Does anyone else feel they’re being diddled out of their rightful allocation of Time?
I refer, of course, to rubbish television programmes. Mostly these are scheduled to last an hour. On commercial channels fifteen minutes of this hour is ads, fair enough. But much more insidious is the sneaky format of virtually all reality/lifestyle/documentary-type shows, whether its Four Nasty Buggers Cook Food and Bitch, or Pissed-Up Brit Yobs A-Pukin’ in Marbella, or even more upmarket fare such as S’ralan’s Apprentice or Gordon Ramsay Shouts at Fools.
The sneakiness, I’m sure you’ve noticed, is the business of starting the programme with a little highlights-package preview of what’s going to happen, then showing it happening, then ending with a highlights-package round-up of what happened.
Increasingly the more proletarian channels such as Living, Living +1, Just About Conscious and Cor Blimey! are taking this approach to dizzying, wheel-within-wheel levels of complexity: a preview of it happening, immediately it happens, then a preview of what will happen after the ads, then after the ads a reminder of what happened before the preview before the ads, then a preview of what will happen now, then it happening, then a talking head talking about how it felt when it happened, then a clip of it happening again, then another, different talking head telling you that it happened and adding “Oh my God”, then a round-up, repeat, ads, repeat, then a preview of what will happen next week, the end. After a while it is impossible to tell what is ‘really’ happening, and what is just a precursor, or a reminder, or a commentary on a precursor of a reminder.
The worst example I’ve ever encountered was a show featuring anti-sex campaigner and Brizzle boy Justin Lee Collins, in which he tried his hand at diving off the top board at the swimming pool. I assure you I only watched this feebly-conceived entertainment because the climactic top-board jumping competition took place at Kingswood Leisure Centre, formerly run by the Local Character, my nearest pool and perhaps the least glamorous location in the UK. The programme lasted an hour but, by the end, I calculated that if you removed the many previews, reminders and direct-to-camera wafflings, we saw approximately six and a half minutes of actual action. And what we did see was pretty darn thin. All of which puts me in mind of the old joke told by Woody Allen at the start of Annie Hall about the two women in the restaurant: "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." "Yeah, I know; and such small portions."