Years ago one of my daughters had the dubious fortune to be spotted by a ‘talent’ scout who invited her to be included on the books of a rather well-known modelling agency. She duly went along, had photos taken and appeared on the agency’s catalogue of seemingly beautiful young things. Various calls for photo-shoots and castings followed but in no time at all my daughter reported that, ‘It’s not really something I want to be involved with – I can’t stand the scene.’
So she abandoned the idea and went off to study art and aesthetics.
It was the media ‘scene’ – the world of, for want of a better word, the ‘presentation’ that reared its awful head in an eagerly anticipated BBC television programme last night. The programme was ‘This Time’ – with Alan Partridge’ and I had looked forward to seeing it – mainly because there is something weirdly attractive about a certain genre of tragicomedy: All those programmes that caricature and parody the affectations of ‘being’ and comportment in the media-world and the world of the culture industries are often quite funny and at the same time revealing. They are funny because the occupational realities which they portray are often ludicrous; and, the gap between the real and the fake (or false) is nicely revealed. We often feel sympathy for the characters because we see that they are caught in this new world of short attention spans, wall-to-wall superficiality, and contrived story-telling. They all know that the whole enterprise is really a great big sham.
The programme ‘This Time’ had a go at amusing us with its manifestation of this aspect of the media-world.
But after watching 21 minutes of the BBC’s ‘This Time’ I switched the television off. If it was funny it was only funny because the rendition of the TV presenter was, in parts, a good portrayal of all those smiling twerps that front so many modern television programmes. As I watched the programme it was as if I could hear any number of well-known TV presenters rolled into one. It was almost embarrassing to have to endure their prepared scripts and their cliched statements and their having a ‘passion’ for this, that or the other. And the programme, ‘This Time’ was good to the extent that it revealed the ego-centrism of our current crop of presenters. (What a dismal corruption of the soul must have taken place!)
But that is just about all it managed to do. It went on – and on – underlining that same egoism, self-aggrandisement and self-absorption. To that extent it become tiresome. It failed because it showed a one-dimensional character – and, after a while, one-dimensionality is predictable and boring. Coupled with this I simply did not like the central character of ‘This Time’: He was unbearable. That’s why I switched the television off.
Oddly enough, I wondered if that was the ultimate goal of the programme: I wondered if the deeper message was (is) simply that there is such an excess of television coupled with the profound distortion of reality that is effected by the media that we should stop watching TV altogether.
Footnote: The line, ‘What a drag it is getting old‘ is taken from the Rolling Stones song ‘Mother’s little helper.’
1 thought on “What a drag it is getting old …”
Well done, Rob. Good comments. Your daughter was right to leave modelling – if there is really an alternative nowadays. I also tried to watch and abandoned Partridge, as a parody of what is already a parody. Popular entertainment is a facile environment, in which A comments on B commenting on A – but then, so is current affairs nowadays. I attended a talk by Sir Anthony Seldon recently, in which he argued that entertainment will become the one area not take over by artificial intelligence. With respect to the Vice Chancellor, that has already happened. In 1984, George Orwell describes novel-writing machines, tended by mechanics. But what could be easier than to mechanise popular entertainment in toto, if that has not already occurred – and to clone its presenters? Roman circuses involved danger, at least for those in the arena. Is that why we have dancing on ice? Vicarious pain as the way forward? Best wishes. Keep writing.