A Revelation from the Digital Revolution
So we got digital TV the other day, the Freeview thang you've heard about, one of those cute little boxes perched like a combination between a small eager electronic puppy and an all-seeing robot sentinel atop the screen.
Through it's arcane ministrations, a panoply of new channels did emerge, lo, and it was considered good. Shopping, travel, re-runs, history – this and more now lie at my fingertips.
But best of all, the music channels, who do sterling service in being basically unobjectionable (advertised atonal animated anthopomorphs aside) stuff to have on in the background when there's nothing better (which is often). And music videos is what they do, on endless rotation. Or so it seemed…
Last night, the estimable TMF ran… A List Show.
The terror invoked by the three words is known to all who frequent Channel 4's Saturday night schedules. A bunch of clips of something or other, strung together into a ranking order by some dubiously legitimate "democratic" process, fronted by whichever mugging presenter type didn't have anything better to do that week (read: Jimmy Carr), and commented on in witless vein by a series of J-list "celebs" and comedians, who pretend to A) remeber the clip in question perfectly well and B) to have something genuinely interesting to say about it.
In short, the ultimate in cheap, lowest-common denominator television. And this one was on a cheapo music channel knockoff. It would surely be the nadir of television viewing.
"The Top 100 Cheesiest Music Video Tricks…. Exposed!" (just breathe that title in for a moment…) had all the elements of a Channel 4 list show… but taken to the MAX. The premise was paper thin. The commentators were utterly unrelated to their subject matter, and appeared to have basically been culled from whoever was wondering past the studio at the time. There was a recurring segment on "Video Vixens" which had clearly been inserted merely to buff up the T&A count. I could go on.
And yet… and yet….
It was wonderful.
Beyond the realms of low-grade low-rent schedule filling pap, this was television that had gone past the merely shameless and out the other side: a programme so unapologetic about it's own unimportance that the voiceover cheerfully admitted it ranked the tricks in "whatever order we feel like, basically". The interviewees, so tangenital to their subject matter (not to mention any real notion of celebrity) as to be in the stratosphere, were entirely at liberty to mug along like the mindless goons they knew themselves to be. Freed of any responsibility to be representative, insightful or critically penetrating; it was free to wallow gloriously in it's own filth, grinning all the while. It was utter effluvia and it was loving every minute of it.
The sheer, brazen honesty of it was like sweet, sweet oxygen. Channel 4 have been getting it wrong all this time. To make great TV, you shouldn't try to make excuses for yourself. Accept your programmes for what they are; trashy, exploitative, utterly rubbish. No-one was fooled when you tried to sell Teen Big Brother as a serious sociological experiment, or 100 Worst Britons as the damning democratic critique of a restless nation. So why bother? Give in to your worst impulses. Revel in them. There is a better way.
Tonight, TMF are running the "Top 40 Worst Sex Songs". Dammit, I'm there.