At the End of the Day

I’m in a situation at the minute that enables me to watch a lot of daytime telly. Or put another way, I have no option but to watch it. Of all the disappointing elements of deregulation, by far the most empty is ‘choice’. Choice in health is meaningless for those who have little or no money. Choice in banking means a range of crooks are available. Choice within televisual media has come to mean 500 types of repetitive mediocrity.

That observation isn’t remotely original either, but what one realises as time goes on is that there is no ambition anywhere in government to improve on the telly-pap we receive. More exactly, the political class desires to use the medium (via the media owner) or change it (as in the BBC) to remain apolitical, uncontroversial, and above all soporific. Nor is there any sign of contrition at Westminster that the 21st century criteria for television have produced precisely what the doomsayers predicted thirty years ago: the sovereignty of the lowest common denominator viewer, thanks to the mindless demands of the advertiser for ratings delivery.

Although hobgoblins like Jeremy Hunt burble on mendaciously about plurality, what he and his kind really want is the singularity of one TV model, under which everything will be driven by one thing: the application of a commercial perspective that caters for (but never challenges) those who desire little beyond soap to watch and bling to buy. A genuinely pluralistic market would be funded in a number of commercial, charitable, national, local, pay-TV, educational, licence-fee and information/news ways.

Only this kind of real choice for programme makers might stimulate creativity and risk – without which no medium can remain fresh, but instead all artistic and infotainment media will stagnate. The net result of the Hunt/Murdoch/neocon model is more or less what we’ve got now: no imagination applied to the stimulation of a populace with little mental aspiration in the first place. Neocon television inevitably produces those with low motives in pursuit of those with low expectations. Like neocon business, it prefers reliable, monopoly ROI to genuine capitalist risk.

The majority of television viewers are, literally, consumers of content in the same undiscerning way that lager is drunk and pizzas eaten: they swallow and chomp from a mixture of habit, basic need and immediate sensory satisfaction. The idea of trying a new television menu occurs to neither waiter nor diner.

A steady and uninterrupted lava flow of uncritical breaking news, soaps, sport, celebrity game shows and ‘lifestyle’ programming is the staple diet of our nation….in the sense that it staples their synapses firmly in place, and ensures they don’t go anywhere new or – even worse – unpredictable. In Cruel Britannia, contemporary pizza and soaps make the perfect parallel for Roman bread and circuses.

Afternoon television consists almost entirely of the lifestyle variant. The programming Bright Young Things have only three dimensions upon which they play: genre range, theme variations, and range/theme fusion. Reflecting the obsessions of our culture, the range mainly comprises food, collecting, buying, selling, property, gardens, and the fantasy of escaping from that culture. Within food, there is cooking and eating, kitchens and restaurants. Within escape there is holidays, second property and countryside. Extracted from both is A Place in the Country Sun with a smashing kitchen and three goodish restaurants in the village. Pair the multivariate elements together in turn, and it is a mathematical certainty that you could be manufacturing derivative bollocks from now until the next millennium.

Of course, far more than one-dimensional money-love has brought us to this ugly reality. Education run by bourgeois Lefties (aiming for political rigour rather than open minds) inadvertently produced the perfect audience for warm and cosy mass enjoyment. Those taught by the politically correct to seek safe comfort and inoffensive conversation ironically became uncritical morons: persuaded by New Labour that they were in fact the intelligentsia, their brains have been fattened up nicely by tabloid papers, Newscorp telly, and a confused BBC whose only idea of competing is to copy the Barbarians.

I don’t see this as the inevitable road to robotic citizens. As usual, I remain convinced there will be a reaction. The main point (if any) of this evening ramble is to once more ram home something obvious when you stop and think: that the economic model under which we toil promises much but delivers little.

The (probably insouciant) goal of worshipping all things material is that we never stop. It is a vicious circle: but the sharp knife of material suffering will snip it in the end.

55 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. I saw the way that television was going in 1965 and, so, gave away my TV set and have never owned one since.
    During the last nearly 50 years, the few time that I have been unfortunate to see any TV, I have had my thoughts confirmed.
    Life is too short to waste time when there are books to read (and write), places and friends to visit, photographs to take, pictures to paint, music to listen to,……………..

