I can’t recall a time in which our terrestrial TV schedule was this poor, in fact there hasn’t been a worse time for British television. Take a look at your TV guide, it’s chock-full of shows about baking, pottery, sewing, and painting, like your dead grandparents have risen from the grave and taken over TV. There’s shows about repairing old tat, countdown shows charting Britain’s best biscuit, shows about dogs and cats, and shows in which frigging choirs are made; one out of prisoners by Gareth Malone and one made of Dementia sufferers with Vicky McClure. There’s documentaries about celebs’ mental health including Sheridan Smith and Jesy Nelson, which ironically, are adversely affecting the nation’s mental well-being, given we’re subjected to them. TV like cinema, is supposed to be an escape from our mundane lives. Do we really want to watch someone fannying around in a factory, meandering around a hospital, or eyeing-up antiques 24-bloody-7? Fuck no!
Sometimes it feels like a gaggle of beige pricks, who are harking back to a time they couldn’t possibly have lived in, are trying to recreate what they perceive as a wholesome time. In truth, there was always evil gangs and scary rapists (or whatever else people are afraid of) in fact the odds are that one of your beloved granddads was a teddy boy with a flick knife who sexually assaulted an underage girl over a Morris Minor. But these blinkered numpties assume, through rose-tinted nostalgia, that the post-war era was the greatest period of British history; apart from Hitler, everything was hunky dory apparently, and they’re trying to foist their sham perception of this time onto the nation. From every “Keep Calm” show on Channel 4 during the lockdown, the over-promotion of Captain or Sir Tom’s charity work and subsequent national mourning over his death, every Royalist documentary on Channel 5, and every wanker on every channel wearing a Remembrance Poppy, it’s like we’re in some kind of alternate reality where the post-war era never ended. There’s utter crap-fests such as Call The Midwife and Strictly Come Dancing on every week because as a nation, we’ve either transformed into old-aged pensioners or the UK is collectively having the bleeding menopause (ironic pun intended).
And it’s not just the early twentieth century we’re harking back to, there’s plenty of morons trying to recreate their actual youth which occurred sometime in the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s but even this is done in a weirdly subdued, mundane kind of way. Lets not forget that the mid-afternoon gameshow Countdown is now offered as a primetime programme featuring the worst “comedians” the UK has to offer. And yet despite all this faux-throwback-shite, if you watch any actual documentary charting the successes of yesteryear’s TV, you’ll routinely hear the phrase “You’d never get away with that today”. This sentiment has been uttered on everything from The Story Of SM:TV Live to Back To The 80s With Lenny Henry, which means prudes and wannabe-traditionalists have risen to the top of TV and are preventing anything pushing the envelope.
So what’s with all this reminiscing over the past? In their heart of hearts, these miserable old codgers in charge of programming surely know TV is in the doldrums but instead of doing something about it, television commissioners’ best idea is to reboot more old crap: Blankety Blank, Crystal Maze, Family Fortunes, Open All Hours… why are we endlessly tripping down memory lane instead of finding and producing the modern equivalent of The Word, The Big Breakfast, SM:TV, The Real McCoy, Bottom, and The League Of Gentlelmen?
So go through your EPG; on Freeview, Freesat, Sky, Virgin, or BT. There’s so much “safe”, family-friendly content that it makes your third eye water. We have Bradley Walsh & Son, Russell Howard & Mum, Romesh Ranganathan and his mother in Asian Provocateur and Martin and Roman Kemp seemingly on every other programme; a gaggle of man-boys pissing around the globe and pratting around the airwaves proving that they’re as dull or less worthy of fame than their parents. Then there’s Mrs Brown’s Boys, still finding an audience despite it resembling something on CITV in the mid-80s, and David Walliams is in wannabe Roald Dahl-mode translating every one of his shite books to shittier telly specials for sheltered, middle-class kids.
We also have the crappiest gameshows including The Wall, The Cube, and The Wheel plus other gargantuan objects that should remain to scale. And there’s numerous programmes in which a panel of celebrity judgey-cunts are still to this day, trying to find a talented performer or singer or the next big product, even though they haven’t yet succeeded. There’s also Jamie “I’m ruining your food ’cause I’m a fat gobshite with no self-control” Oliver and his umpteen shows as he fails to pay his workers while he puts more poisons in our food under the guise of health. On the other side there’s Shop Well For Less or Eat Well For Less as some overpaid pricks condescend us regular folk and tell us how to live with our ever-dwindling wages.
