Morning TV: it’s awful but I love it

Why waste your mornings making smoothies and reading the Guardian when you could be watching trash telly?

Patrick West

Patrick West

Topics Culture

Having confessed last week to watching Top Gear, I will now admit to habitually watching even crappier TV. Morning television.

Watching TV in the morning is a thing journalists should not do. A decent journalist should be making ‘smoothies’ – that now scientifically-proven, well-known panacea for every single illness in the entire world – or doing exercise, filling in Sudoku puzzles, trying to get to work on time, or reading the Guardian. But I find the Guardian bad for my blood pressure, what with its comment and letters pages inhabited by ignorant, spiteful, envious and unfunny misanthropes who I want to strangle. So instead I’ve decided to watch the telly in the mornings.

The first port of call is The Wright Stuff on Five, hosted by the eponymous Matthew Wright. This is superb tabloid TV. Watching The Wright Stuff is like reading the Daily Express or the Daily Mirror from their golden age of fifty years ago: it’s sharp, incisive, witty and non-deferential. What’s more, Matthew Wright is a charming fellow. He possesses classic Old Labour, Christian, socialist values. He is in favour of the redistribution of wealth, but he is a moral conservative when it comes to family values, and he has an anti-authoritarian streak that is worthy of Orwell. When daytime trash TV is often held up as a signifier of modernity’s malaise, it is paradoxical that The Wright Stuff transmits an old-fashioned, Old Labour message – one worthy of the 1950s.

Then there is The Jeremy Kyle Show on ITV1. This programme is vile. I don’t know what’s worse: having a posh person pretending to be a prole, and then berating the proles for being underclass scumbags, or me taking pleasure in seeing proles being berated. Insulting the British white working class is all very fashionable these days, as the Jade Goody and Big Brother ‘racism’ brouhaha blah blah blah boring boring BORING debacle showed, and I’m guilty of it myself. But I’m not proud of myself for it. Just because something makes you feel good, it doesn’t mean it is good.

Round about 10am I switch to Fox News. I love Fox News, for the same reason I like Channel 4 News. BBC News 24, CNN and Sky News always try to transmit the suggestion that they are objective, even though they aren’t (being left-wing, left-wing and right-wing, respectively). But Fox News and Channel 4 News just don’t give a shit. Pretence at objectivity is not an issue for them. Watching Channel 4 News is like being lectured to by John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk and Tariq Ali all at the same time. It’s manifest leftie propaganda from start to finish.

Then you’ve got Fox News (Sky channel 510), which is so neo-con as to make one’s eyes water. I particularly like it on Fox when they have a ‘debate’ on issues, which usually involves getting some very clever brainiac Republican author to discuss Iraq, against the thickest, most stupid Democrat, amateur, wannabe politician. At the conclusion, Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, possibly television’s most non-objective anchorman, concludes ‘Well, I think this just about proves once again that the liberals are wrong about nearly everything.’

In having their customary Republican vs Democrat slanging match, Fox gives the illusion of impartiality, but of course, anyone with a brain knows that they always pair a well-read neo-con with a lame leftie. Still, at least it’s not as bad as most morning and day-time discussions on Radio 4, which can’t even be bothered to have a conservative token idiot. Instead, they just have loads of lefties agreeing with each other, in a façade of a ‘discussion’ or ‘debate’.

Anyway, I think the reason why I watch all this terrible morning television is because Channel 4 last year got rid of showing re-runs of Cheers. This was my favourite show, even though it is sheer fantasy (see TV UK, November 25, by Dolan Cummings). I particularly liked it because I frequent a pub in West London, called the Old City Arms, which is much like the bar in Cheers. Everybody does literally ‘know your name’ there, even if for years they thought my name was ‘Pete’ or ‘Phil’.

At The Old City Arms I always try to imagine myself to be Frasier from Cheers: the erudite, witty, middle-class interloper who successfully hangs out with the regular guys. But in the end, I’ve come to the sad realisation that I am Cliff: a boring bastard who talks out of his arse all the time, gets on everyone’s nerves and comes out with facts that don’t actually exist.

I stop watching TV by about 10.15. It’s the time when the programmes start about how to sell stuff from your attic, not to mention the unbelievably depressing advertisements for debt relief. I’ve never understood them: ‘Are you in debt? Why not take out another loan to get you more in debt?’ ‘Hello, I’m Phil Tufnell/Carol Vorderman and I know nothing about loans! And nor do you!’ ‘Are your finances screwed? We can really screw them up for you if you want. Just call this number. We can even send you to debtors’ prison!’

I’d rather read the Guardian, and actually go to work.

Patrick West is spiked‘s TV columnist.

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Topics Culture


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