In Praise of Good Telly

Downton Abbey? You can keep it; Eastenders in posh frocks. Coronation Street? Never watched it, though Ena Sharples was a well known name in my primary school playground. Holby City? Phuh.

I am not the greatest television watcher, mostly because I have a very small television that makes it less of a relaxing pastime and more of one where you have to stand up and close to the screen so as to see what is going on. And I write as someone who only has myopia in one eye.

But every now and then I am gripped by a series. Wolf Hall earlier this year hardly counts as it was a transcendental adaptation of two transcendental novels. Anyway, I saw most of it on Celia and Charlie’s proper sized television. For a series, other than things like Paul O’Grady’s For the Love of Dogs to which I am completely addicted, to get my full attention it has to be pretty good. Or the Olympics.

Short silence while I relive the joy of standing a foot (31cm to my metric readers) from the television screen while Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Hannah Cockroft and David Weir did their stuff while I shouted encouragement to their unhearing ears.

Back in 1996, quite by chance I caught the first episode of This Life. I was gripped. Immediately. I spoke about it to everyone I knew. No, no one else had seen it. Zero interest. So it was with a degree of cynicism some weeks later when This Life had become an unmissable televisual event in the circles in which I swim that I listened to those same people swearing that they had been into the programme from the word Go!

Today, out and about in London, where mid-afternoon I got drenched in the unforecast heavy rain shower, I noted several unmarked police cars flashing those distinctive blue lights, and racing along the streets. I don’t know what they were doing, and tonight’s Channel 4 News didn’t help. Somehow I think it’s probably connected to our understandable nervousness following events in Paris both on Friday and today.

Incidentally, I was appalled and shocked by the news last night that any number of state governors in the US are saying that no more Syrian refugees should be given, well, refuge. Donald Trump’s speech will be shown in years to come as an example of crawlingly feeble politics masking as common-sense. It’ll be up there with Neville Chamberlain waving the piece of white paper. People will shake their heads in disbelief. I’d like to think Trump would hang his head in shame, but from what I have seen of him, I think that’s not an emotion in his repertoire. Full marks to Barack Obama for his robust and pithy riposte.

But I digress. Has anyone else this side of the pond discovered Cuffs? A cop drama set in Brighton, BBC1. Wednesday evenings 8pm (as opposed to Wednesday evenings, 8am). I love it. It’s one of those programmes I watched by chance, again catching the first episode. I’d never have picked it from the TV guide. It was episode 3 tonight. I missed the first fifteen minutes as I was talking (qui, moi?) with my neighbour Bridget out in the street, the pair of us having met in the last minute dash for M&S just before closing time.

It just reminds me how good a middle brow tv drama can be. It’s unpretentious, straightforward and very entertaining. As the weeks go by and the characters are fleshed out, their weaknesses, their strengths exposed, I am enjoying the emotional development and the emotional attachment I can feel with these fictional characters.

I bet they don’t have anything this good on the telly in Islamic State. Mind you, if the government has its way, we won’t have a BBC worth the name this time next year. Sign the petition now! Fight for television worth watching. And Radio 4.

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14 thoughts on “In Praise of Good Telly

  1. This Life…now you are talking absolutely brilliant!! Have recorded but not yet watched Cuffs and yes The BBCs future may sadly never be the same again…petition already signed!

  2. Another series to dig out of the deeper depths of the internet. Thank-you – always on the look out for new things to watch. Or perhaps catch on our one Wednesday in London.

    As for the political posturing of our politicians, they do not speak for most people here. They have reached a level of instantaneous negative response to anything the President with no regard to the quicksand ground upon which they stand.

    Here is a remarkably Christian response from the very group these craven politicians are courting:
    The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) calls for the United States to continue distinguishing between terrorists and the victims of terrorism when deciding refugee policy.

    For other sane responses, the governor of Washington State was remarkably humane.

    • The idea that either Trump or Carson could be the next US president is pretty worrying, and what about this woman threatening the town with the highest Muslim population in the US? Scary and stupid in equal measure.
      I have a feeling Cuffs is too lack to be exported to the US – though given the success of GBBO who knows? – so the Internet might be your best bet. Will you have an iPad or similar with you? If so, you could catch up n BBCiplayer while you are here.

    • I watched the first series of Downton and enjoyed it, now I really can’t be bothered. I think there is a lot of good tv, but you have to look them out, as increasingly the schedules are dominated by reality shows. Last night I watched The Detectorists on iplayer. It was great; well written, well acted, entertaining. Admittedly I thought I was going to be seeing a documentary about people with metal detectors and was somewhat surprised to see Toby Jones’ face. It turns out this is the second series and I had never heard of it. It took me a few minutes to recognise Diana. Rigg. I knew I knew her, but couldn’t place her.

      • I’m addicted to radio drama and have started downloading it to my phone for walk to and from work and at lunchtime. Early one morning and Fat little thing were this weeks choices and both very good. Years ago I was able to listen all day in my office , but not now and I really miss it!

  3. I no longer watch TV here , except the odd news programme [even that is awful these days], and Graham Norton. Anything else i wait for recommendations from people [especially The Daughter], and stream it when it suits me. Seeing As NZ is usually 6-12 months behind with TV it makes more sense.

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