In Praise of Bad TV

We hear so much of the new golden age of television. We've been having appalling weather here on the east coast of NSW - 45 degree temperatures followed by days on end of flooding rain - and the best way to spend time is indoors, enjoying some television and trying to block out the impending global warming apocalypse threatening to destroy us all. Ask someone to recommend you a good show to watch, a season of something to plough through in a marathon coach potato weekend, and the recommendations come thick and fast - Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Girls. Into something a little more classic? Well, there's The Sopranos, The West Wing, Six Feet Under...

At this point I chime in with "so you're telling me there's a tonne of TV out there that's tightly plotted, well paced, expertly cast, filmed cinematically, that really makes you think? Because that's not what I'm looking for at all". Nosiree Bob. When it comes to TV, give me trash. I love Dance Moms. I love Wife Swap Australia. I love Girls of the Playboy Mansion marathons. Ever seen 20 Greatest Hollywood Scandals pop up on your EPG and wondered "who watches this crap?" It's me.

Thought provoking in its way. Photo: IMDB

I've a short attention span, and like doing several things at once. I don't want to think when I watch TV. Cold Case is about as intellectual as it gets for me. And I don't like twists and surprises. I like knowing what's going to happen within the defined paradigms of the reality TV cocoon. I've tried the "good" stuff, honestly. I sat down to watch The Wire. And...yeah. It was dark, and there were people running around, and that's really all I got from it. If asked at the time what I thought of the thing, I would have replied "brilliant. Just brilliant. As good as everyone says". But my true thoughts were "what's going on? I don't..." Someone then told me it takes four or five episodes to really get into The Wire. What even! Why would I spend five hours of my life trying to enjoy something I might not even like? At least with The Anna Nicole Smith E! True Hollywood story, you know she's dead fifty minutes in, and that's the end of that, apart from the fact her six year old daughter is now following in Mom's footsteps by modelling for Guess and let's hope the comparisons end there.

I don't live in a complete intellectual wasteland - and that may be part of the problem. I set myself the task this year to read fifty books I'd never read before - a big ask for someone who thrives on repetition. My first two, Confessions of a GP and Ron Jeremy's autobiography, The Hardest (Working) Man in Show Business, went down easy. (Don't judge me, Jeremy had a Masters in Special Education...he seems like a nice guy). But then I decided to finally tackle a book I've been reading to read for years, Jung Chang and John Halliday's Mao: The Untold Story.

He was an asshole. I get it.

It's readable, and well paced, and not particularly intellectually taxing. But it's So. Long. Mao was a dickhead. He had people buried alive, allowed his wife to be executed, left several of his children to die, massacred villagers. There's only so much of that stuff you can read before it starts to get a little tiresome, and I'm only up to the Chinese civil war days. Plus much of the book is necessarily descriptions of military strategy, which is not really my thing, and taking a lot of work to follow. I've been working on this thing for weeks, and I'm not even halfway in, and I can't even read anything else for the duration because I'm grimly determined to finish Mao. I've a week off starting today, and I've promised myself I'll finally finish the book, and I know I won't, and I hate myself a bit. So you'll forgive me if I finish this post to watch a couple of new episodes of Dance Moms.