In recent years I’ve noticed that the summer is the time TV execs expect us to turn off our telly in favour of sunning ourselves in the garden with a cold beverage and our toes dipped in paddling pool. It sounds idyllic, and would be ideal if we didn’t live in England! Sure, one day we can be basking in the heat of the sun, but the next we’re replacing our shorts for long jeans and jumpers! The Bake Off is the only Summer show to bring in the big ratings, but you could put that on in the middle of the night and I’m very certain it would succeed. Humans did exceptionally well for Channel 4 and provided a different type of drama for Sunday night. But, for the most part channels like ITV and BBC1 see this time of the year as their opportunity to phone their efforts in. ITV has one daft reality competition after another and the BBC1’s schedule is no better full of filler documentaries and tired series like New Tricks and Who Do You Think You Are. Don’t even get me started on the dross ITV think it’s acceptable to fill their schedules with, BBQ Champ, Flockstars, The Wonders of Britain and Freeze Out. You have no idea how much just typing those titles made my blood boil.
I understand the reasoning behind broadcasters keeping their best shows for when their audience is more captive but why don’t they try just a tiny bit harder. Every article I read tells how savvy viewers are nowadays, and yet broadcasters seem to keep churning cheaply made tat with a dash of D list celebrity in a hopes of bringing us back to the box. ITV have had their worst year of ratings for a while and looking at their schedules it’s absolutely no wonder. Even their autumn schedule isn’t providing much in the way of excitement, ratings winners like X Factor and Downton Abbey will be back but their both utterly predictable and dull.
The one thing the summer is good for is catching up on shows that I have may’ve been dismissive early on, but went on to become hugely popular or critically acclaimed. Some critics bemoaned all the sport that dominated our TV’s last summer but it gave me time to catch up on shows like Homeland, Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation. These are shows that receive universal praise but ones that I had never really watched properly. I’m so glad I did, there’s a reason these shows have won praise and been showered in awards. I feel like as I’ve seen them I’m a better critic. Some might know that when I first started writing for the site I turned my snobby nose up at US television. I thought it was style of substance, and for the most part I’d still choose a meaty UK drama like Happy Valley over a US drama, but the truth is we haven’t a great BBC or ITV drama this year. I’m glad I’ve overcome my aversion to US drama but it means I’m able to gorge on shows that I’d’ve previously dismissed. This summer I’ve watched all of Veep, Fargo, all three seasons of The Americans and four seasons of Nurse Jackie. As I type I’ve seen the first eight episodes of Mad Men. It’s a slow burner but I’m slowly finding myself immersed in the world and getting to know the characters.
So, that’s the one upside of summer television. You can pretty much ignore terrestrial television, ignore the fillers and catch up on those your friends have been boring you with for an age. Sure you’ll be the late party but at least you’ve found out whether it was worth the hype.