DUNCAN BARKES Awful reality that has taken over the telly

I was puzzled to learn the average amount of time we spend watching television is four hours a day. I struggle to watch this amount of telly on a weekly basis.

Mrs B is a fan of a couple of the soaps. She claims watching the latest predictable storyline involving some drug-addled long-last daughter of a soap character helps her to relax. Hmm. Personally a large glass of Merlot helps me to relax, but then each to their own.

But Corrie and Eastenders aside, we rarely find anything we make an appointment to watch. Thinking back over the past couple of months, apart from the truly excellent Sherlock, which is worth the licence fee alone, nothing decent springs to mind.

We dip in and out of Sky News and occasionally chortle at the muppets, I mean politicians, on Question Time. Oh, and I’ll admit that the re-runs of Poirot, Miss Marple and Jeeves and Wooster on ITV3 are terrific. But otherwise I’m hard pushed to think of anything else really worth tuning in for.

But in an attempt to be open-minded, to the point of being proved wrong, I spent last week sampling various programmes to see if my prejudice was misjudged.

It wasn’t. I have never seen anything so nauseating as Don’t Tell the Bride.

The format entails a female control freak allowing a TV crew to film her hapless fiancé organising their wedding, while she herself has no input whatsoever. Predictably the bride gets tearful, while her gorgon of a mother inches ever closer to committing a violent act on her future son-in-law.

She wants the best for her daughter; he wants to blow the entire wedding budget on beer and strippers on his stag night. Bride and groom are not allowed to see or talk to each other while the wedding is planned.

The whole thing is utterly contrived, rarely amusing, but appears to pass as entertainment these days. Maybe it’s a bloke thing, but this dreadful tripe almost had me hiding under the sofa.

There’s also something called Winter Wipeout. This sees a motley bunch of sporty types participating in what can only be described as a modern day version of It’s a Knockout.

Water jets, much falling over and plenty of shrieking, this shambles is apparently filmed in Argentina. It’s harmless, but essentially you spend the best part of one hour watching people slipping or being sent flying. My daughter loves it. But she’s seven years old.

I could go on but it would just be variations on a theme. Most of these programmes feature rather dull people, all desperate for their five minutes of fame and prepared to give up their dignity in exchange.

Finding consistently decent telly is a challenge these days. No wonder the nostalgia channels are getting bigger audiences than ever before.

But every cloud has a silver lining. The lack of quality telly has seen me tuning into the radio more frequently, and I’m delighted to report that I have found the perfect substitute.

High drama, gripping storylines, fantastic performances, humour and romance: I have discovered the ultimate in entertainment. Thank God for The Archers!

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