Jayne Dawson: It worries me that telly has become so completely stale

l
l
0
Have your say

I find myself worried about the demise of television, and not in a selfless way.

Me and television, we grew up alongside each other. In my young years, television was relatively young too. If it’s going down the pan now, what does that say about me?

I mean, I’m keen not to take this too far. When I say we grew up together, I’m not talking about television’s brief glimmering before THE WAR or anything, but I am one of those people who saw Watch With Mother as it was transmitted and not years later on a nostalgic video tape - remember those?

And of course television was lacking in certain areas then. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin with Watch With Mother - except I wasn’t watching with mother. I was watching with auntie while mother worked hard elsewhere, and nothing I was watching showed me a world that reflected my life, or even a world where girls had any fun. Louby Lou was always the girl on the sidelines. (?)

But television and me continued to grow up - and television, at least, definitely matured. On the box there were some corkers.

It wasn’t just Blue Peter and Magic Roundabout and Top of the Pops, there was excellent drama too. I seem to have watched the fabulous epic that was The Forsythe Saga at various points in my life. Mostly when I should have been revising.

The quality could be a bit hit and miss but for a person who didn’t realise she had the right to enter a theatre, I saw some cracking drama and sensational plays right there on the box.

Anything by writer Dennis Potter had me enthralled, as did those W. Somerset Maugham stories which all featured English women going slowly bonkers in tropical climes. Only Charles Dickens and Jane Austin ever seem to get on screen now.

And then came television in the small hours and in the early morning - marvellous for a mother of sleepless children. I was beyond grateful. And some of the repeats were excellent.

So television has always been woven into the fabric of my life. I am that person who looks forward to the Christmas Radio Times, who wants to see The Greatest Story Ever Told and Easter Parade at Easter, and notices when the summer programme famine ends and the autumn feast begins.

Except it doesn’t now really, does it? Now is that time of year, the time when the autumn glut of shows, like so many ripe plums, should fall before us. Never mind mists and mellow whatsits, September should be all about big, juicy new programmes. But it isn’t happening.

Instead there is repetition and formula. Our screens are dominated by the same giants.

Find a winning format and flog it to death for maximum ratings is clearly the mission statement of all television channels now. It is television by numbers in every sense.

Thus, though I like Strictly Come Dancing, am its natural audience as a middle-aged woman who always wanted to be able to dance, even I find myself increasingly indifferent.

No matter how much the show is dressed up, stretched out, made to seem like one of the traditions of the year, the fact is it is a formula that is being repeated for the twelfth time.

And on Sunday begins that other giant, Downton Abbey, which seems set to turn into a long-running soap opera to rival Coronation Street.

As for Simon Cowell and his endless talent contests - it feels like there can be few people left who have not auditioned for one.

It makes me sad. Me and television grew up side by side, and now television has become stale, old, predictable and unimaginative. Let’s leave it right there, shall we?

How did I get parenthood so wrong?

Apparently I have it all wrong about parenthood.

My naive belief until now has been that our job as parents is to love our children unconditionally. I thought that was the deal. We create them, therefore we love them whatever.

Others can judge their shortcomings, decide whether they like them, want to be friends with them, whether they want to employ, marry them, have babies with them - all the stuff of life.

For we the parents it is different. If our children are lacking in some way, we can see it. But we don’t judge it like everyone else. We are biologically programmed to accept.

That, surely, is the blessing and the curse of parenthood.

But if author Wilbur Smith is to be believed, I am misguided. You may or may not have heard of him.

He’s an 81-year-old millionaire who has written more than 30 books, has five homes and is married to his fourth wife.

And his relationship with his three children is a bit cranky, which he blames on his preoccupation with book writing, his success - and the fact that the children did nothing to win his respect.

This bit stopped me in my tracks.

I was of the opinion, until Wilbur told me otherwise, that the only people in the world that children do not have to win respect from is their parents, because with parents it is all about love, and that love doesn’t have to be earned or merited, it simply exists.

Let’s just say I’m glad he’s not my dad.

Don’t be silly

Tomorrow is finally the day and, as the Scottish debate hits fever pitch, all sorts of unexpected people are throwing themselves into the fray.

Among the more surprising is designer Vivienne Westwood, who has come out very much in favour of Scottish independence.

She’s entitled to her opinion and everything, even if she was born in Derbyshire and has made her fortune based in London.

I was born in Leeds and I have an opinion too. I think Scottish independence would be bad for Scotland and bad for England.

You could argue that Vivienne Westwood is especially entitled to let her opinions be known because she has helped Scotland a fair amount by making tartan one of the trendiest designs on the planet.

But to say she supports Scottish independence because “I hate England” sounds more like a sulky teenager that a woman in her 70s.

Even the sixteen year olds voting for the first time are putting up more articulate arguments than that.

Business leaders are pressing the case for a Crossrail for the North.

YP Letters: Plea to Theresa May for ‘Crossrail in the North’