"I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts." -- Orson Welles

TV Time to admit something, although it may not necessarily be a bad thing depending upon your point of view. Here is a list of all the television I'm watching currently, week in and out (those marked with an asterisk are finishing this week):

The Sarah Jane Adventures (Mondays, BBC One)
Screenwipe (Tuesdays, BBC Four) *
Heroes (Wednesdays, BBC Two)
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (Thursdays, More4)
The Peter Serafinowicz Show (Thursdays, BBC Two)
Have I Got News For You (Fridays, BBC One)
The Culture Show (Saturdays, BBC Two)
The West Wing (Sundays, More4)

And um, that's it. I am also recording Robin Hood (Saturday et al, BBC One), Michael Palin's New Europe (Sunday, BBC One) and Diary of a London Call Girl (Thursdays, ITV2) to watch in the future, but that's it. Of course there's the news in the morning and at tea time, and the odd themed season on BBC Four or documentary here and there, but in terms of make-a-date programming that's the sum total of my viewing pleasure which seems awfully low in comparison to what I'm assuming other people are spending time with.

Which should explain why I haven't been writing much for Off The Telly lately. I know there's a lot worth seeing. Flight of the Concordes is probably a missed treat and I somehow totally forgot about the second series of Not Going Out. I've heard good things about Californication. But somewhere along the line, a couple of years ago, I simply stopped being able to just sit and watch television no matter what's on and spending much of the late summer listening to The Proms drew me even further away.

I've also got into the habit of simply putting the 'must-see' series on the LoveFilm list and waiting for them to turn up through the letter box so that I can gorge on them three or four episodes at a time, even uk programmes like Spooks. I'm part of the demographic which has turned away from television, not as a medium but as a process. I'm just watching a lot of films on dvd, reading, listening to music, and doing this. I'm working too. But the point is that I'm televisually disaffected and the only reason I can think of is that it's because there's too much of the stuff. In supplying too many choices, television has turned me off, because I can never decide what to watch.

Partly it's to do with my own approach to life. I don't like choice. I like to be surprised. My mp3 player is almost permanently on random. With Lovefilm you just watch whatever they send you from your list and my list currently stands at seven hundred odd. And if I can't be surprised I'll stick to one thing. Given the many hundreds of flavoured beverage on offer in Starbucks I tend to just drink black coffee. I'm sure people must notice that all I ever seem to wear is a white t-shirt and jeans. It's a surpise, the same thing, or nothing at all. The best restaurants are the ones that have a specials board. I don't suspect that everyone who's turned away from television has these oh so very special eccentricities.

I think probably the only thing which would get me to return to watching more television would be a channel which didn't actually have a proper schedule and were you'd never know exactly what was going to be on. There might be themed zones and types of programmes at different parts of the day and you could tune in and be surprised by whatever was being presented to you. Since they'd need to have something to print in the Radio Times, Surprise TV's evening programme list would look like this:

6:00 Old drama
7:00 A documentary
7:30 Comedy
8:00 Another documentary
9:00 New drama
10:00 Film
12:00(ish) Music
1:00 Repeat of something from earlier in the night
2:00 One of the dramas again too

Oddly enough, that does look not unlike the schedule for BBC Four, but even that has some serials. This wouldn't even have those. It might repeat episodes of things and in the right order, but there could be weeks in between. Long running storylines aren't going to work on this channel, but one off and stand-alone dramas would be perfect. The documentaries would be about anything. And the point is that it wouldn't be appointment tv on purpose. But the schedulers would just make sure that whatever was on would be damn good so when the viewer pitched up at nine o'clock, for example, they'd be sure to find an amazing film.

Of course this anarchic approach to scheduling would never work -- and I can't imagine what the business model would look like since there would have to be some commercials and how do you sell time on a channel which doesn't release its programme list? It's barmy but I still think it would work. But then, I once had the barnstormer of an idea of a radio station that tossed out genre concerns and simply played great music throughout the day no matter where in the world it was from and when. Which in todays money would mean Cornel Pewewardy & The Alliance West Singers next to Oasis next to Beethoven next to Bob Seger next to Nikka Costa next to The Specials. Essentially my mp3 player on random again but with a presenter. Which would never work.


  1. 700 items in your queue? Dear God, do you actually expect to watch all of them?

    Surprise TV, I like it.

  2. Oh goodness me no. But it means that I could fair well get anything through. Plus I've got them in arbitrary streams -- fiction films from the 1900s, 2000 onwards and everything else (TV, music, documentaries etc)

  3. Anonymous2:34 pm

    Do you get out much ?

  4. Well, yes. Of course. But as I mentioned somewhere in there I tend to record everything and watch it back later. It's just not often I'll sit down in front and of telly and watch whatevers on.