What Went Wrong With… Television During The Coronavirus Pandemic?

An image of the Coronavirus being broadcast to a TV aerial

Television, whether traditional over-the-air or over-the-top streaming, has been greatly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. With the lockdown firmly in place and social distancing guidelines preventing new films and TV shows from being shot, we instead have to contend with relatively “old” content. Of course “old” doesn’t mean “classic”, we have to bear with whatever crap is licenced to whichever service we subscribe to, and until these licences are renegotiated, we’ve basically got to put up with each broadcaster’s library of stagnant shite. It doesn’t matter whether you subscribe to Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, Sky or Freeview, each company’s library is finite and once you’ve seen it, no amounts of discounts and offers is going to change that fact.

Amongst all the repeats and endless reruns therefore, we have a new televisual phenomenon: the home-made chat-show. Even though soaps and series have been postponed, the nightly or weekly talk-show has been allowed to continue despite its current incarnation being almost unwatchable. Everyone from Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, James Corden, and Graham Norton all the way to Russell Howard, Joel Dommett, Mo Gilligan, Charlotte Crosby (and Stacey bloody Dooley of all people) have been given cameras and lighting equipment in the hope they’ll continue their “hilarity” in a home setting. The end result of these “at home” chat-shows is a swath of wannabe YouTubers. The irony however, is that genuine YouTubers use only a fraction of these broadcaster’s budgets and they create better, more professional-looking content for much less money. From the echoing vocals of Fallon (who mic-ed him up, his kids?) to Meyers pausing for laughter from a non-existent audience, the only thing these newly-adapted programmes have proved is that millionaires make shit YouTubers.

These various “at home with” chat-shows confirm what I’ve always suspected: that each programme (before the lockdown) needed 50 plus employees behind the scenes to make these toss-pots look and sound presentable. Even programmes where the writers are also the performers (SNL for example) they still managed to create an amateur-looking mess, and once again, their post-COVID show was less satisfying than a YouTube comedian. The only thing this televisual shitshow has succeeded in, is showing us how crap celebrities’ broadband is, not as some executives expected: show us how talented these over-paid hosts are.

Thanks to unimaginative TV execs, watching talk-shows, news reports, interviews, chat-shows, and comedy shows these days is like viewing a mass advertisement for Zoom. Instead of wet-markets, bio-warfare labs, and 5G, are we certain that Zoom Video Communications didn’t create the Coronavirus since they’re the fuckers benefiting from it? (Either them or Microsoft Teams or err… Amazon).

When each of these trash shows pause for an ad-break, because the Coronavirus has also led to something I can only call “widespread overt-charity-bragging”, we’ve had to endure adverts from the likes of Deliveroo telling us how many free meals they’ve delivered to NHS workers (despite their zero-hour-contract employees being key workers themselves). Companies like Nationwide, BT, and McCain also attempted to convey emotion in their ads (when all the while they’re flogging us crap banking, shit broadband, or inedible chips).

These cringe-worthy attempts at heartwarming togetherness was of course to make more profit for each company; there was nothing altruistic about these huge corporations and their sham-30-second warmth.

As I outlined in a previous article; Channel 4 in the UK is undoubtedly a declining broadcaster and the Coronavirus has shown us just how conventional and banal they really are. So out of ideas are Channel 4 that they had not one, not two, but three shows with the subtitle “And Carry On”: Richard & Judy: Keep Reading And Carry On, Kirstie: Keep Crafting And Carry On, and Jamie: Keep Cooking And Carry On. This brings me neatly to militarism and royalism; “Keep Calm And Carry On” was after all, a motto from the second World War.

Ever since the millennium, there’s no doubt that mainstream media here in the UK are trying to hark back and promote a specific time in history; a time when the royals were looked upon with awe, a time when a Conservative leader was respected, a time when joining the military was seen as the greatest career achievement, and also a time when the sexist exemplar of the perfect working-class couple (which comprised of a nurse and a soldier) was born. The first time this combination of contrived-cuntery occurred was during World War II, so via the medium of film, television, print media, internet media, and the news, the people in charge of Britain’s “entertainment” (or more accurately propaganda) have been bringing you a non-stop cavalcade of World War wistfulness.

