And so another weekend approaches: this is a good thing, obviously.
However, it also heralds the onslaught of yet another bout of dire TV of the type that calls on the viewing audience to cast their votes. I hate this kind of TV and therefore do not watch it, but it is impossible to avoid. All weekend my Facebook page and Twitter feed will be full of it, as will all of the papers and even, possibly, the TV news. This kind of cheap, rubbish TV in turn fuels a whole host of cheap, rubbish news in all other media.
I know that in railing against this kind of TV I risk coming across as snobbish, but let me reassure you that I do not spend my viewing hours glued only to worthy BBC4 documentaries: when it comes to watching TV my brow is as low as the next man’s (or woman’s).
I know that this kind of TV is popular and if you like it then that is your prerogative, as much as it is my prerogative to hate it. Fine. However, it does cause me to have concerns beyond those of taste.
Firstly it seems to have created a growing expectation that everything should be open to public vote. This came up the other morning as I was driving to work and Chris Evans was laughing about a newspaper poll on whether Charles should be the next King of England or whether the job should go to the newly-engaged William. The Royal family may occasionally appear like a soap opera, but its story line is guided by the constitution, not a newspaper poll or a phone in vote. Simon Cowell cannot decide this.
I have a nasty feeling that in a few years time things like criminal hearings will be televised and the verdict decided not by the weight of evidence or the strength of reasoned debate, but by the viewing public who base their decision on whether the plaintiff or the defendant were the most entertaining.
And that leads me on to my second concern. Many of these shows such as X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing are ostensibly talent shows; however, the voting apparently has little to do with talent. Never having watched X-Factor I have no idea what Wagner does, but from all accounts he is not good at it, yet he stays in. I have seen brief snippets of Strictly because my wife watches it, so I have seen Anne Widdecome dance: it looks like someone trying to move a wardrobe around the dance floor; yet she stays in whilst the lovely Felicity Kendall gets voted off. This shows a distinct lack of sensible or fair voting. Fair enough, it’s just a rubbish TV programme, but these same people also get to vote in important things like elections. Scary: surely there should be a way to weed them out.
Yes, they say, these strange people that vote for Wagner and Anne Widdecombe, but the vote is not just about talent, it’s about entertainment: that’s what the show should be about. And this brings me to my third concern: what is the entertainment here? It seems to me that the entertainment comes from laughing at, rather than with, these poor deluded people. Making it acceptable for the public to keep people of this sort around for their entertainment week after week so that they can point and laugh is akin to the old practice of visiting lunatic asylums to be entertained by the inmates; surely this is not morally acceptable.
The worst example of laughing at the lunatic asylum is embodied in that hideous piece of televisual entertainment: I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. It reminds me of the TV programmes in the 1970s and 1980s hosted by Chris Tarrant which showed clips from Japanese TV where contestants were subjected to strange painful, disgusting or degrading experiences as part of a game show. Oh how we laughed at those crazy Japanese people…
Recently I read somewhere that each generation gets the TV programmes it deserves. I feel this may be right, and surely it must be a cause for concern.