As the Mayan Apocalypse barreled toward us like Leigh Francis and a disassociative disorder, it prompted an era of personal reflection. We strolled along Recollection Avenue and looked back on our lives and reminisced about what we did well, and what we wished we had done better. And I can guarantee that everyone wished that they’d ate more toast. Toast is amazing. Apart from marvelling at the brilliance of toast, you might also think that you should have tried harder with that ex-girlfriend who looked like Heather Locklear/Susan Boyle, or spent more time with family. And if we flip reverse it there’s bound to be hundreds of people who wish they had dedicated more time to Halo 3.
Me? Well, I don’t go in for torrid love affairs like Kate Bush and Katie Price, or spend loads of time gaming. Instead, TV is my vice. I can happily sit and watch an omnibus of Real Housewives of New York for long enough that my bed sores will start to debate whether they are #teamramona or #teamjill. I could even sit through Pop Idols around the World (my particular favourite is the sexual maniac from Nigerian Idol, Charly Boy, who is so vividly homosexual, in my opinion, that a new type of super-rainbow would be needed to beef up its encompassing aura. Like Captain Planet, but for gays and not just another generation of pansy ecowarriors).
So whereas you might yearn for another chance to put it inside your first girlfriend, these are my five regrets of TV.
1. Never Seeing Breaking Bad
I know. Some of you are probably in-taking such a large gasp of breath that the sales of ventolin inhalers in ASDA are going to skyrocket. People coo over Breaking Bad like it’s your best friend’s child. But I see it like my best friend’s child; a quick and easy way to ruin your life. I find that the more people talk about Breaking Bad the worse Breaking Bad becomes.
Cryptic tweets that say “OMG, can’t believe the end of Season Four” and “Wow, that gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘sunburn’” irritate the actual shit out of me. If you’re going to tweet about something like that, why not tweet the actual thing? For all people who don’t watch Breaking Bad know the main character could have discovered a new breed of irradiated cat that fell asleep on his face in the middle of the night. Or that a man made of living flames just got drunk and touchy feely. When we do find out, it won’t be the gory realisation of what the truth is, it’s the fact that the actual truth won’t be as interesting as the irradiated cat thing and we’re back at the reading rumours about Harry Potter before the books came out thing.
2. Seeing Jurassic Bark
Some sitcoms are brilliant; Him & Her, for example is one of the finest pieces of TV, Keeping Up Appearances is also one of the better ones out there. Unfortunately, sometimes sitcoms can become so serious that they flip over into making you want to cry all the tears out of your body just to get all the liquid that could be used as tears out. It isn’t very often that sitcom plots can have such a poignant effect. One of the strongest attempts at making the audience cry was during the Royle Family Christmas Special; The Queen Of Sheba.
In it, the oldest member of the Royle Family is approaching the end of her life and we see what she means to each member of the family in some of the most natural acting that Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnson have ever done. Eventually, the old biddy dies and, somehow, perhaps by the actual magic of TV, it connects with all of our lives at once and forces us to relive the past trauma of having an elderly member of our family dying.
But that doesn’t even compare to the massive emotional strife that Futurama inflicts on everyone with their episode entitled ‘Jurassic Bark.’
Yep, lots of people will know exactly what I’m talking about here.
Instead of following the final hours of an elderly relative; a woman who’s death was inevitable but unwanted by the viewer, ‘Jurassic Bark’ follows the story of the main character’s dog who he rescued as a stray and kept as his own. A lovely story of companionship akin to Grey Friar’s Bobby (we think). And that would be lovely if it stopped right there and didn’t continue anymore.
But because this is Futurama, the thought of what happens to an old life once you do travel into the future has to crop up, and instead of seeing what happens to the rest of Fry’s family as they come to terms with his disappearance and ultimately coming to terms with it, we follow the emotions of his dog, Seymour.
More poignantly, we see Seymour sitting outside of the pizza shop Fry works at waiting for him to return from work and pick him up. Except Fry never returns and Seymour stays on the pavement until he finally dies of old age, never seeing his best friend again.
It’s one of the saddest moments that has graced animation and should only be viewed on a full stomach and through a stable mind because this will make you cry incredibly large tears of sadness.
3. Knowing Who Mark Wright Is
This is a general regret for the majority of structured reality TV that has cropped up over the past few years, and is epitomised by the recent The Only Way Is Essex: Live. As anybody who’s anybody knows, TOWIE, and other pretenders like Made In Chelsea and Desperate Scousewives frequently document the ridiculous and banal and paint it with massive sloshes of glitter diarrhoea. These shows, fortunately have a use by date, and we might have passed TOWIE’s as they displayed their lack of redeemable features and talent by making an exhibition of themselves for Cancer Research or something.
It isn’t like that when you’re sucked into the World of TOWIE because it can only get better and better. You yearn for Gemma Collins to lose her shit about something someone might have said about something sometime. Or for Arg to combust in Joey Essex’s face. As each episode gets created and pumped out in a pellmell and lazy fashion, the stakes are stacked higher and higher so eventually all the characters are at odds with one another and they don’t know whether they’re supposed to be talking to one another or not.
Behind the scenes, away from the prying eyes of the viewer, they probably all snort the same cocaine off the same stainless steel table stashed in Nanny Pat’s granny flat but in front of the camera they’re the most vivacious and unending paragon of glamour.
Imagine how much space in your brain is crammed full of knowledge about what happened with Arg and Lydia, or that naked picture of Mark Wright that he leaked to the press where he confirms that even when his penis is semi-erect, he’s still a massive prick. Imagine what you could use that space for. You could find out who put the bomp in the bompshebompshebomp. Or who put the ram in the ramalamadingdong. Or basically, read a few books that aren’t centred around domineering men and stupid women.
