Being brought up in the digital, high-definition era, television has been a huge part of my life; the cornerstone of my upbringing if I'm allowed wriggle room to hyperbolise a little. Whilst I'm not quite as bone idle as members of the Royle Family, who personified Britain's genuine telly addicts, I wasted plenty of my childhood and adolescence in front of the box.
I say 'wasted,' because society frowns upon us lazy youngsters nowadays; that we should be running around like blue-arsed flies, that being indoors is tantamount to worshipping Satan himself. Of course these are the same pretentious snobs that want kids off the streets and into their sheltered, suburban homes. Alas, I digress. I'm sure your vibrant imaginations can picture the scene: we'd come home from school, wolf down a plate of chicken dippers and potato waffles (my most prominent gourmet dish at uni, for the record - anyone wanting to inform me how childish or unhealthy that is must appreciate I'm at precisely half past give a damn) and sit down in front of the telly like the stereotypical happy family should.
I was far too cool for kids TV, save for Arthur (nobody's above that awesome aardvark - yeah I thought he was a bear or something as well), and used to watch everything my parents loved before acquiring my own personal tastes: the mainstream likes of Only Fools and Horses, and The Krypton Factor and Takeshi's Castle, hidden away on Challenge, back when that was a channel for the hipsters. A lot of the stuff mentioned is still on today but either the novelty has worn off or they've been repeated ad-nauseum and I've seen every episode a dozen times. Then came the genius of Hustle, 24, House, Spooks, Mock the Week, The Apprentice, as well as standard long-running stalwarts like Match of the Day, Countdown and, as I matured a bit more, Question Time.
But where has all this golden television gone? Where are the breaths of fresh air that made staying in worthwhile? The aforementioned statues of the small screen are not nearly as good as they once were; so much so I seldom bother tuning in. These timeless classics have been replaced by nauseating, banal hogwash. 'Television for idiots' is how I like to describe it; the type of stuff that glorifies having a low IQ and embraces 'lad culture,' which is far more sexist and demeaning than it is 'banterous' (don't get me started on that).
I question the sanity let alone level of self-respect of anyone that watches such shallow programmes as The Only Way is Essex and Geordie Shore. My mind then comes desperately close to imploding when I then hear that people actually enjoy the likes of Celebrity Juice and, the very worst of the worst, a show I stumbled upon over Christmas called Fake Reaction, where Z-list celebrities have to undertake Bushtucker-Trial-type tasks and mask their true emotions with a fake reaction. It's even worse than it sounds, trust me. I'm not nearly articulate enough to find the words to describe this abominable example of modern 'entertainment' so I'll just quote Friends legend Chandler Bing, who commented on Joey's terrible new show by saying: "That was one of the worst things ever. And not just on TV." Couldn't have put it better myself. If you actually like these shows and feel I've offended you: good. You're on your way to being a better person.
The man I have the utmost respect for throughout this downhill trajectory is controversial comedian, Ricky Gervais; the man who anticipated this downturn in quality yet continues to produce excellence. This scene from his painfully underrated sitcom Extras is genuinely one of the most truthful, poetic, and, to sound especially soppy, beautiful pieces of television I've ever had the fortune to witness. Gervais proves himself to be a shining beacon of common sense amidst a dreary field of baseless drivel; through the terrific writing and his perhaps surprisingly convincing acting.
For those unfamiliar with the show, his character, like so many of us, seeks fame and fortune, but in order to do so, had to hand in his dignity at the door when starring in moronic sitcom When the Whistle Blows. Watching this Russian doll/Inception-esque show-within-a-show epistolary format, who'd have thought that one day we'd genuinely have such terrible programmes at our disposal? Not a satirical plot device, but for real. Gervais' creation foreshadowed this death of comedy, and television in general. He saw it coming, and he's depressingly spot-on about how futile society has come in recent years.
We now live in a world where mind-numbingly bad sitcoms like Miranda and Mrs Brown's Boys are the best the BBC has to offer. Nobody minds a bit of slapstick here and there, Del Boy falling through the bar was, after all, voted the funniest Only Fools moment of all time. But to be so reliant on such childish humour, and to win awards in the process, is embarrassing to us all. Similarly, the excellent Kevin Bridges referred to pop music in his latest stand-up DVD, and his opinion certainly applies to this awful television as well. "You can feel yourself becoming less intelligent" he says. It genuinely feels like my brain cells are disintegrating when I turn on the idiot box nowadays.
I've been back from university less than seven days and have another two weeks off for Easter. People often ask me why I didn't take a television up there; "how do you survive?" they say. I'm beginning to question how I'll survive with one in my immediate vicinity for the next fortnight. The obituary has been written. But for live sport, I doubt I'll watch a single minute of television for the remainder of the year, and I don't think I'll even remotely begin to miss it. Unless there is a plethora of content I'm missing out on that people want to inform me of, I'm willing to say goodbye once and for all. Television: Rest In Peace.