My first contact with daytime TV was when my mother had to go into a care home. At first we used to visit her in her room but as her mobility became more restricted and she had to use a wheelchair and relied on the staff to push her around (she was well over 90), she would normally be found in the common room.
Some people think that the picture of these as large rooms with the residents sitting in armchairs along three sides of the room, all facing the TV, is a television cliché but it isn’t – or it wasn’t then, 15-20 years ago – and at the time we went, they were all there, with hardly a word being spoken, all of these women (the one man in the home was always wandering around somewhere else – I think he was looking for the escape tunnel!), eyes turned towards the TV. I can’t say they were watching it; there was no sign they were interested, for those who weren’t asleep were always ready to be distracted by the arrival of visitors, the movement of staff or the calls of those who needed to be wheeled to the toilet.
My first experience of daytime TV
We always visited about the same time, and the programme that was being “watched” was always Loose Women. The unutterable grinding dullness of that show!
It was my first experience of daytime TV, and it appeared to me to be a tenth Circle of Hell for the aged and infirm, a sort of purgatory for those who have dared live too long.
In fact, it would seem that much of daytime TV, or at least the drama segment, is very much aimed at an aging population: Bergerac (1981-91), Lovejoy (1981-94), The Bill (1983-2010), Wycliffe (1994-8), Dangerfield (1995-99), Heartbeat (1992-2010), along with compilations like Classic EastEnders, Classic Coronation Street, Classic Casualty and Classic Holby City.
In other words shows, from 30 to 40 years ago, designed to appeal to the aging, the retired.
The boredom of daytime TV
I retired just a cough and a spit short of twenty years ago so, yes, they do appeal to me, but those programmes specifically designed for daytime – makeover (house / garden / person) shows, antiques shows (some being prefaced by “Celebrity” which I assume is meant to make them seem more attractive), shows about buying property abroad (or in this country for that matter), cooking shows (including invitations to “come dine with me,” sometimes with “celebrities”) and interminable nightmares in Ramsay’s kitchen – are so dull and repetitive, so uninspiring that one wonders if someone is bribing TV companies to bore us all to death.
Unless you watch Dave, of course, in which case you’ll be regaled with programmes about weird Americans hunting through other people’s rubbish in the hope of making a profit – and Top Gear, of course, endless re-runs of that testosterone-fuelled shambles for big men with little penises.
The good stuff and then there’s BBC Parliament
Stick with Gold, Alibi, Drama, ITV3 where there is good stuff to be found, as there is – from time to time – on the Sci-Fi channel, although that’s a bit of a niche really. Or you can always put your patience and tolerance for idiocy to the test by watching the BBC News Channel or Sky News (or even BBC Parliament). (The latter’s a joke, by the way. Not to be recommended if you want to maintain your sanity and equanimity!)
And we can’t end this survey of daytime telly without mentioning the ads! Oh my God! Mobility aids, washing and bathing aids, stair-lifts, and unfeasibly cheerful elderly folks recommending absolutely wonderful insurance policies to each other (usually a man to a woman – after all, men understand these things, don’t they?) or waxing lyrical about paying for their funerals in advance.
As you get old you expect some failing health, changing tastes, the loss of friends and family, but you sure as hell don’t expect daytime TV!
You can read the other parts of Daytime TV by Peter Lathan here.