{01/12/2012}   Evenings without a TV

I have a TV but don’t that often watch it for something specific, other than on for the news in the mornings, but staying with my friend in London at the moment there is no TV.  Well, there was one but now it’s all fancy digital, it doesn’t work!  So I’ve spent the last two weeks without any TV.  I didn’t have a TV of my own for years and it doesn’t bother me not having a TV, not least because they take over a living room and any likelihood of conversation.  These two weeks have been fine, but I realise that I haven’t seen or heard any news.  I don’t often read a paper or look at online news but I do listen to the morning TV news and I like it.  But as for the evenings, it’s quite refreshing being TV-less.

When I’ve been home, we’ve sat and chatted, taken longer over dinner and sat at the table to eat, we’ve read and/or emailed and there’s been no TV noise.  Nice.  But I do annoy myself that every now and then I think how nice it would be to sit in front of the telly like a zombie and watch mindless drivel.  Sometimes escapism in the form of rubbish telly is just what you fancy.  Ideally with, in my case, a lap tray and dinner.

I can stay up far too late sometimes absorbed in rubbish TV and it’s very unsatisfying.  I rarely switch on the TV to watch something specific, though I was obsessed with the first series of Homeland (almost completely lost interest in series two, and indeed have missed the last three episodes) and quite enjoyed the telly being turned on for 9pm on a Sunday night.

I know there are some people who watch hours and hours of TV.  I don’t get it because I think so much of it isn’t properly absorbed, it just seems like a way of killing time and I spend far too much time complaining I don’t have enough time to then waste hours staring numbly at a screen.  I went through a few phases of playing Scrabble of an evening, which sounds strangely middle class c1985.  It felt almost like a luxury to be doing an activity like that of an evening.  The more I think about it, the more I think how easy and wasteful it can be to watch TV for the sake of sitting down and convincing yourself you’re actually doing something, when in reality the odds are high you’re watching drivel, often interspersed with dreadful adverts which are both noisy and intrusive.

Also, with the advent of digital TV stations and 24-hour TV, there needs to be more repeats and cheaply made programmes (don’t start me off on reality TV … again!) to keep the stations going .  But, really, I wish I could turn a TV on and find choices of decent, well-made programmes, then I wouldn’t mind so much turning the TV on in the evening and watching a few programmes just for the sake of watching a bit of television.

As for my return to life with a telly, I may intend to fully appreciate the quietness of the evenings, maybe enjoy some music and chatting and, well, just appreciate that there is life without TV, but I know with certainty it will be on at some point every day!


Like so many others, I was glued to the TV for my annual dose of dreadful music, infuriating voting politics and whacky outfits.  What’s not to love about Eurovision?  And for those I saw on Facebook announcing they were poised to turn over, it being that awful, I bet you at least watched all the singing!

Last night I watched it with two friends.  It is impossible to watch without participating so it was a night of shouting at the TV, gazing in open-mouthed wonder and feeling slightly naughty for laughing at Graham Norton’s at times marginally un-PC commentary (I think he’s done a good job of filling Sir Terry’s popular shoes).

Possibly the most memorable entry for me from the 2012 Eurovision final was Turkey and the bat pirates.  I loved (an open-mouthed moment) the boat with the straining body of the figure head emerging from the rubbery bat wings.  Priceless.  I was in another room for one of the early entries, possibly Albania, but I could hear wailing; that was awful.  The Hump put on a good performance, but it was a pretty awful song and it was missing two key elements, of which at least one must be in abundance: novelty (think Russia) and a tight, revealing outfit adorning a lovely.  This is where the likes of Cyprus gained extra points, enhanced by a wind machine.

My favourite was Germany (no novelty and no crotch enhancing attire, hence they didn’t do well), though in part that was because I had a small crush on Roman Lob, who it transpires is a mere 21 years old.  I had a few issues with treacherous Jamie Cullum having played a part in writing the song though, where are his loyalties?!

I also rather liked Moldova’s entry.  I am totally in love with the lampshade dresses of the dancing girls (one of the turquoise ones in particular) and their legs-dipped-in-gold tights.  And then they lay on the floor and kicked their legs about, merrily flashing their pants, shortly followed by belly rocking between the legs of the singer.  Truly, I thought that was an excellent entry.  What was with the MC Hammer blacksmith look though?!

