To be honest, I haven’t been watching an awful lot of TV lately. It gets in the way of bedtime reading and an early night. You think you’re safe watching a programme at 9 p.m., which is when all the best ones are on, but that means you can’t start your pre-bed countdown (lights; cat; front and back doors; nocturnal slug-/snail-killing session; dishwasher; bath; teeth; floss; four-year-old-daughter-weeing; semi-supine-lying-down-exercise-because-your-back’s-knackered; lost-book-finding; herbal-sleeping-pill-taking, etc.) till 10 p.m. at the earliest, which means lights out not much before quarter to midnight. Which, if you’re planning on getting up for your 6.30 a.m. swim, isn’t ideal.
Or am I getting old? I feel old, certainly, when watching the sort of drivel they put on for yoof audiences. Like Celebrity Love Island, which I finally caught about 20 minutes of by accident the other day. It’s being touted as the worst programme ever, but, as Simon remarked last week, it’s actually not untypical of its genre, from Big Brother to that one whose name I forget where the girl had to guess which of the men were gay: brainless young people kept together in close conditions in the sure knowledge that they will say and do silly things and possibly have sex.
What upsets me most about these people is their poisonous shallowness. Maybe it’s the natural tendency of youth to live totally for sex, drink, drugs and the body beautiful, but at least when I went through that stage I had the good grace to be filled with self-doubt and self-loathing, not get nearly as many shags as I would have liked, and I read the odd book. This new generation of bronzed teens and twentysomethings, the blokes especially, don’t appear to have known a moment of introspection or cultural awareness in their lives. They’re really no better than apes. And the girls, they’re all such abominable slappers. Oh please, God, let there be another war so that they can all get killed.
Is there any hope for humanity? I often think not when I contemplate, say, wind farms (and, almost worse, The Spectator allowing itself to print government-sponsored propaganda for them) or those pillocks in the Tory party (some of them actual friends from Oxford, for heaven’s sake) who believe that the only way to get re-elected is to become more touchy-feely and gently statist. But I did see a tiny glimmer of hope this week in the unlikely form of a new reality series called Ladette To Lady (ITV1, Thursday).
In many ways, the programme is unutterable bilge — another rowdy-kids-transformational series in the manner of Lads Army and Brat Camp, only less original, more contrived and more lowbrow. Particularly annoying is its continual claim that the burping, swearing, hard-drinking young harpies it is pretending to put through an old-fashioned finishing school are ‘some of Britain’s notorious ladettes’. No, they’re not. Apart from the one briefly imprisoned by the Greeks for flashing her tits at Faliraki, none of us had ever heard of them before.
Once you’ve got into it, though — as is ever the way, which is a very strong argument for not starting in the first place — it all becomes quite disgustingly involving. Particularly delicious is the way the girls’ upmarket tutors, among them Liz Brewer and Rosemary Shrager, are regularly shown gathered like vultures on a wire to gasp in horror at the girls’ abominable vulgarity — their exposed midriffs; their hideous dress sense; their frightful accents; their inability to emerge with dignity from a sports car while wearing a cocktail dress and heels.
This is part of an encouraging class backlash, of which I’ve noticed quite a bit lately. Another, of course, is my documentary defending toffs, which they’ll be showing on Channel 4 in early July and which, if you don’t watch it, will earn you an immediate ban from ever reading this column again. What’s happening, I think, is that, having spent the past seven years being shat on by Tony Blair and his crew, the People Like Us are finally learning to fight back and fight hard and realise it’s actually not a shameful thing to have had an education and to talk properly and to practise good manners.
And this is the thing I mentioned earlier which gave me hope. You’d expect these boozing, prole-scum harlots to spend the series kicking against the traces and absolutely refusing to respect the upper middle-class tutors whose accents and values society has taught them to hate. In fact, though, apart from the inevitable fits of bolshiness, they are most of them touchingly eager to accept discipline and to learn how to behave.
The one I’m rooting for is the hulky, chain-smoking pipe-fitter who looks a bit like Biffa Bacon’s mum from Viz: if the series can transform her into the merest semblance of demure womanhood, it will be the biggest miracle I’ve seen on TV since Liverpool’s victory over AC Milan. Which is why, unfortunately, I shall be forced to keep watching.
Well done, constantly improving Channel Five, for your promising new series Big Ideas That Changed the World (Channel Five, Tuesday). (This week’s episode featured Gorbachev on communism.) Unfortunately, I can’t comment further as the preview tape they sent me was blank.
One more thing: that on-line video library I mentioned a while back which seems to have every classic film apart from Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is at www.screenselect.co.uk. And please, nice Mr QC chap who wrote to me ages ago asking for it, accept my sincerest apologies. The reason I didn’t reply was that I’m really crap and I lost your address, not because I think all lawyers are hideously overpaid mercenaries with no moral scruples.