You’ve Been Tubed: from Fenton the Dog to The Muppets

This week's - FENTON! - five best viral video - FENTOOOON! - clips


The viral video of the year, let alone the week. A black Labrador called Fenton gets loose in Richmond Park, south-west London, and chases some deer, followed by his angry owner. A teenager called Jake Goodyear who was idly filming deer on his phone captures the incident. So what? But Fenton’s cultural impact, starting on Monday morning but going intergalactic on Tuesday, is hard to overestimate. 


Jesus Christ in Richmond Park, to use the YouTube clip’s oblique title, is no less than a comedy masterclass. There are few things funnier than middle-aged men losing their rag – the classic situation is a botched DIY project, but a disobedient dog is even better. There’s obvious comedy value in an animal running amok, and in the shock ending of the deer running into the road (but not being hit – that would be less funny). 

Plus there’s the fact that this was filmed in the middle of one of Britain’s most affluent areas, where super-comfortable people parade around in their waxed jackets, smugly walking their Labradors in the park before getting into their massive Range Rovers and driving home to their huge houses. Watching one of them desperately legging it across the grass, screaming “Jesus Christ!” like Edward Woodward at the end of The Wicker Man, is – let’s face it – brilliant. It bears repeated viewing. 1.5 million views, last time we checked. 

What’s more, Fenton! (as it surely should be called) is a lesson in comic film-making. Watch as the director, 13-year-old Jake Goodyear from Holloway, north London – for it is he holding the Android phone – stays on the relaxed deer for a few seconds, building anticipation before the first cries of “Fentoooon!” are gradually heard. Then Goodyear pans across to see more deer, then a stampede which is allowed to develop for a few seconds before the perfectly timed reveal of the dog, the owner, and a car screeching to a halt as the deer career across the road. Textbook. 

A steaming herd of spoofs followed. Enough, in fact, to do a top five: 1) Jurassic Park 2) Frozen Planet 3) Chariots of Fire 4) An American Werewolf in London 5) Mars Attacks! And can you buy the t-shirt and download the ringtone? Yes, you can.

Fenton! even came with a mystery attached: was the dog called Fenton, or Benton? The poor sound quality meant it could be either, although this column always thought it was Fenton. A handful of dangerous weirdos even said it was Benson. Christian O’Connell’s Absolute Radio breakfast show cleared it up by tracking down and interviewing the film-maker’s dad. Not that it matters – Fenton doesn’t come back, whatever you shout at him. 

Fenton’s owner remains at large, perhaps worried about the prospect of prosecution. That’s despite the Daily Telegraph sending at least one hopeful hack to knock on doors in Sheen – the area of London with a park entrance nearest to the spot where Fenton! was filmed – asking for, er, leads. O’Connell struck again, however, by finding a man who claimed to be Fenton’s regular dog walker.

Of course, these cultural kinks have a limited shelf-life, and anyone shouting “Fenton!” in the office on Monday should be ruthlessly shunned. But this week, Fenton – Christ! Fenton! – ruled the world.

2. Quiet riot

The global Occupy movement was gifted with a galvanising visual meme when student protesters at the University of California Davis were caught on film being pepper-sprayed by police as they sat peacefully on the ground. But this is even more striking: following the incident, the university’s chancellor Linda Katehi – who has since said the police defied her instructions – emerged from her office to be met by crowds of students. Showing extraordinary collective resolve, the kids expressed their disapproval in a highly unusual but very powerful way.

3. A year in five minutes

This week’s entry in the “put it on full screen, inhale deeply and let your mind visit Jupiter” section: a 20×18 grid, each box containing time-lapse footage of a single day filmed from a roof in San Francisco. They’re in chronological order, so you can watch the seasons change in front of you, man. Amazing.

4. iHate

Yes, it’s an advertisement for an enormous technology company, so you expect slickness and a dose of smugness, but this is unusual: Samsung’s new ad for their latest big clever phone openly and viciously rips the mickey not just out of Apple, but out of the people who think they’re cool for buying Apple products and who queued for hours to get the iPhone 4S. More of this raging, hate-filled advertising warfare, please.

5. Kermit, You’ve Got It Going On


The loveliest clip of the week: Bret McKenzie, the even lovelier of the two lovely members of Flight of the Conchords, rehearses for the upcoming Muppets film (on which he’s the music supervisor) by singing a rough duet with Kermit, at the piano. Lovely.