Jumping the shark? Why I might be done with Don’t Tell The Bride

For quite a while Don’t Tell the Bride has been one of my favourite shows, it’s the very best of trashy TV.

For those unfamiliar with the premise it works like this: a groom is given £12k and three weeks to plan his wedding, with the wife not knowing what he’s doing.

The drama, and hilarity, comes from the grooms being clueless about weddings and having to muddle through, while the narration let’s us know just how off the mark they are regarding what their bride-to-be wants.


MWF and I watch the show together, picking out what we like and dislike every week.

But the current series has seen me fall out of love with the show.

The problem is that in order to keep the attention of the audience and make the trailers look good they’ve gone for increasingly outlandish themes and OTT grooms. And the result is that I’ve started turning on the grooms.

Previously the show worked because the daft, but well intentioned grooms were trying their best and had silly ideas for a reason (one groom booked a burger van to cater as it was where the couple had eaten on their first date). But the recent grooms have been bellends who’s themes revolve around stuff they love or wanting to have a laugh. Of course, this is to heighten the drama element.

The nadir of this was a groom who was obsessed with roller hockey (because he’s teenage boy in the late ’90s, obviously) and who was so infuriating I found myself hoping the bride would jilt him. He was utterly self absorbed and childish, including making sure his entrance at the ceremony was more elaborate than the bride’s. He threw a wobbly and did a “I love that girl” speech but it seemed a bit more due to his tiredness and plan falling apart.


He's probably saying something annoying here

This episode had me fuming, but several of the grooms have done similarly selfish actions.

As a soft git I normally root for them, especially if they get grief from the bride’s family, or diva-like behaviour from bridesmaids (I could do a whole post about why the bridesmaids are the worst and what they should do).

It also showed how bride centric weddings have become. The groom having the power and choice highlighted how normally the bride has everything sorted to her tastes, and I think the show works to illustrate that it’s probably best if both are involved.

The “it’s the bride’s day” thinking is so prevalent that the fact MWF consults and involves me has been received with amazement and surprise.

In fact, some think it’s weird and I should just let MWF have free reign. I think that’s bollocks. I know it’s not my day. It’s not her day either. It’s our day.

It just seems odd that as you start your life as a partnership you’re expected to cater to just one half.

DTTB has lost it’s way in focusing on stupid gimmicks and self-centred grooms. While some of it remains entertaining it’s lost the simple, sweet nature of the older shows.

At it’s best it was never about the theme of a wedding and more about a groom trying to do something special for the woman he loves. He’d cock up and struggle, but he always had wanting the day to be special and to make her happy.

It’s the human stories that made the show work, not the daft gimmicks.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Book Review: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin

It has been two years since I finished the fifth installment of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, series and since that day I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of part six. It’s been a painful wait and now the TV adaptation Game of Thrones has caught up with the books and the two will diverge further, meaning when I get to it I’ll have expectations and ideas that may be miles off.

The major irritation however is not being able to enjoy more of Martin’s amazing writing and the world of Westeros that he has created. This book, collecting three novellas, exists in the same world but is a very different beast.


Set a century before the first installment they follow the adventures of Dunk and Egg. A young, hulking hedge knight and his quick witted squire, who has a secret about who he really is.

In a way they serve as a good introduction to the world, showcasing the down and dirty medieval world he has created. Here dragons are a recent memory, and magic still believed in, but the more pressing dangers are men and their ambitions.

It lacks the sprawling, split perspectives of the others, sticking with Dunk exclusively and so we see things from the perspective of the brave but naive knight. He blunders along and gets involved in his adventures and relies on his skills with a sword to survive.

The tales are short but involving and in Dunk Martin creates a likeable and heroic lead, who you root for throughout. There are not of the duo’s adventures planned and I am eager to read on. But far more eager for part six of A Song of Ice and Fire, although I’ll have to reread the previous ones to refresh where I am.

If the size of those other books puts you off check this out as it’s a nice, smaller introduction and will let you know if it’ll be your kind of thing. Although it is worth mentioning that it lacks the complexity and ambiguity of those books.

Verdict: Entertaining and showing Martin’s skill as a writer it gave me my Westeros fix and would work as an introduction for new readers. Full of action and bits of humour, it’s a cracking read. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

#amwriting: Another hashtag title?!

November means different things to different people

To the Yanks it means Thanksgiving, to the Scots it’s St Andrew’s Day. For some it’s about not shaving for charity. For the UK it means bonfire night and dread as you wait for the first Cliff Richard attack that heralds Christmas.

But this year I have joined a smaller group, for whom November means writing. I have decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) the aim to crank out an entire novel in the gap between Halloween and the first door on the advent calendar.


