Saturday, November 17, 2012

22. Episode Five (Reordered and updated)

Updated and re-ordered: 2nd December

“Nigel, he's added some sort of terrible quiz show segment.” Tony ranted as he paced up and down the small control room, weaving his way around Nigel and the young work experience girl Holly each time.

“I know Tony, he sent me the details and set, with express written notice that it's part of your contract to do the segment as detailed.” Nigel replied.

“He's messing with us, he knows I want out and he is making this as difficult and frustrating for me as possible.” Tony continued.

“Of course, that sounds like Gerald all over.”

“I suppose, on the bright side, if our new friend Tony James is in charge, it might makes things a bit less bland.”

“That's the spirit. Just go out there and have fun, be Tony James and kill it.”

“I'll give it my best shot.”

Tony wandered back into his dressing room and sat in his chair, staring at the wall. On the wall was a picture of him and Michael that he always kept in his dressing rooms for good luck. It seemed that for once, it hadn't been working, or if it had, he didn't even want to comprehend the amount of bad fortune that would have occurred otherwise.

He wondered, what would Michael do in this situation? For all his long standing friendship, Tony had got so caught up in the madness around his show that he hadn't been keeping in touch with Michael as much as usual. He missed his sensible advice.

For example Michael probably wouldn't be advocating presenting a TV show as a fucked up alter ego version of himself. Though if Michael had been around he wouldn't have been put into this position in the first place, Michael would have spotted the ridiculous parts of the deal and torn it up. If only.

That said, he owed it to Michael to protect the enviable reputation that he had helped Tony to build, or at the very least, to see it go out with a bit of a bang. A great actor (if he said so himself) taking one last crazy part to prove his skills to the world before his career runs out of steam.

One last crazy part. That sounded about right. This was The Tony James Show, and Tony James was going to play Tony James like only Tony James could.

It was time. Or at least that was the plan.

“Good evening and welcome to the Tony James Show.” He started as usual. “I'm your host Tony James, here with more talk than a confused mime.”

Tony paused and looked in irritation towards camera 3, whose screen in the control room faced directly where the head writer usually stood. “That's not funny, and it doesn't make sense.”

A few people in the audience gasped, a few others chuckled.

“My guests tonight are the wonderful star of the biggest DIY show in town, Handyman Adventure, James Coleman.” The sarcasm in his use of the word wonderful was unmissable.

Then we have the not entirely awful comedian Peter Kinsella.”

The crowd applauded and a few people whooped.

My final guest will be indie pop superstars Chillgame, who will also be performing their latest hit single.” Tony disliked Chillgame so much that he couldn't even bring himself to mock them, yet.

The crowd applauded again. One lady whispered to the person next to her. “Who are Chillgame?” The lady beside her replied. “Killgame? Sounds ghastly.”

Don't forget we have the fantastic new quiz Celebrity Spin coming up as well, your chance to win twenty thousand pounds!” Again, Tony failed to hide his contempt for the idea of hosting a gameshow.

“So let's bring on my first guest. He knows how to use a hammer, James Coleman!”

James walked onto the set with a big smile, carrying a large inflatable hammer. Nigel, having arranged this earlier, had taken the opportunity to have fun, and selected MC Hammer's You Can't Touch This as his entrance music.

“Welcome to the show James” Tony started.

“It's a pleasure to be here.” Replied James. “I'm a big fan of yours.”

“Why thank you.” Tony replied. “I'm a big fan of yours, well I say fan. I've seen your show a couple of times and not wanted to hang you up on your own MDF like a crucifix.”

Luckily James had a good sense of humour and didn't take himself seriously, so the first appearance of the character known as Tony James didn't seem to offend him.

“It's always nice to meet your fans.” James replied with a jocular smile. “I've seen your show a couple of times and I can't say I would have minded hanging up a few of those guests myself.”

Tony wanted to be rude but struggled as he realised James was actually a smart, quick witted guy. Although James' willingness to join in the banter was handy. Oh god, Tony hated the word banter. He wasn't a 25 year old rugby playing university student with wealthy parents.

“So, having learned how to build an Ikea wardrobe without destroying a room, what led you to believe that was the stepping stone into a career on TV?”

“Well I watched Ladies at Lunch one day, and realised that if watching menopausal women talk about sex for 45 minutes was a viable programme option, then I might be able to make something people wanted to watch.”

Tony laughed. Not even a character laugh, a real laugh. “I can't stand them. It's like watching four old ladies complain about their husbands during a tea break.”

“Exactly. If I can do something useful and teach people a skill at the same time, why not?”

“But there are hundreds of these DIY programmes, does anyone even watch them anymore?”

“I hope so Tony. After all, it's not like LTV would pay me money for a another series if no one was watching the first one!”

Tony nodded. “I'm sure I will find that one out for myself soon.”

Five minutes later, and the first part of the show was done. No one had been too offended, but Tony felt like he had done enough for the change to quite visible, besides, he had quite liked James. Up next was the passable comedian Peter Kinsella, however then the ridiculous quiz came in, followed by Chillgame, and he could not stand them.

“Tony, don't slip out of character now!” Nigel said through his earpiece with mild sarcasm. “You told me you were a good actor.”

“Oi, watch it!” Tony remarked back. “It takes time to perfect the nuances, also, shut up!”

“There we are.” Nigel replied wittily. “He's back! You're on in 1 minute.”

Tony laughed and got ready for the next part of the show.

“Please welcome my next guest, he tells jokes, a fair number of which are quite funny. Peter Kinsella!”

Peter stepped through onto the set, bathed in the bright lights and standing out a mile from the dark carpeted set in his bright pink shirt. Sitting down on the sofa it became quickly obvious that the shirt was close enough of a match to the pink video wall as to make it appear to some people at the back of the audience as if there was a rogue head floating on the set.

“Welcome to the show Peter, it's great to see you here.” Tony remarked.

“It's wonderful to be here Tony.” Peter responded in good spirits.

“I hear your new tour has been doing extremely well?” Tony sort of asked. He wanted to jump in with a rude comment but found it difficult to hide his own personality enough to let his alter ego shine.

“It has been fantastic. 100 dates, most of which were sold out, and an amazing arena gig to finish off with, the biggest show I have ever done.”

“That's fantastic. It's rare for comedians to play in front of such big audiences so early into their career. What do you think the public has latched on to with you?” Tony asked.

