Humankind Cannot Bear too Much Reality TV

I keep trying not to watch too much TV but it’s hard because by the time I get to 7.15 (the hallowed hour after the Archers) I don’t have the brain to do much else. I keep hoping for something new and terrific and sometimes I find it but often I end up scrolling through the schedules saying ‘nope, nope, nope – seen it, nope, nope, nope’ from after the Archers right up until bed time. Everything seems so formulaic these days and there’s far too much so-called ‘reality’ TV. Even if I’m interested in it – for example I quite enjoy ‘Saving Lives at Sea’ and if you want something to restore your faith in humanity, that’s it – even then you have to wade through two minutes of introduction (without the option to skip, as you do in drama series) with music jogging along in the background and then a minute or two at the end when they preview the next programme. I don’t want to know what’s on next time! I’ll watch it next time! I shout at the screen. Some programmes, presumably believing that we have the attention span of a gnat – even recap in the middle. I know that in teaching the mantra is ‘tell ’em what you’re gonna tell them and then tell them what you’ve told them’ – but this is ridiculous. Some series are better of course – David Attenborough keeps the progsplaining to a minimum (oo, have I invented a new word there?) and so does Michael Palin who skilfully weaves the recap into a stylish sentence as he boards the train to Krakow but others are not so considerate.

Generally I find TV a perpetual disappointment. Over the weekend I read about an upcoming series where Kathy Burke talks to celebs about ageing. I’ve always liked her so I thought it might be interesting: it wasn’t. In spite of interviewing interesting people like Jenifer Saunders and Bill Bailey the questions were dull and nothing new was said. After half an hour I decided this was not enough to compensate for the infernal adverts and switched it off.

Depressingly I often find myself turning to older programmes for entertainment. On Britbox I came across the classic Goodnight Sweetheart starring Nicholas Lyndhurst, who I consider to be vastly underrated. Nobody can do deapdan reactions or slow realisation like Nicholas Lyndhurst (I still remember him as the sensitive and intuitive younger son in Butterflies) and he is on top form in this time-travel comedy. He plays Gary, a TV repair man unfulfilled in his work and marriage who goes through a time warp and finds himself in 1940’s London in the middle of the Blitz. They could have made this a simple story of a man dissatisfied with his high-achieving wife finding love with a conventional wartime inamorata but it’s much more complex and nuanced than that – and very funny.

Then again I wonder – have we been spoilt by too much choice? If I were to look at the schedules for, say, this day in 1973 would they be any better? Or did we just concentrate harder because once it was over it was gone and you’d have to wait for the repeat several years down the line? Perhaps I should find a time warp and travel back to the ’70s; I might be happier there.

Think I’ll stick with these colours – I quite like them.

Kirk out