Friday 10 March 2017

Bring me Sunshine

The children pay almost no attention to mainstream TV. I'm not entirely sure they ever use the remote's TV guide. My teenager watches what little TV she does on catch up. On ever smaller screens. My 8 year old watches Netflix/Sky. Kids TV whatever, whenever.

Both do consume an awful lot of Youtube.

For me YouTube is a DIY godsend. I was lucky enough to find a video of 'how to drain and fix your dishwasher' that featured my own, exact make and model. Piece of cake. And when I needed a pump to get the water out there was another video showing how to use your fish tank filter as a makeshift pump! And another video showing how to repair the fish tank filter and crack in the fish tank glass you have just made by incorrectly removing the filter.

I watch the documentaries. The hard to find and largely forgotten old films I like. I have a few youtube music videos saved. Old TV comedies. Bits of news. Sport clips.
It can be annoying that sometimes its a recording from an old TV. Or its all in Russian. Or off frame or whatever. That prevents me watching more.

But the children don't much care.

The content on YouTube has become all consuming. Its the greatest free resource outside of the actual internet. They watch every nonsense thing on it. Concerts clips. Music videos. Film reviews. Comedy clips. Cartoon segments. Mad stuff. Mentals. The terminally self-centred.
Huge following Youtube bloggers. Make-up shows. Toy commercials. Toy reviewers. Sport. And always, always, someone parodying the whole lot.
The fact they watch the Tonight Show in mini segments doesn't bother them. They didn't want to watch the boring bits anyway. Its per-edited TV.

Ms Quango showed me that film comedy review YouTube channel above that has 6 million subscribers. Her and her friends watch YouTubes while on their phones to each other - Are you watching this? I'll send you the link- its awesome!
They appear to have much narrower focus than we did. Much narrow and more finely defined tastes. Not a certain genre of music - new wave, heavy metal. More, just a playlist. Here's all my favs. Pick yours out of it.

The comedian Stewart Lee made the observation that 20 years ago when he referenced the Morecambe and Wise 'Singing in the rain' sketch, he could rely on 90% of the audience knowing who they were to understand the cultural reference and maybe 75% having seen the sketch. And of those a very high percentage would have seen it all at the same time. At the original TV showing on Christmas day 1976. 18-25 million Britons watched it.

Lee observed that back then we pretty much had to watch the Morcambe and Wise Christmas show.
There were only three TV channels. And one of them was showing only the test card.
No Videos. Dvds. Phones. Video games. Consoles. Social media. The shops were shut and the pubs were closed. It was M&W, monopoly or a 33'' Val Doonican.

By contrast today, the most watched television series in the USA for 2016, Game of Thrones, gets 24 million on its live USA TV showing. Which is epic in modern TV parlance. Bearing in mind its a cable station. Smash hit, Downton Abbey, managed 10 million US viewers on a freeview. But its still only the same as number as the number of people that watched Morcambe and Wise, just in the UK, all those years ago.
The decline of print media is another loss to comedy. Jasper Carrot made a career out of  'Sun Readers'. Daily paper readership has given way to social media. Which is often provided by a much, much larger number, of much much smaller providers.

So, Lee said, its hard to do shared experience. A Game of Thrones joke, the most popular TV show in the world, remember,  might be understood by just 15% of the audience.
Something I can appreciate just from here. Where Cersi Sturgeon, King of the North Miliband, The ice wall, White walker, You know nothing Jon Snow C4 news,  mentions during the Scottish independence referendum were met with bafflement by most. .. Well, I can't help you. Winter is coming. Deal with it.

However. We do, recently, have a new shared experience that we can all relate too. Young or old. Rich or Poor.

And that is Brexit and Trump. 

These may not exactly be shared experiences, but are at least polarising moments for our age. People chose a side and engaged in a way that they haven't for decades. 

Like the Christmas day light entertainment, its not all consuming for most of us. Its just something that we can all share because we all witnessed it together and were aware of the significance.

I'm not saying that a much loved comedy duo performing a song is as important as a world shaping political event. But that, for probably the first time for us in the UK, since 9/11 we can all have a strong opinion of a shared event.


Nick Drew said...

Brexit and Trump... polarising moments for our age. People chose a side and engaged in a way that they haven't for decades

exactly right, BQ - membership of all UK political parties went up strongly after the referendum

(before the recent Corbyn-exodus set in: and to be fair, I don't know what happened with UKIP's membership)

it could all speak to a very bracing time ahead - were it not for the phenomenon so much lamented by Paul Mason: that the youngsters have the attention-span of a flea, with stamina to match

Electro-Kevin said...

Well I find I have to be quiet about my opinion on both events. Remainers have always seemed able to express themselves freely in public, and rather loudly.

Demetrius said...

Agreed. I picked up a player I played against in 1958 also in 1958, never mind crowds at matches here and there. But why are people apparently slimmer, healthier and more alive in the past? Sometimes they seem to be a different species.

andrew said...



You are looking at this the wrong way up.

This 'narrowing' (there must be a better term) of the width of cultural experience and consequent lack of respect for others has been going on since the early 00's in the internet and more recently in real life.
In some ways it is also sort of inevitable, and in others it is a retreat into the past.

I choose the early 00's as in 2003 over 50% of the uk had access to the internet and in 2009 over 50% of the uk had broadband access to the internet.

Youtube etc was a thing even then.

Stuart Lee was right, at that point in time the entire country 50% of the country saw M&W, and the other 50% had the best bits repeated to them the next day by their colleagues/friends etc.
And then again the next weekend
And then a month later the granchildren acted it out to the grandparents after sunday lunch (possibly a little autobiographical here).

It is also true that people like having shared cultural experiences.