It isn’t that TOWIE is evil and is the scourge of TV, because it isn’t. As entertainment value goes, it can rank really high (especially during the Amy Childs era), and although the producers might have lost their way a bit with the characters they have created and the impact they think they have on society, it is still a pretty fantastic concept at heart.
4. Spent Too Much Time Grieving Over Big Brother
If TOWIE is the watermark of modern day society, then Big Brother is the benchmark that all reality TV series works up against.
The first few series (especially around the time of Jade Goody) were some of the best things that have ever been broadcast on TV. Better than Michael Roux, Jnr.’s accent even. It made Channel 4 a behemoth of must see TV on a Friday night, and coupled with the massive appeal of Friends, was where the cool kids who were too young to drink hung out.
So naturally, the country was gutted when it was announced that the goings on of sixteen nobodies in a house designed to turn those nobodies into massive household stars was going to end. It seemed that reality TV was a dying breed, and with Keith Chegwin’s todger bouncing around like a Spaniel puppy, you could kind of see why. There was nothing to fill the void with until it was resurrected, like a George A. Romero zombie on Channel 5 a few years ago.
There was never going to be the calibre of honest celebrity-making ever again. The cynicism of TOWIE and X Factor lies in the machinations of the backstage staff and producers tilting the reality of what the viewer sees and doesn’t see like a magic eye of Jamie Biscuits taking a massive morning wee on his family’s legacy or a nice dolphin. Big Brother did this, but used the persona of Big Brother as a benevolent or cruel master (sort of akin to Simon Cowell’s Mister Nasty character but without the lies about botox). Big Brother was sometimes the star of the series, especially Series 3 where the house was split into Heaven and Hell. Although it didn’t stay faithful to the Orwellian construct, it did play it’s own part in creating the one true, sincere “celebrity”; Jade Goody.
Goody was one of the greatest celebrities that has ever lived. Taken from obscurity, thrust into a spotlight that didn’t understand her, like the look of her, or even want her to win, she fast became one of the first contestants to be given death threats. It was great. She was vaudeville taken to it’s extreme. She had a very strange talent of saying what was on her mind at every given opportunity, and soon turned being the most hated woman in the country into being one of the most loved. And with Jade came her family; the one armed lesbian narcissist that she called Mother, the repeated rape suspect, Jack, and turning right at being a good mother with two sons with Jeff Brazier. It was like a shit Jonathan Harvey sitcom.
Goody’s death, coming shortly after a massive racism row, was pure Goody; through the papers and television. But with Goody’s death also came the slow, stricken death of the creature that created her. Contestants moved away from being realistic looking people and instead became unusual monsters who suckled on Max Clifford’s teat, striving to outdo each other when it came to being the most different and awful. Big Brother became even more involved and each week seemed to have a twist and turn that would rip the house apart. Essentially, the social experiment that was the basis of the show turned into an unmasked freak show that revelled in the revulsion felt by the viewers.
And, although it may seem that this is a massively savage critique of Big Brother, it still remains high on the list of shows that shouldn’t have been brought back because, when it was good, it was brilliant, and when it was awful, it was even better. No one could create a more obvious attempt at a TV show that squandered personality in favour of big boobs and hot bods without prefixing it with ‘Babestation Presents...”
5. Not Seeing The True Beauty Of Downton Abbey/Call The Midwife
Ask anyone about Downton Abbey, or Cranford, or Larkrise To Candleford, or Call The Midwife, and you’ll either get “that shit is shit yo” and a worrying feeling that you’re sure you had your wallet this morning, or a misty eyed recollection of memories long gone and a life long lost.
Before this turns into a UKIP style manifesto about how lives in the 1950s and previous were the best thing since bread came white, let’s just all agree that dying of polio when you are 21 is one of the worst things that can happen to a chimney sweep. Who’ll feed the triplets and Tiny Tim? Life has never been better, and government cuts withstanding, you can be almost whoever you want to be without having to be shoved back down the mine, or up a shaft, or into a cart.
So why do I regret not seeing what the true beauty of Downton Abbey is? Mainly because for millions of people out there, people who don’t understand what an iPhone is, or how to make mashed potato without lumps in it, this is harking back to a time where they were children and were looked after by nuns called Chumley or whatever it is, or lived on a massive, sprawling country estate while a man who slept with prostitutes behind his wife’s back clung to his acting career.
It’s exactly the same as people in their mid to late twenties understanding the pain of listening to the Raggy Dolls theme tune and being told that misshapen and erroneous versions of toys are just like you and me. Or that magic time where you knew that coming home from school meant that the crazy kids at Grange Hill had some new trouble to contend with but that was alright because Paul Robinson was having massive problems at Lassiters and could lose the entire thing.
Mementos of a past time are usually classed as nostalgia and resorted to being the thing that you would see plastered onto a plastic biscuit tin that you’re Gran has in her cupboard that she only brings out at Christmas, but this year nostalgia has made massive stars of relatively unknown casts and brought millions of viewers to ITV and BBC One on a Sunday night; a time where usually the country falls asleep while John Craven talks about a rare cow that has been found in the Highlands, or when the Alzheimer launched antics of three elderly men are laughed at without a concern. It wasn’t a time where being entertained was a massive factor. You were with your family for fuck sake. There’s nothing entertaining about that.
But now, instead of dreaming of being Marina and finally stabbing that miserable bitch Pearl, people yearn to find out what’s going on with Lady Whatshertits and the Gay Butler.
That’s brilliant isn’t it?