A decade ago, when there were a mere 5 terrestrial channels, I’d watch TV for about 6 hours a night, or more (basically, from the BBC1 6 o’clock news until I went to bed) – never during the day, though, I value my brain cells too much – and could usually manage to remain reasonably entertained and/or informed.
Ten years on and if I watch 10 hours a week it’s an exception. There’s CSI – though it and its various clones are rapidly losing the plot, and sinking into absurdity; NCIS, which has the wit CSI thinks it has (and the babes, too – have you noticed how old the CSI women have got; even those who aren’t chronologically old have aged dramatically – why?), and never takes itself too seriously; House, a format which shouldn’t work but does, repeatedly and brilliantly; Top Gear; plus F1 in season, quali and race. Except for a nightly excursion to BBC’s News 24, to play catch-up before going to bed, that’s it.
Every afternoon I sit in front of my laptop and wade through acres of dross in the online Radio Times, searching mostly in vain for something worth watching (I have Outlook reminders set for my regulars). Some months ago I was offered the beta of BBC’s iPlayer, for which I’d registered an interest some time earlier, but I thought, no point – there’s pretty much nothing on BBC I want to watch once, never mind twice!
Where, now, are programmes of the calibre of Frazier, The West Wing, Seinfeld, Friends, the ER of five years ago, ditto NYPD Blue, The Sopranos (except towards the end, when they seriously lost their grip on it), early Six Feet Under (went on long past its sell-by date, sadly)?
Factual programming has gone down the pan, too – I’ll just give you the horrible example of Panorama. Since the egregious Jeremy Vine took over presenting it, it’s been little but sensationalism, misrepresentation and plain, old-fashioned lies (just as his Radio 2 show has been dragged remorselessly downmarket in the same way, and moved a hell of a long way from honesty and truth). I am, frankly, at a loss to know who, at the BBC, takes responsibility for these two crapulous shows, and I’ve been unable to find out.
I had thought, with digital TV, things would improve. I have Freeview (can’t afford Sky, there seems no way NOT to have football as part of the package if I could, and anyway, I’d not willingly give a penny to Murdoch), but that sucks as it only works in dry weather, except for one or two channels I’ve no desire to watch (and what the hell happens after the digital roll-out – are they going to fix the Freeview problem or are us poor folks going to be left with a severely second-rate service?). Anyway, what I end up with, even when the weather is fine is, in the words of The Boss, 57 channels and nuthin’ on!
And what the hell is wrong with 5US, where they show repeats of the “best” stuff from Five, all bloody jumbled up – there are so many incarnations of CSI running, all at the same time, it’s quite impossible to keep track of. For pity’s sake, in the listings, tell us which episodes of which bloody series they are – would that be so hard? Oh yes, and when Channel 4 moved the West Wing to E4, they did the 5US trick, so you couldn’t sort the new stuff from the old, repeated stuff. Fair enough, even repeated, the West Wing was better than almost anything else, but NOT when it stops you finding the new episodes! Mind you, the screening of the series Ice Road Truckers on Five is an absolute shambles – god knows what 5US will do to it if it makes it there.
So there you have it, I’m pissed off with television, and very often I have to ask myself, do I really need a TV? To be honest, probably not, and once the stuff I am watching fizzles out, or my TV expires, I’m through. I probably won’t replace my TV (affordable TVs are going to be very hard to find before long, as CRT sets are falling from favour, and flat-screen sets are out of my reach, as they will be for a large percentage of the country). The answer, since I watch to little, may be a plug-in USB-TV gizmo for my laptop. We’ll see, but unless television programming improves dramatically it may not be worth the effort, and I can see my book bill going through the roof. Still, at least then I’ll get exactly what I want, know exactly where to find it, and repeat (readings) won’t piss me off!
Update: I have lost all interest in Formula 1. The problem, for me, has always been the FIA’s bias in favour of Ferrari, never more obvious than last year. Bear in mind, though, the affair of the mass damper. Renault devised this device, and made it work very well indeed. Ferrari, for all their technical expertise, couldn’t make it work well at all. What did they do? They went to the FIA, bitching and whining about it, and the FIA – mid season – banned the mass damper, and came close to trashing Renault’s title bid which was, of course, their sole aim. That’s just the most recent pro-Ferrari episode – the history of F1 is riddled with them, not least in the last decade.
Then there was the McLaren farce (there has always been a level of spying in F1, and had it NOT been McLaren, I seriously doubt Ferrari would have bothered). They did bother, though, and ruined McLaren’s season big time. And now they have their private police force still hassling McLaren (the Italian people actually think it’s their police force – they’re wrong).
Do you remember the change in the tyre rules when, barring punctures or rain, one set had to last the entire race? Ferrari couldn’t make that work, either. So, despite that it made for better racing – more races won on the track, not in the pit lane – the FIA, for which read Max Moseley – binned the system and reverted to one with which Ferrari could cope. And then there was the introduction of traction control (now gone again), because one team was “suspected” (for which read “every other team, and the FIA knew”), of illegally hiding traction control in its engine management software. Can you guess who?
Add to that Max Mosely’s persistent and rabid bad-mouthing of McLaren (not to mention his constant buggering about with the rules), and fuck it, I’ve had a belly full of F1, until the day comes when it stops being run for the sole benefit of Ferrari. Oh, and of Bernie Ecclestone, who simply has way too much power. Between them, Ecclestone and Moseley effectively run F1 as their own private fiefdom.
The day Moseley stands down, or dies (either will cheer me up), and the avaricious Bernie Ecclestone retires, or pops his clogs (ditto), will be a very good day for the future of F1.
Though I may be tempted back – possibly briefly – when TV coverage returns to BBC next year, because for ITV it’s never been even slightly important. They’d happily rearrange their schedules – including the sacred Coronation Street – for bloody football, but not for F1. Unlike the BBC, who always gave it the coverage it deserved, and no doubt will again.