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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Is mainstream TV too Mumsy?



It's early days, but this autumn's TV has been lacklustre, predictable and all too samey for my liking. Regular readers will know I'm no fan of Downton, I'm growing less and less patient with The X Factor and dancing celebrities don't float my boat. Whilst there are some glimmers of hope with BBC One's Our Girl offering a gritter option to those of us who can't bare period dramas and even EastEnders proving unmissable, but on the whole it's fairly dull. It occurred to me the other day though that the one person in my house that never really struggles to find anything to sink her teeth into is my Mum. Whether it's programmes where people with ridiculously high budgets search for their dream homes, or programmes where people with ridiculously annoying voices pop round to each other's for a meal, she can always find something of interest.

It occurred to me that maybe TV at the moment is too mumsy. Even something I enjoy like ITV's crime drama Scott & Bailey is targeted at women and mums. Our alternatives on a Wednesday night are cuddly and twee period piece Our Zoo and people building houses on Grand Designs. That's not forgetting The Great British Bake Off which has found mass appeal and draws big ratings, but screams 'mum people are baking!'  Everything feels a little too fluffy and nice for my liking at the moment. Has it always been like this? The answer.. probably yes. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I want the mainstream channels to churn out a big blockbuster where people are being fatally wounded or impaled every few seconds, but I do want something a bit meatier to get my manly teeth into.

BBC One's Our Girl quenched this need a tiny bit, but even that felt more like it was for mum more than me in some places, and whilst BBC One's other new drama The Driver seemed all masculine in it's approach it turned out to feel like something I'd seen a million times before.


I think part of the reason Happy Valley was such a mammoth success was the fact that it genuinely had something for everybody. There was the brilliant emotional performance from Sarah Lanicshire mixed with the dark and brooding performance from the equally brilliant James Norton. It didn't treat the audience with kid gloves. The only warm and fluffy thing about Happy Valley was its misleading title. I suppose if we had more dramas of this calibre it wouldn't stand out as one of the best of the year,but as I look to October ITV's drama schedule fills me with further disappointment. There's the afore mentioned James Norton playing a Vicar who helps solves crimes in twee new drama Granchester coming to Monday nights. Couple that with Julian Fellows touring country houses and Kevin Whately back for a new series of Lewis and women of a certain age are sorted. It comes to something when the only thing you really watch on ITV is the X Factor (and even that's out of habit rather than desire.)

I've found I've turned to Channel 4 and BBC Three this year. Ramsay's Costa Del Sol Nightmares was predictable, sweary but strangely engrossing. Educating the East End is another unmissable Channel 4 series at the moment. It's an easy watch for the entire family. In fact I'd say it's not an easy watch, it's a must watch. As someone who detested virtually every waking moment of his school life this documentary series achieves the impossible, it makes me wish I'd enjoyed school more. It makes me wish I had had teachers like the ones we see here.  BBC Three will be sorely missed when it is 'moved to an online platform' documentary series like The Human Tissue Squad and comedies like Him & Her need to be praised far more often than they are. TV being mumsy isn't a terrible thing, I'm not exactly a manly man myself, but I think the schedules are feeling predictable and lazy. Viewers in their thirties like myself need something exciting to really sink our tetth into whilst we've still got them!

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