A boomer's guide to the telly - but first…
Did they really do that on screen? Yes they did.
Sometimes the most innocent programmes mark firsts in taste. Literally. Take last week's The Truth About Food on TVONE. One scene might have been mundane out of sight but it fell into Jeez! Did they really do that on screen? Yes they did.
One of the challenges in the programme was to see if a different diet could improve sperm count. The answer was a qualified yes. So far so good. Then another question: would it change the taste? Eh?
On screen a waitress holding a silver tray carried a phial for each of three women tasters. They were there to tell us if their samples were fruity, fishy, tart, or something else. Down the hatch went the specimens. Hmm… flavours of nuts combined with a spicy finish….
The tasters then made their own judgements, some of them pondering the question like seasoned wine tasters. The aim of the to show had initially been to see if a changed diet improved the quality of semen. But then showbiz coalesced with science - and this was the result. It's the logical end - though that might not be an entirely appropriate word at this point - of the casualisation of sex. This made the act seem everyday and ordinary. It's possible to argue that it's healthy, that at least it brings out into the open what is often done in private. But that's the issue: some things are simply too private to be aired - or sipped - in public.
Either way I sent story to a colleague and like me, he couldn't believe this had happened on screen. Clearly we're dinosaurs. He wrote back with his own yuk-proof formula for TV viewing:
'As a long-time TV channel surfer I've developed a quick test to determine if the programme I'm scanning is worth watching.
As I flick between channels any American accent is a negative and so loses points, as do darkly -lit sets and any dialogue that suggests a death or murder or violence against women or children. Anything that looks remotely like a game show, especially those that exploit our baser instincts and any shows that intrude into someone else's privacy, like spouse-swopping or weight-loss competitions also get the flick.
Shows that take advantage of people's mental or physical shortcomings like dancing with the 'nobodys' lose points, as does the David Letterman show, anything featuring Judy Bailey, or any show that overdoes canned laughter. Programmes that encourage other people to be rude, as in the case of that Pommy chef Gordon Ramsey and the boorish old mutton-chop-moustached-over-muscled yank on American Choppers.
My positive vibes, and so points, are aroused by bright sunny scenes, green grass and mountains, ordinary people speaking positively, historical and current documentary programmes; shows that inspire optimism and respect for others; interesting chats with ordinary people; Rick Stein's cooking show; English drama and comedy and European films; the English version of The Antiques Road Show and fishing programmes that don't take more fish than they can use.'