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