I’ve been viewing the highly amusing series Grumpy Old Men again. First off, the title is ill-chosen. The target group is not necessarily composed of the aged and decrepit; neither are they grumpy as such. Regarding the former, they probably are upwards of 45-50 years old (adjusting for the fact that the series was first broadcast in 2003); regarding the latter, the sentiment is one more of marginalization and attendant despair in a humourless world of uncritical super-spin and over-sensitivity. The collecting feature for this group cuts across political commitments and class: what they take issue with is the moronization of culture, now efficiently disseminated by “device induced autism”; a lack of manners (and etiquette); cannon-fodder for the most fickle of consumerism; an uncritical faith in technology and politics; namby-pamby PC absolutism; and the infantilization of our beautiful language (airline speak for instance, prefacing each unnecessary and incessant instruction with “at this time”), and so on and so forth. Of course, there has always been a significant constituency, technically termed “fuckwits”, but now they are emboldened and are licensed by the prevailing uncritical and illiberal techno-political establishment. For me the funniest of the grumps is Arthur Smith who so neatly captured our generation’s most profound disappoint. He says:
“As a teenager I anticipated no life at all other than continuing to drink, chase women and take drugs for the rest of my life.”
As ’70s boys we were willing and able to make good on the Wilsonian slogan “white heat of technological progress,” all in the service of free-living, free-love, good quality and legally available chemical enhancements, unfettered individuality, etc. etc. Now whatever the sartorial inadequacies of many of the group, their spirit is recognizably Chappist. Among the those that I find particularly amusing are Bob Geldof, John Humphrys, Tony Hawks, Rory McGrath, Bill Nighy, Matthew Parris, John Peel, Will Self, Rick Stein, and Rick Wakeman (there are others). The narrator is the wonderfully dry and dignified Geoffrey Palmer, Reggie Perrin’s brother-in-law.