The 'point' of TV was to get as many people to watch it as possible - it is a good metric to show your utility, but due to cost/technology/political constraints the number of channels was limited, so each channel optimised itself (ignoring BBC2/C4).
So it was fairly inevitable that a number of programs were broadcast that did impact on the national psyche - or the national psyche impacted on some programs.

Since then, youtube or netflix or nettube or youflix or amazon etc etc have arisen.
These services want you to use them. This is the point of them.

To optimise themselves to you, they 'work out' (no cleverness really, just some dumb rules and big data) what you as an individual want to see and offer it to you.
What you want will inevitably be different to quite a lot of other people.
And you (I) will like that because that is whay you like.

There will be an inevitable 'atomic' granularity to this based on cost of production, but out on some fringes that lower bound is some woman staring into a camera talking about clothes, or some bloke staring into a camera talking about erm 'god' (i.e. ~0.00)

This choice/control over your personal experience does not extend into 'real life'

People want it to.
The more commercial parts of real life are responding
- have it your way at subway
- have a skinny goats milk mocca colombian with vegan choccy sprinkles in a choice of differently coloured eco-unfriendly cups at costabucks

In behavior:
- the proportion of young people who wear headphones outside seems to be much larger than it was in '10
- pockemon go (your own private reality)

(it would be tempting to add aggressive tax avoidance here, but I do not think that is a new thing)

When we 'interact' in any way, this filtering becomes more difficult.

In expectations:
- the 'snowflakes' and safe spaces and no platforming
- brexit

(it would be tempting to add the trojan schools / sharia courts but I do not think this is new either)

We increasingly expect life to be how we want it to be (as there is an online community of people who are aligned with you) and have less understanding and tolerance for others (as you are right and they are wrong).

andrew said...


and this is where it is a retreat into the past.

Actually not that long ago. The Statutes (Definition of Time) Act took effect 2 August 1880.
(It was driven by the railways wanting a consistent timetable). Before then people lived in villaiges together and generally did not move around that much.

The only exception is when the food runs out (ireland 1845) or war (too many to list) or religious mania (the crusades) or more recently economic (italian migration to wales/scotland).

We now live in a series of isolated villages talking to people who agree with us and there is not even a shared sense of what the time is.

In a good sense there have not been any wars or famines locally for the last 70 years,
but in a dismal sense in terms of economic migration and religious mania we are back to the present.

In terms of the future I can see three things
- more religious mania
- more economic migration
- rich people living exactly how they want to (this is not new so does not count)
- a growth in the 'translator/intermediary' class (journalists and lawyers)

Blue Eyes said...

Some of these comments are straight from Black Mirror! (C4/Netflix)

Great post BQ. We now live in a world of unlimited bandwidth. It is a sheer joy. I watch a lot of telly but rarely when the show is actually being broadcast. Waiting for the next episode to appear on my Sky box is sooooo last century. Compare that experience to my teenage years when the entire year group would be discussing last night's episode of Murder One.

It was a revelation in my home when my younger brother was allowed a tv in his room. We didn't have to watch what my dad dictated. Competition for our attention! I would never have been able to watch This Life otherwise.

Andrew I think has the intermediation point the wrong way around. We used to choose our prisms: Torygraph or Graun, News and Ten or the Nine O'Clock. These days clients can check the databases themselves and chivvy us if we haven't yet provided our advice. Anyone can hold their own view on Trump/Brexit and broadcast it without constraint. Amazing. Nobody in my "village" voted for Brexit, so it is bloody amazing that I can read people's opinions from Sunderland. People used to throw around the term "global village" for the connected world but we live in it. My brother's desk is in Canary Wharf but his immediate superior is in New York and half his team in Budapest.

I realise some people are scared of an emerging world culture, but it is happening and US elections prove it. It won't be long until the residents of Guangzhou think they ought to have a say on certain global policies and events.

As for shared cultural references, it is an interesting trend. Of course the common experience was the aberration not the normal state. Good education of the next generation could ensure they know their Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes.

Blue Eyes said...

"why are people apparently slimmer, healthier and more alive in the past"

The people of Alabama and Warrington were definitely slimmer, but that was probably down to a lack of food and more manual labour. Food is now cheap and lots of people haven't learned to control their consumption. So they may appear unhealthy, but are they really unhealthier overall? The demographic data suggests otherwise. Life expectancy is booming.

Athletic records are broken from time to time. Ordinary people have access to technology, nutrition and information that record-winners of previous eras would have died for.

So, probably people were not more alive in the past.

dearieme said...

I'm tempted to get my French working properly again so that I can always use it to a Remainer. I'll bet that on average their French is worse than mine. My wife and daughter can join in, using German, Spanish and Italian. We'll out-Euro most of the bastards.

Come to think of it, a few memorised quotations would be handy.

L’Etat c’est la grande fiction à travers laquelle tout le monde s’efforce de vivre aux dépens de tout le monde.

Maybe I'd replace L’Etat by L'UE. In fact maybe I'll always refer to the EU as the UE in future.

Anonymous said...


"We increasingly expect life to be how we want it to be (as there is an online community of people who are aligned with you) and have less understanding and tolerance for others (as you are right and they are wrong)."

Peter Hitchens nailed this way back around 1998 when he wrote "the new empire of ideas reaches into the most intimate areas of life, and those who do not accept it are judged to be personally at fault, not simply politically or philosophically wrong ... what a person believes has been confused, as it never used to be, with the idea of what sort of citizen he or she is... "

"more religious mania"

When a society goes from overwhelmingly religious to overwhelmingly secular in 60-odd years, the urge to point the finger at the ungodly, the bad people, doesn't vanish with it, nor does the urge to irrational belief, all the more strongly held because it's irrational. Those urges are human universals.

For "Godless" read "fascist".