In Defence Of Crappy Television

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Tell me, how are you watching TV these days?

Are you sitting to attention with your elbows on your knees, mouth slightly open, prone to little gasps or jumpiness any time an actor delivers a career-defining speech?

Or are you reclining – tongue lolling, eyes unfocused, with a laptop on your knees? Half an eye on the telly, half an eye on your phone, three-quarters of another eye on the tax return you’re completing online, and the other two-fifths of the remaining eye (er… sorry, carry the three, minus seven… it’ll do) turned inward, replaying the memory of an excruciating conversation you had with your boss earlier?

Well, Mostly The Latter. Why Do You Ask?

The smartphone and tablet revolution have created a whole new consumer of entertainment, known in the industry as People Who Don’t Really Care Whether It’s Any Good Or Not. This is because we are now so often only half-watching or reading something, while browsing for online treasures such as ‘5 Barely-Related Things I Put Together To Chuck Out A Blog Post’ or ‘how to get blood out of sacrificial robes’.

In other words, a whole new target market has been created, of consumers who watch without really watching, and read without really reading.

But just because some entertainment doesn’t monopolise our attention, or even hold it for any period long enough to ascertain whether it’s mildly offensive crap or complete crap, doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge demand for it.

In Defence Of Crappy Television

I myself demand TV programmes or online content which, given due consideration, would cause an acute attack of cynicism because of its cheesiness, sloppiness, or stupidity.

This is because I need something non-taxing to get me through tasks which are otherwise too boring to be done in isolation. Such as sewing buttons on things, formatting accounts, colour-coding my sock drawer, or peeling the pith from individual segments of Satsuma.

Even as I turn on the crappy stuff, I’m thinking ‘this is awful shite. But I can watch it with my back turned while I cook dinner’.

I happily arse around online while on another screen, vacuous women in New York try on ridiculously expensive wedding dresses. Or add images to blog posts, while obscenely rich airheads in California talk about the stress of having to turn up at nightclubs.

I still watch the clever stuff. I generally record it to savour later, thinking ‘I cannot miss this. The Guardian are doing an entire supplement on it. This is the cultural event of the year/decade/lifetime’. But two months later, this stuff is generally still sitting on my tellybox, festering in its own cultural importance. I get around to it eventually, but it takes a long time for me to commit.

The crappy stuff gets watched first. It gets watched within days of being recorded. And it gets watched more willingly than the cultural event of the century.

I can relax with TV-lite, because I’m able to follow the action without following it. And TV can relax, too, because awful plot crimes get forgiven when I’m preoccupied.

Predictable, soapy bitch bonanzas are perfect for watching-not-watching. I can answer blog comments while glancing at the TV for the only 90 seconds in a 30-minute reality show which require my actual eyes.  And I can ignore the vomitous sentimentality of orphan-juicing costume dramas while I make lists of people who will be manning the central sewage treatment plant when I am President Of The World.

The beauty of this, for the marketeers, is that I’m just as susceptible to advertising during crappy TV as I am for the award-winning stuff. Possibly more so, because I’m not so focused on fast-forwarding the ads.
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But Somebody More Important Said Otherwise

Some cultural commentators would have us believe that subscription TV raised the game to the extent that it made things difficult for new writers. We can’t just be good, now, to rise to the top. Our work must be ingenious. It must be awe-inspiring. It must have Walter White using 1960s advertising motifs to show us what it means to be flawed humans winning big in big politics. It should employ timeless language, using old words in new ways, and defy genre conventions. It should be a publicly-declared classic within two weeks of release.

And to top it all off, we are supposed to be doing everything mindfully these days too. The stress of multi-tasking is apparently shaving years off our lives. We are perennially having to go back home to check if we left the oven on, because we aren’t concentrating on any routine tasks. After all, it’s just a short leap from browsing the internet while watching television, to winding up on the edge of a cliff, naked, realising we haven’t seen the kids since we idly decided to cross the motorway on foot.

Could I Get To The Point, Please?

I want to say a big ‘Yay’ to crappy TV. To the pot-boilers; to the predictable crime dramas, and to scripted reality. To precocious soapy children, and to mind-numbing happy endings.

No matter what they say, about how wonderful it is that we’re living in the golden age of TV, and how much less dumbing-down there is today in comparison to ten years ago – there is always going to be room for more TV-lite. Because life is not a taut allegorical classic. Life is the reality show we snuggle our smartphones to.

How do you feel about crappy television? Where does it place in your life?

