Magazine article The Spectator

God Bless Johnny Rotten

Magazine article The Spectator

God Bless Johnny Rotten

Article excerpt

I used to hate those smug, middle-class couples who would proudly announce: 'Oh we never watch television - it's all rubbish and frankly, we haven't got the time. Rupert's getting on with his book about Proust, I've got my Open University degree and Sebastian is far too busy with his prep and his flute practice to have time to waste watching the goggle-box.' I always worried about little Sebastian, cruelly cut off from his peers because he had no knowledge whatsoever of what was going on in Neighbours.

But in recent years I have frequently heard myself saying 'Oh I never watch the telly anymore,' and what's more it's almost true. I've even given up Newsnight. My job involves going out to watch stuff four or five nights a week and the idea of watching something else when I get home has become increasingly unattractive. Not that I do anything useful, mind you. My idea of a perfect weekday evening is a decent 90-minute play that gets you home before ten, followed by several hours in my reclining armchair, getting through an improbable number of cigarettes and mugs of tea with the CD player turned on and my mind turned off. It's like transcendental meditation, only ten times more enjoyable and, I fancy, beneficial.

But like little Sebastian I do sometimes feel left out when people start banging on about allegedly wonderful TV programmes like The Sopranos and The Office that I've never seen. Sometimes I think I might give them a go, but frankly the chair in my study upstairs is more comfortable than the sofa in the sitting room, and Mrs Spencer has in any case instituted a complete ban on smoking downstairs. So I remain faithful to Golden Virginia, PG Tips, Al Green, the Grateful Dead and Murray Perahia.

But with the whole country apparently in thrall to I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here and even the Daily Telegraph devoting yards of space to the inane antics in the Australian jungle, I thought I ought to see what it was like. I turned it on one evening and caught Jordan, that artificial archetype of pneumatic bliss, and a near-hysterical bimbo from Atomic Kitten (the eventual winner, the DT reports as I write) being forced to eat a variety of disgusting insects, and felt almost as sick as they did. As I stumped grumpily back up to my study I'm pretty sure the words 'decline of civilisation as we know it' passed my lips.

Still, I had caught a glimpse of Johnny Rotten, being as bolshily entertaining as ever, and clearly regarding the proceedings in general, and Jordan in particular ('that Page Three blow-up balloon'), with admirable contempt. …

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