Television is hell-bent on selling the “good ol’ days” to the nation in the hope that we’ll go back to being subservient to the elites. The Coronavirus lockdown therefore, was a perfect opportunity to instill the so-called “values” of the past. You don’t have to look far to see royalism, militarism, and unrelenting nostalgia, it’s everywhere on TV right now. Alongside the saintliness of veteran Tom Moore, all nurses and soldiers are shown as infallible heroes, our right-wing leader is commanding according to the news, we’re supposed to feel a sense of camaraderie because we’re banging on pots and clapping once a week, and the Queen (who is hold-up in a massive, luxurious castle) is somehow a beacon of stoicism and a glimmer of hope in these dark times… piss off!

Despite a history of Nazi-sympathising, Islamophobia, and sex abuse allegations, after being cooped-up in their houses for a few weeks, the nation almost at the flick of a switch, ignored all the facts surrounding the royal family and became staunch royalists. 24 million people watched The Queen’s pointless COVID-19 speech and in case you missed it, Gogglebox as usual, further advertised and reinforced the so-called positives of this non-event (which makes you wonder why Gogglebox exists and its real purpose). The Queen was heard evoking Vera Lynn and the “Blitz spirit” and the fact that the lockdown coincided with V.E. Day, it was a great opportunity to have a second speech by ER indoors (my, have our Christmases come all at once?). So that’s two cases of simultaneous militarism and royalism promoted to a bunch of twats suffering from cabin fever and mass hysteria, and to hit the point home, there was of course showings of the revisionist Darkest Hour and the overrated The King’s Speech (not to mention Military Wives and 1917 available to rent).

This hierarchical sentimentality went into overdrive as nationalistic ninnies high off nurse-sweat and flypast jet exhaust, gathered in their streets ignoring social distancing and waving the Union Jack as they sang “We’ll Meet Again”. And as morons on TV told us how much our current situation is like WW2, everyone ignored the fact that the sentiment “We’ll Meet Again” meant something quite serious back in the day; families didn’t know if their loved-ones were coming home or whether they were shot dead in a muddy ditch. Being stuck in a house with FaceTime, Pornhub, and Ocado deliveries is hardly the same as fighting the Nazis with a Lee-Enfield. Get some fucking perspective! This incessant yet offensive comparison to the Blitz has confirmed a couple of things: that the population are easily-led idiots and that television and news propaganda is alive and well, even though over 33 thousand British people aren’t.

Televisual propaganda, militarism, and a reliance on the news is probably best left for another article, so back to the topic of TV “entertainment”.

Broadcasters seem to be ignoring a simple yet obvious fact: since time moves forward in our dimension, everyday there’s more content for us to consume than yesterday. But the benefits of linear time is by-the-by it seems, networks would rather post film equipment to a bunch of incompetent celebrities than go into their archives and fish out something actually worth watching. The international lock-down could have been a perfect opportunity for the world to reacquaint itself with the all-time televisual classics. Wouldn’t you rather watch something like Columbo rather than the utterly crap Isolation Stories? Whether good, bad, or drawn-out, thank Logie Baird that Rick And Morty, Westworld, and Better Call Saul were already completed, otherwise it’d have been non-stop governmental Coronavirus briefings and Celebrity Bake Off repeats.

It’s strange that the original Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Thriller, Hammer House Of Horror, Quantum Leap, Ulysses 31, Cow & Chicken, Beavis And Butthead, Yo! MTV Raps, Round The Bend, The Real McCoy, Cyderdelic, Way Upstream, 12:01 P.M., 70s and 80s Jackie Chan, and Charlie Chaplin’s early shorts (to name but a few) are not being dusted-off and re-aired. Wouldn’t you prefer to watch these gems than poor-quality webcam footage of some overpaid wanker as they chat to some other rich celeb? Even though some of the population may be curious to see celebrities’ houses, seeing one wall of some tosser’s least-favourite room is hardly MTV Cribs. I mean the most interesting thing on late-night TV these days is pondering why Jimmy Fallon hasn’t sanded and re-painted his flaking garden seat. And who the fuck did the pointing on Seth Meyer’s chimney breast? What great fucking telly. 🙄

The Writing’s On The Wall.

5 replies »

  1. Television is a grim affair… However I am hyped up that they are giving GTA 5 away for free… Much better than the bland shows they re-broadcasting on TV…

  2. Do you not think it interesting that james May has a show on YouTube called in the bunker which is this home style type of show which came out a few months before the corona virus ‘hit’ the world.

    • It airs in the UK too on E4 (although it’s called “Celebrity Gogglebox USA”). It’s not as irritating as the non-celeb UK version but we’ll have to see if it serves the same purpose: to selectively edit the reactions to put across a certain opinion that the audience should also agree with because of their affinity for said celebrity.

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