Returning to TV after a year in the wilderness

admin | 杭州桑拿
4 Dec 2018

Have I outgrown TV? Should I just switch off? Carrie Bradshaw gets one thinking. Photo: Supplied

Have I outgrown TV? Should I just switch off? Carrie Bradshaw gets one thinking. Photo: Supplied

Survivor, without the good bits: The Big Adventure. Photo: Supplied

Have I outgrown TV? Should I just switch off? Carrie Bradshaw gets one thinking. Photo: Supplied

Have I outgrown TV? Should I just switch off? Carrie Bradshaw gets one thinking. Photo: Supplied

Last Saturday night I stayed up to watch Carrie Bradshaw accidentally fart while in bed with Mr Big.

It was not the first time I’d seen/heard this happen – I’d caught this Sex and the City episode once or twice before – but I followed the repercussions nonetheless, nursing my little goblet of cleanskin shiraz as Carrie and her mates discussed the etiquette of gas-letting and she went home to tap-tap-tap out her ruminations.

When the credits rolled – cue jaunty piano-trickle theme tune – I watched another episode, the one where they go to a baby shower in the burbs.

I don’t think I properly laughed once for the 50-odd minutes that I sat watching. There may have been a wry smile but no sudden “ha!” or even a real chuckle. Truth be told, while I may fit the mould of what many imagine to be a Sex and the City fan – gay, white, impressed by shoes – I don’t really like the show.

And yet I watched.

It’s been this way since I re-entered the world of the television-havers this weekend. After 12 months of living in an apartment with no free-to-air outlet, on a salary that laughed in the face of even the most basic Foxtel packages, I moved into a new place on Saturday morning and, for the first time in a year, reacquainted myself with channels Two to Ten and their ever-multiplying offspring.

The world of not-on-demand has been an adjustment.

I’ve spent the past year having to hunt down everything I wanted to watch; first searching for the right streaming link on some disorienting foreign website and then having to close a dozen pop-up ads just to get to the very bottom of the rabbit hole where my 52 minutes of unethically obtained Game of Thrones lie waiting. TV was an effort, and I only watched the things I would make an effort for.

With free-to-air in my hands again – and no internet connection for now – I’ve found myself just . . . watching; plonking myself down, switching on the telly and up-downing with my remote until I find something good enough to stop on. Good enough like The Big Adventure, a show that’s basically Survivor without the good bits (what madness convinced them to replace Tribal Council with digging in a sandpit?), but a show I’ve now seen two episodes of nonetheless. And good enough like Gold Coast Cops, a show about cops . . . on the Gold Coast . . . that I have also watched.

Good enough like Beverly Hills 90210 – the remake.

There were things I’d completely forgotten about free-to-air in my year away, too, like that one channel completely devoted to infomercials. And the fact that networks give themselves over to Elvis movies during sunshine hours on weekends.

I’d also forgotten that it wasn’t all rubbish. British property TV, for instance, is the greatest gift the world’s received since God gave us his only son (I’ve also been watching early morning mass on channel 11). And SBS’s brilliant Pop Asia would be my new favourite thing if it wasn’t for stumbling across SBS’s even better If You Are the One, a cruel and magnificent Chinese dating show that puts one man in front of 24 women to be rejected by them one by one because he is too old/fat/balding.

I’d also forgotten the joy of drunk-tweeting Q&A, something few others seem to have forgotten if the show’s live Twitter feed is anything to go by.

But then a drop in quality has not been the most jarring part of returning to the TV-having world. In my year in the TV wilderness, I happily made the effort to stream what some might (wrongly) consider trash: everything from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (before recent revelations, of course) to the British version of The X Factor. What’s been most jarring about returning to television, in the traditional sense, is how weird it feels to watch television in a traditional way.

After 12 months of being, by necessity, a completely active viewer, life at the mercy of programmers who assume I want my news at 6pm and my mysteries solved at 8.30pm feels all too constricting. Not being able to dig around the internet for the latest episode of American Dad to watch before bed feels ludicrous. Not having my usual background noise playing while I cook – QI, courtesy of iView – feels almost cruel. It’s like I’m back in the 1990s, a decade I spent circling things in TV Week and rushing home from school to watch Bewitched because it started at 4.30pm and if I missed the start time then that was that.

It was also a decade when television really was a mindless pursuit, when I sat in front of the cathode ray tube and flicked around in the hope of something good flashing up. I’ve time-travelled back to that point in my life again this week, flicking around at night in something of a trance until settling on watching people digging in a sandpit or a New York columnist farting in bed.

It’s a way of watching television I’ve outgrown, along with many others.

I’ve got a week until the internet is connected. In the meantime, I guess I’ll keep watching whatever I end up watching, even if I’m not laughing.

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