I had considered leaving you in 2017 with an upbeat message brimming with goodwill and bonhomie.
Ha, ha! Only joking! I would never do that to you. Instead, I thought I would leave you in 2017 with a brand-new conspiracy theory, together with a strong sense of foreboding regarding the future. You can thank me later.
As we all know, as a rule, TV schedules nowadays amount to around 25% new programming, 75% repeats. At Christmas, this ratio goes to 10% / 90%. And while coasting through a plethora of repeats this Christmas, I got thinking about something I’d somehow managed to forget.
One night back in in 2013 I was also flicking through the TV channels. It was that kind of aimless flicking whereby I didn’t really have any intentions of stopping, but then something in the schedule caught my eye – or to be more precise, a pattern in the schedule caught my eye.
For those of you outside this peculiarly attached-not-attached part of Western Europe, you might not know that Irish people watch a lot of British TV. We have very few home-grown channels and often tend to watch ones from across the Irish Sea instead. And on this particular night, a very British pattern began to emerge. If I’d been English, say, I mightn’t have noticed, but I’m not, and I did.
Bearing in mind that even though this was before the Great British Bake-Off – but only by about 5 minutes – there was an awful lot of Great British Bullshit. One channel was showing Great British Railway Journeys. Another was showing Britain’s Got Talent. Another had re-runs of the Great British Menu.
None of this registered until I finally got to BBC1, which was showing a new quiz, called I Love My Country. It featured teams from different parts of Britain, answering really important questions all about Britain – such as where you could find a Yorkshire pudding in a red telephone box while Morris dancing to bagpipes.
It was bloody awful television, to the extent that even its own presenters looked embarrassed to be associated with it. It only lasted on TV for 5 minutes in my case, and one buttock-clenchingly awkward season in the case of the BBC.
But still, I was bewildered. What’s with all the shagging patriotism, I wondered? Why does it have to be a Great British Bloody Everything? Why can’t you just have a Bake-Off or a Sewing Bee or any other frankly bizarre show concept, without nationalising it? Who decided that British people will only watch TV programmes if it’s made clear in the title that it’s for them?
Or was it a government conspiracy? For the first time in my life, the last possibility seemed, well, a possibility. (I have long held the view that daytime TV in Britain and Ireland is a government conspiracy to force people out to work, so this wasn’t too much of a leap.)
I stared wide-eyed at the telly for a while. Then I forgot all about it for five years, because the Great British Bullshit became so ubiquitous it didn’t even seem remarkable anymore. And in truth, if it hadn’t been for the abject awfulness of I Love My Country, perhaps I would never have noticed in the first place.
Then Brexit happened, and lots of people stared at Britain with bewilderment as they convinced themselves of facts and figures that weren’t true and talked about how everything was so much better during World War II when everyone pulled together and sang songs and shared rations as the bombs rained down over their heads and telegrams came from overseas telling them their loved ones were dead. Oh, the fun they had! But I digress.
It was only after this – and indeed after daily headlines regarding the shambolic progression of Brexit became as ubiquitous as those awful TV show titles, and someone was making America really grate for the first time in living memory – that I remembered I Love My Country.
Were the two phenomena connected? Could it be that 5 years of subliminal patriotism, transmitted through the medium of lite entertainment, had permeated the subconscious of an entire island, plus a minority of another bit on another island, ultimately leading to said island plus minority of another bit on another island to want to seal themselves off from all their neighbours?
I don’t have the answer to this question (the job of a conspiracy theorist is not to answer questions, for Blog’s sake), but it did give me some ideas.
If my theory is correct, then over a relatively short period – only 5 years or so – light entertainment was able to bring about a rise in nationalism, a surge in populism, and severe economic shocks for several continents, not to mention making a lot of people very very cross.
Indeed, if you extrapolate the rise in populism and the accompanying barminess associated with such movements, it might even bring about another war. Imagine the Great British reality shows we would see then! But again I digress.
Come July 2018, I will have been blogging for 5 years. Some readers have been visiting regularly for a lot of that time. I don’t want to alarm anyone, but this would mean that technically I will have had access to the subconscious of literally tens of people around the world, for the same period of time that it took light entertainment to turn the tide of opinion of entire nations.
It’s no secret that I have long had designs on becoming an all-powerful international tyrant. (Aim sideways, that’s what I always say.) And just like light entertainment and today’s politicians, I am in no danger of anyone bothering to go back over my history in order to analyse anything I have been saying over the years.
Anyhoo, it’s just a thought in passing, but I would consider myself perfectly placed to start taking over the world shortly.
This is probably as close as I’ll get to a New Year’s Resolution post. Does anyone else have anything nice planned for 2018?