True confessions

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been, um, some time since my last confession.


It’s like this. I know it’s all over, but I just feel so guilty, being a TV critic and all, I’m supposed to have some kind of taste. But I started watching Big Brother, despite saying I wasn’t going to. You know, just for research purposes. And then got, well, sucked in. Well, not really sucked in, but more like investigating-journalistic-sort-of because I really do think the people running it have got some sort of political agenda.

What kind of agenda?

I think it’s something to do with softening people up to become docile participants in a totalitarian society. I swear that’s why I kept watching. Only (sob) I started to look forward to it. I kept cheering on Vesna when she rebelled against the pointless, degrading tasks they were ordered to do, and took her chain off and ...
That’s pretty bad, my child, but you still haven’t cracked it for a mortal sin. You’re still well in venial territory.
Well, Father, it gets a bit worse, I’m afraid. I started to care what happened. I ... I even voted. You see, Dean was a bullying swine, Tim was a manipulative SNAG, Heath and Glenn were sleazes and several of the girls were skanky ho’s ...

And how do you know that, my child?

Well, on Big Brother Uncut, they ...
You watched Big Brother Uncut?
Er, well, not every time ...
Did you or did you not watch Big Brother Uncut?
I can’t hear you.
yes, father.
Well, now, we are getting close to mortal sin here. I think you’ve notched up a few decades of the rosary. Whom did you vote for?

Well, I wanted Vesna to win.
Vesna? The whingeing one? The one who never bloody shuts up about oppression and indignity and drives me up the ...
Oh, you know her? Did you watch it too?
Ahem. Ah, yes, well. Harrumph. Absolvo te. Do the rosary.
How many decades?
All of them. Including those new ones that I can never remember.
That’s a bit harsh. Who did you vote for?
Not Vesna, that’s for sure.

Just so you won’t think that your trusty Watching Brief has completely taken leave of her taste, I propose to dwell upon extremely worthwhile programs from this sentence onward. Well, partly at any rate.

Top of the approval list for the nonce has to be Liz Jackson’s current tenure at Media Watch. She has kicked quite a few goals: I cheered when she caned Seven’s Today Tonight when their reporter stalked and harassed a single mother who was shopping with one of her babies. He bailed her up in the supermarket carpark and demanded to know how many children she had and how many fathers there were. She was intimidated and shamed, poor woman, and it was frightful to watch. The theme of the program was to pillory women who had children to different fathers. There seemed to be no scintilla of understanding of the plight of women who are let down by a series of faithless, irresponsible men. Media Watch pointed out that Today Tonight had implied that she was rorting the welfare system by saying that she was ‘entitled’ to claim various allowances. The fact that she wasn’t claiming these, and was indeed working as a waitress to support her children, was not mentioned by the program.

 What a brave chap that reporter was, to go chasing a lone woman and demanding to know details of her private life. Presumably the producers of the program want to return us to a time when women were forced to give up their children for adoption. Whether a single mother is single by chance or by choice is nobody else’s business: the children should be entitled to the same benefits as any other child in this increasingly unequal society we are creating. Perhaps the very idea of a woman in control of a household threatens some primitive minds. The real conundrum is that Today Tonight, like Media Watch, has a female presenter.

While we’re thinking of good programs, I have to mention the Ovation Channel on cable. It almost makes it worth the ads and the money. Opera, ballet, concerts, plays and terrific adaptations of classic books abound. The only difficulty is, when inhabiting the same space as a young male you have to negotiate a spot of Bach against his preferences, which, now that Big Brother is over, rarely coincide with mine. It was a brief sunshiny period of détente, when mother and son could watch together, linked by shared bad taste, with me feeling guilty and him knowing this and taking great delight in dobbing me in to snooty friends. You know the type: the kind of people who switch on the ABC News and watch it with a glass of dry sherry before switching off to eat a virtuous low-cholesterol dinner.

But hang on, that gives me an idea. I can go back to confession and blame my son. Yes, that’s it; I was only doing it to Understand My Son’s Culture, to be able to Discuss Issues with him, to ...

I might get at least the five new Mysteries knocked off the penance tally, what do you reckon?      

Juliette Hughes is a freelance writer.



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