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Must grumble

English can be as tonal as Cantonese: think of the perfect fourth drop in ‘Mum’, as in ‘Mu-um!’ If you find perfect fourths hard to visualise (no, that can’t be right, can it, except for those wankers who claim that they can See Music Without Hallucinogenic Assistance, so perhaps it should be ‘auralise’) then auralise, visualise or just call to mind the start of that old song Born Free, add a baritone whinge, and you’ve got my son remonstrating with me about the telly.

‘Mu-um!’ he said the other day when I was arguing with the telly. ‘You certainly do know how to ruin a night’s viewing.’

‘But it’s so bloody predictable! These scripts have more flags than the Olympics. Talk about telegraphing punches ... ’

‘What’s a telegraph, anyway?’

‘Something obsolete these benighted days, like subversive satire and social justice and old-growth forests and ... ’

‘Aw Mu-um!’

It can’t be easy for him; he puts up with quite a bit of my grumbling. But there is much to grumble about at the moment. What a god-awful lot of vapid crap is on offer for our viewing displeasure right now. There are no nights now when I am incommunicado.

 Remember bygone days when we had Fawlty Towers, or even Buffy? When Four Corners was edgy and dangerous and politicians trembled, as they damn well should? And even though you had to stay up late or tape things like Six Feet Under and The Sopranos, they were still there. After Nine’s recent extraordinary attempt to axe the second half of The West Wing (as if they hadn’t punished its fans enough by scheduling it near midnight) you could be forgiven for thinking that there is a concerted attack on any remnants of good television. Luckily there was an outraged response from viewers and so they have reinstated it and, curiously, called Episode 13 the Series Première. Because, you see, when you say that a 22-episode program is finished at Episode 12 you have to find some way of making it look as though there is method in the madness. But the programming geniuses haven’t finished cutting old growth: they think to increase their nightly news ratings with the young by sacking Jim Waley. Have these clever strategists forgotten that baby boomers have the numbers and the money as well as the education (acquired when it was free) to appreciate quality in their entertainment and an element of trust and familiarity in the newsreader? The ABC is just as bad. Getting rid of George Negus forsooth, and firing darling old Kevin Heinze for God’s sake. The MBAs are empire-building, one must suppose. But it’s our ABC too, you know.

So what do we have on offer in 2005? Well. There is Lost (awful, loud, dull and predictable) and the many Law and Order, CSI, SVUs and their ilk. They all seem to be terrified of women, given that so many of their rape victims are liars, and so many of the murderers are female. I know I’ve banged this drum before, but while I’m having a good old grumble I may as well reiterate something: I think it needs to be said again, and again, that government statistics throughout the world, no matter where you live, show that a woman is so much less likely than a man to be a murderer or a sexual abuser that the preponderance of feminine villains in these very prolific programs argues a weird and sick imbalance in their way of looking at the world.

And now for my current pet hate, apart from loud ads, the mystifying success of the repulsive Mr Trump and the worrying prospect of another series of Big Brother: 

‘—And just like that ... ’ It’s the soap-epiphany. Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City used to say it all the time: ‘And just like that, Miranda realised ... ’ Now we have Desperate Housewives, and the narrator is conveniently dead by her own hand and therefore omniscient.

 And she says it too: ‘And just like that ... yada yada yada.’ Her tone is as bright and bland as the street the housewives inhabit; in the bubble world of such caca as this, there are no consequences in the afterlife, no regrets, no whiff of what might have driven her to her death. Like SatC, DH is wildly popular, but unlike the former, it’s not saying anything new. I always used to feel about SatC that it was somehow a flawed Good Thing in a world that contained burkahs, snuff porn and clitoridectomy. Because, despite the show’s later dullnesses and compromises, Carrie and her three friends were free agents (perhaps Huxley would have called them freemartins) thriving in the vaunted free market of New York. In the beginning they were living large, experimenting with the kind of fuck’em-and-forget’em behaviour that used to be typically male. By the sixth season they were all tamed in steady relationships, Samantha in particular seeming to be punished with breast cancer for being a complete ho. It was annoying and crude and very, very shallow, yet it was watchable. DH, for me, isn’t. I just can’t stand the plastic, misogynistic, right-wing bourgeoiseness of it.

It’s as nourishing as one of those Krispy Kreme doughnuts that are being foisted on us; as relevant to my life as any other gated community of liposucked and Botoxed stars and their stooges. It’s the kind of America that has ‘non-service-model’ unionism; that thinks Michael Moore is a killjoy; that Dubya is any kind of leader; that conscience is something you leave at the threshold of your workplace.

So here’s a bright new thought: let’s turn the damn thing off. Give the MBAs something to grumble about.      

Juliette Hughes is a freelance writer.



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