  2. If you need a comparison from the masters of propaganda, this is 55 minutes well worth spent. To be honest it seems very familiar television.

    “Television Under The Swastika”

    Michael Kloft’s documentary on the history of Nazi television. Legend has it that the triumphal march of television began in the United States in the ‘fifties. But in reality its origins hark back much further. As early as the ‘thirties, a bitter rivalry raged for the world’s first television broadcast. Nazi Germany wanted to beat the competition from Great Britain and the U.S. – at all costs. Reich Broadcast Director Hadamovsky christened the new-born “Greater German Television” in March 1935. And it was only in September 1944 that the last program flickered across the TV screens. For a long time the belief persisted that only very few Nazi programs had survived, but SPIEGEL TV has now succeeded in tracking down a stock of television films and reports which have remained intact since the end of the Third Reich. These include extensive coverage of the 1936 National Socialist Party Convention in Nuremberg which recalls today’s live broadcasts, and of a 1937 visit Benito Mussolini paid to Berlin. Interviews with high-ranking Nazis such as Albert Speer, Robert Ley and the actor Heinrich George are among the finds, along with numerous special reports (i.e. on the Reich Labor Service), a cooking show and the lottery drawing. Television anchorwomen greet their tiny audiences in specially installed television parlors in Berlin, Munich and Hamburg with “Heil Hitler.” The entertainment programs are particularly curious. Cabaret artists are featured – alongside singers extolling the virtues of the “brown columns of the SA and SS.” This documentary by Michael Kloft will reveal a rare and intriguing view of the Third Reich, one far removed from the propagandistic presentations of Leni Riefenstahl & Co. and the weekly cinema newsreel, yet no less ideologically slanted. This is Nazi Germany expressed in an aesthetic medium that we ourselves have only really known since the ‘fifties

    • I cannot remember which movie it was that informed me that the first radio waves from this planet that would be picked up by extra terrestrials would possibly be of Hitler ranting, but if any aliens are monitoring our radio & TV broadcasts, it’s hardly surprising they have not paid us a visit.

      I sometimes feel as though I am an alien, the other day I could not avoid hearing a group of morons on radio one engaging in a session of wit & fake hysterical laughter that could have easily been improved intellectually by the input of a couple of chimpanzees. I feel as though I would go insane if I had to put up with it for longer than a few minutes, but millions tune in, everyday.

      My exposure to daytime TV fortunately only consists of about 15 mins of the Jeremy Kyle show, there was no choice as we were in a doctors surgery. A kind of freak show, that initially had me laughing in the same way as Harry Enfield’s slobs used to. As in the Jerry Springer show, those in the audience didn’t strike me as being much different to those they were supposedly horrified by.

      3% of Americans are said to have been abducted by aliens, perhaps these people are featured on alien versions of these shows, after all if they wanted to learn something important, wouldn’t they pick scientists, professors etc.

      • Yes Stevie I was hoping that the speed of light was not a barrier to travel. I was encouraged when the scientist were confused by their readings recently , but alas it is a barrier. If we could travel faster than the speed of light we could pass Hitlers ravings as they radiated outward with some of our own. Judge Judy perhaps?

      • The aliens are already amongst us…………..600 plus meeting regularly at the cathouse called westminster :)

  3. John don’t rely on the boob-tube.

    Getting the brain matter truly engaged, takes your thoughts away from the inevitability of the ongoing bollocks we must endure from the politicos!

    I heartily recommend this production from Nottingham university, little bit more thinking required than the pre chewed discovery channel!

    http://www.youtube.com/user/sixtysymbols

  4. ‘Worshipping things material’ indeed.
    Well, zero interest rates and QE plus inflation means that all pensioners are suffering a big reduction in income. So they are reducing consumption to the minimum possible. That will make the economic recession even worse. Unintended consequences?

  5. Er , ‘scuse me , but day time TV? Are your dogs watching it / have you got a wonky leg?
    Mother in law has Alzheimers- when I visit her , I feel as if I have been whacked over the head- the TV content is horrible.
    Hoewver the other afternoon I did see the battle of the river plate and had fun identifying some of the long gon actors , but not forgotten!

