Anyone who has lived in the new Eastside/Southside complex of halls in Princes Gardens (of which I am one!) would know that every kitchen comes with a flat screen plasma TV. To achieve superiority, this fact would be bragged about countless times in conversations with friends of other universities or even with the older years at Imperial.
I think having a plasma TV is a lot less impressive than it sounds. Many, if not most of my fellow friends sharing the same kitchen as me would humorously mention that the envious TV would only ever show a mixture of Friends, Scrubs, The Simpsons or Top Gear repeats on either E4, Channel 4 or Dave (or E4+1, Channel 4+1, Dave ja vu). Occasionally BBC Breakfast, as its name suggests, is shown in the mornings, serving more as a waking up mechanism than anything else. Although this circadian pattern has been disrupted by the Australian Open in the past week or so, I am certain that once Roger Federer has won that, all will return to normal again.
Even though I am massive fans of all 4 programmes, I find this peculiarity very depressing. I would have thought British television could conjure up some form of mass entertainment appealing to the lazy, procrastination-prone university students of today. I was wrong. Briefly scanning the “Favourite TV Programmes” of my Facebook friends, I noticed a distinct pattern: people either liked the American programmes of the present or the British comedies of the past, myself included.
Having also had a look ahead to what will be on the main TV channels (BBC1/2, ITV, C4/5) in the following week, things didn’t look any better. Being an Imperial student I will bring some mathematics into this. If prime-time is defined as the period between 7pm and 11pm, it would give 28 hours of supposedly worthwhile TV to watch. Excluding films, I have managed to find 5 hours of quality TV I would watch, most of it being comedy and including an hour of the aforementioned Top Gear. This is a poor reflection of British TV and it is hardly a surprise. With Saturday prime time dominated by so called “Talent” shows, it is no wonder the quality of TV drama has deteriorated so badly over the last decade, catalysed by the conception of Big Brother whose life will shortly end and will serve as a massive relief for many people who literally “couldn’t care less”.
Soaps, which in their wonder years could pull in more than a third of the population of Britain are increasingly diluted by eye-candy and improbable reincarnations of old characters. The only genre worth watching has been the comedy programs, and even though I still find the classics such as Blackadder better, the comedies of today are still compelling enough to watch. I do often wonder, with the money from the licence payers, why Britain cannot produce good quality TV. Maybe it is true that Jonathan Ross has pocketed all of it!
It may seem unfair to compare the British television industry to the military might of Hollywood who seems to effortlessly churn out the law, crime and medical dramas that we know so well. It may be down to the fact that the American TV season is normally 24 episodes long where as our TV season is only 8-10 episodes long.
Extending the TV season could mean that good programs such as Spooks or Hustle can last longer and attract more of an audience but there is still a lack of quality programmes. I had hoped, when I was about 12, that when I get to university I would finally be able to escape the parents shouting for me to tear myself away from the TV and get to bed. Well the day has come and how frustrating is it that there is no good TV to watch in defiance! I hope, with the economy now out of recession, that the BBC can actually use some money to make some good programmes so that students can use the plasma TV to good effect rather than relying on a laptop screen. But for now, I really couldn’t care less: my 7-season West Wing Box Set arrived in the post today!