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  65 comments for “In Defence Of Crappy Television

  1. miladyronel
    March 10, 2016 at 8:10 am

    I watch the “lite” stuff while exercising in the morning – it makes me forget what I’m doing so I can actually get through racing on that infernal stationary bike. I actually pedal faster the more the plot irritates me…

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 10, 2016 at 8:49 am

      That’s another excellent suggestion. Purposely seeking out crappy drama in order to get healthier. I’ll have the self-help book written by the end of the day and I’ll give you 1.5%. Deal?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. carousel1234
    March 10, 2016 at 8:22 am

    You sew buttons?!
    If I watch TV with my family, which isn’t often, I infuriate them by telling them what the actor is going to say next or what’s going to happen next. I haven’t seen it before but it’s all so predictable.
    Thanks for making me laugh, Tara. Again. What would we do without you? 😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 10, 2016 at 8:50 am

      I suppose the issue isn’t so much that I’m sewing buttons, Carolann, as that so many buttons require re-attachment in the first place. Perhaps I should be watching less crappy TV and more jogging on the spot…

      Like

  3. sandralindseywales
    March 10, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Yay we’re not the only household that says “tellybox”!
    Totally with you on the “doesn’t need much concentration” front – my personal TV drugs of choice are NCIS, Time Team, Car SOS, & when I’m feeling a bit more intellectual, those BBC Four/Open University programmes which are basically radio with pictures…

    Husband does more TV watching than I do, but then he’s not the sort to read a dozen books in a week, like I just did…

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 10, 2016 at 10:17 am

      Your TV drugs sound positively highbrow in comparison to mine, Sandra. I am very impressed. Although I do wonder what it is you give your full concentration to. I’m imagining quantum physicists composing music for piano while making obscure references to 17th century philosophy. Or perhaps Gardener’s World?

      Like

      • sandralindseywales
        March 10, 2016 at 12:13 pm

        Lol!
        “Full concentration” for me is things with subtitles, or where you actually need to watch the pictures to follow the story!

        Liked by 1 person

        • March 10, 2016 at 12:42 pm

          Hmmm. I’m not sure. I think you might be hiding your superior intellect under a bushel of subtitles…

          Like

  4. March 10, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Yay for shite telly, I completely agree. Something to fold laundry to, that’s all I want most of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 10, 2016 at 10:19 am

      I forgot about the laundry. You’re absolutely right. And that often requires leaving the room in the middle of it too. That calls for a very special type of telly.

      Like

  5. March 10, 2016 at 9:55 am

    What you’re describing sounds like the telly equivalent of muzak. You need to try an experiment: scientists discovered that television stimulates alpha waves, the ones that are most active when we’re asleep; try doing all those tasks you mentioned when you’re asleep. Think how much could be done in all those hours we’re zonked out.

    I should also add that you’re lucky to have tv stations that actually broadcast programmes. Here in mainland England, Freeview’s broadcast ratio of advert to programme is 58:2 (fifty-eight minutes of ads and two minutes of Drew Pritchard salvaging rubbish in any one hour period). Irony is, when you do need a low cost loan to pay the expenses of a PPI refund lawyer you can’t find one.

    And for what it’s worth, my telly habits consist of watching catch up tv on a laptop, mainly very intellectual debates involving Albert Schweitzer, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Miller et al.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 10, 2016 at 11:03 am

      Your telly habits are disgusting, Chris. Not only do you watch such filth, but you’re blithely declaring it in public too. Don’t you know that intellectualism is the death of modern day politics? I mean, any time I’m talking to someone I suspect is smarter than I am, I just punch them in the face. I’m not having anyone clever tell me what to do.

      On the other hand, I can’t believe you’re advocating I start writing my blog posts in my sleep. The market is full of that stuff already.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. March 10, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Project Runway for ironing. I couldn’t get through without it 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. March 10, 2016 at 11:34 am

    I glanced through this post while listening to a podcast and talking on the phone, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I just caught the words “crappy TV shows” and now have to invite you to Greece, where these words have an entirely new meaning. Not a pretty one, either.

    And now I miss Father Ted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 10, 2016 at 11:57 am

      You’re saying I’m invited to Greece for something crappy, Nick? Lovely. Can I bring my phone, tablet, laptop, Kindle, digital radio and entire music library? I wouldn’t want to be bored.

      On a serious note, I do however need you to tell me what it means now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 10, 2016 at 11:58 am

        Erm, what what means?

        Liked by 1 person

        • March 10, 2016 at 12:32 pm

          What crappy television in Greece actually means!

          Liked by 1 person

          • March 10, 2016 at 12:37 pm

            I’d love to, but I don’t think you can handle it. You’d probably end up on the couch, clutching your knees, rocking gently, mumbling incoherently, within a few minutes of watching. Even mentioning some of our programs will do that to you, so… nuff said!

