In case you’ve forgotten, it is Friday 13th today and depending on your politics, today could be a very happy one, or alternatively - you might be looking to clout small children and will be permanently in a bad mood for some time to come.
However, it is never a good idea to start my Friday column rabbiting on about politics, so perhaps today I will seek to cheer you all up. Well, not really, I’m afraid - because I want to talk to you about how dismal mainstream British television has become. Part of this is probably down to the fact that because of the one hour time difference between here and Blighty, I have long gone to bed before anything vaguely interesting appears via British free-to-air television. As I am not a particular fan of formulaic quizzes, or excruciatingly dull regional news programmes - there’s not much left to watch before 9pm local time is there
Over the past few years I have been forced to watch ‘repeats-of-repeats’ of programmes such as Room 101 - Would I lie To You? - or, decade old editions of Have I Got News For You - and they are still better than what is on offer now.
Yes, there are the occasional top rate ‘must-see’ programmes, but they are few and far between and during the past 5 years of election campaigning (It feels that long!) even they have been sidelined, as tedious politicians take over the television schedules.
I watched Spanish national television one evening, years ago, and vowed that I would never again criticise the quality of the UK’s televisual output. Indeed, apart from a few notable exceptions, watching television in the USA or even Australia is an unrewarding business for those who have even half a brain. So, perhaps I am being unduly churlish. Maybe that is the point though; at one time we had the best television in the world, now I would say that as all the others have got slightly better, we seem to have stopped still and relied upon a unappetising diet of soap operas, cooking, gardening and antiques shows - plus, a plethora of so-called ‘Reality’ programmes to see us through the dark winter nights. That’s apart from Love Island, which is aired in the summer and is filmed here in Majorca - so shush, not a word criticism, otherwise they might go somewhere else to pout! Recently, I wondered if I had detected the beginning of the end of Reality television. The truth is, programmes such as The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent have taken on an end of summer season matinee feel to the productions. Simon Cowell at times, looks as though he can hardly be bothered, and it seems to me that ratings are mostly maintained, not by glorious British showbiz talent in all its forms - but, by Amanda Holden’s impressive cleavage constantly teetering on the brink of pre-watershed modesty and Alesha Dixon’s endlessly long legs.
These examples exemplify the acute lack of creativity there is in what used to be laughingly called Light Entertainment. Just uttering those two words has me cringing with a sort of 1970’s guilt - all those frilly shirts and huge bow ties and simpering, giggly hostesses - yuk! Over the weekend I watched - I’m A celebrity Get Me Out Of Here - just the once.
It was okay I suppose, but the format is dead on its feet, waiting for a kindly funeral director to pack it tidily away without any fuss or bother - as the producers seem to have finally scraped the bottom of the barrel in terms of the perkily televisual and for the most part, talentless celebrities. However, what I am about to say will be heresy in the eyes of millions of Strictly Come Dancing fans. Okay, here we go. Is it me, or has Strictly lost its lustre? After fifteen series, Strictly still dominates Saturday night family entertainment and is hugely popular; but - is it time to call an end to the quest for the Strictly Glitterball Trophy? Yes, I think so. You know when a show is past its sell by date, because this is when everything is over-hyped and it becomes a parody of itself - with the judges giving out 10 scores willy-nilly and wanting it to be all about them.
Also, dare I say that the end is nigh - when the dancing is no longer actually ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and contestants get to stay because of their popularity or back story, and not because they can dance.
The end is nigh when actors/actresses/presenters, with a fair amount of dance experience dominate the show. Good Lord, a finalist two years ago had actually danced in a stage musical prior to coming on the show. The end is nigh when Craig Revel-Horwood looks bored and distracted - and he is starting to look bored and distracted. So then, go on the BBC - announce that next season is going to be the last ever season of Strictly Come Dancing, because sometimes it is the right time to be really brave and end a very good thing before it becomes ever so slightly embarrassing.
As I am writing about television programming, I thought that one of the more interesting contributions to the general election debate, was the one regarding if the BBC should have the ability to claim a ‘poll tax’ television licence charge anymore in the age of Netflix, Amazon, Sky and all the others?
Naturally enough, many politicians thought it a political attack on Auntie, which in some ways I think it was - nevertheless a £154.50 a year television licence, just to be able to watch your television, does seem more than a little old fashioned and statist - given the plethora of viewing options people have nowadays. I suspect that post-election - this one will run and run, just like all the best and the worst entertainment shows on the telly.