TV can be a place for excitement and art and joy and knowledge.
Remember The Singing Detective? Quatermass? House of Cards, or Edge of Darkness?
What about BlackAdder, or The Sopranos, or Our Friends In The North?
Oranges are Not The Only Fruit?
Of those, only Doctor Who remains (and it’s close cousin, Sherlock, which is often described as “Doctor Who for adults”, but which is essentially Doctor Who without the TARDIS).
Now all of that is gone, and our schedules are caked in shite. Too many channels spreading too little budget and talent far too thinly. I spent a good portion of last night searching for something – anything – worth watching. I have access to 50 channels. Not one of them showed anything good.
Instead, they showed variations on the following tropes.
The football programme
Thank God our airwaves are filled with this. If they didn’t regularly tell us that we had to be excited about Who Is Best At Kicking Things, we’d never feel obliged to pay £250,000 a week to Wayne Rooney.
Except, of course, we already know Who Is Best At Kicking Things. They have a competition once every four years to decide it. It’s called The World Cup. Apparently right now Spain are Best At Kicking Things, and will be until someone new is decided in 2014.
When scientists prove something in an experiment, they don’t keep on experimenting. Isaac Newton didn’t slump under a tree being bombarded with apples for 90 minutes every Saturday afternoon. So why the endless testing of Who Is Best At Kicking Things? And why does it have to be on my TV?
The reality programme
Perhaps the drugs have permanently altered my reality, but I’m rarely – if ever – locked in a house with 12 flamboyant strangers, or bellowed at by Alan Sugar if I fail to sell enough raspberry jam. For me, reality is getting up, drinking tea, working, and watching TV. If I’m lucky, I’ll find the energy to masturbate, but I don’t think that makes great television: it even repulses me, it’d certainly make your entire stomach leap out of your mouth, like a toad.
I’m sick of reality. Peter Bazalgette is responsible, he’s the dementor who brought us Big Brother. His great-great Grandfather was Sir Joseph Bazalgette, inventor of London’s sewer system. One generation pumps shit out of our lives, another pumps it right back in.
The soap programme
I saw the last 30 seconds of EastEnders once. A man with a head like a radish was wheezing “Get dahn them stairs, you slaaaag” at a crying woman. Apparently, this is pretty much all that happens in EastEnders.
I once had to sit through a whole episode of Coronation Street. It consisted of one-dimensional camp stereotypes talking about a sex change operation. Apparently, this is pretty much standard for Corrie too.
I haven’t seen Emerdale. I doubt I’m missing anything.
But if I was missing anything, I’m sure I could catch up. Corrie has been on TV for [checks watch] fifty-thousand years, and I’m sure I could catch up on the plot in less than a week. Which tells you something about how utterly wasted those last fifty-thousand years were. Nothing of note happened. So why make it?
The cooking programme
Cooking is a chore. You do it because you have to eat. Sometimes you do it well, and sometimes you stab the film lid on a lasagne and bung it in the microwave.
What’s next: the ironing programme? Five amateur ironers line up to be abused and judged by Rosemary Jewelcase, who irons the Duchess of Kent’s knickers and is a world-renowned expert in getting to that awkward bit in the middle of a double duvet cover? Oh, fuck off with your cooking programme.
The quiz programme
I’ve got little-or-no problem with a proper quiz. University Challenge. Only Connect. Mastermind. You get people in a room. and ask them stuff. But why do we have to have over seven hundred of the bloody things, with seven hundred minutely different formats?
And why do they all have to have celebrity specials? What’s so good about the bloke who tells you the weather during the graveyard shift on News 24? Why is he a celebrity? If you want a celebrity show, get Jack Nicholson and Kofi Annan to make up a team on Pointless. If it’s just some bloke you spotted in the BBC canteen, that really is pointless.
The cop programme
He’s a rebel. He doesn’t follow the rules.
Or he’s got a unique insight into the dastardly mind of the serial killer.
Or he lives in the 1950s, even though it’s present day.
Or he drives an interesting car and listens to jazz.
Or he’s a she, or Welsh, or non-white. Good God, whatever next?
Occasionally it’s a procedural show, which purports to show what the police actually do, but somehow always ends up with an office affair, and never with a complaint about sexual harassment or a bribe from News International.
Or they’re American, and exist in crime HQ which is moodily lit by the police’s own crack team of cinematographers, and employs only devastatingly good-looking people… except for one cranky actor in his twilight years, who is brought in to lend a sheen of respectability to the whole farce. Oh, and they always have magic computers which solve the crime for them in exactly 1 hour (minus 18 minutes of adverts).
The only genuinely great TV cop show is The Wire, which isn’t about cops really – it’s about a whole city, the drugs industry, and the failure of capitalism. The rest of them are just episodic disappointments.
The property programme
Are you rich, middle-aged, middle class, white, married, and own an architectural practice or have recently retired? Do you own a vast house in Surrey, and need to sell it to buy an even vaster house in Norfolk, plus a flat in Kensington?
Then we’ve got the perfect show for you!
The rest of us can just fuck off.
Did you know – and this is genuinely a fact – that a person on an average wage needs to save 50% of their disposable income for 47 years to afford the deposit on an average-priced house? But the previous generation did just fine, thank you, and now they’re being shown around palatial villas by unctuous bastards like Phil and Kirsty, both of whom are major donors to the Tory party, and relish the vast inequality their industry and their politics have thrust upon the rest of us. Phil? Kirsty? Come here, I have a guillotine with your name on it.
The science programme
You know who watches programmes about science? Clever people who like a mental challenge. You know who doesn’t? Stupid people who like to be spoon fed.
So why make science programmes for idiots? They won’t watch them, and the people who do want to watch them end up feeling short-changed and patronised. How many times do we need Brian Cox to tell us that the universe is big? We know it’s big. Explain the maths behind leptons, or get off my fucking TV.
The arts programme
Oh good, here’s Andrew Graham-Dixon with the latest news about all the arts that are happening in London. And here’s Clemency Burton-Hill, with more news about all the music events that are happening in London. Wait, here comes Mark Kermode, telling us about the film events happening in London. Followed by Tom Dykoff, telling us about the architectural celebrations happening in London.
London London London London London (brief pause for Edinburgh) London London London London London.
Thank the sweet lord for all that arts coverage. Oh, one small comment: fuck off.
The panel programme
Jimmy Carr says some hilarious things about fat politicians, or about female politicians who don’t meet his standard of hotness and availability for anal sex. The guest presenters have their reactions carefully edited to appear mildly shocked. No amount of editing can prevent the team captains from looking bored, but they fulfil their contractual obligations, and everyone feels good about things except for everybody not paid to appear on the programme.
Come back next week, when exactly the same thing will happen, but this time with Jamelia instead of Lorraine Kelly.
The dancing and singing programme
Oh, can I even be bothered? Is there any bile to spew about this that hasn’t already been spewed. Mind you “second-hand intestinal discharge” is a fair description of this crass bullshit.
Simon is the Karaoke Sauron, and must be destroyed. I suspect that his “ring” already is. I’d have respect for him if he’d just come out, but having all that power and money and influence, and still being in the closet just stinks. What’s the opposite of a role-model? Well, that’s Simon.
I don’t care which minor celebrity dances better than another minor celebrity, or which once-proud newsreader or politician is now being dragged around the dancefloor by a brillianteened Russian gigalo. But I’m actually too tired to even be angry about it any more. I just want it all to end. Please, I’m begging you, make it end.