Perhaps you already know that I am addicted to the news, in all formats – tv, websites, social media and old-fashioned bits of dead tree covered in ink. But that’s not my only passion. My other love is television, a constant companion throughout my life – teacher, traveller, friend but sometimes a shameful associate to be denied and scorned.
A friend was telling me how his one major criteria for women he dates is that they have to be passionate about something. It doesn’t matter if her interests align with yours or not, rather that she can get excited and wildly enthusiastic about something she loves and that she wants to share that joy with you – probably with loud emphatic language and a lot of crazy big hand gestures.
Couch potato, telly addict, square eyes – do you remember being called those names? Fifteen, maybe even ten years ago I can’t imagine being praised for my passions if I told people how much TV I watch. The amount of hours spent in front of the tv is a bit like when you go to the doctors when they ask you about how much you drink, you say “Me Doctor? Well, barely anything. Perhaps the occasional sherry at Christmas or a small glass of low-alcohol wine with dinner”, conveniently forgetting the 14 pint bender you only just survived last Friday.
But thanks to a spike in quality and supported by the twin miracles of streaming and box-sets, hours in front of the tv no longer seem like wasted time. If you reveal your weekend telly bender to a colleague on Monday morning, likely as not, they will acknowledge your achievement with due respect and then tell you what you should watch next. In fact, we may be at peak tv especially when it comes to good American dramas – there’s just too much to watch! There’s stuff from years ago that you bought on DVD and you must get around to watching (The Sopranos, The Wire, The West Wing) stuff that your friends and social media seems to go crazy for (Girls, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad) and shows that are just starting that you might become a fan of (Fear of Walking Dead, Aquarius, The Leftovers). Take your eye off the tube for a couple of weeks and there’s suddenly a list of twelve hours of tv on your planner. The total ticks upwards every week and there’s no time to watch it all. Sad to say, sometimes I delete them all off the planner and think ‘I’ll catch it another time’ because it’s too intimidating to even begin. And if you find yourself going home and watching Pointless, Hollyoaks or any one of 74 programmes on the BBC about antiques you wriggle in your seat uncomfortably wondering if you could be better spending your precious viewing time. It’s a problem that even John Landgraf, CEO of the channel FX has acknowledged.
Far be it from me though to hope for an end to this golden age. We have to learn to be more discerning viewers. I love reading too, but I don’t get stressed by the number of books in the library that I haven’t read yet. We have to approach tv from a different angle and think about it in a different way. Now let’s have a look at the Radio Times – what’s on tonight that’s good?