  6. Oh, come on, throw another Christian to the lions, You know you want to, what else is there to do?
    Tosh and bollocks of the First Degree, still the proles fall for it, and as long as they do…..

  7. Come to think of it, maybe if Cheryl Cole, Louis Walsh et al had to come to a decision on the legality of the ESM rather than the Krimson Kardinals of the Karlruhe we might have got a more honest verdict. Just sayin’……

    • I would, unfortunately I am outnumbered, my wife is twice the man I am when it comes to ‘our’ viewing pleasure…Judge Judy rules…hard to believe she has two degrees, one of them a First Class Law Degree…7 A levels….

    • A little gem in today’s press from Barroso (13/09/2012)

      “I call for … a democratic federation of nation states that can tackle our common problems, through the sharing of sovereignty in a way that each country and each citizen are better equipped to control their own destiny,” the European Commission president said.

      and the killer [joke] line!

      “In the age of globalisation pooled sovereignty means more power, not less.”

      for whom one asks? Not the electorate(s) – that’s for sure.

  8. Another excellent read JW.
    The BBC seems to me not only complacent and derivative but also complicit in a wider plan to manipulate opinion and engineer the social fabric of the country.
    Tinfoil hat?
    Why is property ladder perpetuating the myth that you can buy some tatty semi at auction, paint it white and lay some laminate floor and pocket £25k ?

    Why are we fed endless ‘Police busibodies in action’ programmes which denigrate anyone without a tax disc as a ‘muppet’ or similar derogatory adjective, fostering a ‘comply or be knackeed’ message….?

    Why is the BBC’s coverage of economics and especially the euro crisis bordering on infantile?

    Now I am not saying ITV or Sky are any better – but I am not expected to fork out money to pay them, whereas the BBC expects to be fed money in alarming quantities and delivers little but gibberish.

    • Regarding property ‘enhancements’, I note that the banks and all their hangers-on are squealing once again that people can’t get 95% mortgages (or 105%!). The stupid government is even trying to free up the market by helping first time buyers with deposits and guarantees. Anything to allow the massive bubble to deflate slowly through inflation. In the past, banks never stopped trying to lure people into losing either their own money or that of the banks. This was a direct result of paying bank sales staff commissions that make up an important part of their incomes, and of course the surveyors/estate agents/housebuilders trying to pump up their incomes. The housing market is not flatlining because of lack of funds or lack of housing, it’s because the present price levels are ridiculously excessive and everyone knows it. The government is desperate to prevent further reductions in nominal prices because of its impact on the UK banks. But it’s happy to stimulate inflation as a medium term agent of correction.

  9. I found myself watching a fair amount of daytime TV back in 2008 whilst getting through chemo.I wasn’t really able to focus or concentrate enough to read and the TV was useful background noise. It was a shock to see exactly the same programmes and in many cases the same episodes on whilst unemployed for the first 4 months of this year. I did actually write to the BBC about it and received a breathtakingly patronising response for my troubles. Day time TV programmes are saturated fat for the brain and as a result should be avoided

    • Sorry but two words destroy this movie’s credibility. “David” and “Icke”.

      It’s a shame because some of the ideas/concepts put forward are fascinating and deserve a wider audience.

      Really, you’d think that the makers were trying to trivialise (and taint) valid and relevant subjects by featuring crackpot’s such as Icke (shape-shifting lizards) and the ideas of Von Daniken (ancient space-alien visitations etc) on purpose. If you didn’t know better of course… ;)

      Apart from that it’s pretty good. Watch it. See what you think.

      • @ Whoflungdung: http://thrivedebunked.wordpress.com/
        This website has a certain smell. It’s a familiar, earthy, unmistakable aroma: C …I … A? Big oil? or maybe the gas board or the the lecky board? Something else then? You decide.

        I’ve already debunked the easily debunkable (is that a word?) in Thrive. I’m sure that others could do better than me but it needs to be known,there’s many a truth in material produced to misinform, you’ve just got to dig a little. Thrive contains more truths than most — once the sh*t is eliminated.

