Whatever happened to…

30 08 2008

… Saturday night television?

As I sit here and wait for Match of the Day to burst forward at 10:20 tonight, I am distinctly aware of a complete lack of anything remotely interesting to watch on television tonight. The growth of reality television has effectively killed off what was, traditionally, a strong time for family television. Programmes such as the ever reliable Casualty on the Beeb, or films on ITV and Channel 4 have suffered as we are exposed to such television rubbish as Last Choir Standing (who cares?), X Factor (painfully pointless and long lasting – contributing to the demise of the music industry), and tonight, a programme celebrating the good work of the National Lottery. Now I appreciate the good stuff that the lottery does, but as someone who contributes to a television licence, I am more than a little peeved at this taking over an hour of prime-time television.

I find that I am left with the options of NCIS on Channel 5, and what is proving to be the winner of Batman Forever on Channel 4. Neither of which, if I’m honest, particularly inspire me. I have seen Batman many times, and NCIS is just a poor version of the much more popular (and better) CSI franchise.

My question though, is why does reality television still continue to flourish? It is, if we are honest, the lowest denominator of television. Programmes such as the aforementioned Last Choir Standing are less popular than either the X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing, yet they still manage to occupy hours of prime-time. Let us not forget Big Brother either, this television carbuncle still rumbles on ten years after it was initially started as a psychological experiment. At the time, in my opinion, it barely passed as an interesting experiment. Ten years down the line, I wonder how many people really still care. Switching onto E4 last night I was unfortunate enough to catch the last two minutes of BBLB. As I stared blankly at the screen I was unsure whether to be embarassed for the presenters, or embarassed for the people who still tune in. The question which I posed to my sister (to which there was no answer) was “is this entertaining?” I’m assuming the lack of answer was an answer in itself.

What can be done to save television? I know that is a hard question as tastes vary (indeed there are some who still tune into the aforementioned tripe) but there needs to be a swift return to quality programming, with people such as those at the BBC and ITV returning to the idea of making quality programmes, and spending some of the money they make either through the licence payer or through the advertising. Channel 4 is still involved in making some very good films, so why are we not exposed to these films more often?

In short there needs to be someone, somewhere who stands up to the ogre of reality television and fight back, for the sanity of most viewers nationwide. I have heard grumbles about the number of American programmes appearing on our screens from numerous people. My response is that they are better than what we can offer. I feel much happier watching some American dramas as opposed to British reality tv. That’s the way of it. British television sucks. Our television needs reclaiming, for the sake of the nation at large.


While I’m at it…

27 08 2008

Following on from the previous post which has the potential to be quite, well, interesting, I thought this may further enrage the hornets nest.

Have a good read of it.

Needless to say I agree with Paxman, and think that the problem is becoming more than a ‘television’ issue, instead it is endemic of the ‘appeasement of minorities’ culture which we have in this country at the moment, which I have previously aired my frustrations about.


27 08 2008

I do not want to discuss at length this whole complicated issue, simply because I cannot be bothered to. As I see it there are too many problems with trying to work out quite what ‘Britishness’ is. Instead I am going to point you in the direction of Monday night’s Panorama. I’ll be honest, the programme itself was a bit simplistic, but I felt that it raised some interesting issues with regard to the issue of what it is to be British. I would suggest as a starting point for thinking about this issue, watching this is as good a way to get ideas as any. It’s available on IPlayer for the next week or so, and the Panorama website is worth checking out as well.

As an aside, I do find it interesting that we (as a collective) can get so enthused with the progress of Andy Murray in tennis, making him “British” rather than “Scottish” because it suits our desire for success, or our Olympians who all represented Britain in Beijing; but we choose to make it “English” or “Scottish” football, or golf. It seems slightly odd that some sports are content to be represented by “Brits”, and some are happy with “English” participants.


21 08 2008

There has been talk recently of the growing unemployment figures, and how this is indicative of the bad nature of society, where people are willing to take opportunities to claim various allowances, but do little to actually find work.

As someone who has been claiming such allowances recently, I would just like to lend my voice to the issue, insisting, as I will, that it is actually quite hard to get on the career ladder, especially if you are a graduate who has little clear idea what they want to do. As someone in the position last May, I had been job hunting since early in the year. Obviously this bore little fruit, as I have made at least a couple of appeals on this site for work. Being, as I technically was, unemployed, but paying rent, I felt I had little choice but to claim allowances which could help me pay my way, at least in part.

