Did the “Why Don’t You…” Gang Die in Vain? – our Pete Murphy Future

I must be a curmudgeon, I do not adore Gogglebox. Of all my useless opinions, it seems my dislike of Gogglebox is the most contentious.

Perhaps it is because I don’t watch much TV, and so it doesn’t seem to be about me. It reflects something that doesn’t mean enough for me to be drawn in. Maybe if there was character who occasionally lent into shot, looking over his wife’s shoulder and saying, with a pinched face, “what on earth is this rubbish? Who’s she? Are you actually watching this?”, before being gestured away with a flick of the wrist, I would find the narrative of watching people watching telly all immersive. I have been told it is a fascinating window into how people watch telly, but I would rather have skylight that showed me how people planned the composting of their allotments and or a show about feuding bowls teams (I don’t mean that facetiously, I think I would enjoy both those shows. Perhaps they exist on BBC4).

I am chilled by the experience of people watching TV to watch people commenting on TV and then commenting on the commenters, perhaps on the very same sofa they are watching. It reminds me of the Steven Wright short film where he is slumped in front of the TV in an armchair and it is revealed that he is watching someone slumped in an armchair, staring at him.

I enjoy people watching. I like it in its unedited form, untainted by cuts and enforced arcs. I experience train theatre almost every day. The squabbling of couples, the hollering of men suddenly revealed on toilets as they didn’t press the lock button, the scurrilous gossip and banal business talk, the slapstick of solitary punch ups with obstreperous folding luggage. TV seems to have become the predominant conversation. I was once walking through the Lower East Side of New York and heard a woman tell her friend about an aggressive beating and a man left bloodied on the sidewalk. It was only as the block came to an end that I realised she was talking about an episode of The Sopranos that had aired earlier in the week. I have high expectations of anything I watch. I am morbidly aware of my finite existence. When I choose to watch something, I hope by the end of it my mind is further engaged, not switched off. I hope it haunts me. If I am lucky, the world will look slightly different after experiencing it. I turn it off with more questions that I started with. I don’t find the experience of watching a group of carefully auditioned people commenting on the humdrum before their eyes enlightening or intriguing. It does not feed or fuel my curiosity.

I want to see shows that illustrate existence I am unaware of, but I suppose a large percentage of existence is being Waldorf and Statler in a lounge.

We watch the sculpted reality of people commenting on sculpted reality.

As an added bonus, it is easier to aspire to be like the people on telly. You don’t have to impotently wish you were a Timelord or rural cop or spy, you just have to aspire to be someone watching telly and, by jingo, you are already.

Look Ma, I made it.

This may be a sign of my good fortune. Many are sequestered into a boxy working existence and a repetitive daily routine. My life may be solitary (bar the 2 to 3 hours on stage and some chattering with audience members as the showing off subsides), but it is solitary with ever changing backdrops, new towns, a multitude of different accents and voices to eavesdrop on in the streets, coffee bars and charity shops. Now 24 Hours in A&E, that is a very different experience for me. I am absorbed. Perhaps no surprise that a morbid mind may be drawn to the possible pain of loss and the euphoria of medical triumph. Maybe I am just too picky with my eavesdropping. Oh. melodramatic me and my 1am TV desires.

I am touring until I drop, and probably after too, so coming up I have dates in Swindon, Hay Festival, Reading, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Hull and many more. Details HERE


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2 Responses to Did the “Why Don’t You…” Gang Die in Vain? – our Pete Murphy Future

  1. Simon L says:

    Similarly, I’ve been without broadcast TV for some time, deciding instead to dedicate time to *deciding* to watch stuff, rather than skimming mindlessly. One result of this is that I have absolutely no tolerance for advertising. The less you’re exposed to it, the more it annoys the fuck out of you when it’s loudly blared in your face at a friend’s house. TV in the broadcasting sense is largely becoming irrelevant as viewers are gradually atomised into distinct groups of fans-of-content. On the one hand this is good: you can link up with fellow obscurantists on the other side of the earth to discuss your niche enjoyment, on the other, the idea of ‘shared experience’ and ‘event TV’ is lost. Actually, that’s not a bad thing if you hate sport. I really hate sport.

  2. Richard Burr says:

    Alright Robin. I like reading your posts. Your curmudgeonly dissection of popular culture sometimes helps me understand why I’m left so nonplussed after watching telly that everyone is going mental about.
    Cheers mate.

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