originally published February 17, 2012

Today I’m writing reality-show style, since the genre of reality shows looks like it will never go away. Also, the shows have become so low-concept lately, it doesn’t seem that much of a stretch for me to vote off the lesser contestants until I can find the best George Cole in history.

By ‘best’, I mean I’ll be utilizing a meticulous mathematical formula, balancing accomplishments with historical perspective, cultural impact and societal benefits to attain a conclusive result of which guy named George Cole just seems like he was the George Cole-est.

There are ten George Coles on the list: the actor, the musician, the football player, the Australian, the US politician, the political theorist, the British officer, the cricketer, the other US politician, and the painter.

 I’m going to start by voting off the cricketer. I don’t understand cricket, and besides, this guy only played in seven matches. He scored 122 runs and had a batting average of 11.09 and I DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS! He’s off the damn island.

Next, and I don’t mean to pick on the sports guys here, but the football player has to go. George Cole played quarterback for Arkansas in the late 20’s, and set a single-season scoring record that stood for nearly 40 years, which is awesome. But he never went pro, and when he returned to Arkansas as a coach, his record was a paltry 3-7. Pack your bags, football-Cole, and weep at the camera about how close you and the other contestants came, and how you can’t believe you were stabbed in the back.

George Edward Cole goes next, the US politician. He served in Congress as a Representative of Washington Territory from 1863 to 1865, not even showing up on the ticket for the next election. Okay, he was appointed Governor of Washington for about three months, and was the Postmaster of Portland (which would have been a great ‘King Of Kensington’-type sitcom), but his resume honestly doesn’t impress me. He may have rocked a beard that looked like a fluffy brick was exiting his chin, but sorry George E. Cole. Clearly fear is a factor for you. Get out.

George ‘the British Army guy’ Cole actually could have gone a little earlier. I wasn’t sure about him – on the one hand, his story is rather dull and uninspiring, but on the other, at least he wasn’t a cricket player. Probably a fan though. I’m now wishing he’d gone before fuzzy-brick-face.

This particular George Cole served in the British Expeditionary Force in WWII. These guys were stationed in France in 1939-40, and were systematically driven back as the Nazis moved in. So… they lost. Cole prevailed though, and was promoted to Commander of his own regiment before the war’s end. Cole was an officer for life at that point, climbing through the ranks to become Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff before his retirement in 1967. He received the Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath decoration, which presumably means that he memorized the complex formula of ‘lather, rinse, repeat.’

He sounds like an accomplished guy, but I’m afraid he’s last to the checkpoint, and he has been eliminated from the Incredible Race. The Incredible Race of George Coles.

Wait a second, what’s that painter still doing here? George Vicat Cole almost made it into the top five by staying under the radar, not pissing anyone off. The most notable thing about GVC is that he wasn’t especially great at his job. He never wowed the public, and seldom prompted more than a shrug and a ‘meh’ from critics in his time. He painted dull landscapes that the Victorian-era public thought were passable, and snagged himself a sweet gig at the Royal Academy to ensure he wouldn’t go hungry. GVC, for the crime of not being especially brilliant, you are no longer in the running for the Project Runway winning… thing… I don’t know how they kick people off that show, never mind.

Australian politician George Ronald Cole is next to take the walk of shame. He played Aussie Rules Football in his youth, which is awesome, but he won the ‘Best and Fairest’ trophy in 1928. The best and fairest are never the most interesting ones to watch in Aussie Football, so screw this guy. In his defense, he married a hairdresser named Cuttriss, so he gets a few points there. He was elected to the Australian senate in 1950, got kicked out of his party and helped to form the Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist), whose platform was conveniently shoved between parentheses in the party’s name. I honestly don’t know how this guy made it this far in this competition. Aussie George, you are not the Biggest Loser, but you’re still a big loser. So get out.

The final four. These George Coles have been through a lot together. They’ve fought, hugged, possibly engaged in some lewd behavior, and no doubt viewers are dying to know who gets kicked out next.

That would be George Cole, the actor. He’s a British actor, so chances are you’ve never seen anything he’s done (assuming my audience is mostly North-American), unless you remember the 1951 film production of A Christmas Carol, starring Alistair Sim. George Cole played the young Scrooge, the one who ditched his true love and whittled away his morals so that he and Marley could become rich. He played his part well, and I’m sure he was delightful in the ITV show Minder, but I’m afraid this George Cole has just been evicted.

George Cole, the other US politician, made it this far partly because he looks like this:

2019 Note: George Bell’s presence on the internet (including Wikipedia) has been mostly wiped, due to a scandal that had not yet surfaced when I wrote this article. Fuck this guy. Bring back beard-brick-face.

In the early 70s, Cole moved into the city of Bell, California, which is located right between East L.A. and Compton. As the city became more Hispanic and more gang-y, Cole opted not to leave but instead to run for mayor. He served from 1984 to 2008 and retired as one of the most respected politicians in the area. Sure, America has spoken, and Cole won’t get to sing in the finale, but I think we should give him some applause. It’s partly because of him that the name ‘Bell’ is not synonymous with ‘violent crime.’

Down to the final two, the British thinker and the musician. The final decision sides against the musical Cole. This Cole was born in 1960 and grew up a fan of jazz. He fronted something called Beatnik Beatch with Warren Zevon, and found himself playing with people like Joe Walsh, Ringo Starr, Robert Cray and Boz Scaggs. Perhaps most impressive is his stint as a guitar teacher. He served as a decade-long mentor to Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, and also taught the band’s bass player, Mike Dirnt. For contributing so much to the pop-punk world, he makes it to #2, but I’m afraid that, George Cole, you’re dismissed.

GDH Cole, the British political theorist, wins because he’s an interesting guy. He was a conscientious objector in the Great War, then went on to write books on economic concerns as well as historical biographies. He taught as a professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford. But he was also a socialist, and a long-time member of the Fabian Society.

He was a strong influence on future Prime Minister Harold Wilson, advocated participatory democracy and… he wrote detective novels?

Yes, the guy who published The Regulation of Wages During And After The War and Introduction to Economic History 1750-1950 also penned Death In The Quarry. He wrote 34 detective novels in total, right around the time when Dashiell Hammett was making Sam Spade a household name.

For being the most versatile of George Coles, I grant supremacy and victory to this guy. Join us next season, for the 19-part series in which we find the most awesome John Smith.

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