One of the changes in my life is that I watch - or rather, often want to watch - rather more television than I used to. As I wrote over on Something Else to Eat recently, I need to have the TV on while I'm eating dinner on my own, otherwise it feels too lonely. Radio or reading doesn't work, it has to be TV. But that means finding something that I can watch relatively calmly. And as I don't have Sky, I'm restricted to the "free-to-air" channels. (Odd, isn't it, how that's become such a disdainful term.)
The first half of the news is okay, but as I usually eat round 7 pm, that means waiting till then and watching TV3 news on the channel where it runs an hour later. Alternatively, I can watch Campbell Live, provided it isn't too appallingly banal (Mark Sainsbury isn't even in contention), or - probably the pick of the bunch - the Simpsons. And that's pretty much it. If I run any later than 7, there's sometimes a cooking programme, but I've discovered that cooking programmes and dinner just don't mix. All they do is make you dissatisfied with either what you're eating or what they're making or both.
Later on it gets worse. Biggest losers, swapped wives, bratty children, serial killers, cold cases - I think I hit rock bottom the night the two main-channel mid-evening offerings were The Worst Teeth in Britain and The [British] Neighbours from Hell.
On Anzac Day, TVOne did have what looked like an interesting, relevant documentary (an extremely rare beast these days) about the RSA. Only one problem - it was screening at 6.25 am, just when those who would most want to watch it would be at the dawn service. Both TVOne and TV3 had obviously decided that if it was good enough for shops to open at lunchtime, it was good enough for them to completely ignore Anzac Day from then on.
Maori TV, which so often becomes the default public broadcaster these days, did a great job, but I had to wait until after 10 pm to watch Dancing in the Sky, a docmentary about the first airman to win a VC, in World War I - who just happened to have a Maori grandmother. It was very good, but a bit late - ensuring many potentially keen people would have missed it.
Lately I've been immersed in reading Harvey's journal. He kept it for about ten years, until he started his blog in 2009. The lovely thing about it is that it brings back for me all those days, weeks, months, years of ordinary life, when nothing particularly extraordinary happened - the days that make up the fabric of a happy relationship, but then slip away into the past and are so hard to recall.
What he writes wouldn't be of much interest to anyone except me. He records what each of us did each day, what we ate, where we went, who we saw - and what we watched on TV. One of the things that astonished me was how much better the programmes were then. This isn't just rosy-tinted nostalgia. As well as brilliant programmes like Whose Line Is It Anyway and Frontline (the Aussie satire on current affairs shows), the art of making good local documentaries was much more in evidence.
But now? Most nights of the week, finding anything even faintly worth watching in prime time is well-nigh impossble. And no, I don't think getting Sky would help much. There are only so many Grand Designs and war footage compilations I can cope with.
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