In the meantime, I was applying for jobs daily, with at least a couple of application forms being completed every day (by the way, do you know how long such forms take to complete? It’s ridiculous). The jobs for which I applied ranged from menial shop jobs to more career-based work. I had a couple of interviews, but got nowhere with them, with one prospective employer telling me it was because I lacked customer experience. I felt like I was in a catch 22, I didn’t have enough experience, but no-one would give me a job to gain experience. Finally, last Tuesday I was offered a shop role until Christmas. Which means I need to continue my search for long term work, but does take some of the heat off of me.

Anyway, enough of my sob-story, the point was that for all the moaning about the state of unemployment in the country, the reality is that it is actually very difficult to find work at the moment. The yearly influx of graduates into the job market, coupled with the economic slowdown has meant that it has become really very difficult to get work anywhere.

Yes, there are people who sponge off the state. Many of them have good reason for it though. It is those who claim various allowances but then fail to do anything to really help themselves who are the problem.  It is my feeling that the issues should not be reduced into a generic, negative title of “unemployed on benefits”, because case’s vary. I know I was actively seeking work, and still am, but many do not, and are happy to take the handouts. It is these people who are still the problem.

Community Aid…

21 08 2008

I thought I would bring to your attention this article. It means nothing to me other than the delight of hearing about the mighty Wolves in Parliament. Well, I suppose that isn’t strictly true, I am of course delighted to hear that Wolves Aid is doing a great job in the wider community. The article, for those of you to lazy to read it, explains that Wolves Aid is the “biggest club charity in football”, which is great for everyone connected to Wolverhampton and the wider area. At least we are hearing about football in parliament for all the right reasons, as opposed to this from BULS a few months back…


9 08 2008

Over the past week, I have spent some time in the company of my grandparents, and have been reminded what wonderful people they are. I have two little points I wish to share with you to illustrate this.

Firstly, I was in the pub with my grandfather, dad, uncle and cousins the other day. I will set the scene further for you: it is a quiet country pub, home to locals, and the occasional family looking for somewhere to eat. The atmosphere is warm and the bar staff are welcoming. If I’m going to be brutally honest, it is quite a Conservative pub (although most of my ‘neighbourhood’ is), and the people in it are reasonably traditional (well the locals are).

Anyway, back to the story. As mentioned it doesn’t just cater to the locals, but is trying to build a reputation for food, with more people visiting for a meal now. Whilst we were sat there around various pints, in came a couple, a white man and a black woman. I think it is fair to say both were quite ‘big’ people, the sort of people you wouldn’t particularly want to start arguing with. My grandfather though, ever one for political correctness visibly turned his nose up at the woman. Then made two remarks, both which rate quite highly in the cringe-worthiness ratings. Firstly he said (and I paraphrase slightly), “I bet his social life has declined a hell of a lot“, in a reasonably loud voice. The trouble with grandparents is that you know they genuinely mean what they say, and have no concept of being politically aware (nor indeed of racism- which is odd given my grandfather very definitely has a conciousness of racism, being as he was, one of the first employers in Wolverhampton to welcome black workers, and to this day has many black friends). However, if that first remark wasn’t bad enough, the second was just painfully funny. Again, I paraphrase: “So, I’ve asked my wife this, but she didn’t know, so I’ll ask you lot. [Pause of about 5 seconds] How on Earth do people like that pee?” I presume he was talking about fat people, rather than black people, but then you never can tell with grandparents.

Anyway, that was the slightly jovial side of this post. The more important point came as I was driving my Gran home. As she is getting on a bit, she very much dislikes driving down the miles of country lanes to our house to visit, so she gets dropped off by my grandfather one afternoon a week, and one of us take her home again. This week it was me who had to take her back home. As we were meandering through the lanes, conversation turned to post-offices. Her local village post office is on the list for closure. This post-office is the only shop in the village of about (and here I’m guessing) 700 people. This village is very much an old village, there are few youngsters (that’s not to say there are none), and I would guess the average age is somewhere close to 50. For these people, the village shop and post-office is somewhere they can go to talk to other villagers, it is somewhere they can go to get groceries, and to sort out pensions. It is somewhere they can go to post letters, or to buy stamps. In short, it is a very important part of the village. If it is shut down, my Gran informed me, the owners would not be able to keep the shop open as simply a shop. The nearest post-office is two villages over. That’s about 10-15 miles away. Which is quite a short journey by car or bus. It’s much longer to walk, especially if you are getting on a bit, and have dodgy knees, hips, back, feet or any other body part. So why not catch the bus I hear you cry? That would be the bus that goes through the village four times a day? That would be the bus that for two of those times is filled with school children (and I mean filled)? That would be the bus that, in reality, is hopelessly impractical, and too infrequent? Yeah, that one. Which means that, when this village post office shuts, the only option is for people to drive to the other village. Which, I’m reasonably sure, cannot be helping the environment (as it is encouraging more cars onto the road), and is just a bad solution for most pensioners who do not drive anymore.

