A couple of months ago, one of my oldest and dearest friends, Tracey, provided a detailed explanation of why she thinks I should go without TV for 2 months as one of my ‘Top 30 things to try before I’m 30’. Let’s just say it was a less than glowing report of my addiction to the idiot box. Specifically, my addiction to the long-running soapie, Australia’s beloved ‘Neighbours’.
Let’s ignore the fact that Neighbours is the longest running drama series in Australian television. Never mind that it’s nearly as old as I am, launching in 1985. Forget that it was at one time the most popular daytime television show in the UK (besides news bulletins). No, I must be the crazy one for enjoying it.
To be fair, it may be taking it one step to far to help the characters name their babies via posts on the ‘Neighbours’ Facebook wall… but they’re like family to me! I’ve even gone so far as to cast members of my family as various characters on the show, so now when something terrible happens to Karl it’s like it’s happening to my Dad, or when Lucas stacks his motorbike it’s Andy that’s taken a tumble, or when Toadie and Sonya have a fight it’s my older brother and his wife that are on the brink of despair.
Considering how much drama is packed into each nightly episode, you can begin to understand how it could quickly become a source of intense emotional distress for me.
Settle down. I’m half joking – really I am. Sure, my friend Pat and I call or text each other practically nightly to stay abreast of what’s going on, but most of the banter between us is tongue-in-cheek.
Neighbours to me is an escape from whatever real stresses I have in my everyday life. When I switch it on, I can switch my brain off, and in this fast-paced modern world we live in, that is a rare luxury. It might worry my real neighbours to hear cries of frustration, joy or sheer unadulterated hatred emanating from our flat from 6.30 to 7pm on weeknights, but I consider that a small price to pay for relaxation.
Home and Away and Neighbours favourites finally collide: A soapie addict’s dream.
I would switch the TV off willingly, it’s just that nothing that interesting is really going on in real life around here. About a year ago now I was beside myself with excitement when the sheriff turned up to forcibly evict the upstairs neighbours, who were delinquent on their rent (and delinquent in general if you ask me). I can assure you that all manner of peephole peering and behind-the-shutters nosey parkery went on that day, and for several days later I was still living off the rush of playing witness to a real-life soap opera moment. Who knew we even had a sheriff around here? We were honestly just one comatose amnesia-sufferer away from quality TV programming.
But that was a year ago and this is now.
TV has always been a big part of my life and I have two feet firmly in the camp that believes a lot of TV does not equate to a lack of brains. Take ‘The Simpsons’ for example. Far from being a mind-numbing cartoon, this show can be credited with educating me in everything from ancient history to modern architecture. Television has been at the centre of world events from the moon landing to the collapse of the World Trade Centre. Where were you, for example, when you heard that Princess Diana was killed? As the events were unfolding I was on a bushwalk with my family enjoying the outdoors, but it wasn’t until I returned to civilisation (and the TV) to discover what the whole World was talking about.
A healthy balance is always going to be a good thing, but I have watched a LOT of television and I genuinely believe it has done me no harm (indeed, that it has done me good). It’s not like I educate myself with documentaries either, it really is just the trash that I watch, and yet I can still enjoy the outdoors, sports, socialising, reading. These things are not mutually exclusive.
And what is it about reading that renders it superior, in many minds, to television? Assuming you have already managed to acquire an acceptable level of literacy, why should reading a book be better than watching TV? ‘Big Brother’ may be no equivalent to ‘1984’, but what about modern Australian literature that has been reinterpreted in TV series such as ‘The Slap’ and ‘Puberty Blues’ and even the first series of ‘Underbelly’? The purpose of the books was little but to entertain, and the TV versions do an excellent job of that.
I am a huge comedy fan and I can safely say that TV has brought me the most lolz of any medium. Your tastes may differ to mine, but I know that I can switch on any episode of Seinfeld, Arrested Development, 30 Rock and countless other TV shows and be instantly cheered up.
It will be interesting to see how I go with the ‘No TV Challenge’. I suspect I will find myself with a lot more free time and a whole lot of nothing to do on school nights. The perfect opportunity, no doubt, to take on the learning of a musical instrument or the writing of a book…
It may seem like an impossible task for me, but I’d argue that I’ve successfully completed this challenge every year since birth.
I call it the Summer non-ratings period.
Do you love TV or is it the root of all evil?