Is it time we switched off from re­al­ity TV?

The Sligo Champion - - OPINION - With Grace Larkin

IT was with a groan that I watched the ad for sea­son 15 of X Fac­tor. Fif­teen years of oohing and aaing over the cute lit­tle child with the as­tound­ing voice. Fif­teen years of be­ing amazed by the tal­ented teenager and fif­teen years of think­ing maybe you’ve still got it when you see the mid­dle aged granny belt­ing out the rock bal­lads.

But for me it marked the end, in fact it marked the end a cou­ple of years ago. Try as I might, I could no longer find any joy or sur­prise from it. In fact the sad­der the tale of the con­tes­tant, the more it an­noyed me. Where once there was em­pa­thy, there was now noth­ing but the press­ing of a but­ton to change the chan­nel. For me, the once fab­u­lous for­mula has passed its sell by date and it is time to put it in the bin.

It made me think back to my child­hood week­end TV view­ing. I say week­end as there was re­ally not much on in the evenings for kids or if there was we didn’t know as it was par­ent tele­vi­sion time, so the week­ends it was.

In Ire­land there were a few stal­warts. There was Mur­phy’s Mi­cro Quiz – M, which you al­ways hoped your fam­ily was smart enough to be on, Where in the World, where you hoped your hair would one day be as fab­u­lous as Teresa Lowe’s and Mu­sic Tele­vi­sion USA which was on a Sun­day af­ter­noon and made you feel like Amer­ica was on the other side of the gal­axy as noth­ing about any of the videos had any­thing in com­mon with Ire­land what­so­ever.

For chil­dren there were the few Ir­ish made pro­grammes. Bosco, who you pre­tended to hate once it wasn’t cool to bring your pup­pet into school any­more, although you se­cretly watched it and won­dered was not be­ing able to sing a pre-req­ui­site to be a pre­sen­ter.

There was Mary Fitzger­ald’s Make and Do, which I never made or did but felt if I had the nec­es­sary pipe clean­ers and PVC glue, would have ex­celled at.

But for all Ir­ish homes on a Sun­day evening, it wasn’t about re­al­ity; it was about es­cap­ing to a small vil­lage in Wick­low. As soon as the mu­sic for Glen­roe started I knew this was my last half hour of be­ing al­lowed to stay up.

If the home­work wasn’t done, it was too late now and as my par­ents were en­grossed, it was a good time to sneak the last few sweets of the week­end. It was a funny kind of show. You had the glam­orous old cou­ple you al­ways hoped you’d turn into, Dick and Mary Byrne and then the cou­ple you hoped you’d never turn into, the can­tan­ker­ous Biddy and the brow bet Mi­ley.

Oh but it kept up with the times. I al­ways hated Terry for be­ing Dick’s bit on the side. It never oc­curred to me to hate Dick for cheat­ing on Mary. And who could for­get the hor­ror when we were treated to a shot of Mi­ley rolling in the hay with Fidelma, sure it was the talk of the play­ground!

None­the­less, we en­joyed this es­cape from re­al­ity.

We didn’t feel af­ter watch­ing it that we needed to have the best house, all have the same hair­styles and all lis­ten to the same mu­sic. We took it for what it was and got on with our lives.

With the ad­vent of re­al­ity TV has come an unreality; the be­lief that we should all have the same things and with­out them you are some kind of fail­ure.

And so when X Fac­tor ap­pears on my tele­vi­sion again next Satur­day I’ ll be switch­ing over to some­thing that gives my kids a break from the glitz, glam and gaudi­ness of what is meant to be ‘re­al­ity’.

Robbie Wil­liams, Ayda Field, Louis Tom­lin­son and Si­mon Cow­ell dur­ing The X Fac­tor 2018 launch.

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