Jackie Bird’s Col­umn ...................................

“On the rare oc­ca­sions I set­tle down in front of the telly there’s hardly any­thing I want to watch”

No. 1 Magazine - - CONTENTS -

My gran’s sto­ries about grow­ing up with an out­side toi­let held a hor­ri­fied fas­ci­na­tion for me. Lit­tle did I know that half a cen­tury on I’d get the same sort of pity­ing re­ac­tion from my kids when they re­alised I grew up with only two TV chan­nels and no in­ter­net. And try­ing to ex­plain sum­mer hol­i­days were spent wait­ing for the test card to burst into life so that I could see a badly dubbed French TV se­ries in black and white re­ally stretched their credulity. So you would imag­ine nowa­days, with such a mul­ti­tude of chan­nels and me­dia at our fin­ger­tips, I would be gorg­ing on the feast of en­ter­tain­ment on of­fer. But on the rare oc­ca­sions I set­tle down in front of the telly there’s hardly any­thing I want to watch. I know I‘m in the mi­nor­ity and the David At­ten­bor­ough/brian Cox/mary Berry ap­pre­ci­a­tion so­ci­eties will have my guts for garters but I can’t see the at­trac­tion of any­thing in­volv­ing wildlife, sci­ence or cook­ing. I’d also rather watch paint dry than a DIY pro­gramme and want to plug my­self into the mains when faced with any sort of quiz. Oh, yes, and the last time I watched a soap, Ena Sharples was in a hair­net and Den was be­ing dirty. It’s prob­a­bly a sack­able of­fence to work for the BBC and con­fess you don’t spend hours gog­gle-box­ing, but there needs to be some­thing on I find ab­so­lutely com­pelling or I won’t bother. The last thing that had me hooked was the Amer­i­can spy drama Home­land,

“I’d rather watch paint dry than a DIY pro­gramme or any sort of quiz and the last time I watched a soap Ena Sharples was in a hair­net and Den was be­ing dirty.”

although even the last se­ries of that went a bit nutty in a Bobby-in-the-shower-dal­las­sort-of-way. But who needs live TV these days? Not con­tent with hun­dreds of chan­nels the craze now is to binge on boxsets; but even here an in­no­va­tion de­signed to en­hance our TV view­ing has brought its own stresses. Dis­cov­er­ing a se­ries, es­pe­cially a long run­ning one you re­ally get into, is a joy. The only down­side is that all good things come to an end and if it’s par­tic­u­larly ab­sorb­ing there is a real sense of loss when the damn thing fin­ishes. When the se­ries The Good Wife ended I found my­self googling all the ac­tors to see what they were up to, as if we were friends. The other ad­verse con­se­quence of get­ting hooked on a se­ries is that you can’t imag­ine other peo­ple not ador­ing it as much as you. It’s a bit like bring­ing a new boyfriend to meet your friends and real­is­ing they don’t get the at­trac­tion. They start ques­tion­ing your taste and you ques­tion theirs. A pal of mine raved about Mad Men and very kindly bought me the first se­ries. I forced my way through three turgid episodes and gave up. Like­wise some­thing called Dex­ter, which is a se­ries where the hero is a se­rial killer. The chum who ad­vo­cated this par­tic­u­lar pro­gramme re­alised it was a bit of a hard sell but tried to ex­plain that he was a “good” se­rial killer who only mur­dered and dis­mem­bered the bad guys. I’m cur­rently giv­ing it a go but it’s so vi­o­lent and graphic I’m strug­gling. I’m also go­ing to hide the kitchen knives next time that par­tic­u­lar friend is vis­it­ing. If I can’t find a se­ries in which to lose my­self in­creas­ingly my TV view­ing is child­like, but not in a Cbee­bies sort of way. Re­mem­ber when the kids would ask to see their favourite car­toon or movie, prac­ti­cally on a loop tape and they’d never tire of the same episode? It’s all about the com­fort of the fa­mil­iar. When I can, I watch the early morn­ing re-runs of come­dies like Fraser or Ev­ery­body Loves Ray­mond. And when one se­ries ends they just go back to the be­gin­ning and start it all over again. It’s a TV nurs­ery for adults. I’ve seen episodes of Frasier so many times I could pretty well play a part, but they never lose their charm. Sim­i­larly, if I’m scan­ning the chan­nels and the new re­lease of a much hyped cop show with the in­evitable mu­ti­lated young woman is up against a creaky episode of Up­stairs Down­stairs, there’s no con­test. Hud­son it is. I’m sure my TV habits have has some deep-seated psy­cho­log­i­cal mean­ing – a fear of new, so­lace in the past – or maybe it’s some­thing much sim­pler. My day job in telly is to start off each pro­gramme wish­ing you a “Good evening” and then spend­ing the next half hour bring­ing you sto­ries that are any­thing but good. Po­lit­i­cal bat­tles, scan­dals or man’s in­hu­man­ity to man won’t put a smile on your face – but Frasier will, ev­ery time.

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