            Like

            • March 10, 2016 at 12:43 pm

              Ah, well. I think we have grown plenty of that stuff in Ireland too. And don’t forget that while Father Ted might have been born in Ireland, it was delivered in the UK. You should see some of the stuff they go the full hog with here.

              Liked by 1 person

              • March 10, 2016 at 12:47 pm

                That’s what you get for winning the Eurovision every other year, though. So at least there’s that.

                Like

                • March 10, 2016 at 12:53 pm

                  Now you’ve gone and brought up the Eurovision. We’re a nation in mourning for the Eurovision. We haven’t had a good run since the 1990s. We reckoned when the country went into recession again, that’d be at least another 3 in the bag, but no. Goshdarned bloc voting…

                  Liked by 1 person

  8. March 10, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Come Dine With Me
    Four In A Bed
    Don’t Tell The Bride
    Fair City

    I feel lighter now the truth is finally out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 10, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      Well, I’m surprised at you, Tenderlation. The other three I can live with – but Fair City??? I may never be able to look at you the same way again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 10, 2016 at 12:41 pm

        Be careful what you sneer-watch. It’s a gateway habit to more worrying behaviours. I forgot Ice Truckers and Real Ghost Adventures. They’re current at mock-watch level but it’s only a matter of episodes…

        This is like a weird confessional game. And I’m not even drunk. It’s a good job it’s just between us.

        Liked by 1 person

        • March 10, 2016 at 12:46 pm

          Yes. Thank Blog nobody reads this site. And I am familiar with the worrying behaviours. It’s a short, sharp fall from feeling intellectually superior, to wondering what your ears would look like if you did your hair like someone whose speech patterns mimic toddlers on acid.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. March 10, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Very interesting, indeed. Because of my all-over-the-clock work schedule, I haven’t watched TV like a “normal” person in 25 years. It would be watch one episode, miss two, watch two, and so on. Instead, I listen for “buzz,” and when a show grabs my attention, I buy it (pre-Netflix), and watch at my leisure. Bottom line, I tend to only watch things that impress me. I’ll be retiring in 53 days, and with all the time in the world at my disposal, I’ll have to learn how to watch TV again. This is a very dismal picture you paint, lady. Makes me think there’s a lot of Xbox in my future!

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 10, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      In 53 days, eh Jack? That is a landmark event! I hope you’re celebrating in style. I hope your retirement isn’t wasted on crappy TV. The danger of it is that you don’t need to watch any episodes, let alone every other one, so ironically it can become a ubiquitous drone in the background, like traffic, or a wonky dishwasher. Although if you’re like me and you have a plethora of mind-numbing domestic tasks to do, it’s a great excuse!

      Like

  10. March 10, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Gogglebox, Midday and Neighbours are my three not very guilty pleasures (when you’re a chick lit buff these are very tame things to watch!), as is the Late Late Show (if you’ve seen it lately, it’s getting crappier). Some great tv for working was all the election coverage, you coudl read/ write while listening with one ear for any points that you’d widely dispute, press rewind to hear again, rant, then get back to work. They were also good for a bit of a laugh. I’d say myself and my husband are the only people in Ireland who want another election just to see the ‘three amigos’ and Gerry get up and say the same old same old!

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 11, 2016 at 8:52 am

      I tried watching the Late Late, but it’s very hard to type while you’re squirming. There is a point beyond car crash telly where you have to stop watching again. I also loved the election. I multi-screen that with various regional newspapers & counting live blogs on the go along with the TV. So you and your hubby aren’t alone. I thank Blog there’ll be another one shortly and we don’t have to go without all that craic for long 😝

      Liked by 1 person

  11. March 11, 2016 at 5:12 am

    I could live without television except for Walking Dead, Outlander, and Game of Thrones. Those get my full attention 🙂 My husband watches anything…total crap, including repeats of total crap. I can’t write with all that noise going on in the background. So that’s my blogging time! Like right now. Ha ha ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 11, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Yours sounds like the perfect household, Diana. In mine, we’re both trying to watch total crap – only different total crap – from the same couch. It makes for interesting arguments because neither of us have a leg to stand on in terms of what we’re fighting over!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. March 11, 2016 at 7:58 am

    Storage Hunters UK. BOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM! Storage Wars, American Pickers, Storage Something New York, Pawn Stars all provide excellent watching/not watching background. They provide enough distraction from the various videos of antelope on hover boards, Donald Trump hating memes and birthday reminders over on Facebook.

    I reflect on my behaviour and realise that I really have no life at all.

