from On My Anger, 2002
Subtlety has gone missing from my pencil case…
I was watching television the other night. Nothing unusual there. I find I watch a lot of television these days. I like watching television. It’s so much easier than, say, reading a book. There’s no effort involved, you just sit there and be amused. Mindless? Perhaps. But entertaining? Definitely. And I would take issue with anyone who claims Aaron Sorkin’s work is not art. That’s right, I was watching The West Wing. But while I was waiting for The Lame Duck Congress (the sixth episode of season two) to begin session, I was also paying casual attention to an ad for RI:SE, a new breakfast TV show on Channel Four.
Now, I’m about as far away from a TV snob as you can get. But anyone who can gawk at the box at 7am while they’re preparing to go to work needs to be in therapy. I mean, seriously. I watch TV to relax. It’s that or pot. Sharing glances between Ireland AM and the spoon in my hand bearing Bran Flakes, while I scald my throat with coffee that hasn’t managed to cool despite my adding milk, and attempting to not strangle myself while navigating my tie around my neck, is not my idea of a leisurely morning. Yet there they are – TV3’s Ireland AM, C4’s RI:SE, UTV’s GMTV, BBC’s Breakfast, and more. They must have an audience, or else they wouldn’t be aired, right? But I can’t figure out who or where this audience is.
My best shot is that it’s a secret fetish of businessmen in their plush, television-adorned BMWs. They stop at the traffic lights and gleefully switch on TV3 to indulge in a feast of inanity served up by Mark and Emma, or whoever’s presenting that show now. They pant quietly to themselves as housewives ring in with relationship troubles, and some unnervingly serene astrologer gives them advice in vague sentences beginning with ‘Oh, calm down, you poor darling’.
What other audience could there be? Clearly these shows are aimed at working people, beginning their day. They seek to inform and entertain and add a little sunshine even on those dark mornings. But if one is going to work, I don’t see one getting up any earlier than is necessary just to catch the latest goss on GMTV. Some of these programmes last for three hours! Who’s going to be sticking around that long? Even I’m not that slow in the morning. And if one is pottering about one’s business at home, surely the radio is the way to go. RTE’s Morning Ireland is an excellent choice. Although, admittedly, Risin’ Time before that is a bit like a trampled satsuma (er, flat).
Breakfast TV doesn’t grab me. If it’s aimed at people on the go, television, perhaps the most sedentary and immobile medium, is clearly not the most inspired choice. If it’s aimed at housewives… what housewife has the time to be gazing leisurely at the box in the morning? All the housewives I know are busy keeping their families together, a twenty-four-hour-a-day job (I’m doing my bit to get the female vote here… who knows, I may run for office some day).
Morning television is like a bad women’s magazine. Well, they’re all bad. And it was a women’s magazine that ruined my life and corrupted me, when at the age of ten I picked up one of my cousin’s mags only to find a guide to oral sex on the first page I looked at. Anyway, it just doesn’t add up. Who could be watching these programmes? And more importantly why, for God’s sake, hasn’t somebody rounded them all up and torched them along with their favourite studios of decadent sin?!
Now that would be hot entertainment.