As for Jedward, well, you did Ireland proud.  Sort of.  They are two of the bounciest, sweetest people, but, seriously, get over the jumping chest-to-chest thing!  Suitable costumes and hair for Eurovision, I felt.

Oh, it’s so much fun writing about this because it makes me think about it and I have iPlayer open as well so I can refresh my memory.  I suppose I should mention Sweden.  I think she did well because she wasn’t scantily clad (I was fully expecting her excess clothes to be ripped off at some point but, no, it was a serious performance).  It was a proper dance track, though as soon as I heard it I thought it was something else.  However, it was a decent entry and was one of a few that had credibility as a winning song.

But why, oh, why, do I, does anyone, watch Eurovision?!  The votes are beyond infuriating, the people who announce the votes for their respective country usually embarrass themselves and it goes on for far too long.  Yet still I blinking well watch it!  And another thing, did anyone else notice that a lot of the performers looked similar?  I was sure that some were singing for two countries.  And lips, did you notice a lot of large, pale lips?  Oh, I’m about to get into full flow but I’m going to leave it there.  Hurrah for Eurovision and a whole evening’s entertainment!

Perhaps it’s a bit excessive dedicating a blog post to London City Airport (LCY), but I am sitting here, mid-afternoon (writing this the day before posting), in a very civilised waiting area. There are loads of spare seats, all of which are comfy ones, and it is largely quiet. Once again, I am identifying a growing snob in me!

I like leaving from LCY (I’ve probably passed through here 20 times) because it seems to generally run smoothly and it’s never been LGW- or LHR-busy (though it is a lot busier in the evenings and mornings). It is unusual to see uncontrolled children, there are no alcohol areas designed to look like real drinkers’ pubs and there are a lot of seats. I quite like smaller planes, I enjoy the view from the planes as they land and take off and I like the fact it feels more like a train station than an airport.

Looking around now though, assessing the demographic, there is an abundance of men, suited men, most of whom are using their laptops or are on their mobiles. There area lot of erect wheelie case handles, poised to be pulled the short distance to the plane. I can hear coffee bieng ground, there are quite a few French style beer glasses left on tables and I see more Kettle Chips being eaten than Walker’s; seriously, I’ve just done a tot up!

I know it’s unfair to compare a tiny airport to some of the biggest airports in the world, but as I’m neither going to Bangkok nor Marbella, it’s refreshing to not have to endure holiday makers. Mind you, I did my usual trick of arriving early at the airport, kind of forgetting that there is next to nothing to do at LCY except wait in comfy chairs, use the free wifi, browse WH Smith, spray on some perfume and drink overpriced (£3.80 for a cappuccino? Really?) coffee or beer from fancy glasses. But it was worth it for this people watching time!

I also find it quite intriguing that there are houses, a Victorian row of terraces no less, about 20 metres from the entrance to the airport, standing at which are armed security/police. How cool would that be, you could “pop” to the airport for dinner in Paris or some such. I like to think that the people who live there have at least made use of the proximity to an airport. But I bet they were pissed off if they’d lived there before there was talk of an airport being built here!

One final thing about LCY that has always given me cause for private smiles (that sounds pervy but it’s not!) is that it always, always makes me think of the 1980s kids’ TV show, Jimbo and the Jet Set. Jimbo used to run down the runway and he’d always struggle to take off, like I imagine I would if I were a flying person. Because of the short runway here, I always seem to animate the planes into Jimbo (I’m really not kidding!!) and imagine them running full pelt towards the end of the runway then giving a final burst of energy and an almighty sigh to lift them up. Let the running commence, my plane is boarding!