    ‘Idea arrives’ “I know, I’ll open an Instagram account…” “Oh look, Ice Road Truckers is on all weekend…”

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 11, 2016 at 8:49 am

      I’ll have to put you and Mark into a box with 24-hour storage and salvage shows, Conor. You’re not into rednecks shooting stuff, are you? Because I know where you can get some.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. March 11, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Personally, I don’t do crappy television. Then again, since I don’t watch much to begin with, trying to find crappy television is like trying to find something good to say about The Donald.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. March 11, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    In the past few years I’ve watched less and less television as the rubbish annoys me. Now we watch Channel 4 News but even that’s becoming less relevant. Why do I want to hear about junior doctor strikes in England when our Scotttish parliament has come to an accommodation with doctors here without the hint of a strike. Life’s too short to bother with stuff that isn’t relevant.

    As for the rest, it’s mainly the drama series from Scandinavia, France, Iceland and other countries which appeal much more than most drama made in the UK, much of which is period drama. Shetland was the exception. The last series was great, though the BBC messed it up by interfering twice with the schedule, replacing it with football.

    Less TV, switching off to ads, and more books read, though I do spend considerable time on the internet reading news sites and political blogs, as well as online shopping. Brilliant – much more riveting than naff TV.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 11, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      You are an inspirationally focused TV watcher, Dorothy. One of these days, I’m going to turn off the box and simply concentrate on the task at hand… oh, who am I kidding. I am beholden to crap telly for life!

      Like

  15. March 11, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    Haven’t watched any TV in years… well, apart from Game of Thrones. Does that count?

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 12, 2016 at 12:24 am

      No. It most certainly does not count, Ali. Because Game of Thrones is excellent. You have to go now and watch some crappy TV before you come back for serious discourse.

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 12, 2016 at 10:58 pm

        Sorry. I really tried. But I just couldn’t do it. I’m weak… WEAK, I tell you! 😂😣😭

        Liked by 1 person

        • March 13, 2016 at 3:10 am

          Oh, good grief. You cultural leaders and your impossible standards. Okay then. It’s up to me to fly the crappy flag everywhere. 😝

          Like

  16. March 12, 2016 at 5:49 am

    I’m with you, I have inane rubbish on as I do chores or write just because it is a noise. Right now there’s a stupid wedding program on about a crazy italian wedding that I’m really glad I wasn’t invited to. Happy watching

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 12, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      The best thing about having a TV in the room showing horrendous people being horrendous is being able to scoff at horrendous people without having to be in the same room as them. Hope the wedding lived up to low expectations, Ruth.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. March 14, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Hi Tara, I’m an old fashioned girl and am still influenced by our mother’s strict rationing of TV viewing to 30 mins per child per day. That was when only 2 of us were at home. Sooo, I only switch on the telly if there is something special to watch and, for me, that’s sport and politics (not unrelated).
    I doubt I’ll change now!
    Radio is preferred option while sewing etc and that’s a verrry rare occurrence!

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 14, 2016 at 11:16 pm

      Radio. Now why didn’t I think of that!!

      Like

      • March 15, 2016 at 5:43 pm

        You’ve no excuses now. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of thrash on radio as well but the dial moves easily as does the off button.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. March 14, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    I laughed crazily at this. I must send my unfortunate husband crackers. The TV is his domain, because I have run out of time for the rest of life. So we eat with the news on, then I ask if there is anything I want to watch and he says no (and I disappear), or yes. If it’s yes, at the appointed hour I rush in from my desk with the ironing, or the sewing or similar, thus wrecking some serious music or some really good programme. I watch some idiot stuff too, and for these I fall asleep. I couldn’t really care less what is on; all of it pleases some of the people some of the time – so fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 14, 2016 at 11:21 pm

      Sounds like a good method of management, Hilary. If I spent less time watching what I didn’t want to watch, my plans for world domination would look less of a joke I’m sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. March 16, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Well, you see, crappy TV is completely unnecessary now there’s every possibility Trump will be president. You were too busy channel surfing clearly than to follow through with your aforementioned plans to be President of the World and now look where we are: in an endless scene from The Truman Show. Cheers, Tara.
    I thought when we dropped our Time Warner cable subscription, I’d be finished my novel in no time and it was Dancing with the Stars that was holding me back. Turns out it wasn’t. Good to know.

    Like

    • March 16, 2016 at 3:05 pm

      I accept blame for very little, Jackie, but I will do so in this case. I apologise. My Chief of Secret Police has been working hard, however, and will be disrupting a Trump rally using 5,000 lingerie models with strategically misplaced placards next week. We’re certain of success.
      I had a few days off recently and decided to spend them as I would if I was a full-time writer. Let’s just say my apartment is very, very, very clean.

      Like

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