This week’s Sunday Telegraph column14th May 2017
I tell you what is boring. (And ageing, actually.) And that is TV snobbery. I went to a friend’s house for dinner the other day. It happened to be a Monday, the day after BBC1’s Line of Duty finished. ‘Have you been watching it?’ I asked a man I didn’t know who was there.
‘Oh no, we don’t have a TV,’ he replied, proudly, as if he should be immediately awarded the Military Cross. And then he added: ’I’m more a books person.’
Oh right. Sitting in reading Homer every night, are we? Well done you, pal.
I’m not saying books are bad. Books are bloody brilliant. But do you know what else is good? Telly. That’s what. Especially at the moment. Especially in this golden age of multiple channels and massive programming and being able to sit down at any time of night or day and, generally, find something excellent to watch. In my flat, my TV is perfectly positioned between two sofas so I can lie like a flatfish, a bowl of pesto pasta balancing on my ribs, a glass of red wine within reaching distance. Probably a bottle, if I’m honest. And when I’ve finished that bottle and an episode of Line of Duty or Broadchurch or Big Little Lies or Catastrophe (you get the point), I will generally drag myself from my sofa to my bed where I will pick up a book.
You get a similarly aghast reaction from certain people when you talk of Coronation Street or Eastenders. But I bet if you mentioned The Archers to some of these anti-TV sorts they’d start leaping about with enthusiasm and banging on about Pip and the cows or whatever. So how come a radio soap is acceptable but a telly one isn’t? I know there’s a load of dross on TV. But there’s a lot that isn’t. And decrying it all as ‘rubbish’ makes you sound even older than Prince Philip.
An ex-boyfriend of mine refused to have a television. Instead, we used to lie in bed watching films on the small, grainy screen of his laptop because he wanted to ‘educate’ me about film. I vividly remember lying together in bed one evening while watching The Shining (dead romantic, that) and thinking ‘What’s wrong with a flatscreen and a nice episode of the Antiques Roadshow?’
When we were little, my mother went through a phase of only allowing my siblings and me to watch Blue Peter. Our enlightenment lasted three days before it was back on with Fun House and The Crystal Maze. But I was equally enamoured with reading books by Enid Blyton and Noel Streatfield. And I’ve managed to grow up as a fairly normal, functioning human being. I can spell. I can multiply. I can ask where the train station is in French. I only flip my lid when people walk down the street in front of me at that specially slow pace which makes me want to kick them in the shins.
Course, on the other hand, reverse TV snobbery is pretty dull too. I, for instance, have never watched an episode of Game of Thrones. Yet when I tell people this, they look at me as if I’ve announced I’m into bestiality and start shouting: ‘WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU’VE NEVER SEEN AN EPISODE OF GAME OF THRONES WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?’ Nor have I seen House of Cards, The Wire, Twin Peaks and I’ve given up on Billions because every single character in it is odious. But that’s alright. I might watch them eventually. I might not. We should all be able to watch what we like without being judged. That’s the marvellous thing about living in a democracy. I know because I read a book about it once.