Word has it that the next series of 24 will be filmed in London. Apparently it opens with Jack Bauer boarding a DLR train at Lewisham, heading for the Olympic Stadium. 24 hours later he’s still on it. Jack get’s into a heated argument with a Train Captain (ticket collector, to you and me) over which Zone Stratford is in, and has a difference of opinion with a fat bird who wants the window open. In episode 4 he gets a tad miffed with the bloke sitting next to him who’s iPod is blaring our through his earphones. Ok, it may not be most exciting of series of the popular show, but it’ll be the most realistic. I spent a week on the DLR last Tuesday, at least that’s what it felt like. It has to be the most useless mode of transport, even by London standards. How the fuck they expect to ferry the poor sods who turn up to the 2012 Olympics is beyond me. The sight of Jack Bauer whizzing along at 2 miles an hour, his plans going awry cos there’s no lift service at Pudding Mill Lane is unlikely to give a boost to the ratings.
I say all this, but I’ve never seen a single episode of 24. Neither, come to think of it, have I ever watched Lost or Prison Break, or MadMen, or Heroes or CSI…oh I could go on.Twin Peaks, Hill Street Blues, or Spooks or Thirty Something or Curb Your Enthusiasm. I have tended not to tie myself into any of these long series as I’ve never been confident I’ll be sitting in front of the TV at the same time every week to watch the next episode. There are places which serve beer which tend to be open when these shows are aired and they tend to jump out on me on the way home from work.
I have resisted the temptation to tape them as I’ve never enjoyed the pressure that puts you under. Falling behind for a one or two episodes then trying to watch them the night before the next one is shown on TV is stressful, and all the time your colleagues in the office have water cooler chats about the fantastic ending to last night’s show. Trying to go a whole day or two without hearing what happened in the episode(s) you’ve missed: Now that’s real pressure. (Anyone remember The Likely Lads “England F… ” episode?)
Pre-digi days there’d be piles of VHS videos under the telly with stuff I’d recorded but never gotten round to watching. Piles of 4-hour tapes (8 hours worth of longplay, if you like the quality of playback to simulate watching tv through a sock) with badly scribbled then crossed out labels, reading LIVE AID, DO NOT ERASE (that one was stolen from out of my car in a pub car park), or HOW THE WEST WAS WON (LP) . Or unlikely combinations of viewing as you filled up any blank tape space you had: ZULU/ENGLAND vrs FRANCE W.CUP SEMI F/O.G.WHITSLE TEST/TUC CONF. 1989. There they’d sit, with their tatty white stickers, clogging up the tv cabinet or the bookshelves, never likely to be removed from the shelf until I needed to tape over them again (always remembering to put some sellotape over that clip in the corner I’d broken off to protect them.)
Not much has changed now that I’ve gone all hi-tech and TiVo-fied. I’ve got 30 hours of stuff to watch stored on my TV’s hard drive, plus the whole of the last series of In The Thick of It, (which is the exception that proves my rule as I did make it home to watch all of those.). 30 hours worth! That’s 14 movies. I’ll never get round to watching them, cos every day something else is released so I go onto Amazon and buy that, then something else is shown on TV one night which I’ll record , never watch that either and the backlog just gets longer and longer.
But having said all that I find myself believing, and saying “I have nothing to watch”. How come? Well, a couple of years ago the Incumbent, bless her, bought me (us) the box set of The West Wing. We devoured it, were obsessed. We lived The West Wing, we breathed The West Wing, we ate West Wing sandwiches. We quite liked it. What’s more, we could watch it at our own pace. One a week. One a month. Eight in a day. As many we wanted to watch WHENEVER we wanted to watch them. Being a good few years since the show ended on TV, there were no colleagues in the office discussing last night’s episode. It was sensational telly and we didn’t want it to end. Then it did. Bugger.
So what to watch now ? I had this collection of films I’d taped and had never watched, but I couldn’t be arsed to see them now. There was this show which everyone was talking about called The Wire. “Oh I can’t believe you don’t watch it, Mike” they would say. “You’d really like it Mike”.
“Listen” said I, ” I’ll tell YOU what I like and what I don’t, thankyouverymuch”. I dug my heels in, I refused to join their gang. Two months after the last episode of the last series finished, we bought the box set of the whole 5 seasons.
Fuck me. What a show. It was and is the best thing ever to be made for telly. Sensational. All-day-long sessions watching Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell, Omar Little and the rest were completely compelling. I just wanted there to be another 5 seasons. But there wasn’t. So, after that had finished I conned Mrs B into watching Band of Brothers with me (I’d seen it before, but I could watch in on a loop), telling her it wasn’t about war but about people. To my surprise she now thinks THAT’S the best show ever made. I’ll never work em out. Finally, this January we started on the Sopranos box set. That’s a bloody good watch too, and another that no-one can believe I’d never seen before. Oh well, I have now, alright? so shuddup!
Now there’s a vacuum, a void in my viewing schedule. The Pacific (Band of Brothers with palm trees) is launched on Sky Movies soon. I won’t be watching, for all the reason’s stated above (and I don’t have Sky Movies). I shall pre-order the whole set from Amazon and try to survive til then. But I will need something to get my teeth into while I wait. It’ll probably be MadMen, it won’t be Lost. Maybe Kiefer Sutherland armed only with an Oystercard, stuck on a train at Deptford Bridge is my only option. Unless I watch The Wire again. Or Phoenix Nights. Or World at War, or…