My Gran then went onto inform me that they could fight tooth and nail to keep this post-office open. They very well might win. But (and I apologise if people already knew this but I didn’t) the government have a set number they must shut. So if one gets kept open, it means another one somewhere else must be shut down. Which means that fighting for one post-office is condemning another, with, in all likelihood similar circumstances, to closure. How’s that for attacking the conscience of older people? Why should they be forced to argue (effectively) that their post-office (and by logical continuation, themselves) is more important than somewhere else? Well, the simple answer is because the government says so. Great.

Anyway, to continue this a little bit further, I was then speaking to my dad about it, and he told me an example of one post-office owner who was interviewed about the number of signatures a petition to keep his PO open had attracted. His nonchalant answer was (along the lines of) “This is great, but is totally wrong. If even half the people who have signed this petition actually used my post-office, I would be doing very good business. The trouble is, they don’t use it, and are just simply jumping on a band-wagon.

The decision to close post-offices was, and remains, a controversial one. I cannot say that I’m hugely thrilled about the decision. The problem is very much a generational one too, people of my generation cannot see what the problem is. Those of older generations very clearly can.

I thought that it was fitting that in a week where I have reflected on the merits of children, and have turned 21, I should look and think about grandparents too. Many apologies if this has rambled on, but it is something important to consider I think.

Innocence and experience…

6 08 2008

Whislt doing a favour for my neighbours tonight in watching their kids for a couple of hours, I was struck by two thoughts. Firstly, who was “Uncle Ben”? And what the hell made his sauces so popular?

This though was not the most pressing issue of the night. The second point I wish to tell you all about occurred as I was putting the eldest child to bed. At 8, this kid was no mug. Instead he was a polite, well-spoken, obviously intelligent lad, but the book he chose for me to read to him was an interesting one. My distinct lack of short-term memory means that I cannot remember the name of the book or the author, but I shall give you a brief overview of it. Essentially it was a poem, split, like childrens books are, over numerous pages, with just a few lines on each page. The theme was vaguely religious. The poem told of men, and their world (albeit in simplistic childhood terms).

It was though the illustrations that made the most impression on me. Starting with wide images of the globe, and then of countryside and towns, the book moved into looking at just one town. It appeared to be a nice, calm, peaceful town in the first pages, but, as the poem moved on, there were, slowly, subtley, images of war thrown in. An odd tank here. A helicopter there. By the end of the poem, the town had been decimated by war. The tanks and helicopters had moved on, and the inhabitants were beginning to pick up the pieces. It should be noted that the poem itself made no mention of war, or any kind of fighting, or destruction. The connotations of the words were seized upon by the illustrator and used to introduce young people to war.

This tale was simple enough for an 8 year old to understand the connotations, even if the significance eluded him. It was a very interesting example of how realities of the world, in this case war; are introduced to children. The poem ended with a sense of optimism, the suggestion of a thought that man can be good, and need not go to war. Which is perhaps idealistic, but hey, kids are idealistic aren’t they?

Added to this is the book that I am currently re-reading. Harper Lee’s famous “To Kill a Mockingbird” still strikes a chord with me. It shows (brilliantly, in my opinion) the rationale of children to the negative aspects of adulthood. In this case it was racism. Through the children’s eyes we see how such things as racism are in fact no more than irrational, irresponsible thoughts of adults trying to improve things for themselves (by which I mean, if they can pick on someone, they will not be at the perceived bottom of the social ladder).

Children are not stupid. They are highly perceptive people, with a view of the world guided solely by balance and logic. As they get older they become corrupted by cynicism, and the realities of a modern world filled by varying complexities. I think that if we adhered to the rationale of a child in some cases, the world might get somewhere.