Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Television is meddling with the very nature of Time

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."


worm said...

This is why I leave television to my other half and I stick to books, blogs and youtube videos of dogs doing the funniest things

Brit said...

But there are even more rubbish blogs and books than there are television programmes. The medium of television itself is, in fact, one of mankind's greatest acheivements, second perhaps only to Heinz Tomato Soup. This is why it is important not to fill it with rubbish.

malty said...

Having years ago made Sky redundant we have had limited exposure to Baird-o-Vision. Now we are the proud owners of something called 'Freesat', free as in beer. Oh joy unconfined, watched in utter disbelief, 10 mins of 'the J Kyle' show, it was as if we had fallen into one of H Bosch's finest and had joined in. Tried 'flicking around' found a programme made by silicone zombies about weddings another made by frogs about frog-o-news and ditto Russian.

Things can only get better.

Bring on the end of the world, that's what I say.

PS, enthralled by your darting in, out and around your adversary, thrusting your rapier into the discussion, over on stooshie No 13, I'm with you kid, can I hold your coat next time?

Brit said...

Re: stooshie 13, Malty... yes, I've been spending a lot of time recently dissing the excesses of the atheists and the evolutionary psychologists, but Intelligent Design theorists are considerably worse than Creationists. Intelligent Design is the worst of all possible worlds - crap science and crap religion combined in a big pile of crapness.

Gareth Williams said...

Today, Gaw's going to be leaving a comment on Think of England. What will it be? Find out after the break.

Gareth Williams said...

Earlier we promised you that Gaw would make a comment on Think of England. We're all wondering what it will be.

And here it is:

"I dunno Brit, I think we bloggers could learn a lot from TV. You know, making ideas go a bit further."

What will the other commenters and Brit make of Gaw's comment? Will it provoke them into responding or will they just ignore it? Listen to Gaw's reaction after the break.

Gareth Williams said...


Brit said...

"Oh my god, I couldn't believe it when Gaw said that we bloggers could learn a lot from TV. Hahahahaha! And then, oh my god, that bit he said about making ideas go a bit further... that was so crazy! I was like, is this for real?"


worm said...

this blog should have more nudity and street fighting

Anonymous said...

How about some cool video graphics when we open the comment box?

David said...

And here I just got done telling my students that the general structure of writing anything is:

Tell them what you're going to tell them;

Tell them;

Tell them what you told them.

And it's infinitely fractal, so that in the introduction you:

Tell them that your about to tell them what you're going to tell them;

Tell them what you're about to tell them;

Tell them what you've told them you're about to tell them.


Brit said...

Heh heh, yes "infinitely fractal" perfectly describes the TV phenomenon.

malty said...

You know how, especially on CRT screens, the transmission can leave a 'ghosting' effect, just for a few seconds. Well, just suppose, that every TV programme that you have ever watched has left is ghostly image there. We could then say in all honesty that "that box in the corner is the biggest heap of shit ever"

Or even worse, just supposing that, together, they all started playing, streaming into your room, man, that would be awesome, from Jakob Bronowsi through Malcolm Muggeridge and Wheeltappers and Shunters to Kirsty effing Wark.

Or even worse still, the only programmes being broadcast were of scientists rabbiting on about another sodding theory.

Or loose bints.

OutaSpaceMan said...

I have found that consulting one of the many listings publications to be invaluable when navigating the morass of banality available on the Magic Window Machine..

I have a feeling all this grumbling will end when Top Gear returns next Sunday...

(Hands up all those who watched The Infamous Betty Page... Hmmm... Though so...)

martpol said...

From The 100 Greatest Blog Posts About TV:

I remember when Think Of England did this thing all about the nature of time in TV. I wasn't there at the time it happened, of course, but I remember it all in a fantastic level of detail anyway. The guy who wrote it has this thing about time or something. It was like, here's what's going to happen, then they show it again before the ad break, then afterwards again, then they remind you all about it, something like that. Now allow me to make one of my pre-scripted jokes about all was it... hang on. Oh never mind. Here's a shot of me looking a cross between aghast and thick.

worm said...

..."coming up on Dave - When comments sections go baaaad"

Mrs Brit said...

For you worm

David said...


Now the voice in my head keeps saying, "After the break, what to expect in coming attractions."

worm said...

thanks Mrs Brit!! thats exactly what Im talking about!! surely there's nothing else one needs in life than to watch a pug falling asleep whilst sitting up?

Brit said...

Worm - you and Mrs B are of one mind.