By Cormac McCarthy
By nature, a journalist has to be prepared to make sacrifices and to risk their lives and reputations to ensure that the truth is always spoken. Fergal Keane, journalist and author, risked his life reporting from inside the most depraved areas around the world, from the 2015 refugee crisis and the South African apartheid.
This week, I too risked all of my sanity and dignity by taking a day to report on the most depraved element of our entertainment industry; daytime television.
Now, you may smirk at the prospect I am undertaking but I would not wish this punishment on my worst enemy. From nine in the morning until four in the afternoon I was treated to a catalogue of some of the worst trite that was ever spewed out from tv stations from around Britain and Ireland.
I had that day’s TV listings spread out in front of me that morning as I tackled a bowl of cornflakes. I felt like the prettiest girl at the dance, if that dance was infested by men whose conversation skills are the ultimate cure for insomnia.
I had a myriad of choices, from repeats of “Frasier” on Channel Four to repeats of “Room to Improve” on RTE One. I chose Room to Improve and oh boy did it have room to improve. While in the evening, Dermot Bannon’s sneering would have made me slightly uneasy, in the morning it was a completely different story. Watching him talk about the benefits of natural light would make you want to through a brick directly at his shiny hard hat.
At one point, the weary wife whose house he was destroying looked at his design for an outdoor water feature and uttered the words “It’s just a bit pointless and expensive isn’t it.” I couldn’t agree more Claire. I couldn’t agree more.
It seemed that apart from news bulletins, there was little to no original programming to be seen on daytime television. Reruns of every British and American sitcom seemed to take up most of the morning slots from “Only Fools and Horses” to “Cheers”. Except for one bleak genre of television of course; Current affairs panel shows. Alan Partridge would wince at the sight of them.
Programs in this genre included “Jeremy Vine” and “Loose Women”. At half nine Jeremy had a deep discussion with Phil, a caller from Middlesbrough, where they debated as to whether or not there was a need for analogue clocks in the modern age. I was on the edge of my seat, sweat pouring down my face with eager excitement. Who would come out the victor? Phil would jab with a point about it being easier for those with dyslexia but old Jeremy would hit him with a swift uppercut of tradition. I could have watched for hours but unfortunately, “Jeremy Kyle” was coming up on Virgin Media Two so I was left in suspense. I’d like to think the only loser in that debate is the viewer watching at home.
At twelve o clock, I was midway through “Location, Location, Location”, a show about selling dilapidated houses to two young parents who just seemed happy to be out of the house. The presenter tried to pass off a rotting decking in the back garden as “a chance for the couple to reinvigorate the back lawn with a sense of place.” It was at that moment that I changed the channel.
I don’t know how many “Kitchen Nightmares” Gordon Ramsey has had over the years but I’m sure after at least ten years, his blood pressure must be through the roof. Most people go to therapy but Gordon has somehow managed to construct a medium in which he vents his anger with minimum wage waiters who, in their nervousness, sometimes forget part of drinks order. If that’s not genius, I don’t know what is.
In my search for anything remotely watchable, I thought back to the times when I was home, sick from school. The shows that were on the TV then were almost the exact same shows as the ones that were currently showing. It only speaks to the vacuousness of daytime television that the state of our modern media landscape, where the viewer is willing to watch anything than watch nothing at all. In the days when we have such a vast quantity of films and television at our fingertips in the forms of streaming services, DVDs and YouTube, there is still a market out there for people who would rather have a mindless program, with no discernible depth nor artistic merit, thrust upon them by executives in broadcasting corporations than to seek out something they would enjoy much more.
I finished the day off with a double bill of “Casualty” followed by “Francis Brennan’s Grand Tour”. A program where life is restored to those about to die followed by a show that sucks the life out of its viewer. By the end of the day, I went outside and thought about my life had come to this point.