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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Sunday 22nd August 2004

NY-LON Lacks Authentic Fibre


I was genuinely excited when I sat down to watch the first episode of NY-LON, the new drama series on Channel 4. Billed as Britain's answer to Sex and the City, it's a lavish, eight-part series from the writer who adapted White Teeth.

The term "NY-LON", which is an amalgam of New York and London, was first coined by Newsweek four years ago to describe "a single city inconveniently separated by an ocean". In order to be a resident of this mythical metropolis you have to own or rent homes on both sides of the Atlantic and shuttle between them on a regular basis. It helps if you have a job that requires you to be in both places, such as working for a successful fashion designer, but that's not a prerequisite. The essential thing is to be able to get a table at Nobu in either location at a moment's notice.

The reason I was so looking forward to seeing NY-LON is that, for a brief period, I used to belong to this group. Admittedly, I turned in my membership card four years ago, but I don't suppose life in NY-LON has changed that much. I was curious to see whether the programme-makers had got the details right. Would the characters hang out at the London and New York branches of the Soho House? Would they advise one another on the cheapest long-distance calling plans? Above all, would the sole topic of conversation be the best way to get upgraded on long-distance flights?

Unfortunately, I very quickly discovered that the new Channel 4 drama series isn't set in this community at all. It's about a City wideboy and a New York schoolteacher who enjoy a one-night stand when she's on holiday in London and then decide to pursue a long-distance relationship. They're not residents of a "singe city inconveniently separated by an ocean". Indeed, you get the impression that neither of them has ever left their hometown before. They're simply two ordinary people, one of whom happens to live in New York, the other in London. It could just as easily be about a girl from Hoboken and a boy from Bolton, though I imagine a series could HO-BO wouldn't have quite the same ring to it.

The trouble is, calling it NY-LON is completely misleading. It's as if Channel 4 set out to make a British version of a sexy, American drama series, then got cold feet. They decided to keep the exotic locations, but populate them with characters from East Enders instead.

To give you an example of just how unglamorous the cast of NY-LON is, take the female lead played by Roshida Jones. When we first meet her, she's wearing a denim skirt, a red sweater and a black, leather jacket. Not, by itself, a terrible combination, but she's wearing exactly the same outfit the following day and--incredibly--she doesn't even bother to change when she gets back to New York.

Britain's answer to Sex and the City? I don't think so. Carrie Bradshaw would have changed at least six times in the same period.

Can Joey Pull it Off?

The news that Channel Five has paid £250,000 per episode for Joey, the Friends spin-off starring Matt LeBlanc, came as a bit of a shock. Joey hasn't even debuted yet on NBC and the overwhelming likelihood is that it'll be a complete dud.

Not that I have anything against LeBlanc. It's just that, statistically, the odds are heavily stacked against any new American sitcom. For instance, in the last seven years NBC has created dozens of new sitcoms, including the much-ballyhooed American version of Coupling, but only one, Will & Grace, could be described as a breakthrough hit. The rest have not survived more than one season and most were yanked from the airwaves after three or four episodes.

I was a big fan of Frasier, which began life as a spin-off from Cheers, another, long-running NBC hit, and I hope Joey will be just as successful. But to pay £250,000 per episode, sight unseen, is just plain crazy.

Don't Let Tarrantino Anywhere Near Bond

So Quentin Tarantino wants to direct the next Bond film, does he? If I was one of the executives entrusted with the most successful film franchise in history, I'd think twice about hiring the enfant terrible.

To begin with, he'd get some fading TV star to play the lead, just as he did in Jackie Brown and Kill Bill. But who is the British equivalent of Robert Forster and David Carradine? Step forward Lionel Blair. In addition, he'd hire Harvey Keitel to play M, Samuel L Jackson to play Felix Leiter and the 54-year-old Pam Grier to play the love interest. I'm not looking forward to the scene in which she emerges from the sea in a bikini.

Instead of S.P.E.C.T.R.E, Bond would be pitted against the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, his Walter PPK would be replaced with an Ouzi and the film would end with him slicing off Blofeld's ear.

The title of this masterpiece? Why, Casina Royale With Cheese, of course.

Discrediting the Country

I was fascinated to learn that Kostas Kenteris, the Greek sprinter who was banned from appearing at the Olympic Games after failing to turn up for a drug test, is to be charged with an offence called "discrediting the country". If found guilty, he faces five years in jai.

Can a similar case be brought against Tim Henman, please? The Great White Hope of British tennis may not have failed a drug test, but he was knocked out of the first round of the Olympics in straight sets--and this was in spite of the fact that he was ranked fourth in the world. At least if he was found guilty of "discrediting the country", we wouldn't have to go through the torture of watching him crash out of Wimbledon for the next five years.

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