14 July 2009

The Downward Spiral

I rarely watch terrestrial television.

Generally speaking, it's a terrible mish-mash of pointless, putrid, lowest-common-denominator programming which does nothing but give malteser-munching sofa-cattle something to look at while they silently creep, slack-jawed, towards an inevitable heart attack / bowel cancer related death.

There are, of course, exceptions. I'm a sucker for Dr. Who, and anything with Charlie Brooker in it is well worth a look. For some reason, I identify with his caustic brand of hatred and disdain. In fact, I'd venture that they're probably my favourite two emotions after extreme rage, scathing bitterness and schadenfreude.

Brooker's new show 'You Have Been Watching' was on this evening at ten, so I wandered into the living room, blew the dust off the remote control and put the TV on. Unfortunately, I was several minutes early and had to endure the closing moments of Big Brother.

Some sort of Wolverine lookalike was laying next to an instantly forgettable, generic brunette, engaging in a vigorous bout of 'personality-jousting', each vying to be the most memorable and/or important. Moments later, I discovered that four people are up for eviction, one of whom is inexplicably and ridiculously called 'Dogface'.

Apart from instantly flickering into my usual state of intense irritation, I was suddenly and astoundingly jolted into a rare moment of sadness as I realised just how much Channel 4 has become a shadow of its former self.

Way back in 1982 when the station went live, it was a breakthrough in British television. It had an impressive record providing programming on the performing arts, and made a significant contribution to film. Indeed, I seem to remember such highlights as Alejander Jodorowsky's 'El Topo', various works by The Brothers Quay (usually co-funded by Channel 4) and a host of other amazing programmes and movies. It was providing content that wasn't available elsewhere, and wasn't afraid to take risks.

Now, the jewels in Channel 4's crown are Big Brother, Embarrassing Teenage Bodies, and Hollyoaks. What the hell happened? Where are the challenging programmes? Where is the worthwhile content?

Sadly, it's all gone. Channel 4 has, in common with the other channels, become nothing but a combination of banal serials, carbon-copy reality TV, and cookie-cutter game shows.

Jan Svankmajer has been replaced by Brian Belo. Aki Kaurismaki is gone, Noel Edmonds has stepped up to the plate. Peter Greenaway has left the building, Chris Moyles has installed a beer cooler in his dressing room. The music of Michael Nyman and Philip Glass has been forgotten; instead we have Lily Allen being piped into the ironically-decorated lifts.

Yes, Channel 4 probably have more viewers as a result of their dumbing down, but I genuinely believe we're very much poorer for it.


Piley said...

Good post, and spot on re C4... used to be the thinking mans station with quality drama, comedy and docs... now it's like a TV version of the Sunday Sport!

Talking of documentaries.... what ever happened to them?? You know, where you used to learn stuff n that?!

Rubbish like 'Walking with Dinosaurs' is now classed as a documentary, which was basically the Beeb reworking Jurassic Park with a voice-over...


Dan said...

Piley, you old cynic you! Browsing the Channel 4 website, I uncovered a veritable plethora of programmes filed under the sub-heading "documentaries":

Supersize vs Superskinny
The World's Oldest Mums
Revenge of the Bin Men
The Hunt for Britain's Tightest Person
Take Away My Takeaway

and, of course, their greatest achievement,

My Monkey Baby

It's an embarrassment of riches!

In fairness, there do appear to be some quite interesting documentaries squirrelled away in the Channel 4 schedule. Unfortunately, it's rather like being handed a pair of tweezers and a bucket of shit, and told "Go on, there's a pound coin hidden in there". Maybe so, but I'm not looking for it.

Andy said...

Largely agree Dan, but: Buried (actually buried in the schedules), The Mark of Cain, Red Riding? Landmark stuff, worth picking up the tweezers for. And, of course, Come Dine With Me.

Dan said...

Andy, you make a good point about fayre like Red Riding, which was excellent. However, for every decent programme, there are a hundred stinking turds.

And, how dare you mention 'Come Dine With Me'.

At one time, CDWM was actually quite an interesting programme focussing on the meals being prepared, the ingredients being used, etc. Now it's little more than "let's laugh at the stupid people as they fuck up some mashed potatoes. Oh, and while we're at it, we'll have a look round their house and sneer at their appalling taste."

It's wrong and you know it is. Now go and stand in the corner.

Andy said...

As always, there is truth in your words of disappointment. I would like to see the narrator from CDWM put to better use, perhaps as a commentator on Parliamentary debates, or autopsies.