Now this is what I call exciting. Having been promised that TNT television would arrive at our rural outpost sometime in about 2011, it has unexpectedly arrived early. TNT is a system by which additional television channels arrive through the television aerial (not a satellite dish) and get decoded by a clever little box.
A word in defence of French televison while I’m on the subject. It has it’s dire moments, with a few too many programmes firmly lodged in the past, Eurovision Song Contest style, and a bit too much farce type humour for my liking. And worse of all an over reliance on about 5 ‘personalities’, most of them not particularly likeable, who seem to get chosen for every new programme that arrives.
But there is an almost complete lack of crappy soap operas (Coronation Street, Eastenders etc), very few trivial and superficial home makeover type programmes, and absolutely no ‘moving to another country and mucking up your life’ type programmes. People tell me the new Doctor Who is action-packed and exciting but I’ve been spared that particular pleasure.
Otherwise evenings on French television tend to be films (some good, often US imports, but rather too many low-budget French ‘between the wars’ type films); and police-action-FBI type programmes, again usually US imports. The occasional musical extravaganza is thrown in to drag the tone down – recent examples include:
- ‘a night with people who look just like your favourite stars, but aren’t',
- ‘old blokes singing, backed up by enormous orchestras so you don’t have to hear their fading voices’,
- ‘young singers of today who want to be famous sing duets with the old lags of yesterday who wish they were still famous’
It’s possible I have made mistakes with some of the exact programme titles.
The other main downside of French television is the tendency to show lots of episodes of a programme together – so if Desperate Housewives is on, or Prison Break, for example, I would prefer to see an episode each week, not three episodes each Friday, one straight after the other and lasting until late into the night.
For all this, and despite the tendency of late-night French television to become a debating arena for lots of clever folk (rather than the more racy television you might expect late at night in France), I believe on balance that a week of French television offers more actual ‘viewable’ television than UK television.
And France shows the whole Tour de France, not just four minutes of highlights.
I reserve judgement on television in the US, because whenever I’ve seen it I have spent so long searching through the channels for something that isn’t publicity and then being distracted by 30-minute adverts for exercise equipment that I’ve never actually found a real TV programme. Plenty of nice hairstyles though, which surely counts for something.