The last few weeks of telly leading up to Christmas have drained the cheer right out of me. Perhaps this is due to my somewhat morbid TV selection process – if the opening five minutes don’t leave me with a feeling of hollow empty melancholy then I generally turn over.
As a result of my current predilection, I have been an avid watcher of ‘The Ascent of Money’, which unless you work as a hedge fund manager, leaves you as bewildered as you are bored. The presenter, a bit of a sneery know it all, makes things no easier by prattling off words such as ‘derivative’ and ‘bond’ as if the entire audience were redundant investment bankers. As such, the general message that I have gained from watching the series, far from actually helping me in any way, is that the entire financial system is so deeply complicated and convoluted that about three people understand it; if you aren’t one of those three multi-billionaires then you have about as much chance of gaining any useful knowledge from it as you would have reading The Principia Mathmatica after downing a pint of gin.
Following my economics lecture, I usually stay with Channel 4 to watch Tony Robinson resurrect his career in the niche role of ‘morose cord jacket donning presenter of doom’, in the enormously dispiriting Channel 4 programme ‘Catastrophe’. Every week the show begins with Robinson wandering around London in his shit jacket reminding us that were it not for lots of tiny chances in the Earth’s development, we wouldn’t even be here. Having watched the whole series I can safely say that I feel no more glad or appreciative that I am here than I did before. This is partially because of Tony Robinson’s impressively unenthusiastic presenting style – a style which has led me to question whether his previous role as Baldrick, where he maintained a kind of dazed stoic indifference to external stimuli, was actually acting or merely a personality defect. Secondly, the show somehow manages to make the creation of the Earth appear like a tedious and inevitable cycle of mass extinctions, which we are powerless to stop, even if we wanted to, which by the end of the show you definitely don’t.
On top of these bumper packs of pain, I also take time to seek out horribly depressing programmes such as ‘Chosen’, a two hour nightmare, during which you hear the stories of three psychologically tattered men and their recollections of the abuse they suffered at the hands of their paedophile headmaster. At first, I couldn’t believe such a dreadful programme would attract any more viewers than a handful of previously abused others, taking solace in the fact that they are not alone. Then I remembered the endless queues at car crashes formed by the legions of rubberneckers looking to sate their curiosity, but ultimately just finding sadness.
‘The Nativity Decoded’ (Ch.4 7.30 Christmas Day) is next on my list. It can never beat ‘Chosen’ (if we are making a competition out of hopelessly depressing TV then that is high up on the list), although, judging by first impressions, such as the gloomy haunting soundtrack from the advert, the conspiracy style of title and the terrible synopsis, “Robert Beckford explores the historical evidence and analyses the elements of the story to discover that the birth of Jesus took place against a harsh political backdrop”, it seems likely to fall into the same lineage as the others, so I will watch, even if only to reaffirm that the bible is still a load of bollocks.
It seems that television of late is gradually following the path laid by the modern novel – the more harrowing the better. This is perhaps a result of our collectively brilliant and insular lives, which provide little substance to fill the void of wretched discontent and, as such, no background with which to contrast our happiness. If so, then perhaps TV has found it’s purpose, and just in time too! – for what better time to realise and appreciate the values of friendship, family and happiness, than at Christmas.