I have been writing for years, and there are half started novels, films and comics in notebooks. I have wanted to write since I was a boy, but life gets in the way.

The novel I’ve started is one of the abandoned projects. I dusted off the idea and started again from scratch. It’s a thriller but quite a light one.

Writing it has become an obsession. To hit the 50k target I need to write 1667 words a day. On a few days I’ve left it in the dust, and blazed onwards until I tire, something comes on TV or MWF gets home.

I’ve got further than before and feel pumped about it. I know its never going to be a classic but it should be entertaining for readers.

The downside is that I will probably blog less this month, but I hope those who read regularly can understand. Normal service will resume in December.

For other wannabe writers I heartily recommend trying NaNoWriMo, as the structure really helps and having a deadline has helped me get in the groove and stop putting it off.

Also the abbreviated name is incredibly fun to say.

I’ll keep you updated. If any readers are also doing NaNoWriMo get in touch if you want, if not, good luck with your writing!

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Book Review: The Death of WCW by R. D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez

The Monday Night Wars took place during my break from wrestling, but it was a historic and important time for professional wrestling. The two major companies WCW and WWF (now the WWE) went head to head. For a while WCW was in front, thanks in part to the fact it was bankrolled by Ted Turner and boasted a hot faction in the NWO (New World Order).

But a few years later WCW was gone and Vince McMahon the owner of WWE bought it for a song. What went wrong is the focus of this book.


The book is fantastically in depth, following WCW on an almost week-by-week level as it finally got on top, dominated and then imploded. The writing is passionate and engaging, with a sarky, informal style that really worked for me.

The writers capture a snapshot of the behind the scenes chaos that ensued within the organisation, and the terrible decisions that led to its downfall. Some of the gaffes and ideas are laughable, almost irredeemably stupid.

It seems that the egos of certain stars ran wild, refusing to accept that they needed to step aside for fresh faces and instead hogging the spotlight until the audience got bored and switched channels.

At times the book is overly negative, WCW’s good points (they had a quality roster) are rushed over in favour of the stupidity that ensued and the bad matches. It’s easy to understand why, those are far more entertaining and explain the rapid decline of WCW.

For wrestling fans it’s fun as it expands on the stories you kinda know and shows the slow decline of the company. For non-fans it won’t win them over, but as a fan of several involved in the story I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if some of my heroes come off poorly.

Still, it’s an absorbing and entertaining read for wrestling fans.

Verdict: Entertainingly snarky and cutting it does skew negative a little too much but it gives a blow-by-blow breakdown of the errors made by WCW management. A good read. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Book Review: The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

I’ve never been much of an Agatha Christie fan, this is only the second of her books I’ve read (my thoughts on the first are here) and I must say I enjoyed this a whole lot.

Set between the wars this follows friends Tommy and Tuppence, who decide to set up a company to look for adventure. Their first case involves them being put on the case of a missing package which could have disastrous for Britain.


The package in question was handed to a young girl towards the end of the First World War, the girl has since vanished. Arriving to aid Tommy and Tuppence is a young American, the missing girl’s cousin and a powerful lawyer.

The girl and package are tied up in a criminal conspiracy with plans to threaten the very safety of the British government. The figurehead is a shadowy figure who appears to have control over several people and pulls the strings on various plots.

Can Tommy and Tuppence work out where the package and the girl are? With the conspiracy being far reaching who can they trust?

I really enjoyed this book because Christie manages to create two engaging and likeable characters. Tuppence and Tommy are well rounded, and their individual traits ensure they spark off each other in an entertaining manner. The dialogue is fast paced and has a pulpy feel which I loved, and the action moves quickly.

The story is gripping and Christie keeps you guessing, laying false trails before the pay off which is wholly satisfying. Unlike Poirot or Marple the heroes here are more human and aware of their failings, and that’s the real triumph here, as Christie ensures that the reader cares about what happens to them. She also makes their relationship realistic and the personal aspect means just as much as the intrigue.

I’m keen to read more of Tommy and Tuppence’s adventures, and glad I picked up a cheap edition released to tie in with the recent TV adaptation (for which David Walliams seems woefully miscast as Tommy).

Verdict: A solid and enjoyable mystery thriller with decent characters and enough twists to keep the reader hooked. It’s quick, fun and gripping. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

RWC 2015: Heroes and Villains

The tournament is over, but it was a gripping one. So, looking back I’ve picked the best and worse of the tournament.

Heroes- Japan

The tournament’s first major incident came in the Japanese’s giant killing of South Africa. In a tough performance the underdogs snatched a late victory, and their joy was a feel good moment for everyone. Well, apart from South Africa.


