Denmark in the hope he might use up someone’s resources following him, wandering between seedy bars, casinos and VD clinics. I mean, who on Earth wears a tuxedo as much as this guy does? And don’t mistake him for a waiter. He’s kicked off on a number of occasions over that.”
The tribunal was reminded that X had been married, but his wife had died in suspicious circumstances, with X claiming that she’d been murdered. No charges were ever brought.
The tribunal ended in a fracas when the presiding chair of the tribunal had to order X removed when he suggested, during her delivery of her findings, that they might like to adjourn to his hotel to “review” her findings. He then physically attempted to stop her talking by forcing himself onto her with a kiss, and was only stopped when she punched him in the penis.
Guy Richie’s “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is based on the 1964-68 TV series about agents working for an international crime fighting organisation. One of the key attributes of the TV series was that the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, even at the height of the Cold War, had Americans and Russians working together for the common good. The TV series, although not a spoof as lazy latter day TV critics would claim was nevertheless set in a world where the ideology of the US and USSR were not really alluded to. It was, in short, fantasy.
As a concept, certainly to this then teenager watching repeats in the 1980s, it was a fascinating internationalist concept, that there was far more that united us as a race than divided us. Could it have worked?
One would have to say no. There’s a telling line in the series when Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo, the titular Man from U.N.C.L.E., describes THRUSH, a nasty group of international renegades that acts as the anti-U.N.C.L.E. of the series, as an organisation that “believes in the two party system: the masters and the slaves” Solo could easily be describing the Soviet government (and funder of U.N.C.L.E.) of his fellow agent Ilya Kuryakin. But more on THRUSH in a minute.
Indeed, given that U.N.C.L.E. by its own admission (via voiceover in the series) is dedicated to the maintaining of legal order anywhere in the world, that logically meant that behind the Iron Curtain U.N.C.L.E. was battling democrats and opponents of the Communist one party state. Not something one would wish to see on their TV, scenes of Solo and Kuyakin valiantly shooting people trying to hop the Berlin wall to freedom. On the flipside, what were THRUSH doing behind the Iron Curtain? Surely the United States would be quite happy with any disruption they could cause? Would it be that hard to imagine THRUSH selling its services to both sides occasionally?
If one looks at so much of the things U.N.C.L.E. could logically be expected to combat, one comes into problems. In the 1970s and 1980s the KGB funded many terrorist groups in Europe and elsewhere. They’d hardly support U.N.C.L.E. trying to undermine their efforts. Would Henry Kissinger have been pleased if U.N.C.L.E. had intervened to stop the overthrow of the (democratically elected) Communist president of Chile in 1973 as per the mandate about preserving legal order? Chances are, U.N.C.L.E. agents would have spent most of their time sitting around whilst their bosses negotiated over what they could actually investigate. They probably spend most of their time fighting copyright fraud.
We do get a glimmer in the real world of what happens when an international law enforcement organisation does operate, and it’s not always pretty. Interpol, for example, was headquartered in Vienna in the 1930s, and was seized by the Nazis, at one stage being headed by Gestapo head Reinhard Heydrich. He was head of Interpol at the time of the notorious Wannsee conference that planned the “final solution”. There have been complaints in recent years of Interpol warrants being used by Putin’s Russia to harass political opponents of his regime. Yet there are unusual glimmers of international security cooperation. Germany, France and seven other European countries, for example, have a combined military unit called Eurocorps (See symbol left).
Curiously enough, the central plot of the new movie, which focusses on the US and USSR working together to stop weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands is quite believable, even today. It is easy to imagine the US, Europe, Russia or China all working together to stop nuclear or biological weapons being developed by rogue nations or indeed groups, as they are with Iran. United Nuclear Control, Logistics and Enforcement, anyone?
And that’s the key to something like U.N.C.L.E. It only works if there is a common THRUSH-like enemy that the great powers feel is a threat to global stability.
COWEN, BLAMING AHERN, CONCEDES DEFEAT AS KENNY OPENS NEGOTIATIONS WITH RABBITTE.
The Taoiseach, Brian Cowen TD, has conceded defeat after tallymen said that FF senator Cyprian Brady would narrowly fail to be elected to the last seat in Dublin Central. This result confirmed that Fianna Fail’s loss of five seats in the general election meant that it was now impossible for the party to attempt to cobble together a majority with the remaining PDs and independents.
Cowen launched a blistering attack on his predecessor, Bertie Ahern TD, for his decision, following the 2002 general election, to restrict mortgage lending and tax breaks. He identified Ahern’s attempts to dampen down the property market as the key reason for Fianna Fail’s defeat in the general election. The decision to restrict lending was very badly received by first time buyers, who accused the government of treating them like children and not letting them borrow as much as they wished.
Ahern’s January 2003 RTE Prime Time interview, where he suggested that the banks and mortgage holders were piling debts upon themselves based on massively overvalued assets caused the Taoiseach to be savaged by the media, who attacked him (and not just in their weighty property supplements) of being alarmist and talking down the market. Ahern’s refusal to back down led to a gradual slow down and modest dip in property values, and following heated rows in heated tents in Galway with party supporters, finance minister Charlie McCreevy announced his resignation, accusing Ahern of lacking courage.
