Today’s Grauniad Weekend magazine publishes a letter – well, some of it – I wrote them about this article from last Saturday, in which their resident marriage counsellor Luisa Dillner advises a reader concerned about the lack of time she’s spending with her boyfriend. Time couples spend watching TV together, asserted Dillner, ‘is passive [i.e. doesn’t count] unless you fight over the remote’. As my letter explains, this runs contrary to my own experience. TV is actually pretty interactive as shared activities go. Whilst this is especially so when you’ve got children and thus no time or energy to do anything more strenuous with your evening than flop on the sofa in front of the box, I found it to be the case even before I started breeding. Then again, when you’re of a writerly persuasion, anything seems pretty interactive after several hours spent staring at a wordprocessor – except for the web, of course. When I say the magazine published ‘some of’ my letter, I mean they cropped the last sentence: ‘The real threat to couple time and interaction these days is the internet – unless you communicate by instant messenger, of course.’ And I speak as a two-PC family.
Anyway, back to TV. Although I haven’t blogged about it (much as I’d’ve like to), in recent months both Mrs Thoughtcat and I have spent many happy hours glued to Ugly Betty and The Apprentice, respectively laughing and raging at the screen together in about equal measure. It is a shared experience and the better for that; your partner sees things you didn’t see, you talk about them, you learn from it; you find common ground; it gives you something to talk about. And given that we spend every evening in front of the TV anyway with our dinner on our laps (actually a far healthier setup than sitting opposite each other at table moaning about our days, or saying nothing at all), you notice when what’s on is actually any good, which in 2007 is rare.
The excellence of these particular two shows have almost restored my faith in terrestrial TV of late. The former is brilliantly written (especially those episodes by the acid-tongued Henry Alonso Myers) and superbly acted, and even if it’s completely frivolous is still weirdly compelling. The Apprentice meanwhile is just plain riveting: despite being fundamentally flawed – every week Sir Alan Sugar opens the show saying ‘This is not a game’, but of course it is, it’s a bloody TV show – the format and structure are plain genius. A 60-minute Shakespearean drama plays out weekly, complete with dramatic arcs everywhere they should be. The prelude: here is your mission, should you choose to accept it! Act 1: the teams set about preparing, with rumblings of controversy! Act 2: the task is carried out – usually badly by at least one if not both teams! Act 3: the teams convene at Sugar HQ, and the winners and losers are announced! Act 4: while the winning team get on with being pampered or going out partying, the losers sit whey-faced for a gripping dressing-down by Sir Al! Act 5: the team leader brings in his chosen scapegoats, the three wrangle to convince us that black is white and, our bums on the edges of our seats, Sugar fires the team leader! Then, finally, the chorus plays us out as this week’s loser is driven away into the horizon and professional oblivion.
Seriously, I’m not saying I revel in watching people get fired, far from it, but when that person is so utterly deserving of it, it really is undeniably satisfying. I would almost have applied for the next series myself if I didn’t think I’d be eaten alive in the board room – not by Sir Alan, he doesn’t scare me at all, but by the other contestants. Those people really would sell their own grandmothers to succeed. (Except for Lohit, who was just too nice to win.) Personally I found the final disappointing – Sugar, confirming everyone’s prejudices about UK business, plumps for Simon, a 12-year-old white male Cambridge graduate with a rich dad and yellow socks, when he could have had tough, independent single mum Kristina. But at least the brilliant Tre nearly made it and that other cow was nowhere to be seen.
*sigh*. The missus and I have no idea what we’re going to do with ourselves on Wednesday and Friday nights from now on. Maybe surf the web and IM each other?