Is it time we switched off from reality TV?
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.