For God’s sake, don’t send me The Bill

CAN someone tell me why it is that, no matter when you turn the TV on, day or night, late or early, it’s always The Bill that’s on?

It might be a preview, it might be the real thing (I wouldn’t know, I never leave it on long enough to find out) but without exception I find myself gazing at a bunch of unlikely British bobbies who are almost as bad at policing as they are at acting.

Is this one of those false phenomena, like when you buy a Volkswagon and suddenly every car on the road seems to be a Volkswagon? But I don’t mean to suggest I like The Bill. I hate it.

Maybe if I hated something else… The Simpsons, maybe… the gods would conspire to ensure it was always the thing that warped into focus when I hit the on button.

True, I don’t watch television much, and I made a vow long ago that I wouldn’t watch any channel on which people tried to persuade me to buy things by yelling at me, so there are many programs I’m — happily — missing. But I can’t avoid The Bill.

Now I’m sure there are lots of people out there who will say: “Why would you want to avoid The Bill – it’s great.”

To them I say: “Pig’s arse!”

The Bill is not great. It’s truly awful. It’s unlikely policemen doing unlikely things (and considering the bizarre things some coppers have to do in the course of their duties that’s a pretty strong claim) and doing it badly.

So why do so many people watch it? And they must, because it occupies a prime time slot on ABC TV (actually on my TV it seems to occupy the entire channel round the clock).

I think it’s optimism; a kind of bizarre hope that soon… in the next five minutes, it’ll get better.

When I think back over the ramshackle course of my life I reckon I must have spent years of it watching awful things on TV in the hope that they’ll get better. But it never happens. A bad program is a bad program and watching it will only make it seem better because your critical faculties gradually grow as numb as a chippy’s thumb.

So, I am giving it up. No more television. There have been times in my life when I have managed without it and I did useful things with my evenings. I built model railways and dolls houses for the kids and I hammered nails into bits of wood or sloshed paint on walls for my wife. I even wrote letters!

Letters, if you’re too young to remember, were a form of communication in which you wrote words on sheets of paper and mailed them to people. In a mailbox. With a slot in it. There was no keyboard involved and you didn’t have to stare at a screen once.

This was in the days when mail was a vital form of communication that involved you sending information to others. It was not, back then, merely the means by which mail-order companies with toweringly bad taste tried to persuade you to buy strange pieces of gymnastic equipment, or indoor water fountains with coloured lights in.

Come to think of it that’s another example of the eternal optimism of the human race: we still flick through these catalogues in the hope that something truly worthwhile will appear.

But, like watching The Bill, it never does.