Flat White

Free to air tedium

3 January 2021

3:31 PM

3 January 2021

3:31 PM

It is said that you get what you pay for, and as regards free to air television, truer words have never been spoken. Free to air television is full of great shows and evening entertainment but increasingly the evenings are filled with channel surfing. We look for a beach less surfed but tend to catch waves surfed many times previously. 

The Channel Nine group, for example, has the Antique Road Show with Fiona Bruce. Even the white detective in Death on Paradise proclaimed his great joy at being able to see Fiona while employed in the Caribbean. 

Personally, I have no need to visit any of the British stately homes and public monuments as I have been there, hand in hand, with Fiona and the ARS five times in as many years, and probably more. 

I’ve saved the sacred planet with David Attenborough at least twice and tried not to laugh at Malcolm and his manic mother and father in Malcolm In the Middle probably two or three times.

Tom Barnaby is a delightful Chief Inspector and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him and DS Ben Jones and Gavin Troy solve three or four murders a night. There has been more than 120 episodes of Midsomer Murders and of the ones shown in Australia, I think I can say without boasting that I have seen them about eight times — but who is counting?  I know them so well, I tell Tom at the beginning whodunnit so he can get on with something different. 

A quick flick of the switch (actually a press of the button) to Channel Seven and there is The Nanny, Miss Fine flirting with Mr Sheffield for the seventh time. Sure, it is funny, but when you know the script off by heart the one-liners seem to lose a lot of their charm. 

Lewis was gentle viewing. Enjoyable for the lack of violence and beautiful Oxford scenery. I have watched it at least twice and have applied to the University for an honourary doctorate based on knowledge conveyed to Lewis by DS Hathaway.  

Hercule Poirot has been a stalwart, with David Suchet doing a fine imitation of a very short Englishman playing a Belgium detective who speaks English with a French accent. It, too, was very enjoyable the first three times. By the sixth time, it is, “ow does vouz say, passeé?” Oui, passeé. Is he really better than the police? Non! Which reminds me, Miss Marple is due for a fourth re-run anytime soon, or is that fifth?

I have now seen David Suchet, Kenneth Brannagh and Peter Ustinov all solve a murder on the Orient Express. I know how it was done, who did it, and why; even who didn’t do it and Poirot’s disgust at revenge and the rule of law. I have seen David Suchet and Peter Ustinov sail peacefully down the Nile River and solve a similar murder at least three times. It was the least they could do in those days when Empire mean respect or you got a gun-boat up your canal; Suez, that is. 

In this world of giant media companies, you get what you pay for and if you don’t pay anything, you get the same old, same old. That, is not true of your ABC. You do pay for it, but you still only get what they feel is good for you. 

Which brings me to the not so new news to which we were exposed every evening. The formats and content are identical; a report on covid for 12 minutes, a report on President Trump for 12 and a brief review of the weather which point the search began for Fiona Bruce and the Antique Roadshow; in aword, repetitious.

Covid reports are 12 minutes of documented hand-wringing by medical experts on full pay and politicians on full pay by reporters on full pay; no questions asked. This while the rest of the nation drew sustenance from the national petty cash tin. 

Reports on the American presidency are very different. Largely sourced from the United States, they too are repetitious; unquestioningly repetitious of what the Democratic Party was saying about Trump’s presidency. I understand now why television stations describe their news bulletins as courageous. It’s a in-house joke.

The electric media combined with the print media during 2020 to beg our support for freedom of information when a couple of their journalists were alleged to have broken the law. After watching the litany of lies that gushed from the US media over the last four years, lies protected by the US Constitution, we should be very wary of giving these organisations a legal protection to say what they like. Better that we the people also have freedom of speech than that the media alone have that right. 

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