So what’s with all this dreary shite? Countryfile and Antique’s Roadshow-type programmes used to be relegated to Sundays, a day of rest and faux-religious observance but now, this type of sedate garbage is on every frigging night. I mean who enjoys watching the dullards on The One Show, who’s enthralled by Kirstie and Phil or captivated by Piers wanking Morgan? I couldn’t give a toss how Sarah Beeny’s life’s going, I couldn’t care less about how far a Yorkshire vet can fist a cow, I want some genuine pissing entertainment! And what the fuck is “Celebrity Snoop Dogs” on Channel 4? Is it because TV execs are a. running out of ideas or b. listening to the shittiest old-school Hip-Hop? Either way they need to be sacked. And whilst on the subject of Channel 4, Gogglebox, a concept so idiotic, that back in the last century it would have sounded unbelievable, kinda like selfies, is one of their most popular creations! If you can convince the masses that doing lame shit is the peak of popular culture, they’ll do it. Plus we now have a handful of talking head and panel shows with vanilla-numpties like Scarlet Moffatt talking pish, because we’ve made celebrities out if the blandest, most undeserving fuckers around.
With so much dross on the idiot box, people like Frankie Boyle in his current dull-arsed, watered-down state is seen as “controversial” and shows such as The Last Leg are seen as anarchic. And let’s not forget that Nish “Asian Carlton” Kumar is seen as a clever satirist. Only in a schedule this shitty would these cases of mediocrity be elevated to late-night slots and seen as acerbic and riotous.
This kind of mediocre and tedious scheduling is the reason why when a show like Gangs Of London or a film like Joker finally makes it through the sanitised landscape, they go on to become huge hits. We’ve been inundated with soft trash and we’re so starved of grit, that when anything teetering on “brave”, whether in tone or content, makes its way towards us, we lap it up.
With all this utter wank on the telly, is it surprising that the nation would rather watch any Norwegian thriller or a HBO boxset because our own national broadcasters can only create middle-of-the-road misery? That being said, the recent shit-tastic coup in the U.S. resulted in Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, and James Corden opening their respective shows with a serious statement and the removal of jokes because apparently 5 people dying in one of the most mediocre non-power-grabs in history is somehow akin to 9 fucking 11 (which for the record wasn’t that big of a deal either 😉). It’s because of this type of reactionary, moralistic toning-down of content why Bill “D.C. Cab & House II” Maher is seen as some kind of free-thinking super-liberal over on Sky Atlantic.
And of course, it’s not just TV being sanitised. While I’m mentioning the Yanks, Songbird, a sci-fi film satirising the Coronavirus, got panned by critics… for moral reasons! (Just read the opening paragraph of this review). Songbird was simply: a shite film. God forbid the movie’s message was that the virus in their story was manufactured or fake. If that plot was somehow put into production (which it never would be) imagine the outrage. The mainstream media love to moan about so-called “cancel culture” but the majority of the time, they sew the seeds or fan the flames and this directly leads to the expurgation of entertainment.
Whilst I’m widening the scope of this article, we also have Facebook censoring any and everything including one of the most famous and harrowing images of the Vietnam war; the so-called “Nepalm Girl” because she’s nude and seeing a naked body somehow breeds paedophiles. We then have YouTube age-restricting random stuff including the music video for Band Aid – fuck knows why. Why can’t people watch footage of the Ethiopian famine? This music video contains footage anyone growing up in the ’80s saw (regardless of age) but now we’re subservient to the nanny state where scaredy companies play mother and tell us what’s too much for our over-emotional sensibilities. Sometimes I wonder why we’re attempting to create a generation of closeted, sheltered morons. To create a race of easily-led, easily-shocked, pro-censorship cunts? Good going, mainstream media, you’ve almost done it.
This mass sanitisation of entertainment of course, is not down solely to those in charge of mainstream media. Thanks to right-wing gammon Ofcom complainers and politically correct lefties advocating the banning of shit they don’t agree with, the UK television schedule is now mind-numbingly dire. Is it any wonder why we’re all watching streaming services more than ever? The “regular” telly is filled to the brim with steaming garbage. Keep it up and you’ll kill the format. Hey, maybe that’s what they’re trying to do.