Japan celebrate

Villain- Craig Joubert

If Japan’s win was the feel good zenith then Joubert provided the nadir. After a superb performance the Scots found themselves mere seconds from the semi-finals. In this kind of situation every decision matters and Joubert made a terrible one. He gave a penalty to Australia which was duly converted by Bernard Foley.


Joubert ignores Scottish appeals

Now refereeing mistakes are going to happen but in the TMO Joubert had nowhere to hide. Going upstairs would have led him to give a scrum and Scotland could have won. Some felt he was hung out by his bosses, but there was no excuse. I’d avoid any holidays in the Highlands if I was him.

Villain- Bernard Foley

This may be a tad harsh but bear with me.

There are some kickers that strike dread into a fan’s heart. You know that anything in range is a guaranteed three points against you and your heart sinks at every penalty.

Foley is not one of those kickers. In a way he’s worse, because he can be painfully erratic and then click just when he needs to. He was far from perfect against Scotland but then pulled off a kick under considerable pressure to win the match.


Foley- Erratic

Hero- Dan Biggar

When Leigh Halfpenny got injured before the tournament Welsh hearts sank. With a consistent and reliable points machine how would we cope?

Enter Dan Biggar, the twitching genius who kicked superbly. He played well throughout and his pre-kick ritual could be overlooked because it clearly worked.


Villain- Owen Farrell

After England’s early exit the main targets for criticism were coach Stuart Lancaster and captain Chris Robshaw, with Farrell escaping the blame he deserved.

Sure, he played well and got lots of points, but he let his team down badly. Australia were keeping England at bay, but the hosts were gaining some momentum. This stalled however as Farrell was sent to the bin for a dangerous tackle. They lost their best attacking asset and let Australia score another penalty, and after that it was all over.


Farrell is sent off

Hero- This guy


Sorry, English readers, but it made me laugh.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

RWC 2015: And now the thrilling conclusion…

Often a final can be a disappointment, but thankfully after a cracking tournament, New Zealand and Australia delivered a satisfying final act for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The first half saw the All Blacks on the attack, forcing some magnificent defending from the Australians. It was frustrating the New Zealanders and the question was who would crack first. Would the Australians hold out? Or would New Zealand start to lose momentum?

Dan Carter got the first points from a penalty, which was soon cancelled out by Bernard Foley. Carter added more but they couldn’t break through for a try until the end of the first half, when a brilliant sequence of passes lead to Nehe Miner-Skudder getting over. New Zealand led 16-3 at the break and it was looking like it was turning into a one sided affair.


This looked even more likely two minutes after the interval when Ma’a Nonu cut through the Australian defence. He sliced through and then left everyone for dead, it was a sensational break and the man in black made it look embarrassingly easy


Nonu scores after a sensational run


The All Blacks celebrated and though Carter missed the conversion their 18 point lead looked like a mountain their neighbours would struggle to climb.

Thankfully for the neutrals, Australia got a chance to get back into it. Ben Smith tip-tackled and went without protest to the bin, leaving New Zealand a man down. The Wallabies used their advantage well, driving from the line out to close the gap to eleven. And just before Smith returned they bagged a second try, after Kuridrani muscled over.

Foley’s kick left them a mere five points behind as the match returned to fifteen-a-side. With ten minutes to go Dan Carter hit a superb 43 metre drop goal. It was a sublime strike under pressure and capped a wonderful tournament for Carter.


Carter hits the drop goal


Four minutes later he added another penalty to his haul and New Zealand were in control. Australia tried to get back into it, but time was against them and a loose knock on let the ball to Ben Smith. As Australian players swarmed towards him he placed a perfectly weighted kick beyond them and the fresh legs of Beauden Barrett told and he shinned it forward before going for the try. t


Barrett leaves everyone behind as he gets the final try

It was a gripping end to a tournament which has been full of great games and incident. New Zealand, strong throughout were deserving champions and outplayed the Australians, who nonetheless should be applauded for getting back into it and defending well in the early stages.


Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Book Review: Guns by Stephen King

Last month I got sucked into a Twitter spat about US gun laws, after their most recent mass shooting. From a British perspective it just boggles the mind that the same cycle repeats with nothing done about it. I was ten when the Dunblane shooting happened, and I remembered being stunned and scared, but reassured that afterwards stricter gun laws passed. There hasn’t been a similar event since.

In the US, they happen with depressing frequency, and the pattern repeats over and over again. It’s this pattern that forms the first chapter in Stephen King’s essay on guns. With a depressing, cynical view King runs through the routine of what happens in the wake of a mass shooting.

Like King’s fictional work there is no shortage of flair on show and his writing is skilled and engaging. King’s stance on guns is pretty moderate, and governed by common sense. He understands the need for sensible controls on guns but accepts that little will change in the current climate of US politics.