Nigel was leaning forward in the control room watching the monitor intently. “Come on Tony. Come on.” He urged.

“Well of course it's because I'm bloody funny.” Peter remarked, offering a cheeky grin to the crowd. For most comedians this would have fallen flat, but Peter had an irritable likeability. “But I think it's because I'm just a regular guy. I don't pretend to be a genius, or to be better than my audience. I am on their level.”

“I think you are right about that.” Tony remarked, the attempt to imply his audience were as average as he was didn't register on Peter or the crowd.

“In fact, that was one of the things that inspired me to write my book.” Peter added.

Tony had never been a fan of promoting products on his show, but he understood it was a part of the way things had to be done. His alter ego however, (when he showed up) was even less keen. “That was brilliantly subtle Peter.”

Peter laughed. “Gotta get the book mentioned early, you might just forget to do it.”

“I once memorised my part for Hamlet in three days.” Tony declared.

“Well when you only have three lines it's not that hard.” Peter jokingly replied.

Tony wanted to say something rude in return but struggled to stay in character when it came to insulting him. Instead he tried to be funny back. “Hey, they were very big lines I'll have you know.”

“So in the book I've tried to go back to my life growing up and my early career and show the developments that made me into the person I am today.” Peter continued.

“A cheeky bastard?” Tony was getting closer.

“The cheekiest of the cheeky bastards I'll have you know.”

“That's quite some accolade.” Not quite close enough.

“I'm proud of my awards. Third in the one hundred metres in year 5 sports day.”

“At least it means your awards cabinet isn't totally empty.” Closer.

“I haven't got one yet, but I'll be sure to ask James Coleman to help me put it together.”

“He is the man with the hammer after all.”

Tony was trying too hard. In trying to say the right wrong thing, he was taking himself out of the character altogether. Curse these guests for not being hateful enough... Tony would laugh at the irony of this thought later that evening. For now he got to the end of the interview and prepared himself for the last two segments during the break.

“I just don't know if I can do this.” Tony said to Nigel through his microphone.

“Tony, you are a great actor. You can do it.” Nigel replied, before adding. “Come backstage quickly, I know what will help.”

Tony ran into the dark control room, Nigel took his feet off the control desk and handed Tony what appeared to be gigantic shot of Whiskey. “Are you sure about this Nigel?”

“What's the worst that could happen? You mess the show up?” Nigel replied with a grin.

“Touche' Nigel.” Tony smiled and went to drink the whiskey. “Bottoms up.”

“People still say that?” Nigel inquired.

“Yes. Bugger off.” Tony snapped.

“That's the Tony we know and love.” Nigel exclaimed. “Well, not really the Tony we know and love, but that is the Tony we want to see performed by the Tony we know and love.”

Tony looked at Nigel with a raised eyebrow, gulped down the drink and headed off back to the stage. “Wish me luck.”

Tony's intermittent mood was changed by the appearance of the temporary set props for Celebrity Spin as he walked back onto set. A gigantic cardboard looking wheel was carried in, fashioned in a crude red and white colour scheme with categories written over the segments. It looked as if it had been designed by a small child using an old box and some half chewed up crayons.

Just the sight of the wheel and the matching podium stand lurking in what was usually the band stand were enough to make Tony irritable, and conveniently throw him back into character for most of the latter half of the show.

The cue came, and the audience at home saw the show return with a shot of a scowling Tony stood behind the podium, aiming his frustration at his autocue. He didn't plan on reading it.

“Welcome back to the Tony James Show, we now come to quite possibly the worst game show it has ever been your misfortune to experience. Celebrity Spin!” Tony remarked with sarcastic joy.

Tony dragged his feet along the black polypropylene carpet as he walked to the spinning wheel, scraping his soles like a schoolboy being forced to do his homework, and causing a crackle of static that was loud enough to be heard through the microphone.

“Yes folks, by answering a few inane questions about celebrities, you could find yourself twenty thousand pounds richer.”

The audience whooped.

“Of course, you won't, because we've rigged the wheel. You'll be lucky to take home a tin of baked beans.”

The audience laughed, Tony was caught off guard, he hadn't even thought about people finding his new character funny. He liked the fact that he could gain appreciation without having to stick to the idiotic setup given to him by Gerald though.

Gerald was watching in his office, tapping his uncut cigar on the table with unusual impatience. When the audience laughed however, he stopped tapping, and broke out in something approximating a smile.

Back in the studio Tony was explaining the rules of Celebrity Spin. “It's quite simple folks, we pick two audience members at random. You have three questions to answer, and for each one you get right you get one spin of the prize wheel.”

Tony went to spin the wheel, but it jammed in place and refused to spin. “Excuse me a moment.”

The audience laughed again. Tony wondered if he should play up to it. He went to spin the wheel again, and as it refused to move his hand slipped from the handle and scraped his skin across the metal clip. “Bloody hell!” Tony exclaimed in genuine pain, in anger he kicked the wheel as hard as he could, a move which promptly saw it unlock and gently start to spin. The crowd loved it.

“Sorry for those technical difficulties.” His desire to crack a joke got the better of him. He looked to the side camera and remarked to his earlier guest. “I thought you knew how to build James? I'm taking this back to Ikea tomorrow.”

The audience laughed, though not quite as much as Tony had hoped. This, combined with glancing the hideous quiz set at he walked back to the podium, kept him firmly in his bad mood.

“So let's see who will be our lucky first contestant this week.” Tony opened the silver envelope sat on the podium. “Mrs Brockwell from Glasgow!”

The audience looked around at each other until a surprised Mrs Edith Brockwell, a surprisingly tough looking 68 year old lady stood up, waved to the crowd, and walked down the stairs.

“Good evening Edith.” Tony started. “Lovely to have you here.”

“Thank you.” Edith replied.

“What would you do if you won twenty thousand pounds?”

“I'd invest it.” Edith explained. “Add to my portfolio on the futures market.”

“Er, okay.” Tony wasn't quite sure how to respond to someone who clearly had no need for any money she won. “Your first question, are you ready?”

“I am.”

“Which pop star recently filmed the TV show, 'Back in the Sack'?”

“Erm...” Edith thought. “Jennifer Crosby.”

“Correct!” The audience applauded. “You've won one spin of the wheel. Your second question. What is the name of model Michelle Jones' pet poodle?”

“I think...” Edith explained. “I think it's Fluffles?”

“Correct! You've won a second spin of the wheel with that entirely useless fact.”

