The “spring breakers” hit Cancun. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Escape to Mexico: the locals brace themselves for the arrival of the “spring breakers”

The horror, the horror.

Escape to Mexico
Overseas Radio Network
 

In the villages along the beaches of south-eastern Mexico, local people are bracing themselves for the Easter influx of young Americans known, with a shudder, as the “spring breakers”. My friend Clementino, who shines shoes in Cancún, swaps horror stories about it all day long and says even his mother back in Xcalak (population 375) has heard tales about “crazy people on the streets”. On the weekly show Escape to Mexico (Wednesdays, 4pm), the fiftysomething expat presenter, Henry Altman, retired from selling luxury golf course homes in Texas, ostensibly defends the hordes. “They’re nice kids, ya know! OK, some of them do get a little buzzed, get too loud and . . . stuff happens.”

Then he tells a long story – complex, meandering and quite possibly furious – about a bachelor party from New York that came to stay a few doors down from him in his gated community and invited him for a T-bone but got too drunk to spark up the barbecue until 1am, just as Henry was preparing to go to bed. “That was a pretty funny incident,” says Henry, sadly.

It’s the classic fiftysomething American-in-Mexico conundrum. Ah, to be Willem Dafoe in Born on the Fourth of July, staring adventure squarely in the eye, with a tequila worm between the teeth and a dusky chica unzipping one’s combats – instead of helplessly referring to fellow expats as “the private sector” and ordering room service to the condo where you enjoy jazz records and work on a painting that is provisionally entitled Moon Over the Dance Floor.

So the show goes on, turning every thought to the whys and wherefores of Colorado teenagers speeding along the Yucatán sands in ATVs at the tail end of a six-day bender, off their heads on coco locos and industrial solvents, with their feet hooked in the steering wheel and some blondes on the back peeling off their boob tubes.

Eventually, over an hour into the show, Henry changes the subject, turning to another of his favourite themes: guns, which he’s all for in theory, but then again . . . “Ya know, I ask myself sometimes, does a person actually need 10,000 rounds of ammunition in banana clips, just sitting around? They do not! Hey – here’s Ron, calling from Durable Goods in Tulum . . .”

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 19 March 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Russia's Revenge

HELEN SLOAN / THE FALL 3 LTD
Show Hide image

The Fall is back - and once again making me weary

Five more episodes to go, after which its “feminist” writer (his word, not mine), Allan Cubitt, should pull the plug on it at last. Plus: Damned.

It is with much weariness that I return to The Fall (Thursdays, 9pm), the creepy drama that still doesn’t know whether it wants to be a horror-fest or a love story. I’ve written in the past about what I regard as its basic misogyny – to sum up, it seems to me to make a fetish of the violence committed against women, a preoccupation it pathetically tries to disguise by dint of its main character being a female detective – and I don’t propose to return to that theme now. However, in its early days, it was at least moderately gripping. Now, though, it appears to be recovering from some kind of nervous breakdown. If in series two the plot was wobbling all over the place, series three has misplaced the idea of drama altogether. Nothing is happening. At all.

To recap: at the end of the last series, Paul Spector, aka the Belfast Strangler (Jamie Dornan), had been shot while in police custody, somewhat improbably by a man who blames him for the demise of his marriage (oh, that Spector were only responsible for breaking up a few relationships). On the plus side for his supposed nemesis, DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), before he fell he led them to Rose Stagg, the ex-girlfriend he’d locked in the boot of a car some days previously, and she is going to live. On the minus side, Spector’s injuries are so bad, it’s touch and go whether he’ll survive, and so Gibson may never see him brought to justice. Of course, the word “justice” is something of a red herring here.

The real reason she wants Spector to live is more dubious. As she stared at his body in the ICU, all tubes and monitors, her expression was so obviously sexual – her mouth opened, and stayed that way, as her eyes ran over every part of his body – that I half expected her to reach out and stroke him. Just in time for this nocturnal visit, she’d slipped into another of her slinky silk blouses that look like poured cream. (Moments earlier – think Jackie Kennedy in 1963 – she’d still been covered in her love object’s blood.)

The entire episode took place at the hospital, police procedural having morphed suddenly into Bodies or Cardiac Arrest. Except, this was so much more boring and cliché-bound than those excellent series – and so badly in need of their verisimilitude. When I watch The Fall, I’m all questions. Why doesn’t Stella ever tie her hair back? And why does she always wear high heels, even when trying to apprehend criminals? For how much longer will the presumably cash-strapped Police Service of Northern Ireland allow her to live in a posh hotel? Above all, I find myself thinking: why has this series been so acclaimed? First it was nasty, and then it was only bad. Five more episodes to go, after which its “feminist” writer (his word, not mine), Allan Cubitt, should join Gibson in the ICU, where together they can ceremonially pull the plug on it at last.

Can Jo Brand do for social workers in her new comedy, Damned, what she did a few years ago for geriatric nurses in the brilliant Getting On? I expect she probably can, even though this Channel 4 series (Tuesdays, 10pm), co-written with Morwenna Banks and Will Smith, does have an awfully inky heart. Hungry children, drug-addict parents, a man who can go nowhere without his oxygen tank: all three were present and correct when Rose (Brand) went to visit a client who turned out to be a woman who, long ago, had nicked her (Rose’s) boyfriend. Ha ha? Boohoo, more like.

Damned is basically The Office with added family dysfunction. Al (Alan Davies) is a hen-pecked wimp, Nitin (Himesh Patel) is a snitch, and Nat (Isy Suttie) is the stupidest and most annoying temp in the Western world. This lot have two bosses: Martin (Kevin Eldon), a kindly widower, and Denise (Georgie Glen), the cost-cutting line manager from hell. And Rose has a plonker of an ex-husband, Lee (Nick Hancock). “I’ve been invited to the Cotswolds for the weekend,” he told her, trying to wriggle out of looking after the children. “Is that why you look like a knob?” she replied.

Jerky camerawork, naturalistic acting, a certain daring when it comes to jokes about, say, race: these things are pretty familiar by now, but I like it all the same.

Rachel Cooke trained as a reporter on The Sunday Times. She is now a writer at The Observer. In the 2006 British Press Awards, she was named Interviewer of the Year.

This article first appeared in the 29 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, May’s new Tories