There is a US TV show called Cheaters. The premise is that someone who believes their partner is cheating on them employs the services of a private detective agency, Cheaters, specialising in this field of cheating partners. The love rat is then filmed in action (nothing too rude that I’ve seen!) and the edited footage is shown to the distraught cheated partner and a confrontation ensues/is staged (at the love rat’s wedding to the “other woman” in one high drama episode).
I am not sure how I have ended up seeing chunks of this dreadful show more than once, it is horrible, especially seeing people publicly humiliated. I have ranted about reality shows before but now I am questioning the purpose of such shows. Yes, they draw in viewers, they are cheap to make … oh, that’ll be why.
But “thanks” to such shows, I am aware of social practices/beliefs in certain pockets of society about which I previously knew nothing. My horizons have broadened, yet I feel my affinity with my own people, as it were, is diminishing as a result. I don’t feel I fit in to society, or rather perhaps I think more about where/if I fit into it. I wonder why I didn’t used to feel this disconnected but I now think it has something to do with TV programmes like that (maybe a bad example as that show is American, but we have Gypsy Wedding, Made in Chelsea (apparently it’s not scripted) and other real life “documentaries”) which depict society in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable and far removed from any connection to an idyll of life in Britain depicted in, say, The Good Life or Darling Buds of May, even My Family (another issue, another unreality, but probably a much better one to absorb).
I feel that TV is making extremes seem normal. I mean, look at Shameless (it’s scripted but distressingly based on reality), it seems that the kinds of people Shameless was written about then see the programme and draw inspiration from it.
Yes, I do feel more aware of people’s interests, obsessions, lifestyles, etc, but I don’t know that I like this heightened awareness. I worry that young people in particular look to TV for inspiration, for trends, for ways of fitting in. When confronted with shows about warped/niche/controversial ideas of good taste, lifestyles, norms, etc, isn’t that what they draw inspiration from? I don’t want to just sit and watch documentaries and history programmes to be educated, I want to watch well-scripted series that are fairly light but intelligent. I often watch TV for escapism, and yes I have seen some of the dreadful programmes mentioned above, but I find the escapism element lingers and makes me feel disturbed and either out of touch or disconnected. I am pretty sure, in fact from Facebook alone I know, that there are a lot of other people out there who want to see intelligent, humorous dramas, for example. Why isn’t there a show like This Life anymore?

{29/03/2012}   Reality TV

For two series, I enjoyed watching Big Brother. The first series of Pop Idols and bits of X Factor I have also enjoyed. I have always hated I’m a Celebrity … Get me out of here! I like Strictly and I used to watch The Apprentice and love it. Last night, not even aware The Apprentice had started again, I turned on the TV and there it was. I saw a group of testosterone charged boys in suits arguing about something. I was not in the mood to endure their bickering or inevitable uselessness.

I did once see a bit of TOWIE but I still can’t get my head around this alleged new concept of reality fiction, or whatever it’s called. I am so thoroughly cheesed off with reality TV, in large part because it’s like a Jeremy Kyle show on in primetime television slots, but the same people over and over again. I can’t watch Jeremy Kyle for similar reasons to not wanting to see reality shows, namely that I see and hear annoying people in my daily life. I do not need to see them on TV as well, I watch TV to escape.

Where are these largely awful people dredged up from? A lot of the non-“celebrity” shows are the worst offenders because they display a pet hate of mine, the desperate wannabe. I gain nothing from seeing some mouthy underwear model type trying to come across as intelligent or witty. It pains me. Fame, fortune and footballer seekers are not women I have any interest in, and I am even long over bitching about them. As for Big Brother type blokes, it’s more about the image for them too. Again, it’s all just horrid and ugly. These lab rats are made to do some humiliating things, all seemingly in pursuit of being papped on leaving the confines of a a studio. I find it ugly, degrading and deplorable.

Shows like Strictly are fun, the people in them seem generally to be in it to resurrect their flagging careers and/or to learn to dance. It’s not about them being shown to be ignorant and gossip magazine fodder.

When reality TV became more commonplace, it ruined the novelty element and for me killed off any interest. I realise that to be in Big Brother, say, I would need to court controversy, become an exhibitionist, wear as few clothes as possible, be liberal with foul language and have some odd fetish that could be exploited on TV. It wouldn’t be pretty and, thankfully, it wouldn’t be me.

Viewing figures show there is an audience still for this kind of cheap televison, but I think at a dumbing down cost. It’s all very nice having television programmes you can relax with, but seeing some of the worst of society’s behaviours and language isn’t remotely challenging or interesting beyond a horrified curiosity. I am not saying I just want good quality dramas, more news, etc, I just wish there were more real television than reality television.

et cetera