The audience applauded again.

“Last question Edith. Which actor recently broke the world record for most advertising voice-overs in a single week?”

“Ooh, I should know this one.” Edith thought aloud. “Is it... you?”

Tony rolled his eyes. “I'm afraid that's incorrect, the answer is Stephen Fry.”

The audience let out an audible groan of disappointment.

“So Edith, time to spin the wheel and get your prizes!”

As Edith moved over to the wheel, the cheesy generic suspense music (as used by all quiz shows of the past decade) started to play. Edith took hold of the wheel and span it as hard as she could.

The wheel rolled round at speed before gradually slowing and coming to a halt on the £100 prize. Cue more disappointment from the audience.

“One hundred pounds, it's a good start Edith. Time to spin again.”

Edith span the wheel even harder, and after about 10 seconds of spinning it slowed and rolled onto the £10,000 section.

“Wow!” Tony exclaimed as the audience cheered. Edith was jumping up and down in excitement, and ran and hugged Tony who was caught off-guard and nearly fell back onto the podium.

“Well done Edith! Spend it wisely.” Tony remarked as the giddy Edith ran off stage after being directed by the cameraman. “That's a good start to this cheesy rubbish.”

Tony enjoyed seeing people win money, but this was all coming at the expense of his own reputation and dignity. Tony silently sighed and readied himself.

“Our second contestant today is.” Tony looked at the card. “Miss Sarah Clarke from London!”

The audience applauded again, looking around to see the randomly picked participant. A pretty girl dressed in black trousers and a black t shirt with a colourful print, stood up and walked down the steps. As she approached, Tony realised it was the girl he had spoken to earlier that week on the Underground. He smiled to her as she approached, an action which made her grin and look down shyly. At this point Tony realised she was wearing a Zombie Grave Diggers t-shirt.

“Nice to have you down here Sarah, what do you do?” Tony asked.

“I'm a film student.” Sarah replied.

“Wonderful.” Tony beamed, knocked out of character by Sarah's reappearance. “What sort of films are your favourite?” He asked, expecting the answer to be horror, slasher, or some combination of the two.

“Well usually I enjoy French cinema, though I do watch a lot of Japanese films too.” She responded.

“A girl of the world, that's great to see.” Tony was pleased to see a smart girl enjoying good cinema. “How are you on celebrities?”

“Absolutely terrible.”

“Well Sarah, let's hope you get some good luck then as we play...” Tony sighed and adopted a mocking tone. “Celebrity bloody Spin.”

The audience chuckled and applauded.

“Your first question. The TV chef, Antonio Gelatino is best known for which signature dish?”

Sarah paused to think. “Erm, is it Lobster thermadore?”

“Ooh, so close, I'm afraid not. The answer is Cheese on toast.”

The audience groaned.

Tony continued. “Cheese on toast? How on earth do you need a chef to help you with cheese on bloody toast?”

Sarah shrugged and smiled in bemusement at the question.

“Your second question Sarah. The...” Tony sighed and gave Sarah a look of knowing sympathy. “...boyband 'Safe Word' had their first UK number one with which song?”

“I have no idea Tony.” Sarah replied.

“I'm sorry Sarah. It was in fact, 'Keeping quiet'. I've not heard of it either.”

Sarah laughed, some of the audience chuckled.

“Your final question, you need to get this one right in order to have a spin of the wheel Sarah, is this. Born in Sussex star Tara Young was recently given which award at the Hiya! Magazine Women of Britain Ceremony?”

“Erm.” Sarah thought hard. “I'm not sure.”

“Have a guess, go on.” Tony replied as he subtly winked to her with the eye that was facing away from the camera.

“Is it, erm, Loudest TV Star?”

“That's right!” Tony exclaimed, even though it wasn't. Several members of the audience who knew the answer looked around in surprise. For reference, the actual answer was 'Best Vajazzle.'

Sarah jumped into the air with excitement.

“You've earned one spin on this junior woodwork project wheel.” Tony pointed to the wheel half-heartedly. “They got a D minus by the way.”

Sarah stepped over to the wheel and got ready to spin.

“Good luck!” Tony said.

Sarah grabbed the handle and spun it as hard as she could.

The wheel spun round and round, gradually slowing. It was reaching a stop between a few low sums of money. It was about to stop completely on £50, when Tony took the wheel and manually rolled it round two more spaces to the £20,000 marker.

“Amazing, you've just won the twenty thousand pound jackpot!” Tony exclaimed.

Sarah put her hands over her mouth in joy, and then promptly ran and hugged Tony. He gave her a friendly squeeze, and for a few moments briefly broke character, smiling in the knowledge that he had done something good in the midst of the chaos.

Sarah walked back up the steps to her seat, scarcely able to believe what had just happened.

Tony was pleased, but only temporarily as he remembered what was coming next.

“That was the terrible gameshow Celebrity Spin, and now please welcome my final guests who are, somehow, the most popular band in the UK right now. Ladies and gentlemen, it's Chillgame, with their latest single, 'broken hearts'.

Chillgame were the very definition of a middle of the road band. Just enough guitars to feign credibility, but dull enough tunes that people who didn't like music loved to be seen with them. The kind of band that became a dividing line between whether you had good taste or were just dull. If you went on a first date and the other person said “I'm a big fan of Chillgame.” The odds are anyone with much taste would point at an amazing occurrence behind the other person, and promptly run as fast as they possibly could out of the restaurant.

However, there was no denying that Chillgame were popular. Five number one albums, three number one singles, and a lead singer that moved in celebrity circles. Charlie Clarke was his name, a shortish, dark haired and Bristol born guy, who, despite the blandness of his music, was known for being a bit awkward in some of his interviews.

After three minutes and fifty two seconds of blandness, they stepped off the blue lit musical stage and walked across the now slightly frayed black carpet to the main part of the set. Charlie led of course, taking the seat closest to Tony, or 'the seat of maximum publicity' on the soft black leather sofa.

“Good evening Charlie, and the rest of the band.” Tony started. Apparently Charlie didn't like the other band members to be named all the time. “Welcome to the Tony James show.”

“It's lovely to be here Tony.” Charlie replied.

“Well, I suppose so.” Tony shrugged.

“Sorry?” Charlie looked back with a confused irritation.

“I can't say I'm a big fan. Your music really isn't my sort of thing.” Tony explained. Half of the audience gasped, a quarter were stunned into silence, and the other quarter smiled as if Tony was saying what they all wanted to hear.

