Toby Steinberg recovers from a summer of crap TV

Another summer over. Despite the overwhelming evidence of every previous year, one still can’t help feeling furiously betrayed by the passage of time. The weather’s always so lovely. Everyone’s frolicking in the meadows and laughing with melting ice-creams before suddenly, through no fault of our own, all the trees die and the sun extinguishes itself at about 3pm. Somebody must be to blame for this.

Fortunately, through the miracle of television, just as the outside world deteriorates into intermittent patches of damp and crunchy leaves, we get to hibernate on comfortable sofas absorbing quality entertainment. Think yourself lucky in comparison, for example, to the lowly vole who has to shiver in littered back gardens playing maudlin vole games like ‘count the dead voles’.

However, while TV comes into its own at this point of the year, it’s always slightly redundant and lacklustre during the preceding months of summer, largely because television has yet to produce a compelling alternative to mucking about in the sunshine.

In fact, in the USA, the seasons for virtually all the worthwhile shows run from autumn to spring, leaving Americans free to spend their entire summer playing with fire hydrants and saluting their flags.

For the last few years in the UK, Big Brother has notionally filled the title of ‘Big TV event of the summer’. Channel 4 even had the gall to market it with the slogan, “your summer starts here”, which, if it were true, would be such a mind-numbingly depressing state of affairs that it would actually render our society bleaker than that of 1984 (where at least no-one spent the best months of the year fretting about the presence of some obnoxious people in an equally obnoxious television studio).

Given the thousands of worthless, tedious hours transmitted through the live feed, it was, quite brilliantly, both a solution as to what on earth to broadcast and an admission that no-one really cared anyway. In a refreshing display of sanity, everyone eventually deserted, leading to the desperate announcement of the final series (at least for a while), which went out this year to all the fanfare of a lone alcoholic detonating a party popper in a deserted bed-sit. Incapable of going out with a bang and discontented with the whimper, they promptly produced ANOTHER SERIES, Ultimate Big Brother, which based on the fact that the only five minutes I witnessed consisted of Vanessa Feltz dancing for the amusement of the runners-up from Britain’s Got Talent , has permanently devalued the word ‘ultimate’. Except, hopefully, in its meaning of ‘absolutely the last’.

Quite amazingly however, the end of Big Brother, despite not actually having watched it, is nonetheless the summer’s most memorable television, testament to its fiendish infiltration of the zeitgeist (and the aforementioned dearth of much else on).

The rest of the prominent airtime was sports coverage: The World Cup, which was, of course, horribly marred by the drone of English commentators complaining about the manager, the ball and that incredibly significant disallowed goal, and Wimbledon which was ruined (again) by Federer not winning. As far as fictive television went, Tom Hollander’s Rev was very good, Simon Amstell’s Grandma’s House mostly wasn’t, Last of the Summer Wine was cancelled to the outrage of everyone who saw their own mortality reflected in the decision, and there was presumably some other stuff too.

Thankfully, autumn looks to be a far more promising prospect, although, personally, I’d settle for a 24 hour broadcast of a crackling fire with a pleasant voice-over.


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