Thursday, 9 August 2012

Stating Points of View...

Dear Auntie Beeb,

Can I call you that? It’s just that I’ve known you since I was a wee boy, ever since Brian Cant was the coolest thing on the telly. It’s like we’re family.

Anyway, you might have heard I’ve not been too well, recently. Just a spot of light brain cancer, nothing to worry about, but it has meant that I’ve been spending quite a lot of time in front of the TV. I get quite tired, you see, and it's as good a place as any to have a slump.

But I can’t say I’ve been very impressed.

I have an established pattern, which is to come home from work knackered, watch the news, have my tea, then fall asleep during the One Show, which you seem to have designed for that purpose. I then won’t surface for an hour or more, until around the time the grown-up telly starts. Unless it’s an Eastenders night, in which case I will wake up to change the channel; these people have voices like Stihl saws and even I can't sleep through that. Our cats are convinced the ’Stenders theme tune goes dum-dum-dum-dumdumdumdum-urgh-bloodyhell-click-zzzzzz.

It’s not the most exotic or productive way to spend an evening, but it suits me. And you’ve spoiled it, Auntie. This summer, there’s been nothing on. Nothing I even want to sleep through.

First there was football, all that Euro 2012 nonsense that Scotland wasn’t even in. You even moved the news for that. You can’t do that: the news is at six o’clock – there’s a law or an old charter or something. Moving it is wrong.

Then there was tennis: Wimbledon, the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club’s annual knockabout. Tennis is boring and goes on for hours; I hoped for a bit more tension from the croquet finals, but you didn’t even show them.

After that there was golf. Some blokes went for a walk, hitting little white balls in front of them, and eventually one of them was given a claret jug and some money. Whoopie-do, Auntie, whoopie-do.

And through all this, there was the building threat of the Olympics. 

The run-up alone seemed to last most of my adult life.

The torch relay just went on and on and on, and it's not even traditional: the Nazis started it in 1936. And I didn't even bother to watch your rowing drama Bert and Dickie; it looked like a damp Chariots of Fire and I can't help suspecting it was partly responsible for holding up Dr Who this year, which is unforgivable.

I watched the opening ceremony, of course, but I did so on iPlayer, mainly because it has a fast-forward button and I couldn't face three hours of bombastic special effects that night; I went to see The Dark Knight Rises instead. Bits of the Boyle-fest were quite good – it really annoyed Morrissey, for instance – but it did leave me feeling that both Paul McCartney and the monarchy have now had their day.

After that, though… well, the thing is, I don’t like sport, so the Olympics have been a bit of an entertainment dead-zone for me.

Maybe I should explain: I have never liked sport. I know, I know, you don’t understand or don’t believe me. That’s most people’s reaction. Others just look at me like I have just admitted to being a Scientologist or a snail fetishist, or are incapable of processing the information and commence The Football Chat anyway.

I don’t know why I don't like it. I was never good at sport and went to a school at which being bad at games ranked you lower than amoebic dysentery, so that might be part of it. But I suspect it’s because I don't get sport. Don’t understand it. No comprendo.

In my defence, there's quite a lot not to get. Like the scoring in cricket, for instance: I played the game (admittedly under duress) every summer for about six years and I still don't understand that.

Or football. Why is that interesting? The plot's broadly the same every time, it has no soundtrack (well it does, but it seems to consist largely of songs about Irish history and Victoria Beckham's bottom) and there is very little chance of a car chase. Yet I've met people who can barely spell IQ but who can and will talk at massive length about the intricacies of a game in which all I have seen has been some very highly-paid haircuts kicking a ball about for rather longer than seemed necessary.

So the Olympics are just the grand culmination of the general sense of boredom and incomprehension you’ve inflicted on me all summer, Auntie.

Why would I feel involved? Why does every other armchair-bound slob seem to gain some sense of personal achievement from the success of highly-tuned athletes who happen to have been born in the same country as them? What have they done to deserve this vicarious thrill, apart from pulled up the roots their buttocks have sent into their couches and wobbled to the fridge and back? Why are they all so offended when Frankie Boyle Tweets that  Rebecca Adlington has an unfair advantage as a swimmer because she has a dolphin's face? I'm sure Rebecca is a lovely woman and a fine athlete, but she is also a celebrity and uses her media profile to make money; which is fine, but it makes her fair game until she stops taking cash from British Gas. "Eek. Eek, eeek. Eeeeek!", as she said herself, while being awarded her medal and a herring.

Nonetheless, I have watched some of the Games; I haven’t had much choice. But that has just raised more questions.

Why do we now have uneven bars? Is “asymmetric” too difficult a word these days?

Why, Auntie, did you spend so much money moving to Salford, then just weeks later head back to London to broadcast from a glass box balanced on some freight containers? And what’s with the black marble altar surrounded by geometric patterns? Is this so Gary Lineker can boost Team GB’s medal count by raising the aid of a dark, demonic force and interview Bradley Wiggins at the same time?

And what makes Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian of all time? He must be, all your presenters have said so. And yet, while 22 medals is quite a lot, all he does is swim; Daley Thompson had to get blisteringly good at ten sports to get just one of his. And he did it to an Iron Maiden soundtrack. How cool was that?

You don’t need to answer, Auntie. I really just want to know one thing: why is it that, with everyone now receiving digital TV and 24 channels of Olympics available, can’t people like me keep BBC1?

Just in case you change your mind, here’s what I’d like to see on a typical night’s viewing for the rest of the Games:

8.30pm Javelin Catching with George Osborne
Short but sweet. Tune in tomorrow for the Michael Gove episode. And the day after for Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. You see where we’re going with this?

8.35pm My Great Big Gypsy Website
Sequel to My Great Big Gypsy Wedding in which the happy couples find their new marital homes on a special mapping app comprising a huge arrow pointing to Jeremy Clarkson’s garden.

9:30pm The Only Way Is Wessex
The casts of various reality shows of the last few years are all put in a house without food, drink or spray tan and not allowed out until they’ve read the complete works of Thomas Hardy.

10:00pm News & Weather
Followed by Reporting Scotland and Newsnight, with proper interviewees who don’t wear Lycra for a living, and no abrupt cut off to the cheap local version until the real one is finished.

11:30pm The Late Movie Double Bill
A couple of old classics back-to-back. Maybe The Maltese Falcon, or Gregory’s Girl, or something from The Godfather trilogy. Not Chariots of Fire.

3:00am All-Star Indian Wrestling
With Dale Winton and Archbishop Philip Tartaglia. This doesn’t actually need to be broadcast, we just need to know it has happened.

It’ll be ratings gold.



  1. I think you are on to something with Javelin catching.....

    1. I'm for "The Only Way is Wessex".