Meanwhile watching from his house, Gerald raised his eyebrow, smiled, and sipped his whisky.

“Well, we're not to everybody's taste.” Charlie snapped.

“That's very true. Though I'm not so sure about the word taste.”

This time the whole audience was silent.

“I'll have you know we've sold almost seven million records.” Charlie waved his finger at Tony as he said this, perhaps, in hindsight not a great idea.

“So did Shakin' Stevens.” Tony, even the new Tony, was always good with his research. “Are you claiming that he is better than you?”

“Of course not, Shakin' Stevens was rubbish.” Charlie replied angrily.

How dare you insult the master of 50's revival pop.” Tony snapped back. "Actually, Shaky sold over seven million, so he is definitely better than you."

Oh please, Shaky was a novelty retro act that capitalised on a desire from ageing 50's teens to be reminded of the music of Elvis and rock n' roll.” Charlie knew his stuff too it seemed.

Green door was a masterpiece.” Tony aired defiantly. "...and you are saying that someone who is novelty shit is better than you? Wonderfully honest."

Novelty trash.” Charlie insisted, secretly enjoying the argument, but also feeling quite insulted at Tony's ability to say what most people chickened out from telling them.

“Besides, if they were novelty retro trash, then using the same artistic descriptions we can summarise that Chillgame are bland middle of the road bollocks bought by people who have no taste in music and no desire to challenge themselves in the media they consume.”

Charlie was getting redder and redder. The rest of the band just sat there staring blankly at Charlie and Tony, although the one on the end was dangerously close to laughing.

“In fact I would go as far as to say you are the musical anti-christ. At least those cheesy boy bands know they are there to pose and get girls screaming with cheesy pop songs. The way you pretentiously sit there with your head so far up your own arse that you can see out of your own nostrils makes me sick.”

Charlie was visibly enraged.

“That you get millions of sales while interesting and talented bands have to scrape and save just to do gigs is a travesty. If I had my way...”

Charlie couldn't hold back anymore. “Shut the fuck up. Shut. The. Fuck. Up. I didn't come all this way to be lectured by someone with no musical taste whatsoever.”

“I could say exactly the same thing.” Tony grinned as he said this.

Nigel was sat with his feet up on the big control desk, watching the mayhem, and sporting the biggest cheesy smile it was possible to see. This was just perfect. At her pretty little modern flat, Abbie was torn between disbelief and pride for the man she had barely known a few weeks earlier.

“Why the hell would you invite me here just to criticise me?” Charlie enquired with exasperation.

“Well I sure as hell wouldn't invite you here to praise you.” Tony answered. “God forbid I boost your ego beyond it's already astronomical limits.”

“Fuck you.”

“Does Bono know about your ego? He might get jealous.”

“What the fuck do you know? This programme is a load of shit.”

“Ohh yeah. Speaking of shit. This is Chillgame's new album, 'Floating in the Stars.'” Tony pulled out the album from under his desk and waved it at the camera. “It's an insipid waste of recording studio time. To think that a studio which once recorded the Beatles has been lowered to doing your so called 'music' is saddening.” Tony threw the CD away to his side nonchalantly.

“Right, fuck you.” Charlie got up and looked squarely at Tony. “I don't have to listen to this bollocks anymore.”

Tony smiled and looked straight toward Charlie. “Thankfully I can say the same thing about your new album.”

Charlie tore off his microphone and stormed off, the crowd were still completely stunned in silence.

Tony laughed, waited a moment, and turned to the three other band members, each of whom were too amused to follow Charlie off of the sofa. “So, is he always like this?”

The musician at the end of the sofa couldn't take it any more and he burst into laughter, the others swiftly followed.

Tony turned back to camera 1. “Well folks, as an interviewer it's my job to reveal the truth. Job done. Don't buy this album, or that bastard in the green room will get more of your hard earned money.”

The audience seemed incapable of making a sound.

“I'd like to say thank you to my guests James Coleman and Peter Kinsella, and a big fuck you to Charlie Clarke. What a wanker.”

As the credits rolled and the show's music kicked in, the already stunned audience and the gobsmacked viewers at home saw something moving at the side of the stage. Charlie had brought out his bottle of beer from the green room, heard Tony's final remarks, and had started to run across the wide set towards his desk.

Tony saw him coming and quickly stood up, backing away from the desk as Charlie reached the sofa. As Charlie swung the bottle to the desk, breaking the end from it, the other members of Chillgame grabbed him and tried to pull him away from Tony.

As the show faded out to the sponsorship message, viewers were left with the image of ten large LTV security guard bundling on top of the singer from the most popular band in Britain.

Friday, November 16, 2012

21. Acting

Tony spent the rest of the week distracting himself from his troubles with Alison by throwing himself into understanding and developing his new character.

Over the course of 48 hours he had tried no fewer than 18 different methods of playing Tony James, including six different accents, two speech impediments, three variants of sexuality and one thankfully brief attempt at sounding urban. He had managed to narrow it down to two, both with similar accents to his own, and was now weighing up the finer points of the character in his head.

Of all the many many characters Tony had played, he wanted to get this one right. The complexities and nuances of Tony James would make a massive amount of difference to how the character would be perceived. Too angry and people wouldn't empathise with him at all, too nice, and it would make no difference to his contract fiasco.

In many respects this was the most complicated person Tony had ever been asked to play, a combination of himself and the very opposite, wedged together in an angry little ball of frustration. Tony knew how to play himself, but he had never really been required to stretch his definition of his person in this way before.

At 9pm the night before the show, Tony finally reached the point where he was happy with his character. Like all good creations, Tony James would evolve, although hopefully he wouldn't have many shows left with which to evolve in, but the core was now there. Happy with his work so far, Tony opened a beer and started to watch TV.

Although he didn't normally watch LTV, he had noticed that Britain's Next Top Hairdresser was on, and as Alison was out, he thought he'd watch Abbie in action.

“That's a wonderful design you have created there Marcus, with just one small problem.” Abbie remarked to the contestant. “You got half of the dye on her face.”

As the picture of the poor model with bright purple splodges on her face, as if suffering from some weird cartoon disease, appeared on screen, Tony laughed out loud, instantly feeling guilty for doing so.

“I'm sure you'll agree that is a pretty significant problem.” Abbie continued.

Marcus looked at the floor of the elaborate salon themed set in embarrassment.