It’s here King suggests a novel idea that both political wings should be forced to watch the other’s media for a year in order to close the gap a little and encourage a proper conversation.

Throughout King shows wit and passion, writing convincingly and entertainingly he cuts to the heart of the problem and suggests possible solutions but mainly he points out the idiocy of some view points. It is a man who is tired and frustrated by the seemingly endless cycle of tragedies and inaction.

King also discusses an old novel of his that dealt with a related topic and was found in the possession of some shooters. He talks about his decision to pull it and his feelings about it.

It’s a quick read but well worth it and King impressed me with it.

Verdict: Impassioned and sensible, King writes a great essay about gun violence and the reasons why nothing seems to be changed. It’s an entertaining and involving read. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

RWC 2015: Black and yellow, black and yellow

I was all ready for a fantastic match as two of rugby’s heavyweights went head to head in the first semi final but South Africa vs New Zealand turned out to be a disappointment. It just seemed to be that neither could get the space to really get going.

New Zealand struggled initially, and in the first half gave away far too many penalties, which Handre Pollard successfully turned into a 12-7 half time lead. Kiwi try scorer Kaino wound up in the bin after the ref tired of repeated warnings to the men in black.


Kaino is sent to the bin

Whatever was said at the break seemed to work, as New Zealand came back in far better shame. They held their nerve to take control of the match, thanks in large part to the sensational work of Dan Carter, who racked up ten points on his own.


Carter about to score yet again

A second try in the second half and the Springboks lost ground, and only managed six points in the second half. The All Blacks lacked the flair they’d shown against the French but did display a lot of mental strength and force of will. Going behind is tough, and it was clear that they were edgy, but they got themselves under control, got their game working and got the win they just about deserved.

It was hard not to feel bad for the South Africans, but they paid the price for failing to effectively kill off the match.


Final whistle reactions

The second semi saw Australia take on Argentina. The Argentinians had done magnificently against Ireland while the Australians squeaked a victory against the Scots at the very death of their quarter final, thanks to an awful refereeing decision.

They started strong here however, getting a try on the board in the first minute after second row Rob Simmons intercepted an obvious pass and darted for the line.


Simmons seizes his opportunity

The Australians controlled the game and stopped their opponents getting the space to attack. With their threat neutralised the Argentinians had to rely on the boot of Nicolas Sanchez who got all their points. Three Sanchez penalties meant they trailed 19-9 at the break, Adam Ashley-Cooper added a brace of tries to Simmons’ opener, the second being the better as a long, high wide pass from Matt Giteau found the winger in space.


Ashley-Cooper flies in for his second

In the second half Sanchez traded penalties with Bernard Foley, and the South Americans were only seven points behind with twenty minutes left. But they couldn’t find a way through the Australians who kept up the pressure.

With less than ten minutes it was all over as Ashley-Cooper bagged his hat trick. The try came as a result of a phenomenal run from the other winger Drew Mitchell. In a magnificent display of individual skill Mitchell darted and dodged almost the width of the pitch avoiding numerous tackles to gain ground. When the pressure on him built he resisted the urge to try and go for solo glory and instead fed the ball to Ashley-Cooper, who had an easy run in.


Mitchell turns it on and leaves the Argentinians floundering in his wake

The Argentinians were devastated, their coach in tears, but it was hard not to be impressed that by the men from down under. They may not have deserved the win in the quarters and benefitted from luck, but here their victory was well earned and all of their own work.

It sets up a New Zealand vs Australia final, and I’m going to go with the All Blacks, with South Africa getting the third place consolation. I’m currently 4/5 on my predictions.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Book Review: Killer’s Choice by Ed McBain

I’m getting to be a bit of a fan of McBain and the men of the 87th precinct. This is the fifth installment and as usual follows the detectives as they attempt to solve a crime.

The crime here is a young woman gunned down in a liquor store, but as they delve into her life a series of contradictions appear and they struggle to get a clear picture of who she was. With a new member to the team and a series of dead ends, it is a frustrating time.


The situation gets worse as one of their own is killed at the scene of a liquor store robbery. Are the two related, or is it mere coincidence?

I enjoyed this book, although it’s not the strongest entry in the series, with the core mystery being a little rushed in conclusion. What makes it though is McBain’s wry humour and the characters, with the 87th’s detectives all different and with individual traits which works well. The dialogue is fast and well observed. McBain develops the story with skill, layering in subplots and red herrings, which makes the final dash to the finish line even more frustrating.

I’m already eyeing up the sixth book.

Verdict: McBain is an accomplished writer but this one feels a bit flimsy and the ending disappoints. But there’s just enough in terms of humour, character and pulpy flair to get it through. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


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