        And when you dig a little, that Gamble chap seems genuinely sincere … maybe it’s the Proctors of this world you have to worry about ;)

  10. I work in American TV, and trust me when I tell you (with VERY rare exceptions, a la MAD MEN) the notion of whether or not anything is “good” in a genuine manner doesn’t even enter anyone’s mind, beyond the very basics of functional craft. Just, “what are the numbers”. In fact what they all get into a titter about being so “good”, here at Emmy time, I swear I can’t tell if the people are faking it or actually believe the stuff actually is good. Are they actually morons, or just so cynically trying to provide gruel to the audience who they believe to all be morons the facade is complete, I can’t tell anymore. And the self-importance, the deranged personalities. I need to find a way to get out.

  11. At least the BBC, with all it’s faults, gives you programming in real-time (apart from its trailers of course) whereas commercial TV provides endless crap/banal shows in bite-sized chunks in-between blatantly hypnotic adverts designed to fry your braincells with high speed bursts of subliminal flash-images no more than two or three seconds long. It’s a recipe for washing brains no less.

    Observe a child (or indeed most adults) during commercial breaks. Totally mesmerised. TV adverts cause confusion and agitation but most of all a heightened stimulation in it’s most simple, base form … Consume, conform, comply, consume, conform, comply, consume, conform, comply, consume, conform, comply, consume, conform, comply ………………………

  12. The illusion of choice is everywhere (not just on TV).

    When you go down the cereal aisle there are two main manufacturers plus the own label brand that is most likely packed in one of the main brands’ factories, same in the detergents aisle.
    The sweet stand in most petrol stations and corner shops is supplied by Mars (Mars bar, Twix, Snickers etc.), Mars bars are at elbow height on the right hand side next to the till, it’s the grab point, Nestle (Kit Kat, Aero etc.) and Kraft (Cadbury Dairy Milk, Caramel, Wrigleys etc.) are your other choices.

    The high street is mostly Arcadia and Santander and your Ford Fiesta is really a Fiat 500 with a different badge.

    Brand used to be a differentiator, now it’s just a label (ITV, BBC, Sky).
    Same shit, different logo.

    Short AAPL.

  13. TV, like print media, is a dying medium.
    The interwebs just blows them away for quantity and quality of information without interruption from corporate advertising.
    There is a real thirst for truth out there and you can only dumb people down so much.
    Go to google news archive and drag up some newspapers from 40, 60 and 100 years ago and be blown away by the quality of the prose and breadth of subject matter (Glasgow Herald is there, not behind a paywall).

  14. “Curiosity” it’s wandering around Mars.
    I am not sure if its nurture or what? A lot of human kind, and from what I see in the clinic, probably most haven’t a clue and possibly would not want to.
    What a waste of brains and how do you stop it?
    Thanks for the essay, succinct, funny, bless you both JW, TB & KFC. Now of to those hyperlinks!

  15. I have abandoned BBC/ITV/SKY news – they run the same major story to saturation and very little else. BBC weather, that’s about it.
    If you want good old fashioned uncensored news and business news, RT on channel 85 is the only one available.

  16. Hey it could be a lot worse! At least we have choice, much more choice than when we had 3 channels.

    I am quite happy to be able to watch a quality drama like Parades End, or one of the many excellent BBC documentaries like Horizon, at a time of my choosing, and ad free. I also enjoy a pretty good choice of stand up comedy, music and arts.

    I would rather eat my own sick than sit through Kyle or a talent show, but at least I have the choice!

  17. It is a good thing daytime tv is terrible. Why on earth would you want it to be watchable.
    There are now tonnes of really interesting minority-interest stuff all over the airwaves (including radio), and the might web is teeming with unlimited choice and quality. (of course so much is dire, there are a lot of idiots in television, probably pro-rata with the rest of us)
    You have to have faith in people, I don’t think they are brainwashed any more than they will tolerate. At the lowest level -according to the daytime schedules- people are now interested in cooking and home improvements *.
    I think that shows up in many areas of society, and we are just trying to raise the average.
    At other levels, the terrestrial daytime viewing figures are probably dire; most people will be doing something else.
    * (I choose to ignore fake jewellery and hair-care channels)

  18. (and you can record anything for preparing your own schedules at a more convenient time)
    I worry more about the calibre of news reporting, and domination of westminster verbiage all year long.

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