Stop Watching Television | Chris Winter

I recently took a trip down to Bath and, during my visit, I stayed in a very pleasant cottage. Unfortunately, after doing a few laps of Bath, I realised that nothing much besides the museums took my interest. Therefore, I decided to stay in for the evening. Upon returning to the cottage, I realised that reception was poor, and the Wi-Fi was abysmal in every room except the kitchen. My only option, therefore, was to do the unthinkable… I was forced to watch television.

Being a Zoomer, up until that holiday, I hadn’t actually watched any traditional television in about 3 years. Quite frankly, I would be perfectly happy if I didn’t have to watch it again for another 3 decades. Being forced to watch this black, rectangular box of horror and misery was unbelievably appalling, and I sincerely cannot understand how it used to transfix me and steal away my time when I was younger. 

Unsurprisingly, I stopped watching television when I left home for university. Not for any pretentious intellectualist reasoning, but simply because university living does not lend itself to owning a television. I wasn’t going to go out of my way to buy and set up a television and pay my licence fee; and the halls I stayed in never came with one, so there really was just no way to watch traditional television to the same amount I had been consuming it before. As I am sure you will have guessed, the traditional television experience was replaced with things like Twitter, YouTube, and occasionally streaming services. 

During my stay in Bath, I decided that it would be a good idea to spend some time in the evenings just consuming television. I wanted to get a feel again for what it was like, so I spent a few hours watching a variety of channels, namely BBC1, BBC2, BBC News, ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5, and GB News. I also briefly flicked over to the children’s channel POP to see what it was like. The hours I spent watching were some of the most tedious, odious, and loathsome hours of the holiday. I therefore saw fit to write an article about it to document what I saw and to serve as a warning to you to give up your nightmare box as soon as possible.

Watching the BBC felt like a mild stomach-ache, moderately painful at the time but barely memorable a few hours after it stopped. BBC1 and BBC2 were filled with barely coherent programmes about the ambulance service, repetitive quiz programmes, and so-called ‘comedy’ shows whose jokes quickly fell flat. BBC News was at least relatively informative, but the propaganda is really obvious. For example, an entire segment was dedicated to mocking American Christians who didn’t want to take the coronavirus vaccine. Why on earth should I care about some small communities on a different continent who don’t want to take a coronavirus vaccine when a mass shooting had just occurred in Plymouth? Why on earth is a story like that being put on at all, let alone at prime time? 

ITV1 and Channel 4 were discussing the Plymouth shooting which, by that time, I was already well aware of, so I didn’t stay for too long to watch these channels and therefore have very little to say about them. GB News was goofy as always. Weird sets and awkward conversation-style arguments between Nigel Farage and a bloke from Extinction Rebellion followed by a straight dialogue from Neil Oliver. Nothing particularly aggravating from this show, but I understand why the viewership fluctuates so wildly. Some of their slots are alright and some of them are barely watchable Americanised rhubarb. 

I have, of course, left the worst to last. The thought of watching any more of the bile which pours from Channel 5 gives me shivers. This channel’s programming seems to be dedicated to highlighting and applauding the worst aspects of life in modern, middling, managerial Britain. Programmes with stupid names like ‘Bargain Loving Brits in the Sun’, ‘Car Pound Cops: Give me my Car Back!’, ‘Fare Dodgers: At War with the Law’, and ‘999: Criminals Caught on Camera’. I spent a fair amount of time watching these last two programmes and they were beyond belief. Yes, I appreciate that the man who works for Transport for London whose job it is to catch fare dodgers exists. No, I do not see why he deserves his own television show. Yes, I appreciate that bus drivers have to deal with petty crime and minor inconveniences. No, I do not see why they deserve their own programme. It leaves me asking myself the same question over and over… WHO CARES? WHO ACTUALLY WATCHES THIS?

The answer to that question is obvious… it’s the boomers. (It’s always the boomers, isn’t it?) According to YouGov, Channel 5 is the 6th most popular channel with Baby Boomers. It doesn’t even make it to the top 25 with Millennials. YouGov of course doesn’t understand the concept of Gen Z and therefore doesn’t keep records for them, but I doubt Channel 5 would even be in the top 30 for them. 

So why do boomers enjoy this kind of content so much? What about it is so appealing to them? What keeps them drawn to television? Obviously older people are going to be drawn to more traditional forms of media over more modern internet and streaming services, however there must be other factors. Afterall, if your 70-year-old grandmother can learn how to use Facebook, she can also learn how to use Netflix. 

I think it is because they have given up, they have lost their spirit. They huddle themselves around the terror screen in their living room because the messages that pour out of it are nauseatingly stable and boring, just like them. Besides the occasional moments of ‘boomer-bait’ (programmes designed to rile them up and get them angry at young people for daring to ask for a crumb of investment whilst simultaneously showing clips of completely different middle-aged Marxists pulling down statues), most of the content they consume just reassures their twisted and blinkered world view. “Don’t worry” says the television “The TfL man is catching those evil fare dodgers and those stupid American Christians are getting their just deserts for not taking the vaccine”. Ironically, this is the generation that chastised us as children for sitting too close to the television and told us that we would get ‘square eyes’ if we did.

Obviously, I appreciate that many of you probably don’t watch that much television anyway. This magazine’s main audience is young people after all. But for those of you who do, heed my warning, and stop. It will do you a world of good. So much better and more engaging media exists outside of the world of traditional television.

In conclusion, unless the situation improves, I sincerely look forward to the day streaming services and social media finally go the whole nine yards and stomp on the windpipe of traditional television for good, to forever drain the life from its obnoxious beady little eyes. STOP WATCHING TELEVISION!

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