“However, in most other areas you were excellent. So you get one more chance. Brush up on the dye!”

“Thank you.” a flustered Marcus uttered.

The voiceover came on. “Find out who else is through to the next round of Britain's Next Top Hairdresser after this short break.”

“He was a man with nothing to lose.” a trailer for one of LTV's future shows appeared. “A cop whose reputation lay in ruins decides to take the law into his own hands to bring justice against the man who murdered his wife.”

Well this looks original, chuckled Tony.

“With both the police, and the murderer on his tail, it won't be long before all hell breaks loose.”

Tony sighed.

“Starring Robert Nordstrom as Jimmy Mackenzie, and Mario Wright as Alistair Frank. Bloodshed. Starts this Autumn on LTV.”

Tony stared at the screen, not quite sure what he had just seen. What on earth was Robert Nordstrom doing on a generic cop drama series? Two minutes later, he was distracted back to reality by a trailer for his own show, led by the clips he had pre-recorded before the first show.

“On this week's Tony James Show, we have some great guests and a few unexpected surprises, be sure to tune in.” A distinctly plain haired, sensibly dressed Tony James remarked.

Tony chuckled a nervous laugh.

“The Tony James Show is sponsored by Planet X energy drink, rocket fuel for the stars.”

Somewhere, in an apartment a few miles away, a writer felt a weird breeze on the back his neck.

“Be sure to catch this week's Tony James Show for the chance to win £20,000 in Tony's new quiz, Celebrity Spin.”

Tony leapt off of his seat in anger. He had heard nothing about this, Gerald hadn't even seen the... right. In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, Tony said to himself. “You do realise that this means war.

20. Hangover


“Huhh?” Tony woke up groggily.


“Whh... what is it?”

“I think we need to talk.”

“What's the matter?” Tony was still barely awake, his head appeared to have a small family of woodpeckers drilling away.

“What is happening Tony?” Alison asked in a stern voice. “Is there something going on between you and this girl?”

“What girl?”

“The one you are pictured in the newspaper with, again.”

As if Tony didn't hate the newspapers enough already. “I don't know what you mean, I haven't done anything wrong if that's what they are suggesting.”

“So why are you having a romantic meal with that pretty girl?” Alison's eyes teared up.

“We're friends! I invited her for a couple of drinks and we stayed for food as neither of us had eaten.”

“It sure as hell looks like a date Tony. I don't think I've even seen that shirt before”

“I bought it a couple of weeks ago, nothing special.”

“Tony, if you are doing something please just tell me.” Alison was now streaming tears down her face.

“I haven't done anything. I'm not going to do anything. She is my friend, I'll introduce you if you like, so you can see for yourself.” Tony said this out loud, before privately wondering if it was such a good idea.

Alison sniffed and wiped the tears from her cheek. “Okay.”

Tony got up and put his arms round Alison and squeezed, he rested his head against hers, looking at the wall deep in private contemplation.

“I do love you Tony, you know that right?”

“Of course I do. I love you too.”

He did love Alison, but in Tony's life things were rarely ever that simple.

Tony had met his first wife Judith Long on the set of Country Boys, and their marriage had been a happy one until the newspaper allegations that split them up. However Tony took the split very badly, running into a number of relationships over the next two years. He was truly in love with Judith, and never really got over their split even whilst married to his second wife Bea.

Bea was an extremely pretty girl with long black hair and a glowing smile. She was only just over five foot tall, and the two of them constantly joked about their height difference during their three year marriage.

They had a loving relationship, but Tony could never manage to feel as comfortable or be as open around Bea as he had Judith, largely due to his inability to get over the first real love of his life.

Eventually, Bea realised that Tony was unlikely to open up in the way he kept saying would one day happen. It was unfair for her to wait around for the hole in their relationship to fix itself, she needed to do something to fix it.

Bea offered Tony a choice. Since she had been a little girl, Bea had always wanted to go travelling and see the world, to explore new places and live a simple life. If Tony was serious about making their relationship work, he needed to go with her, travel the world for a year or two, and try and solve the connection issues they had.

Tony genuinely loved Bea, but he was far less interested in travelling, and hated the idea of not being able to act or perform. However, neither could he work past his memories of Judith. With sadness the two of them split up, and Bea moved to Thailand where she still lives, occasionally watching repeats of Tony's old shows on the local TV station.

Right now Tony was stuck in a difficult place. He loved Alison, but felt that their relationship had fizzled out, that it had become more of a habit than a real close bond. He wanted to work things out though, and had every intention of fighting to save what they had.

Tony had no intention of starting a relationship with Abbie, they were just friends. Sure she was pretty, and kind, and smart, and interesting, but they were only friends. Tony just found it rare to have a close connection with someone in the way the two of them did, she was a wonderful person and he wanted to make the most of that. She was also very pretty, very smart, very interesting, and... Shit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

19. Direction

If one thing had been bugging Steve, other than the slightly nervous feeling he had about why no one from LTV had chased him up about his absence in the last week, it was trying to understand what had been happening to the guests on Tony's show.

He had booked Stephen Fry. He had booked the girls from Wild About Animals. He had signed contracts, but when he arrived other people were in their dressing rooms.

Not only was someone at the station undermining him, they were doing so in a way that was deliberately aimed at turning Tony against him.

Whilst he and Tony weren't exactly the best of friends, Steve had always prided himself on being an honest person, someone who told things as they were and didn't manipulate people. Yet here he was looking like the bad guy.

Steve had been looking after shows for LTV for 6 years, holding the directorial reigns on some of their most famous output. His recent drama series Western Chapel had won a boatload of awards. He had wondered exactly how many awards would fit into a boat, especially when the size of the said boat was not specified, he presumed it was a fair few though.

Steve was born and raised in Manchester by a well respected Jewish family. Whilst he was not particularly religious, he was always seen at the family home for religious or family occasions. His limited knowledge of Hebrew rapidly revised and rehearsed the week before.

Steve had started out acting in local theatre shows, including performing an amateur production of King Lear on the night of the legendary 'Ice Cream Riots'. After a few brief appearances in bigger local shows, it became apparent to him that his skills lay in production and direction. Which of course is a polite way of saying his overacting was so notoriously bad as to cause Brian Blessed to storm out of a matinee performance of Starlight Express.

Behind the camera, or curtain, on the other hand, Steve was a master of precision and perfection, working with difficult actors and, at times, hopeless stage hands to get performances far beyond those of other directors. The stunning results he dragged out of mediocre ensembles won enough praise to see him move, first to the West End, and then to TV within six years.

