Don’t watch this space

Commercial TV in 2012. Is it worse now? 22 October 2012

ELITIST WARNING: The following contains the views of a writer, not necessarily attuned to the modern Australian mind and, in which case, offence may be caused to those reading this opinion.

There are only two television shows really worth watching.


The Bridge (8.30pm Wednesday SBS2) and Rake (8.30pm Thursday ABC) are superb examples of well-written drama, interspersed with the kind of humour that occurs in life. That is, the jokes aren’t semaphored from a long way off and fit neatly into the story line without bludgeoning the viewer.

Another endearing quality of these two wonderful shows is they start at the time they are advertised. If it says 8.30pm, that’s when they start.

However, I have had to abandon this honing down of the television guide because I am bored and I love television. At times I have loved TV even more than those really fat people you see on 6.30pm shows. You know the bloke who hasn’t got out of bed for six years and his mum feeds him Mars bars through a drip, that kind of thing.

People watch these shows which pretend to be current affairs because it makes them feel better about their own disappointing lives. A little like the old-fashioned travelling show, where you got to gawk at the bearded lady or watched some poor bozo get the bejesus punched out of him by an overweight but trained fighter who felt a little injured that someone would dare challenge him to fisticuffs in the hope of winning a cash purse. ‘My life isn’t so bad, look at that poor sod!’ you say from the sofa.

Anyway, because I like TV, I have begun to break my golden rule: Do not turn on a commercial channel unless you are going to see live sport.  Breaking the rule has been instructive.

The impetus for this piece was watching an ad for a show on Go called Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents (8.30pm Tuesday). Pommy people watching monitors showing replays of what their kids get up to when they par-tay.

Not up to this, then switch to 11 where Snog Marry Avoid (back to back episodes at 8.30 and 9.05pm) is resplendent in whatever it does. Just using snog in the title should be enough to switch over again.

If you plan your evening, you can precede your 8.30 choice with Teen Mom (7.30pm Tuesday, Ten). Yes, the camera goes into the lives of women aged less than 20 and pregnant. Do they have boyfriends who want anything to do with the baby? Are their parents supportive? Do they have these impressive role models at all?

Of course, women have been having babies at a young age for generations and some beautiful mother-child combinations have resulted but from the small snatches shown in the ads, I think this is another case of voyeurism of the wretched.

While doing a bit of research in Our Guide, I thought another beauty may have gone off but, no, there it was on Wednesday nights (8.30pm, Nine) – Big, Fat Gypsy Weddings. One cannot even imagine what this is about or how it passed through any sort of quality control. Even the name offends at least two sub-cultures. Advertisements have shown lots of pink and lots of cleavage, seemingly resting over similarly-sized bellies.


At least when Bond did gypsies in From Russia with Love (1963), the women looked fit and svelte, although a trifle grubby, made worse by rolling in the dust during a knife fight to the death. However, this is mere digression. That scene was set in a Baltic country, and 50 years later in the UK, food and drink is obviously more readily to hand.

Nine goes back to back on Wednesday nights – BFGW is followed by Embarrassing Bodies (9.30pm), one of two opportunities to see this bit of modern-day travelling freak show as it also appears at an earlier time slot on Thursday nights, sandwiched between Animal Hoarding (7.30pm, Gem) and Supernanny UK (9.30pm Gem).

However, we’ve left Wednesday before the fun had finished. The usually reliable – if wildly divergent SBS – weighs in at 8.30pm with Living With the Amish and Seven, so far without blemish it appears, brings us World’s Wildest Police Videos (9.30pm).

However, Seven, the channel that wins the  ratings, certainly lifts its trash rating on Thursdays by putting two hours of quality fare together: Brynne – My Bedazzled Life (7.30pm) and Beauty and the Geek Australia (8.30pm). It seems the first follows the life of Mrs Dr Geoffrey Edelstein and the second is a competition where girls compete for the hand of an intelligent but unattractive man, hoping he is the one rich member of a field presented for them.

There was once a show called Being Lara Bingle so I guess Brynne was worth an hour of prime time?

Fridays provides some relief from the voyeurism but there has been no mention yet of an old standard, Big Brother (just 90 minutes from 7 to 8.30pm Monday, Nine). It’s on Sundays as well.


In one of his best films, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Woody Allen created the character of a cranky old artist (Max Von Sydow) who explains to the much younger woman (Barbara Hershey) living with him that he just spent the night aimlessly flicking channels on their television. “Can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling?” he says.

No Max, I can’t…and have even less hope of understanding the minds of those who watch any of the aforementioned.

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