What a great week.
Standing in for the Mail on Sunday’s TV critic (a job I once held for nearly 10 years – and you can catch my review in this Sunday’s edition, btw!), I was reminded again of why I love the medium and why, despite difficulties elsewhere in life, when it comes to work I have never doubted the path I took. I am truly blessed in loving what I do and, by whatever chance (and, despite the hard work, at the end of the day it really IS chance), being given the ability to do it.
Monday night’s Emmys had to have been the strongest line-up of shows ever to feature in an awards ceremony. How do you even begin to choose between House of Cards, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, or Kevin Spacey, John Hamm and Bryan Cranston? Category after category had me gasping in awe at the quality of the shows and nominees on the screen and, while I didn’t agree with all the results, everyone deserved to be there (and you can’t always say that about British awards shows - nor the Oscars, come to that).
I never watched much TV as a child, apart from when I was sick. Then, my favourite screen event was watching the second hand on a giant 60 second clock dispense with individual white lines as it counted down to the next show (I was easily pleased). I quite liked Tales of the River Bank (fluffy animals), hated Dr Who (too scary) and never saw Peyton Place because my parents went into moral panic overdrive and frantically sent me to bed every time it came on. I preferred living in my imagination and rarely left my bedroom.
As a teenager, my parents used to tell me off for being in my room working, always with a pen and paper in hand. “Why aren’t you downstairs watching television with the rest of the family?” was an ongoing admonishment. These days, the refrain I say to myself is: “Why aren’t you sitting at that desk working, instead of watching another Law and Order: SVU marathon, with shows you have seen a hundred times before?”
I once had a tax inspection and, in the interview, was asked to run through my average day. To summarise: I get up, watch TV; then I have my lunch and watch Diagnosis Murder, even though I am not reviewing it. Then, I watch more TV. Then I write about it. Then I watch TV . . . “ You get the gist of it? The tax man flicked through my accounts and looked at me suspiciously: “Do you have a boat?” A boat? A flamin’ boat? When would I have the time to run a boat, and why would I want to, when I can watch them on A Place in the Sun and not have to shift my backside from the sofa?
The first time I recall being overwhelmed by the power of the moving image was, in fact, from books my parents gave me: old copies of Maurice Speed’s Film Review. My favourite picture was of a woman tied to the railway tracks in the path of an oncoming train. I recall feeling thrilled, terrified, all my senses alert to the excitement and danger of the situation – and I also recall the relief when I read beneath the picture that, for those of us of a nervous disposition, we need not worry because the train stopped in time.
I always found it easy to live in my head and, as an adult, that hasn’t always been a good thing. I see high drama where other people see the mundane. I always have. I remember when Durham Road Junior School was broken into when I was eight and, lined up with my class in the hallway outside the crime scene (you see what I mean?), remember the thrill of seeing a jar labelled “POISON” in the cupboard. Had the thief planted it there? Was someone already dead? Were we all about to die?
I think I watch TV to take me away from the drama and chaos that is the long-running, never-ending series in my head. There are very few things I could not live without, but PG Tips and TV definitely top the list. My worst nightmare would be to have my TV taken away from me. Never mind that Law and Order are making programmes at a faster rate than I can watch them, nor that I have seen every episode of Frasier at least 20 times (and still watch at least two a day). This is my life. And, when reality sucks, as it has done of late, it’s my world.
While there is Suits on the telly, there is hope.