Steve had initially won Tony's respect after he had discovered Steve was the director behind Robert Nordstrom's last great original play 'Life After Cynthia', the tale of a middle aged divorcee who becomes a poet in order to fund his child's private education.

Steve had been racking his brains to work out what had happened with the show guests. Who had enough access to the show, and would have been party to both the listed guests schedule and the one that Gerald had clearly been pushing?

As he walked through the first few weeks shows in his mind, the answer came to him.


Nigel was a bit of an unknown to the rest of the crew. He had joined as Steve's assistant on his last show, and had done a good enough job to warrant keeping on. Yet he had always kept his personal life completely silent, even in an industry that thrived on gossip and rumour.

A few times Steve had asked Nigel about his past and his career, but Nigel had never provided more than a few token stories. The only one of note describing his attempts to get his second job with the independent production company Ubiquity.

Nigel walked into the super shiny office, covered head to toe in gloss white. Following a promising start working with the Scottish production house Eye Media, he had moved down to London in hopes of working on some larger projects. He had been invited to an interview for an assistant role with their Head of Regional Production, Gary White.

“Thank you for coming in Nigel. We are glad you would like to join us here at Ubiquity.”

“Very happy to be here Mr White, you produce some great shows.” Nigel replied, before lying. “I love Born in Sussex and Mackem County.”

“Excellent, you'd be surprised how many people start here and are unable to name a single of our programmes.”

Nigel laughed.

“They all watch them, they just don't pay any attention.” Gary continued with no visible glimpse of humour.

After a few basic questions, Gary got to the heart of the interview.

“So Nigel. What experience do you have?”

“Well, I've spent a eighteen months working at Eye Media, assisting the directors in a range of programmes including two of the best rated Scottish shows this year.”

“I see.” Gary looked thoughtful. “So what about here in London?”

“Well.” Nigel explained. “I've just moved here in order to gain more experience and challenge myself, with the aim of developing into a director one day.”

“I see. So you haven't done any work here in London then?”

“Not yet no.”

“Well that makes things difficult you see, if you haven't worked in London we can't really take a risk on you.”

“But I've got great references and a big list of skills from Eye Media, including those two incredibly popular Scottish shows.”

“Yes.” Gary explained. “But they are in Scotland, we are in London.”

“How is that different?”

“Well you see, the way things work here aren't the same.”

“In what way?”

“Well, you see we work in London, and..”

“But you are the head of regional shows?” Nigel interrupted in frustration.

“Yes, but we don't actually do any work outside of London. That would be stupid.”

Nigel looked bemused. “None?”

“Not really no.”

“So Made in Sussex?” Nigel enquired.

“Filmed in Dagenham.”

“Mackem County?”

“Shot in Clapham.”

“Well that's just ridiculous.” Gary remarked in anger.

“I'm afraid that's just the way it is.” Nigel shrugged.

“Well why can't you change it?”

“That's just the way things are.”

“You said that, but why?”

“Because... ooh, hang on a minute.” Gary's eyes lit up. “Where were you born?”


“Bugger. So very close.”

“Hang on, are you saying if I was born ten miles North you would be able to hire me?”

“I don't make the rules I'm afraid.”

“But you are the head of...”

“Nothing I can do.” Gary interrupted.

“But wait. How am I supposed to get experience in a London production company if you only hire people who already have London experience?”

“There are plenty of rubbish companies who'll hire any old so and so.” Gary remarked with an air of irritation.

“So you are saying you would rather I had worked at a shit company in London than a great one somewhere else?” Nigel asked, nearing the end of his tether.

“We do things differently in London.” Gary parroted.

“So I see. I'll show myself out.” Nigel growled before slamming the thin glass door, shattering it into 500 small pieces.

Gary tutted to himself. If Nigel had worked in London that door would still be in one piece.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

18. Meeting Yourself

“Tony James, meet Tony James.” Nigel announced, waving a piece of paper freshly printed from his laptop. Nigel's house was surprisingly large for someone of his position, a large semi detached house in Kensington with a modern but warm interior.

Tony stared at the piece of paper for a moment, took a deep breath, and started to read.

Tony James. (No relation.) Is a nasty sarcastic son of a bitch.


A deeply flawed character who had a very difficult childhood. Managing to fight his way through several very complex family situations to become a star, he took to heavily to drink and drugs. Instead of being able to control his anger and sarcasm, he is controlled by it.

“It's good, but I'm still not sure I will be able to do it well.”

Tony James has a massive ego, and believes anyone who doesn't live up to his high standards is an idiot.

“I hope this isn't me.”

You cross Tony James at your peril.


Tony sat and thought to himself for a while. “I'll give it a go, but I can't make any promises.”

Nigel grinned and replied. “That's all I can ask.”

“Are you getting revenge or me?!” Tony exclaimed.

“Both of us.”

“Why are you getting revenge?” Tony questioned.

“It's a long story. Maybe I'll tell you another time.” Nigel replied.


“So, are you going to get in character ready for the show?” Nigel changed the subject.

“Maybe. Though I don't think this Tony James is the one that should be seen in public.”

Tony thanked Nigel, and headed off down the street for his catch up with Abbie.

As Tony got onto the tube, he noticed several people staring at him.

Oh shit. I forgot my hair. He thought to himself.

Whilst not at the crazy heights it was during the show, the array of colours still remained, and were pretty difficult to disguise without a hat.

One of the people staring was a teenage girl, maybe 18 or 19, and dressed from head to toe in black, in fact, she looked rather like she was a member of Zombie Grave Diggers. Tony felt a little unnerved by the constant gaze of people, especially one who had so much metal on her that it must have weighed more than she did, however the young girl deliberately caught his attention and smiled.

A few moments later she stepped over to his side of the carriage. “Thank you Mr James.”

“What for?” He replied with a confused look.

“For being brave, and going out on live TV with crazy clothes and hair. For putting an amazing band that get no coverage or exposure in front of millions of people.” She explained. “All we see on TV are the same stupid reality stars, bland corporate pop bands and idiots. It was so nice to see something better.”

“Well I'm glad you liked it.” Tony replied with uncharacteristic shyness. He hadn't realised that there was a real audience for such crazy acts.

“It was really inspiring. People like me, we get ridiculed for being different, for liking things beyond what most people see on their screens. To be reminded we aren't alone is amazing.”

