Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On the Battle Buses

You could tell that it was a bank holiday on Easter Monday - ITV 3 was showing those bloody On the Buses films on a continuous loop. They do that every bank holiday. Or so it seems. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about those films is the fact that the first one was the biggest grossing UK film of 1971. It made more money than Diamonds are Forever in the UK, apparently. What does that say about us as a nation, eh? Anyway, having bumped into one or other of the films several times during the course of the day, whilst channel surfing, it occurred to me that the reason I'd always disliked both the films and the TV series was the way in which they stereotyped the working classes as sex obsessed and work shy. Every episode seemed to revolve around Stan and Jack ogling and trying to pull 'birds' - who were always treated as sex objects incapable of doing any job as complicated as being a bus conductor, let alone a driver - and generally avoiding work if that got in the way of their libidos. Indeed, I always felt sorry for Blakey, the Inspector, who was made out to be the bad guy, when all he was doing was trying to get Stan and Jack to actually do the jobs they were being paid for and provide fare paying passengers with a proper bus service.

Eventually, I set to thinking whether this hoary old format could be updated for the modern age. Perhaps they could have a contemporary satirical version, set on the general election 'battle buses'. David Cameron could be the lustful driver and shadow chancellor George Osbourne could be the dodgy conductor, always fiddling the fares to try and make the books balance. Always deviating from their route to ogle 'birds' at meetings of the Bullingdon Club, the pair are constantly harassed by Inspector Gordon Brown, who wants them to deliver value for money public services. "I'm going to have you, if you don't demonstrate fiscal prudence - you see if I don't," he says at least three times every episode. Eventually he has to break some bad news to the leering bus crew, telling them that, thanks to the need to make economy savings, the bus company is downsizing. "I'm afraid you are both sacked," he tells them. "That's made my day, that has." Obviously, in the interests of political balance, Nick Clegg would also have to be in there somewhere. Probably as the passenger who leaves his hat on the bus.

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