It is at this time of year that I spend more effort than is healthy avoiding some of the more ubiquitous delicacies on television. My rather pathetic written output of late is perhaps a little bit due to the fact I have to use so much of my energy making sure nothing pops up on my screen that has the potential to make me want to fist the TV set firmly into my neighbour’s living room. My rather pathetic written output of late is also much more likely due to the fact I am lazy and that I am wallowing in a small screen rut of my own making, but that shouldn’t allow television to get away scot-free. It is normally at this stage of the year that I become vaguely distracted by The Great British Bake Off, but while last year it had become a parody of repetition that occasionally caught my eye this year I have chosen a different tack and avoided it altogether. I did, admittedly, click on 4 the other night to see if it was worth a shot but it never got beyond being a background collage of nothing to the much more pressing business of a fiendish Sudoku.
There is a good chance that I will never watch another episode of TGBBO again, unless it is on repeat and I am drenched in my own urine, half asleep in my (until very recently) favourite care home armchair. But at least that slice of stale confection is still more or less digestible, which is more than can be said for my light entertainment nemesis: Strictly Come Dancing. Like a giant, glittery rhino turd SCD has become an unsinkable cultural behemoth, though I can say with some considerable pride that I have managed to watch a grand total of zero seconds of it this year; which is saying something since it appears to be on in some form or another for about half the BBC’s total weekly broadcast time. If it’s not the Saturday night show (which runs slightly longer than Gone With The Wind: The Director’s Cut) it’s the one where someone actually gets voted off on Sunday or it’s the behind the scenes/catching up with/the week in review/what to look out for next week special or the latest couple to get dumped (on account, perhaps, of an insurmountable three foot height difference) appearing on the Monday morning sofa to be lightly interrogated by whichever limp tissue occupies that slot these days. It appears to have become a tonic for an ailment I don’t have. I’m clearly missing something, but I know I’m not the only one.
In an ideal world SCD should be extinct. Rubbed out. Snuffed. It’s going to happen to all of us anyway, or at least that’s what David Attenborough (I can’t remember if he is a sir, a lord or an adopted member of the royal family) keeps on warning us about. He says it quite a lot on Frozen Planet 2, less a sequel than a remake of, er, Frozen Planet. It’s over a decade since the first one and if anything the planet is a lot less frozen than it was back then, though the animal action is much the same; just a bit warmer. Attenborough wants to send us a message about what we’ve done to nature, but he’s talking to two groups of people: people who care but know there isn’t much left that humans can do (as in realistically), and people who couldn’t give a fuck. To sugar this message we get treated to a few icebergs, slabs of lushly orchestrated drone flight, a crushingly dull colony of birds shitting all over each other and some top end mammal wrestling, the latter of which alone is enough reason to let the world drift away into oblivion. I don’t want to see hangry polar bears with bloodied fur slapping each other in front of the kids, or idle, corpulent, stinking-to-high-heaven gangs of walrus, belching one another into submission. I certainly don’t want to bring my dinner back up watching a seal that can blow a nostril out so it looks like it’s having a back-to-front prolapse. If you want me, personally, to save the world then television needs to do better.
It needs to do better in every respect. Comedies need to be funnier and dramas need to be more dramatic, not just be enough to fill the time. We need to have at least a couple of programmes that don’t have Richard Osman on. We need to have news about dead monarchs that doesn’t feature grown men crying and everyone saying the same stuff again and again and again until the lights go out. Come to think of it they need television that doesn’t stay up 24 hours a day. We need to live in a world where someone doesn’t become a national hero just because they’ve made a loaf of bread. We need to be able to turn on the TV knowing that there is a slight chance that Clive Myrie won’t be telling us what he thinks about something we weren’t really all that interested in. And we definitely need to enjoy the luxury of a world where University Challenge isn’t about to to swap Jeremy Paxman for Amol Rajan. But then I don’t get to decide these things, because who’s to say my taste is any better than yours? That’s it, I don’t have anything else for now, it was just an excuse to write something for a change and not spend all my time looking for the good television that doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Not that I won’t keep trying. It’ll take my mind off the end of the world.
G B Habanero. 02.10.2022