“Wonderful. I'm afraid the station didn't like it though, I don't think I'll be able to get any more good acts on soon.”

“That's a shame.”

“I will try though, and if not, keep watching young lady, I think you'll like it anyway.” Tony smiled a cheeky smile.

“I will. Thank you again.” She smiled back and went back to her seat.

Tony reached his stop, followed the mildly disordered queue out from the underground station, and set off towards his destination.

The Grill on Fifth was a nice little restaurant, with aspersions of being fine dining, but not yet the price tag to distinguish it for those with more money than sense. Sporting a sleek black design, and lots of warm wooden fittings it felt extremely cosy, the jazzy sounds heading across from the piano giving it the slight air of a high class cocktail bar.

Tony sat at the bar, Abbie had not yet arrived. He ordered a Shiraz and sipped at it whilst pondering his future. After a few minutes he started to wonder whether The Grill on Fifth might have been a little over the top for a catch up with Abbie, just as he realised it probably was, she walked in.

To say she looked good would have been an understatement, Abbie was wearing a pretty black dress, and her bright maroon hair was held up in an unusual, but interesting way. Tony managed to just about catch his jaw as it dropped, and shuffled his brain into getting up and saying hello.

“Hi Abbie, you look wonderful.” Tony gushed.

“Hiiiii Tony!” Abbie replied, giving him a great big hug. “Thank you dear, you look very smart!”

Whilst Tony's shirt and jacket didn't quite reach the giddy heights of artistic licence that it had on his show, it was certainly a bolder selection than he had been used to making. It also colour coordinated with his hair, an important bit of advice he had recalled Alison reading in a magazine a while ago.

Tony ushered Abbie across to their seats, sat at the closest table to the piano, whose player was currently on a break. They sat down, ordered their food and started to catch up on the preceding week.

“The show was brilliant. I just wish I had been there to see the look on Gerald's face when you appeared.”

“Same here. Though I think he missed it, there was no mention of it at all in our last meeting.”

“He missed it?” exclaimed Abbie. “Oh that's terrible. I hope you have something good planned for this week then.”

“I do, if I can pull it off.” Tony explained. “I have been given a new acting role for the show, Tony James, no relation of course, the bastard.”

“I... er... see.”

“We'll see how it goes, but as I can't escape it any other way I am just going to have some fun.”

“I'll drink to that Tony.” Abbie raised her glass, as did he, and they both sipped in anticipation.

“So how have you been Abbie?” Tony inquired. “Things going well?”

“Well, no not really.” Abbie explained. “I had a falling out with John, and I'm not sure that he is going to forgive me.”

“Oh, I'm so sorry.”

“He just doesn't trust me.” Abbie continued. “He hears things and sees me with people and just presumes the worst.”

“That's terrible.” Replied Tony as he realised what she meant, but wasn't saying. “I've had the same thing before, people see things and can't help letting it run all over their mind.”

“It's sad isn't it?” Abbie replied, realising what Tony meant, but wasn't saying. In actual fact, he hadn't meant what she thought, though it was an equally relevant example.

“Press rumours broke up my first marriage. They just kept printing more and more lies until my wife couldn't take it any more.”

“Oh Tony, that's so sad.” Abbie showed a sympathetic smile, and caught Tony's eyes to let him know she empathised. “They just don't care at all about people or their lives, only about sales and the money.”

“That's right, sadly.” Tony agreed. “I daren't even look at what they said about the show.”

“You are a good man. Things will come around and you will get karmic justice for what has happened.”

“You believe in karma?”

“Not particularly, but it seemed relevant.” Abbie laughed.

“Well I hope so in this case!” Tony replied. “Oh and with Gerald too... jeez. I never thought I would be the kind of person to have a list of enemies.”

“Well if I helps, I don't think you come across as a psychotic maniac.”

“Er... thanks! That's probably the weirdest compliment I have ever received Abbie.”

“Mw pwswrw.”




The piano player had subtly returned and started to play the loudest jazz funk that had ever been heard in a restaurant.

“THWW MUWWW WW A BWW LWWW!!” Tony tried desperately to be heard.

“I CAWW HWWW YWW!!” Abbie screeched

The two of them laughed, looked at each other and decided to try again.




“I SAID IT'S MY PLEASURE TO SAY YOU AREN'T A PSYCHOTIC MANIAC YOU DEAF BA..ahem..bastard!!” Abbie screamed at the top of her previously dainty voice with cheeky sarcasm, just as that particular piece of jazz funk came to an abrupt end.

Tony promptly fell head-first into a gigantic pit of giggles as he realised the whole floor was staring at the two of them, which caused Abbie to burst into slightly embarrassed nervous giggles. The pair just about managed to regain their composure as the first course arrived and the music started again.

“Who ordered the wwwwwwww?” The waiter asked.

Tony laughed and pointed to Abbie in the 50% chance that it was the right dish.

After a few moments, he waited for Abbie to look down at her food, and performed the most over the top jazz hands seen in a restaurant since the Pineapple Dance Studio Christmas Party.

Abbie looked up just as put the hands away. She looked puzzled and pulled a questioning face, before looking to the side to pick up her wine glass. As she did, the jazz hands returned.

She looked back with a silly look that said Caught you. Except she hadn't, Tony had removed them just in time and now wore a face of extreme innocence.

Abbie mocked a scowl and wagged her finger at him, causing Tony to feign even more exagerrated innocence, and Abbie to burst into giggles.

A few moments later after she regained her composure and started to eat again, Tony pulled out even bigger jazz hands, except this time she was ready. She turned and caught him right in the middle of the jazzification.

Tony stopped his hands, looked around as if to admit defeat, before very very slowly lowering his hands whilst still in jazz mode.

Half an hour later and they had finished their meal, enjoyed a good bottle of Rose, and barely been able to say a single word to each other since the piano started again. In a way though, they hadn't really needed to communicate, they were comfortable enough in each others company that the odd look or gesture said an awful lot, as did the jazz hands. Although at the end of the meal words became slightly more important again.

Tony decided not to try shouting, and instead searched his jacket for a pen. Finding one, he took the unused napkin from the next table and started to write.

Where shall we go next?

Abbie smiled and gestured for the pen, writing her reply.

Anywhere you like dear :)

Tony pulled his most over the top thinking face, including a single raised eyebrow which caused Abbie to burst out laughing.