The policy led to a substantial drop in employment in the construction industry, with unemployment leaping from 3.1% to 5.1%, and demands for the Taoiseach’s resignation by some FF backbenchers. Fianna Fail suffered heavy losses in middle class areas in the 2004 local and European elections, with Fine Gael trouncing FF with a clear call to reverse Ahern’s restrictions. Polls showed clearly that Ahern’s interference in the property market was deeply unpopular with middle class and aspiring middle class voters, and in June 2006, following a sustained campaign in the media, Charlie McCreevey announced that he was challenging Bertie Ahern for the party leadership. Although he defeated Ahern in the vote, McCreevy was beaten in the subsequent leadership election by Brian Cowen, his successor as finance minister, who pointed out that he believed in the “traditional idea that the leader of Fianna Failer should be, you know, a member of Fianna Fail.” The new cabinet announced it was reversing Ahern’s restricting on lending and restoring the tax breaks to the building industry.
The incoming Fine Gael/Labour coalition has said that it does not believe the fact that the country is building over 80,000 housing units when Sweden, with double the population, is only building 12,000, to be a cause for concern.
In other news, the family of Capt. Edward Smith, the “mad” captain of the RMS Titanic who rammed an iceberg in 1912 and caused over a £100,000 worth of damage to his own ship, have petitioned the British Government to clear the captain’s name. Smith, who died disgraced in 1950, always maintained that if he attempted to turn the ship away from the iceberg it could have been badly damaged along its hull in such a way as to sink the ship, a theory that modern engineers have recently begun to suggest has merit. For years, the phrase “To Smith Oneself” was a derogatory naval slogan to describe a foolish action taken by a person who claimed that they were attempting to avoid a greater catastrophe.
The former luxury liner continues to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in London, where it is moored.
President Obama, aware of not wanting to impinge on the personal suffering of American families who are not yet suffering from losing friends and/or loved ones in a mass shooting that hasn’t happened yet, has issued a statement condemning the as yet not occurred gun attack.
“Today, as we listen to news coming from wherever it will be that this awful thing happens, our prayers are with the families of people who will soon be senselessly gunned down by someone with a legally held firearm.”
The National Rifle Association has condemned the President for making remarks about a hypothetical mass killing involving yet another weapon being used by a person who really shouldn’t be allowed own a mobile phone, never mind a firearm comparable to those used by most other countries military forces.
“We expect this sort of liberal scaremongering from this President, going around stirring up anti-gun feeling on the ridiculous basis of an event that has not even happened and will statistically not happen in exactly the format that he’s talking about. Why, he didn’t even have the guts to predict where such an event might happen, how many people might die, and what sort of firearm was used!”
When asked about the fact that the NRA actually has established media procedure to deal with mass shootings, the spokesperson pointed out that plenty of people enjoy wargaming, and that if NRA employees just happen to enjoy such a social event, that’s their business.
“But the idea that the NRA prepares for mass shootings in the belief that it is a near certainty that they will happen under our current gun laws is outrageous,” the spokesman said, before jumping under a table when a nearby car backfired, and screaming “Lockdown Alpha! Lockdown Alpha!”
The Democratic Unionist Party, emboldened by No vote in the constituency in the Marriage Equality referendum, has announced that it is to seek a Dail seat in the forthcoming general election. A spokesperson said: “Given that the Brits are getting brassed off sending us cash, and if the Scots go we’re totally snookered, we thought we’d better start putting out feelers down south to see if there are any good God fearing people. We’re delighted to find that at least half of the constituency aren’t having any truck with, you know, fishers of the Brown Trout.”
The news comes despite protests from the other half of the constituency which objects strenuously to the label Alabama-on-the-Shannon. Local Yes voters pointed out that they had made up just under half the vote, and pointed to local former TD Ming Flanagan as proof of their broadmindness. “Didn’t we elect him twice? admittedly the second time to make him live in Brussels, but it’s the thought that counts!”
The county tourist board has expressed concern at losing the lucrative gay marriage market. “I mean, we’ve lovely counties here. We’re saving up to send someone to Hollywood to get Sarah Jessica Parker over to endorse us with The Gays. Sure they love her, and she seems to be in Donegal every second week and they’re against everything. Now that, that was a real blow, pardon the pun. When Donegal is peering over the top of The Irish Times at you, ye know you’re in trouble.”
He (and it does tend to be he) comes in all sorts of forms:
1. The Religious one. Probably the most honest of No voters, because he is often genuinely conflicted between his sense of compassion and his religious beliefs, including the guidance from his spiritual advisor. Yes, that’s right, the guy with the poster quoting scripture is the honest one.
2. The I Can’t Believe We’re Having This Debate one. The fella who suddenly realises The Gays are everywhere, and not apologising either. He just can’t understand why The Gays insist upon walking around in public everywhere being all gay. He knows he can’t call them “faggots” anymore, which he believes is a restriction of his freedom of speech. Where’s his referendum, he wonders. Most likely to use air quotes when saying “Marriage” and “Equality”. Got very excited when he heard/met a gay who was voting No. This gay fella is now the opening line in every conversation on the subject. Would be very upset if he thought that someone else thought he was gay. Believes that children can be “turned” gay, that gays are flighty and regard children as fashion accessories, that gays are out to “convert”, by force if necessary, and that there is a conspiracy to hide “the proven link” between gays and kiddie fiddlers.
3. The Needs A Technicality one. His gut has decided he’s voting No. Now he’s looking for a respectable reason to attach to it. Something about families, childen, stability, respect for the constitution, yeah, that’ll do. Most likely to start his position with “I’ve nothing against gays…”:
4. The Bastard. A tiny minority, in fairness. The guy who doesn’t actually care about religion, surrogacy, family units, any of that stuff. Knows that he will cause actual pain to other people by voting No, but does it all the same. Other people’s unhappiness? Not my problem.