Televisual Stimulation

Television addictions: We’ve all had them, right? Whether it’s historical programmes like Downton Abbey, murder mysteries like Broadchurch, supernatural thrillers like The Returned or epic fantasies like Game of Thrones, in the world of television series there really is something for everyone.

My current television addiction is Breaking Bad. As with previous TV obsessions – 24 and Lost being but two examples – I’m somewhat late to the party, only now reaching the final series when everyone else watched it several weeks ago. But irrespective of the timing, it’s true to say that once I’m into a programme it becomes an integral part of my life, and I can’t stop until it’s finished – simple as. That’s why I rarely, if ever, allow myself to watch more than one television series at a time. I learned from the first two series of 24 during my university years that it’s not socially acceptable to hole yourself up in your room for eight hours at a time and miss out on social engagements (most notably good friends’ birthday parties – but shhh, I didn’t admit to that) because you’re so desperate to find out what happens next in the programme you’re watching that real life pales into insignificance.

And yet there’s something deeply satisfying about following a programme you enjoy, watching the characters as they grow and develop and observing the plot as it twists and turns in exciting and hitherto unforeseen directions. It’s much the same as being absorbed in a good book – a form of escapism, entertainment at its best.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got episode eight of the final series to watch…

Series hysteria (aka Goodbye old friend)

Tonight I’ve been invited to my best friends’ place to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones (for the second time) and have dinner. But this will not be just any dinner-oh no. This will be a dinner fit for a king-quite literally, since the daft/ingenious pair of them have decided to create a Game of Thrones-themed dinner. One is doing main course, the other dessert. The latter of which, I’ve been reliably informed, will be nothing short of a triumph if it goes to plan, but if it goes wrong – and here I quote aforementioned friend – “I’ll look a bit of a twat.”

We three are not alone in our hysteria for the historical drama that’s taken the country by storm. I myself came to the party rather late, but through sheer diligence and the downloading assistance of my boyfriend (himself watching for the second time) have managed to catch up on all three series in under a month (if only I were that productive in all the other aspects of my life. But I digress).

I’ll admit that TV dramas have taken a back seat in my life in recent years – the last time I got really excited about one was when 24 first came out, when I’m ashamed to admit I failed to attend a friend’s birthday party in order to complete a marathon viewing session of 12 back to back episodes – but if this one’s anything to go by I might just have to make some space in my life to fit them back in.

Why? Because a good TV series is like a good friend-you stay by its side in good times and bad, sharing the highs and commiserating over the lows. You look forward to seeing them and can’t bear the thought of being parted. Which is why the end of a series can feel like a death (especially if-shock, horror, it’s the FINAL series), and can leave you feeling quite bereft. Or, in some people’s cases, feeling inclined to do a spot of historical baking. I shall report back…

Challenging perceptions, one feel-good programme at a time…

In recent years the time I’ve spent watching television has diminished considerably. In (large) part this can be attributed to the fact I have become busier (with increased responsibility at work comes long hours, and both fitness and writing are at the more time consuming end of the hobby scale), but the other reason is it feels to me there are fewer ‘feel-good’ programmes to watch.

By ‘feel-good’ I don’t mean comedy, sitcoms or shows featuring cuddly-looking but rip-your-head-off-dangerous animals trekking across vast ice plains with their babies in tow (though I’m rather partial to the last example, David Attenborough being my absolute hero). I mean programmes that make you see your fellow men and women in a different way, helping you to better understand their motivations, strengths and weaknesses.

Such programmes challenge stereotypes and prejudices, providing insight into others’ lives that might not be possible any other way. They are also, in my opinion, a valuable medium through which to foster empathy, an emotion many people in today’s ‘me-first’ society struggle to connect with.

Examples of programmes I would include in this category are Secret Millionaire and Undercover Boss-both versions of the same premise, where rich senior level executives step out of their lives and into the lives of ‘ordinary people,’ enabling them to get a better understanding of the challenges they face before deciding how they can best offer help.

Two different but no less relevant examples are my current favourite programmes, Supersize vs. Superskinny and The Undateables, which happen to run concurrently on Tuesday nights. Being a psychology graduate I’m fascinated by the way people perceive one another, and these programmes bring to the fore the many facets of the human spirit.

In Supersize vs. Superskinny overweight and underweight people are paired up and taught to overcome their problems with food by swapping diets. It’s amazing to see how much their attitudes change over the course of their ‘treatment,’ and truly heartening to see the strength of the bonds they form as a result of stepping into one another’s shoes.

The Undateables shows that everyone not only deserves to but can find love if they look in the right places. All too often people with disabilities are written off as not being capable of having meaningful relationships, but for me this programme has successfully challenged that misperception and shown there’s someone out there for all of us if we simply try.

To the critics I’ll admit that to some extent these programmes are contrived, some may even say patronising, but they reach the masses in a way that other media may not always manage. Maybe I’m taking it a tad too far by saying this, but I believe that if we really let the messages of such programmes sink in, they can provide a platform from which we can better ourselves.

Right, that’s quite enough time spent discussing feel-good programmes. Time to get back to the petition to bring back Spooks…

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After twenty minutes struggling to find a relevant image for today’s post I’ve given up and chosen this, which was taken on a day trip to Borabadour in Indonesia and bears no similarity to my post other than maybe the fact it doesn’t look like a normal tree….?

Simple things

I’ve no plans for this blog to stray too far into my personal life (I’ve made that mistake before) but I feel today is worthy of note, because it’s been the kind of day that makes you feel that everything is just the way it’s meant to be. You know the ones. You wake up next to someone special, the sun is shining and you’ve got plans with good friends whose company make you feel positive and happy. In my case those plans involved two friends, their new baby and a pleasant stroll around Brockwell Park. This was followed by an impromptu brunch with my boyfriend’s friends and a slightly random excursion to purchase wheelie suitcases. Upon our return we donned our running gear and went for a five kilometre jog around Clapham Common. I’m now curled up on the sofa in my slipper socks writing this post and allowing myself the odd moment’s distraction in Location, Location, Location, before changing into my glad rags for a posh (but cheap – you’ve got to love toptable deals) meal at the National Portrait Gallery’s restaurant, Portrait, which I’ve read has rather spectacular views across London.

What I’m trying to illustrate by sharing the finer details of my day is that sometimes it’s the simple things in life that make it so worth living; spending time with people who mean a lot to you, eating good food, being good to your body by exercising and getting fresh air, even allowing yourself time to veg out in front of a favourite programme. We live in such a fast-paced world. It’s easy to get swept along without ever taking time to appreciate the things that seem so simple but are, in fact, the most important things of all.

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Talking of appreciating the simple things in life reminded me of this photo I took in Manali in northern India. I was walking by myself when I turned around and saw, perfectly positioned between two tall trees, a cow. I love the way this photo came out, with a romantic haze. It’s one of my favourites from my travels.