Recently Peter Birks mentioned a game called 'humiliation' on his blog. The idea is that a group of people tell each other what films they haven't seen. You get a point for every person who's seen a film that you haven't. So if you've never seen 'The Godfather' or 'The Great Escape' you should score well. I wouldn't do well at the game, as I've seen most of the classics. I might pick up some points for not having seen 'The Lion King' or 'Shrek', but that's about it.
I might do better if there were a television version. I'm proud to say that last year I didn't watch a full minute of 'The X Factor', 'Strictly Come Dancing' or 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here'. The latter did interest me as a betting medium a few years ago, but I can't be bothered to put the hours in any more. I wish all these reality shows and elimination contests would go away. I can't believe that people aren't already sick of them. I did watch the new intake of so-called celebrities into the Big Brother household last week, but that was by chance. Having caught it while scanning the channels, I stayed on to see whether there were any figures I would find interesting from the world of politics or current affairs. I was stunned when they got George Galloway last year and part of me hoped that Tony Benn might have walked down the red carpet this year, but it was not to be. The selection they've got this time is dismal in the extreme. The subsequent arrival of Jade Goody suggests that the format has been stretched to the absolute limit. Thank heavens for ABC1. I don't think I could have survived last year without regular viewings of 'Scrubs' and 'Less than Perfect'. I seen most of them now but I would still rather watch an episode I've seen before than any of the current 'reality' shows.
The emptiness of so much contemporary TV does bring me down. I don't mind it being explicit or suggestive. I'm not Mary Whitehouse. It's the 'look at me' narcissism of people who do absolutely nothing and haven't a thought in their head that bothers me. I often used to wonder what some of Britain's religious minority communities thought of the culture of the majority population when they see Big Brother contestants, most of whom are barely even cretins, unable to hold conversations about anything other than themselves. I got the chance to find out last year while talking to some young veiled and headscarved muslim women I met at the university where I'm taking night classes (a subject for another time). Contrary to what you might think, they were very articulate. They clearly found being muslim very exciting and so I tried to see things from their point of view and asked a leading question:
'I guess then when you look at things like Big Brother, you must think that western society is pretty empty'.
I've never seen someone nod so hard. So with that in mind, what would they make of this programme description? It's something I copied down from the info page on Freeview:
'The Ashlee Simpson Show'
Jessica Simpson's younger sister Ashlee sets out to become a pop star. Ashlee's friends surprise her with a cake on her 20th birthday. She also decides on a haircut.
Betjeman's take on Slough springs to mind. I don't want you to think that these ladies support violence. They don't. But others from religious backgrounds do and it's not always foreign policy that motivates them. The human soul does from time to time feel the need for something to inspire it. The emptiness of much of modern culture instead leaves a void for extremists to fill.