family viewing is back in fashion, with smiling, happy groups of all ages sat together watching telly and smiling wanly. Photo: UnSplash | Glenn Carstens Peters


Many moons ago I used to write a television guide for the Bulletin, it proved so popular I was sacked after a while - but, never mind all that, I still have a rather obsessive interest in what’s on the telly and during these lockdown days it has once again come back to the fore. However, as someone who has an extremely low embarrassment threshold, I do prefer proper television programmes (no matter how old) as opposed to those buttock clinchingly awful ‘ “Hey guys, why not let us sing really badly for you from our front room.” I know that it’s probably me - but, come on really? Much better surely, to sit and watch twenty-five year old episodes of the gently amusing ‘As Time Goes By’ on the Yesterday channel, starring Judy Dench and the splendidly be-jowled Geoffrey Palmer. Anyway, I’ve turned from an occasional watcher of television back home in Majorca - you know the sort of thing, the occasional quiz show, a Netflix series - Match of The Day and Strictly on a Saturday night - to a person who gapes at the box almost 24/7. I can’t believe I’ve just written 24/7 - what has become of me?

For those of you still puzzling over todays headline, just to say it refers to one of my all-time favourite ‘comfort’ films, namely Where Eagles Dare. I reckon that I have seen this film about 50 times and just love it when Richard Burton or Michael Hordern intone that magical line - ‘Broadsword To Danny Boy’. Magical at least to saddo's such as me - who will tell each other for the umpteenth time that Burton was said to be drinking at least four bottles of vodka a day whilst filming and nobody could make head-nor-tail of the script. Anyway, I have also noticed that Channel Five, that used to specialise in a certain type of soft-porn (or so I’ve been told!) has started churning out programmes featuring royals from every possible angle. This sudden fascination with royalty has produced - Royals Abroad - Royals At Home - The Queen At War - Princess Anne, The Real Queen In Waiting - and every other tedious royal angle that can be cut-and-pasted into 45 minutes. I do watch the daily press conference from Downing Street but get into trouble when I start heckling, or insist upon watching ten year old repeats of The Chase, before Anne Hegerty put all that weight on.

It is said that the pandemic has changed recent television viewing habits. For years it seems that television audiences have fractured with the kids making themselves scarce by clearing off to watch something unsuitable on the interweb; but low and behold nowadays, it seems that family viewing is back in fashion, with smiling, happy groups of all ages sat together watching telly and smiling wanly. I don’t believe a word of it. As for myself, I have to say that the most exciting thing that happens to me during lockdown, is to be able to sit in a different room, in a completely different chair at differing times of the day watching stuff that I want to watch. Rock on baby! Preferably, this will not include a diet of ancient series of Homes In The Sun, or others, such as in the Country, Seaside Chateau or just watching rather odd people trying to cop-off with each other rather awkwardly over an indifferently cooked meal. As someone who has all but become square-eyed over the past weeks of lockdown, I have begun to obsess over what I might want to watch on the television later…and should I watch it in either the - a) kitchen diner - b) sitting room - c) bedroom? All of this is fraught with consequences, as I have been involved in a number of ugly scenes over the television zapper in the sitting room and unsurprisingly, have lost every single time.

Not for decades have I become so riveted as what is on the television at any given time. I have even taken to marking my daily newspaper with a green felt-tip pen, so as to plan my viewing for the rest of the day, rather like an - er, old person! No, television viewing of any kind should be done alone, or occasionally by consenting adults as long as no-one is harmed in the process. Although I was relieved of my duties some time ago as the Bulletin’s television critic, may I offer up one televisual treat that can be sourced either via Netflix or the marvellous free-to-air PBS America? The noted documentary producer/director Ken Burns, has made the definitive documentary series of ‘The Vietnam War’ - it is quite brilliant. Anyway, enough of all this malarkey, I’m off to claim my place on the sitting room sofa.