Anywhere that doesn't have a piano is good! There's a great wine bar near my house, good drinks, but not as pretentious as in the city. Tony suggested.

Sounds lovely.

I'll ask for the bill then we'll head off.

Perfect. X


“Huhh?” Tony woke up groggily.


“Whh... what is it?”

“I think we need to talk.”

Sunday, November 11, 2012

17. Showdown

To say Tony was nervous about seeing Gerald was an understatement. On the one hand, he knew he had done an awful lot to piss him off, but on the other, he hadn't done enough to actually ruin the show. He figured he was likely to end up in some annoying middle ground where Gerald was angry but not angry enough to fire him and break the contract.

Nigel was also nervous, but secretly was looking forward to the possible showdown.

They walked through the reception to Gerald's big oak door. Tony knocked and awaited the usual call. “Come in gentlemen.” Nigel quietly mocked.

“Come in Gentlemen.” Gerald boomed.

Tony walked in with Nigel following closely behind. Tony's eyes wandered to the big shotguns on the wall. With their gently worn wooden handle and chunky barrels that appeared to go and on like the legs of a tall supermodel. He hoped they were going to stay on the wall, glancing back down to the bullet hole in the floor as they sat down.

“Great show gentlemen.” remarked Gerald. “I think that might be our best one yet.”

Tony and Nigel looked dumbfounded.

“Highly entertaining, and the guests were great if I do say so myself.” he continued.

“But.. what about?” Tony mumbled.

“What about the swearing? It's post watershed, people need to stop being babies about these things.” Gerald explained.

“But surely...”

“But surely we can do better? Very true gentlemen, and we shall. Next week I have lined up some fantastic guests, and the public are going to love it.”

Tony looked to Nigel, who looked equally puzzled.

“That is all gentlemen.” Gerald declared, sending them back out before they had even had time to get settled.

Tony and Nigel crept out of the giant doorway, closing the big door behind them while they tried to figure out what just happened.

“I bet he didn't watch it.” Nigel ventured as they walked into the car park.

Gerald leant back in his seat, chuckled, and lit a cigar.

Driving back from the office, Tony and Nigel were discussing their next move in surprisingly good spirits, Nigel seemed to bring out the positive side of Tony more than Steve ever had.

“I know a good pub we can go to.” Tony ventured. “One of the barman is the son of a dear old friend of mine.”

“That sounds good to me.” Nigel replied. “We need to work out our plan for next week, and I have an idea that will see us victorious Tony. Do you have any victory music?”

“Erm.” Tony thought for a moment. “I've got some A-Ha...”

Nigel laughed. “That's not what I was expecting. But sod it.”

For the next three minutes and forty five seconds, a small part of West London looked on bemusedly as a dark red BMW 5-Series passed them with it's occupants singing the work of Norway's finest pop band at the top of their voices, nodding their heads in early celebration.

“Taaaake onnn meeeeee.” sang Tony

“Taake on meee” echoed Nigel

“Taaaake meeee onnn.”

“I'llll beeee gonnnnnnee.”

Tony and Nigel looked at each other for a split second, they both took a deep breath and moved to an alarmingly high pitched falsetto, placing their hands in the air as the car passed a group of little old ladies.

“Innn a dayyy orrrrrrrrrrr twwwooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Just as the high note finished, the left wheel of the car clipped a kerb, and Tony quickly put his hands back on the wheel to correct it.

Tony drove Nigel back to his house, but they didn't venture inside, simply dropping the car off before heading into the city again on foot.

As they walked back to the pub where Patrick Woodward worked, Tony noticed the sign above the door that he had been too angry to see last time he visited. Written in a typical pub style with light silvery yellow letters was the name “The King James”.

The interior was decorated like most traditional pubs, lots of wood and greeny fabrics, but it had a cleanliness and character beyond the old style setting.

“Evening Patrick.” Tony announced their arrival. “How are you?”

“I'm good thanks Tone. What can I get you?” replied Patrick.

“Later, some ideas. But before that, two Merlots please.”

“Sure thing.”

Several drinks later, and Patrick had joined in with Tony and Nigel's discussion on the show.

“Right guys.” declared Nigel. “It's time to hear my idea.”

“Bring it on.” remarked Patrick.

“Tony here.” Nigel gestured with a sense of absurd sympathy. “He is too nice to be rude in front of his guests. But we need him to be rude in order to get his contract cancelled.”

“Everybody loves my politeness you know it all bastard!” Tony laughed.

“What about this?” Nigel continued. “You said your career was ruined regardless of what we do right?”

“Yes.” Answered Tony. “This isn't helping!”

“Patience friend.” Nigel gestured. “So what if we send you out with the finest bit of acting of your career?”

“You want me to present the show dressed as a transvestite with a Scottish accent?”

“Erm... not personally, we'll keep that one in the bank.” Nigel chuckled. “But what if you prove your acting skills by playing a total bastard?”

“I'm not sure I can. I know I'm good, but they don't call me Tony 'Nice Guy' James for nothing.”

“No one calls you that. Not ever.” added Patrick. “My dad called you Tony 'Elvis' James after your white suit phase in 1977, but never that.”

“Come on Tony!” Nigel started to get excited and exaggerate his words and gestures. “We'll create a full rounded character for you to play, a TV show host that is a complete and utter obnoxious prick, who just so happens to share your name.”

“I'm not convinced.” Tony responded.

“Come on Tone! If anyone can act like the dickhead that is Tony James, it's Tony James.” Patrick joked.

“Watch it.” Tony pointed at Patrick.

“You know it's a great idea Tony.” Nigel interjected. “You can wreck the show, demonstrate your acting skills, and still maintain your reputation as a great guy.”

Tony thought to himself for a moment.

“Go on!” Patrick nudged him.

“Ah go on then. I have nothing to lose anyway, and I hate the guests they keep giving me.” Tony explained. “Except for a couple of them who were okay I suppose.”

Nigel looked at Patrick and whispered. “Abbie.”

“Oi!” Tony growled jokingly.

“He's in love!” Nigel remarked.

“I am not! We're just friends. I have a girlfriend for goodness sakes!”

“Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.” Patrick added.

“Bastards... I'm just going to say nothing.” Tony sulked.

“You don't need to say anything, love is an emotional rollercoaster after all!” laughed Nigel.

“It's a bloody good job the other Tony James isn't here, he'd kick your disrespectful asses.” Tony growled slyly.

“That's the spirit!” Nigel retorted.