Have you reached peak TV yet?

Best TV of 2022
The Responder, Top Boy and Gentleman Jack Composite: BBC, Netflix

It’s safe to say – for most people – the TV was a lifeline during the pandemic, particularly those long weeks of confinement when we were only allowed out of the house for a limited time.

But, as the coronavirus threat has dissipated and ‘normal’ life has broadly returned, our need to fill evenings with TV watching should have diminished. And yet, it feels as if there’s more TV than ever.

Best TV of 2022?

The Guardian recently published an article about ‘The Best TV of 2022 so far’, showcasing 26 shows or series. I kid you not, 26. Given that we’re not yet at the end of June, that’s more than one ‘best’ a week.

Now, admittedly, these aren’t all series. There are a couple of documentaries in there (such as Navalny and the Netflix Jimmy Savile one), plus shorter comedies such as Starstruck or Hacks, but – by and large – these require dedication.

And, to save you the bother, I’ve added up the viewing time of all 26 shows featured in that Guardian article. Are you ready?…

Give or take the odd 30 minutes, if you’d watched every single one (and that doesn’t include the shows that have previously-aired seasons, such as Stranger Things or Ozark), you’d have wasted, dedicated 142 hours of your free time in 2022 to sitting in front of some sort of TV screen to see ‘the best TV’.

That’s an insane amount of screen time. If you watch the average 3 hours a night (according to 2020 figures), that works out at 47 days’ worth of viewing. At time of writing, that means you have had to watch only these featured TV shows, once every three days in order to have seen everything.

And that’s without all the stuff that’s not on the list. There’s nothing from the Marvel or Star Wars canon over on Disney+, for example.

Then there are the soaps, the news, sports events, regular dramas, all the Jubilee coverage – they’re all omitted.

Not forgetting all that stuff that you end up watching by accident, because it’s showing when you switch on, like Masterchef.

I get that TV is a primary way for many people to spend their leisure time, but even so, that’s serious commitment.

What’s more, it also requires you to have a lot of subscriptions. While many of the Guardian-featured shows were terrestrial, there are also recommendations from Sky Atlantic, Netflix, Apple+ and Amazon Prime, meaning you’ll be forking out an extra £40pm (roughly) to keep up.

Now I consider myself fairly well up on TV, but I’ve only watched about a third of the recommendations.

So have we reached the point where we can no longer keep up? Is there any point trying? Don’t we have lives outside the TV? What do you think?

How ‘Get Back’ demonstrates the change in respect in 2022

Get Back documentary still
A little-talked-about Beatles documentary(!) was released in December on Disney+. Joking aside, the column inches that Peter Jackson’s Get Back has generated must have the execs at Disney rubbing their hands with glee.

It’s a sign of how obsessed people are with John, Paul, George and Ringo that spliced-together footage that’s over 50 years old can still be such a massive deal.

That said, for me, watching the documentary made The Beatles seem more real than ever. Filmed in glorious colour (unlike much of the black-and-white footage of their career) and seeing them going about their ‘work’, you’d barely know it was filmed in 1969.

However, one particular detail stood out for me in Episode 1 that demonstrated what a different world we live in now. Continue reading “How ‘Get Back’ demonstrates the change in respect in 2022”

Why ‘Call The Midwife’ continues its reign as the subversive heart of the BBC

Call The Midwife cast – 2020

The BBC is under attack from many sides in 2020.

With the arrival of a sizeable Conservative majority, rumours abound that the Government wants to do away with the public licence fee.

Meanwhile, in an effort to cut costs, redundancies and programme culling has been announced – the most high-profile being the Victoria Derbyshire Show.

There are also those (from both sides of the spectrum) who still harbour grudges about the supposedly-biassed news coverage of the December election campaign – understandably frustrated with their own party’s poor performance.

Enter Call The Midwife – a TV show that probably embodies Sunday-evening viewing at its best: seemingly parochial and anachronistic storylines, with a hint of jeopardy, but where everything always turns out OK in the end.

On the face of it, last Sunday’s episode would seem to be a classic of its ilk.

The wife of a cancer patient (played by the excellent Samantha Spiro) is loth to accept help, while she juggles looking after her dementia-suffering mum, plus her daughter with toddler and newborn.

Where’s the subversion, you may ask? Well (plot spoiler!), not only is Sam Spiro’s character a rare example on TV of a woman going through the menopause, while struggling to look after everyone else, but the outcome shines a light on the standard social services that used to exist for someone in her position after surgery (home help, respite care, for example).

In fact, the whole midwife movement is a shining example of something that is now almost non-existent within the NHS, but has been slowly dismantled in the name of centralisation and modernisation.

And this particular plotline is hardly asymptomatic. This series has examined attitudes to race and prostitution, while alcoholism, LGBT rights, cervical cancer, measles vaccinations and many other issues that continue to exist 70 years on, have been covered in previous series.

The topics may be wrapped within the warm embrace of London’s East End community in the 50s/60s, when everyone still had time for each other and we all knew our neighbours, but the parallels are clear.

At a time when the country feels so divided, Call The Midwife is an echo of when life appeared better – as long as you ignore unsanitary living conditions, overlook the fact that ‘differences’ were barely tolerated and forget that the pace and pressures of modern society barely impinged on life.

It may be a stretch to suggest that Call The Midwife – on its own – is enough to overthrow an established order (the dictionary definition of ‘subversion’), but it’s a gentle way for the BBC to demonstrate that looking at the successes and failures of the past is often a sensible way to plan for the future.