Nosey neighbours ask me what I do all day long, my quick answer that conveys mysteries beyond their ken is”computers and stuff” which is usually enough to divert them from the truth. Truth is, I am hiding under the duvet or did for most of 2011 when I am not watching television. The baby boomers is the first generation to have always had television and have watched the service mutate from a not really important two snowy black and white channels into a room dominating shiny appliance that offers an array of channels from all over. The UK has gone digital which means that the availe choice is far greater now and in colour. Good or bad, it’s the message, not the medium. As a matter of priciness and poverty, I do not pay Mr Branson or Mr Murdoch for my television, instead taking what I can get from Freeview and Freesat. The various catchup services and iPlayer are a boon for this telly addict – can always aid procrastination by finding something to watch 24×7 although sometimes in the wee hours it it is BBC News or Al Jazeera and little else.
I do plan what I’ll be watching a bit mostly by consulting http://www.tvguide.co.uk/ and its phone equivalent though I tend to ignore the rating numbers and form my own views about what to watch. There are some constants such as the two regional news offerings which do local good news stories but also offer the occasional tranche of good hard news stories when the presenters prove that they are not just telegenic presenters but actual working journalists. Channel 4 News of course – the others tend to be more the presenters of press releases by government and corporations. I have been known to look at Sky News but it really is dire – just what one would expect from the News Corporation. The television is set to show these programmes automatically: you can imagine may dismay when this autonetics scheduling was serious interfered with by broadcasters’ lazys sops to Christmas and New Year and the annual fight for viewing figures supremacy.
My regularly watched soaps are Casualty, Holby City and, shh, don’t tell anyone, EastEnders But some times there’s a broader point being made for example Casualty broke the issue of dodgy breast implants long before the scandal about the use of industrial rather than medical grade silicone. The two hospital dramas do provide some sort of insight into contemporary NHS health care. By comparison, EastEnders provides little more than a nod to any kind of social information provision Every time the programme ventures way from the main set its handling of police, ambulance, hospital, prison really is fanciful and not be be taken at all seriously but perhaps that’s the point? Whatever, it might be tosh but it is very well made tosh,owing its people to presenting human dysfunctionally at a level to which most people can smile smugly with th satisfaction of being able to think “well, at least my life is not as screwed up as theirs”.
Which is part of the unwritten contract between viewers and broadcasters? I have been watching television for so long that production values are important. Anyone who’s watched much daytime television would probably understand. ITV3 gets away with so many repeats of programmes like Heartbeat and Poirot not such much because of the flashy plotting but because they are well made and well acted. I wonder if people like David Suchet and David Lonsdale are paid for their share for each repeat showing? I hope so.
There are some programmes that I make sure I never see although thanks to Twitter, it’s impossible to not know what is happening in stuff like Strictly Come Dancing, The X factor and all the other prime time opiates for the masses and, get this, as well as being paid by the broadcasters, the production companies make a fortune from all the viewers’ vote phone calls. Licence to print money or what? I don’t envy Simon Cowell his largesse, good luck to him, I just wish I had thought of the concept.
As well as avoiding the “celebrity stuf there are other programmes that I avoid at all costs: the two most offensive are “The Jeremy Kyle Show” and “Deal Or No Deal” Jermy Kyle is just nasty and gets off on the forced confrontations that require the intervention of his burly minders to ‘caln’ confrontations that he has provoked for the vicarious delight of the viewing audience, Noel Edmonds first showed his true colours with Mr Blobby and further plumbs the depths of TV entertainment. Puke