DO you all enjoy watching TV? In these days when you can view a programme at any time, and on any device, I fear it has ceased to become the grand occasion it once was.
Cliff-hangers in the soaps used to have us all gathered round the set as a family, only for us to discuss it all again in work the next day, and do you remember the terrible thought, as you looked at your watch at the rainy bus stop, that you wouldn’t get home in time? That dreadful fear of “missing the start”.
Those things which gave a big TV event its frisson have all gone now. You wouldn’t need to stare at your watch at the bus stop because you wouldn’t even have a watch. You’d be anxiously checking the time on your phone – but then you’d realise you could simply watch the show on your phone so there would be no fear of missing it after all.
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Even if you did, you’d just stroll on home when you please and watch the thing on catch-up. No more pleasurable anxiety and no more communal watching and frenzied discussion. That has all been replaced with watching it when you like and barking “no spoilers” at people in the canteen.
Well, I miss the old sense of TV being a shared occasion.
I can recall getting ready for Hogmanay parties in the 1980s (as a child in the 80s “getting ready” for a party meant having your fringe crimped and while it lay cooling against your forehead, gran might allow you a slick of Avon pearly pink lipstick).
But we wouldn’t dare leave the house until the big Coronation Street episode had finished.
One year Deirdre sat at the table with a bottle of pills in her hand, and one year later it was Ken who sat trembling with the pills. “Aye, tables have turned,” gran tutted wisely.
Yes, I miss it and so I tried to recreate the feeling with New Year’s Day’s Sherlock (BBC1, Sunday). I carefully watched the clock, just like the old days, and I got some snacks ready for the big event.
Being New Year’s Day this was the leftover Quality Street: the toffee pennies and the blue coconut ones. In lieu of a big family, I gathered the boyfriend and the dog on the couch beside me. For one lovely moment I was a child again, though I refused to crimp my hair.
Everything was set for this big TV event … and how it disappointed. I’m glad the Avon lipstick wasn’t here to see this.
Cumberlock Sherberbatch has turned Sherlock Holmes, this great, stern, domineering character, into a fidgety pain in the neck who loves ginger nuts. Dashing here and there, causing childish offence, irritating people, he desperately needs some ADHD medication. Yes, he has become Milhouse. As well as whittling the great detective down into a restless cartoon dandy, there were silly mistakes scattered throughout the plot. How could Sherlock confront, and defeat, a trained assassin who had a gun when all he had was a flapping coat and a frozen expression? And in their struggle, when the gun was dropped, why did Sherlock lose track of where it was?
He was observant enough to know where various switches and buttons in the pool were, but not where the big, black, clunking gun lay? And why would he go to meet the old dear in the aquarium when he was similarly defenceless? Going unprepared meant whatsername got killed.
Not very clever, is it? And if you strip away Sherlock’s sharp wits then he is not “Sherlock” and this becomes just another crime drama, albeit one jammed with vanity and needless special effects.
PERHAPS Donald Trump should be made to watch Spies (C4, Thursday) although he might not have the necessary attention span. Trump seems to have no respect for America’s spies and intelligence agencies but it’s easy to see this comes from a lack of understanding.
No doubt he thinks spies sit around in Monte Carlo casinos sipping at martinis all day, and so have no connection to what he regards as important: acquiring money and keeping foreigners out.
This new series, even if it has been dumbed down to the level of a reality game show, offered an interesting glimpse into the duties and skills of a spy. It brought candidates forward who thought they could cut it in the job. “Control”, who claim to be former MI5 and MI6 agents, will train and assess them.
Think of the candidates as Trumps who are in for a bit of a shock when they realise what spies actually do, and that so much of it is humdrum, careful work such as assembling a foolproof cover story, or becoming so unobtrusive, bland and quiet that you can follow a target around a busy London street. Stripping the James Bond glamour from the spy was the best aspect of this new series, reminding us that their work isn’t a game, even if it’s being twisted and shaped into one here. In real life, it’s deadly serious and people like Trump need to learn this fast.