When young, entertainment was limited. It was never an issue however as we knew no alternative. Days would be spent on a home-made go cart, complete with pre-requisite pram wheels, a length of wood in place of a brake and a rope steering handle which, if you turned too far left or right would flip the cart over and another trip to the local A & E would beckon.

When not poking white dog poo with sticks or putting stink bombs through the neighbour’s letterbox, we would settle down, as a family, to watch TV. Again, this was not through some misplaced re-enactment of Little House on the Prairie, but because there was only one telly. But still, with limited choice and, initially only three channels until the birth of Channel 4, along with having to change channels on a rediffusion switch behind the set, there were weekly gems which we would all enjoy.


Was television better when there were only three or four channels? Photo: Pixabay

Was television better when there were only three or four channels? Photo: Pixabay


But now, through the advent of choice, we have become numb to cultural excellence, and, in the absence of clever, thought-provoking television, we are left with a copious choice of cheap, watered-down pieces of mutton masquerading as art: the majority of which seem to have been written by an illiterate eight-year-old. More important now, seems to be rushing ‘ideas’ through in order to release the tepid content onto the masses, meanwhile advertising it to the general populous, many of whom believe the hype as they watch the tripe.

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I sit here disappointed after watching two such offerings. Firstly, the much lauded Don’t Look Up. On paper it has it all: an all-star cast with DiCaprio, Lawrence, Blanchett, Grande, and Streep and a message that is topical: climate change. What we ended up with was a shockingly poor, overly long bowl of bile with unlikeable characters, ridiculous sub plots, some dodgy acting and a dull, monotonous affair which was as thought provoking as a piece of unbuttered toast.

As well as taking the Netflix buck and then pushing the rhetoric, the stars, including Leo, spoke about the importance of climate change despite being recently pictured on a £110m yacht which costs a quarter of a million in diesel each time they fill the tanks to full. Still, at least it keeps him away from the private jets.

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Not impressed whatsoever with the offering, but more so with anyone who could find anything in that film even mildly entertaining or culturally enriching, I consoled myself with Stay Close, the blockbuster series which, unfathomably, was the second most popular TV series on planet earth and number 1 Netflix show.

Jimmy Nesbitt, with his permapained expressions, again tries too hard to come across as an actor, as does Eddie Izard, in a series that runs to eight episodes. Now they say that one cigarette takes 11 minutes off your life. As an ex-smoker of 15 years' standing, I can honestly say that I would rather have used my time more constructively by smoking a couple of packets of fags as it would have been preferable to wasting my life on this tosh.

It had the twists and turns of a metre stick, more holes in it that a moth infested tonne of Swiss cheese and yet, despite this, and in the absence of anything else thought provoking, I continued to carry on giving it a chance to get better (spoiler: it didn’t), and I am kicking myself for not scrapping it halfway through the first episode.

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There were a thespian couple who were as intimidating as Mr Tumble and Tinkerbell, acting as wooden as a forest awaiting coppicing, and it was as believable as a Boris Johnson denial.

But is this now what we have reaped? Is it just deserts? We cried out for years for choice, be it in the products we buy, the services we devour or the visual content we feast on. We are incapable as a species of entertaining ourselves as we demand 24/7 stimulation. But with choice comes lack of investment, or specialisms, as the diet is watered down to such an extent, we find ourselves supping from a watery soup as we continue to believe the hype, as we begrudgingly inhale the poison and dream of getting back up to turn the telly over from behind the confines of the Metal Mickey-sized TV.

No, choice is not a good thing. Before choice we had expertise: limited in offering but brought to you by those who took care and loved what they were about to impart to the nation. Now we have a cultural void as we call films ‘movies’ and allow ourselves to be dumbed down, which has now become the norm, not the exception.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher