Date: 21st July 2006 at 10:58am
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Aston Villa the soap opera – is just absolute and total pants.

By Steve Wade

We of the bar-leaning, Black & Decker-owning, order of over-statement and pontificating, tend to eschew the Soaps. We the tipplers of strong drink and even stronger opinions, just don’t have time for such things. We spend our hours formulating solutions to world problems; and our moments of contemplation, wondering why Calvin Klein pants, look remarkably like our old dad’s pants, which we spent our youth laughing at and which are now actually considered a bit sexy, by anyone with the slightest attack of designer builder’s-bottom. Big pants, Y-fronts, boxers and now back to big pants again – we just don’t get it. Was it all Axl Rose’s fault? I really don’t know but I bet neither Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane wore big pants. I ask you – just think about it. Hendrix? Robert Plant? Roger Daltry?

I don’t fink so……. But some things can’t be avoided – my pants are getting bigger and I’ve been watching a soap this week.

I was watching Emmerdale the other week, as you do, and apparently there had been an explosion, or something (I wasn’t sure) but anyway, the usual stuff was happening – some people were dying – some people were crying – (like that song Five Years) others were getting unconvincingly hysterical. Its a bit early for the Panto season but its possible someone had got an offer for a bit of work in a Christmas Special – so a mass-cull was initiated. Honestly, I didn’t know it wasn’t a comedy and so I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to respond – let’s face it, instant empathy in the face of some ham-acting is not always possible and so my laughs were met with a little dismay by my mesmerized host. ‘Not another plane crash’, I asked. ‘No’, came back the tetchy answer. ‘Oh’, I said, and decided it was probably best if I ended my enquiry. But the amazing thing was, that after one episode I had caught up, and I knew everything I needed to know about Emmerdale. And, it was more than enough.

It used to be the case that being married to Ken Barlow, was the most dangerous job in television. As I seem to remember, they used to kill them off, at least a couple of times a year. No sooner had Ken taken them on one of his sophisticated nights out; had a bit of a snog, and they were gonnas. One got electrocuted and then one had a bridge fall on her head and I lost count after that. But the only thing I know, is that no matter how much compy our Ken got from suing the bridge-builders, or the makers of that chain-saw, he never moved out of his terraced house. From my calculations, he should have been a lot richer than Mike Baldwin, as while the rag-trade was being squeezed by cheap imports, teachers wages were sky-rocketing – not to mention all that unspent compy. I felt a bit sorry for Ken because HE should have got the Jag and the cocktail bar (Baldwin’s badge of hedonism), and then possibly he would have had less trouble keeping Deirdre interested. But it all worked out nicely in the end, give or take a mother-in-law. You see, soap operas never quite follow the expectations of logic, because they need to reinforce the prejudices of their audience.

So knowing all this, I was totally unfazed by the latest twist in the plot at Aston Villa this week. With Villa, you can always be assured that anyone who has missed a few episodes, or is totally new to the show, will have absolutely no difficulty in getting the gist immediately. Unlike Emmerdale, who ration themselves to a plummeting jumbo or a rash of invading aliens, about every ten years; Villa are kind enough to repeat the same old plot every two years, so that playing catch-up, is as easy as falling off a season-ticket renewal list. It really is designed to enable those with a limited attention-span, so no one need feel left out. Anyone unfortunate enough to have been lost in a South American jungle for the last few years, would have no trouble whatsoever, in joining in a conversation about the club this week and it would all be totally familiar; as long as they were brought up to date on the names. And have no fear, when it comes to the compy, departing stars of the Villa soap, are not only given a sack full of crisp tenners, when they are sent on their way; but unlike Ken Barlow, they are actually allowed to spend it. In fact, it is probably safe to say, that Aston Villa have made more millionaires than Chris Tarrant.

But alas, Villa are in danger of losing their audience because the repeats happen much too often, especially the plot line, where the bad guy is supposed to get it, only for him to survive miraculously – even surviving terminal illnesses (twice) only to recover and go on to beat Federer on a tie-break, in the Wimbledon final. The guy’s had more close escapes than Dick Barton (special agent). Eventually you just get fed-up with watching the same repeat over and over again. And despite the very obvious great effort which went into this week’s episode, it did absolutely nothing for me. It was all so predictable it was quite depressing.

But I’ll tell you something; the bad guy we are all supposed to hiss at when he turns up, is obviously the absolute star of the show and it soon became clear that the papers who follow these things, like Soap Daily (pass the Marigolds), were rooting for him all the way. The actual script was a closely guarded secret and we’ll never know the details but the stuff they were suggesting to support the bad guy was amazing. The stuff they were willing to just make up to save their favourite character, was astounding and to be quite honest smacked of total desperation. And you know what desperation spells – fear. Someone had broken rank and the cat was nearly out of the bag, special interests were threatened and panic ensued. While the details of the plot amounted to no more than a cup of coffee and a few twice-used tea-bags, issues of privilege and access became the subject of a frantic bidding war, from the boys with the inky fingers and the willing tongues. Something, which turned out to be far more fascinating, than the same old, all too familiar and predictable soap opera plot.

Aston Villa the soap opera – is just absolute and total pants.