I feel I’ve written something exactly like this before. If so then sincere apologies. Like the subject involved I made no promise to be either original or good.
While Wifey sits in the living room sorting out her toot and flotsam and watching the ever decreasing circle of entertainment that is Strictly Come Dancing I realise I am caught between the rumble of the washing machine and the ecstatic, futile cheers of a crowd for whom watching a person they have barely heard of pretend to dance has suddenly become the pinnacle of their adult life. By my own rule of thumb if you have heard of more than half of the contestants on that show then you watch far too much TV. And sometimes is a bad time for having been burdened with catch up TV. Where would be without catch up TV? Is there ever a point over the weekend when Strictly Come Dancing isn’t on TV? Will TV be the end of us all? It’s possible, when you think about it.
Has culture really allowed us to get so stodgy that we can catch up on TV that we would have watched but didn’t because we were watching other TV? Is anything really worth that much effort? It just creates a cloying vortex of sub-mediocrity that I fear is becoming inescapable. We’ve only just finished series one of Peaky Blinders (very good, but has its flaws) and even that has taken a couple of weeks because we’ve been distracted by the second series of Motherland (not as good as the first series but definitely better than the second series of Fleabag, which has instantly become the most over-rated programme ever, more on which later).
It says a lot our our sloth that a programme like Gogglebox even has the cheek to exist. We occasionally find ourselves being drawn into Gogglebox; dragged onto the rocks by TV’s distinctly less glamorous version of the siren – more like a haunted, toothless crack whore croaking a nursery rhyme for her next fix. And I always feel a bit dirty when we switch it off. Do we really need to watch a programme that features other people watching other programmes and sharing their frequently worthless opinions? Of course we don’t, but we watch it because we’d like to think we could do a better job and then, if that dream comes true, get invited to the TV Choice Awards and get snapped with Kerry Katona and Dean Gaffney. Fuck me, whatever that is it’s certainly not a dream.
For a more grown up TV experience I expect you might look towards stuff like The Crown, but I can’t see the appeal of watching a rolling dramatization of the lives and loves and remarkable lack of any tangible achievement of the jammiest, yet most miserable family on earth. I doubt even Olivia Coleman will save that, though I’m starting to think perhaps even she has tipped over the edge; from being very good to being very over exposed to being very over-praised. I hope not because it’s a shame when the good become deified.
And that takes us back to Fleabag, the first series of which was quirky and witty and perfectly watchable but was then overshadowed by a second series that deserved none of the praise that was shitted all over it. I thought it was muddled and lazy and played far too often to its weakest links. But the damage was done, and shockingly fast. Enough faintly important people said it was the best thing since cunnilingus and that was it. A TV halo was suspended above Phoebe Waller Bridge’s rapidly expanding head and there it will doubtless stay until someone has the balls to admit they were wrong. Of all my TV opinions this is the one I am prepared to stick to until my heart monitor levels out: Fleabag is the perfect example of how we’ve been stroked gently into a TV coma – and when we wake up Strictly Come Dancing will probably still be on.
G B Hewitt. 20.10.2019