Magazine article The Spectator

Growing Pains

Magazine article The Spectator

Growing Pains

Article excerpt

Television

The other day, we finally got digital TV. It's not as expensive as you'd think - on top of the L25 connection charge, it costs me about L20 a month, which is about the same as I was paying when I just had cable - but I still think it's a huge waste of life and you never use it anyway.

In fact, I think digital TV is the biggest con since we were all forced to replace vinyl with CDs. Remember how we were told that the sound quality on CDs was better and that they'd still work if you spread jam all over them, even though it was a complete lie and you get a much warmer, richer sound from vinyl? Well, I distinctly recall similar nonsense being spouted about the massive improvement in picture quality on digital. This, I can assure you, is utter cock. Digital TV looks exactly the same as normal TV, except that Channel 5's clearer, as if that made any difference to anyone.

What's more, if you subscribe to NTL, as I do, you may actually end up losing some of your channels. When I was on my basic cable package, I used to get Sky One. Now that I'm on digital, though, I can only get it if I pay loads extra for a package of schlocko entertainment channels that I don't want. The stupid thing is that even though I never used Sky One when I had it (except maybe to video The Simpsons from, when I remembered), I really miss it now that I don't have it.

But this is true of digital TV in general, as I shall explain once I've talked about how fantastic Spaced (Channel 4, Fridays) is. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that it's the best home-grown sitcom since Father Ted and a very serious threat to Frasier and the ruder bits of Graham Norton (I mean, really: did you see the episode last week where the woman played `God Save The Queen' on a pipe stuck up her front bottom?) as the apogee of Friday-night TV?

Not that you would ever have guessed this from the earliest episodes of series one. The two lead characters played by Jessica Stevenson and Simon Pegg (who also write the series together) were personable enough, but you did tend to cringe every time the incidental ones came on, the dialogue was sometimes a bit woolly, and the plotting was rather aimless - not in a clever, postmodern ironic way but in a `Help! What do we do now?' way.

The usual excuse trotted out when sitcoms don't work is that they haven't been given time to grow. And though I'm quite sure that the majority of failing sitcoms would remain crap even they were given unlimited budgets and a 200-year series run, Spaced has definitely improved with age. …

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