Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: Hate is the new love

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Paul Casserly says it's the characters we hate, from Daniel Bedingfield to Greg Boyed, that keep us coming back to TV shows.

Daniel Bedingfield. Photo/Supplied
Daniel Bedingfield. Photo/Supplied

Consider Hitler. Compare yourself to him for a moment. Go on, I'm sure you've done it before, maybe while driving on the southern motorway or that morning after a three-day-binge when you decided to go to the supermarket and got stuck behind an old lady paying with 10 cent pieces. FOR GOD'S SAKE WOMAN! You thought you thought. Turns out you we saying it out loud and the rest of the customers turned and looked at you as if you were Hitler. Or maybe you found your inner Hitler while on the sideline at the kid's rugby game. And who hasn't considered genocide after spending too much time on Facebook?

I wonder if we despise Adolf as simply being 'evil' and inhuman, or is our disgust just recognition of something simpler; human overreach combined with ignorance. We hate him, because if we're honest, we could have been him? No way, you say, but do you really think you're so special, so nice?

I've often mused on this while being wound up by the never-ending parade of hateable characters on TV. More often than not I end up thinking "there but for the grace of god."

The makers of X Factor knew that they were onto something when they came up with the brilliant idea of casting Daniel Bedingfield, who's surely become the most hateable judge on the show. He's seems a little psychotic and is somewhat all over the place, like a very mad woman's knitting. To make matters worse he also has the dress sense of a Mackintosh Toffee. Stan Walker is the one that we love, mean mouthed Mel seems to make the most sense, and the one that no one really knows sensibly keeps out of trouble. But Daniel has a touch of evil. I don't think anyone would truly be surprised if they discovered bodies buried under his house. Naturally this means he's the best thing on the show. Likewise the truly despicable Delta Goodrem on the Australian version of The Voice makes the experience so much better. Like too much chilli in a meal when the other option is none at all.

But there's an accidental quality to reality stars that become hate figures. While the producers must have rubbed their hands with glee when they came across the super grating Asian BFFs (Ashlee and Sofia) on My Kitchen Rules, they can actually cook. They weren't just chosen because of their awfulness. Even after they were kicked off the show recently, the producers brought them back for another go. They know we love to hate those bitches. Actually these Lazarus moments - constantly bringing back 'wildcards' and 'gate-crashers' - are now reaching such epidemic piss-taking proportions that I'm beginning to wonder if MKR or X Factor will ever actually end.

Of course everyone has their own pet peeve. Even the saintly John Campbell has his haters as does the seemingly harmless weather-jock Jim Hickey.

A friend, a regular watcher of Shortland Street, froths at the mouth with bile over Josh Gallagher, "worst character, worst actor" she rants. Another goes puce with rage at the mention of Colin Matura-Jeffree, while another is convinced that Seven Sharp's Greg Boyed is purposely channelling Prince Phillip in a Paul Henry-esque bid for ratings.

But the most appalling and Hitler-like characters aren't to be found on Shortland Street or on reality shows. Strangely it's in fiction that we find the most believable figures to despise. The most hateable fictional bastard at the minute is probably Pete Campbell of Madmen, played to perfection by Vincent Kartheiser. He's a master class of awful. So beautifully drawn he generates that perfect combination of disgust and recognition. He's so wrong that he reminds you of the worst bits of yourself. The poor bastard just wants to be loved. You hate him, yet you feel for him. Like Don Draper, whose back- story explains his dysfunction, Pete Campbell seems driven to his dark side by insecurities forged in childhood. He's a reminder, if one be needed, that no one actually chooses to be a complete and utter shit. Even Joffery the nasty, rapey, adolescent despot of Game of Thrones has a background that suggests an inevitability to his actions. That's the problem with the cardboard cut-out bad guys of so many mainstream police procedurals. They're just evil. How boring.

Enough with the hate already, what about the people that we love to love? Kiwi rock singer Jordan Luck is one of those rare roosters who fit rather snugly into this category. He's no Hitler. His sozzled greatness, and that of his band, was the focus of the best programme of last week, a documentary called The Exponents, which screened on Wednesday night. It fitted nicely into the Prime Rocks series, which usually features international rock sensations (Queen, Rolling Stones etc) who have the advantage of huge vaults of archive material with which to tell their stories. Despite this disadvantage, The Exponents story held up remarkably well, thanks in part to some amateur video, personal collections of photographs, and an incredibly engaging bunch of people collected to tell the band's story. It was all put together with obvious care and artistry, befitting such an important part of our cultural history. Of the archive that does exist, Jordan's appearances with Karen Hay, then host of rock show Radio With Pictures, provide particularly delightful time capsules.

By the way The Guardian recently came up with a list of what they reckon to be the 10 best music documentaries. We probably haven't got quite enough for an NZ list like that just yet, but like the brilliant Shihad: Beautiful Machine - which screens from June 27 on Rialto - The Exponents would most certainly make the cut.

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