Thursday, 3 February 2011

Déja vu

Have you seen Episodes starring Matt LeBlanc, Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan? There have been four episodes so far and it’s just about the only thing on British TV at the moment that leaves me wanting more rather than less. But as I sat down to watch the first episode I realised it was strangely reminiscent of Moving Wallpaper (which to my mind was just a teeny bit better.

I hardly ever watch TV these days – mainly because I’ve developed A-list fatigue. I simply can't bear to see any more of the likes of Jamie Oliver, Stephen Fry, David Attenborough, Alan Titchmarsh and Graham Norton. I'm not saying they're not brilliant, and of course they are national treasures, but it's a bit like having visitors that stay too long: however fond of them you are, sooner or later you just want to see someone else in your living room.

And it's not just the talent, it's the formats. Peter Kay's hilarious parody Britain's Got a the Pop Factor and possibly a new Celebrity Jesus Christ Soap Star Superstar Strictly on Ice revealed Saturday night TV for precisely what it is - the same programme shown over and over and over again. And they go on forever. I mean how many more series of The Apprentice and Strictly Come Dancing will they foist upon us? Big Brother is a genius concept, but has now run to 11 series (not to mention all the celebrity series), which surely makes it rather tired in anyone’s eyes. Several people have asked me if I’ve been watching Michel Roux’s Service and the answer is ‘only the first ten minutes of the first one’. I’ve seen Raymond Blanc’s The Restaurant and I’ve seen Jamie’s Kitchen – I get the idea and am bored now.

To be equal handed, I won't limit my derisory sniping to reality shows, because so-called factual TV has been driving me bonkers too. The same old tedious A-listers making documentary series about things they know nothing about. For example, Alan Titchmarsh on nature (British Isles: A Natural History), David Dimbleby on British architecture and art (A Picture of Britain and How We Built Britain), Jeremy Paxman on history (The Victorians), Sophie Dahl on cookery (The Delicious Miss Dahl)... I'm find myself so embarrassed watching it that I have to peep out from behind the cushions. I mean, it would be like me commentating on the tennis - sure, I like tennis, but that hardly makes me qualified to comment on it.

Of course they can't make new things all the time, and with so many channels now they have to fill the schedules with something. And it's fair enough to say that I probably don't know about many very good new shows because I don't like watching TV any longer (and because it was my New Year's Resolution to stop buying the Radio Times). But the unfortunate truth is that in the UK we have the BBC and we actually believe that our creativity and media are pretty much the thing we do best.

So are we quashing that creativity with a risk-averse media culture, or have we just run out of ideas? Is the golden age of TV long past? Long live the internet!

PS For what it’s worth, here (in no particular order) are a few things past and present that I’ll never say a bad word about:
Cracker, The Street, Lost, 24, Mad Men, Sex and the City, Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Shakespeare Retold, Jeeves and Wooster, Cold Feet, Sopranos, Yes Minister, Moving Wallpaper, Outnumbered, The Trip, Grass, Gavin and Stacey, Blackadder, Teachers, The Green Wing, Grand Designs, Simon Shama's History of Britain, Andrew Marr's Making of Modern Britain, and pretty much anything by Louis Theroux (which is why I must stop typing right now - Ultra Zionists is just about to start).


  1. Great list ... I'm adding the current Human Planet series. It's gripping beautiful TV that we can all watch together as a family

  2. Current TV: "Nurse Jackie", tonight (Saturday)