Spoilers for the 2020 remake of the British version of House of Cards and Planet of the Apes.
Yesterday the last episode in the long-running, popular comedy-soap BlocEnders, which has been a mainstay of British television and newspaper for forty-seven years, took place.
The premise was surprisingly simple: popular British figures, chiefly politicians, played overblown parodies of themselves, making ludicrous claims and impossible-to-keep promises, all based around a loathing of the supposed puppet-masters hidden away in the European Union. The act was made all the more entertaining because there was usually some grain of truth hidden away amongst all the bluster although, as in any good comedy, it was often the British politicians who were ultimately at fault for the international nonsense.
As the popularity of the dead-tree press and television news declined, fans of BlocEnders became one of the main consumers at least of the former, whilst younger adults, disdaining the bias-reinforcing nature of many mass-media, went to Twitter and YouTube to find whichever facts most closely aligned with their lifestyle instead. This left BlocEnders with a surprisingly devoted core of established, albeit not always wealthy, fans, many of whom were incredibly active on Facebook in the later seasons.
The reason for this online activity was due to a gimmick that the former host, Prime “Minister”* David Cameron introduced to try to boost falling ratings. He gave viewers over eighteen the opportunity to vote on the future of the series, promising to enact whatever viewers chose. Not everyone was convinced that he was serious due to the fact that he gave only two options: keep going as we are, or destroy everything in a ghastly fireball and play in the wreckage of what remains like irradiated mutants.
Naturally, critics of the programme thought that he was just finding a way to string out extra episodes, because no-one would be so silly as to choose the second option. The truth of the matter, however, is not that Cameron believed that electorate was gullible and easy to manipulate, not at all. The reason why some popular options – such as More episodes, please, but could we re-imagine the commissioner characters because their blank faces and slick, metallic tentacles scare my children? – were not included is because the British public simply cannot hold more than two options in mind at any given time. This is why we have only two political parties, two BBC channels, two despised royal consorts, and two flavours of Irn-Bru.
Yet, Cameron forgot that Britons are also the people who voted for Boaty McBoatface earlier that very same year just to see what would happen, and that spirit of hijinks and japery prevailed again in the August of 2016, when Britons voted by an overwhelming and clearly mandate-giving 51.89% to set fire to the BlocEnders studio. Cameron, stirred by his spirit of patriotism, Christian self-sacrifice, honour, and plain common sense, showed his love of his country, its people, and the commitment he had made to them, by resigning and running away to the country, which everyone agreed was hilarious.
The press did not stop there, of course: the last four years have had the grand finale hanging over them like the Sword of Damocles (which is the kind of ripping, Old Etonian joke in which all the characters have been indulging since then, to rave reviews). Yet, it seems, that somewhere in all of this, a small contingent of people has forgotten that this series is fictional, albeit based on real events. I can understand that, after forty-seven years, fans could be a little too invested, the lines between reality and fiction blurred, but it seems that some publications have refused to take responsibility for their part in the premature end of the programme, preferring to blame the rich, the poor, the thick, the clever, the foreign, the jingoistic, and everyone else in between. In collaborative projects like this, all participants are responsible, to a degree.
So it is that, with an end to this great Whitehall farce, people are already looking for new stories in which to drown their sorrows. Proposed replacements for BlocEnders include In Office and British Empire 2: Commonwealth Boogaloo.
Unfortunately, due to cuts of funding and staff everywhere but the HR department, the BlocEnders team cannot afford British Empire 2. The current host, “Boris”** Johnson has also found it difficult to find anyone willing to act in it due to the inaccurate perception of him as “a teensy bit racist”. Everyone who has heard his hilarious, jovial comments about the dress of ethnic minorities and Bongo-Bongo Land know that this is a highly distorted picture.
This leaves us with In Office, a British-American collaboration written by Ricky Gervais. It is a political farce which sees two self-serving incompetents elected to public office despite their transparent populism, ineptitude, and untrustworthiness. Apparently, production has been in the works for a little while now, and tests are now taking place to see how audiences would react to such a ridiculous and clearly impossible turn of events from taking place. A fitting end to nearly five decades of pure political fiction.
*For readers abroad, the joke here is that minister means servant (as in, of the country) and it is a long-established convention of BlocEnders that the so-called ministers serve only themselves.
**For readers abroad here, the reality is too ludicrous to explain, so please just run with me on this one.