Dubai diaries: It's only TV but I like it
Television addiction is the new normal. Yipee.
If the last year has taught the planet anything it’s that life before television must have been bleak. Yes, lit-heads, I realise I’m going to incur Elizabeth Bennet ‘you are the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to read’, fashioned wrath, but the purpose of this space is to float ideas, so here’s mine. Glued to the screen during the early #StayHome measures almost exactly 12 months ago, and taking more than a firm interest ever since to shelter us from the harsher global news, I’d like to say my personal relationship with the box has never been as close as it is now, but that would actually be a lie. I have always been an addict. Plain and simple. It just appears it took a pandemic for everyone to come round to my way of seeing how important the small screen can be.
First some historical context. I grew up in a household where, for better or worse, there existed no shame in turning on the television. My parents were not avid watchers, but saw no harm in indulging in a passion that kept me from climbing to the top of the death trap of an apple tree in the garden, worrying the local wild ponies or deciding to take my brother to France by commandeering a classic Moth sailboat; an endeavor that eventually only succeeded in holding up the Isle of Wight ferry in the Lymington River. And no, before you ask, I didn’t grow up in a Famous Five book nor was I anywhere near the Suez Canal this weekend.
Armed with carte blanche to watch anything, that’s exactly what I did. UK terrestrial output at the time was delivered from about 5am going to one or two the following morning depending on the broadcaster. After “shutdown” faint memories of the national anthem being played before the screen faded to black and then static prevail. To make it to the close was always the aim although rarely achieved, but let’s see how much of this you could have endured. Early morning shows were news based presented by cheery though visibly exhausted, heavily made-up presenters. Then came current affairs and light lunchtime output for the unemployed or child rearing (even at an early age quite why this segment would be so interested in watching 10 weeks of vets making house calls was beyond me). Kids TV started at 3pm, then it went to soaps beginning with the teen Aussie staple Home and Away and ending with the far grittier British offering Eastenders at about 8pm. Dramas were next and the whole lot was rounded off with stuffy news and discussion. After midnight there was a smattering of Open University courses or, if it were in season and you were lucky, snooker coverage. The cyclical predictability for a young mind was compelling and fomented an intense affection.
Today barely a conversation can commence without the question: ‘what are you watching?’ being thrown in. It’s beautiful, though I can’t help feeling a little indignant. It’s all well and good bingeing on Breaking Bad, but where were you during the BBC Handmade (a series on glass making. Seriously.) years? I’m glad my old 2D comrade is finally receiving the appreciation it deserves, but to quote every hipster ever: I was there before it was popular. So cherish this golden TV watching era and when this is all over don’t forget who was there for you come rain or shine.