How TV Didn’t Ruin Your Life

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TOM MOULE explains why Charlie Brooker is wrong, and TV really hasn't ruined our lives at all.

In his latest programme, How TV Ruined Your Life, Charlie Brooker lays down a case for why television has decimated our livelihoods. He argues: it has instilled within us a crippling fear of everything and anything, it has raised our aspirations so high that real life will never be good enough, and it has completely mutated our ideas of love and compassion. According to Brooker, our little square friends are actually our interactive nemeses. But, he’s wrong. And, Cambridge’s alumni are going to help me prove this point.

In the episode entitled Love, Brooker attempts to show that TV’s influence has placed our romantic aspirations in a dream world. He claims that we can never attain a high enough level of compassion, because TV has warped our expectations of what love should be. Not so.

Brooker’s angry

Turn your attention to Peep Show. Mark (aka: Peterhusian David Mitchell) is a perfect example of TV being honest about the downside of having emotions. It is quite clear from Mark’s futile pursuit of love that relationships might be more about “you’ll do” than “I do.” And then there’s Caius man, Stephen Mangan, who played Dr. Secretan in Green Wing. His vacuous displays of ardour very clearly portray the downside of love and longing. The point is that for every TV programme that represents love in an unrealistic and unattainable way, there are twice as many that simply don’t. Television is more diverse than Brooker gives it credit for.

Brooker also argues that TV invented aspiration; a position that is tantamount to claiming that Cindies’ toilets invented vomit. According to him, TV has set our sights so high that landing on the moon seems no more of an achievement than playing for Accrinton Stanley. Apparently, in the world of TV, everyone is a god who lives in a paradise which we lower forms of life may only glance at surreptitiously.

Brooker’s really angry

But what about Stephen Fry, a god if ever there was one? He’s got wit, charm and intelligence. He commands the respect of many. Yet, happiness always seems to evade his grasp. The mist of melancholy that surrounds Mr Fry helps reminds us that life at the top is not all that different to life elsewhere. Fry clearly shows that the utopia of stardom is, in some cases, just an empty prospect. And then there’s Mr Paxman, who can make even those at the top of their game appear like badly behaved six-year-olds who’ve just wet themselves in assembly. There isn’t a grown man who Paxman can’t make cry, or at least sweat excessively, proving that television personalities are real people too.

Robinson’s very own Mr Clegg is just another example of an aspirational man who appears on TV who has recently come crashing back down to earth. Once he was more popular than Churchill (apparently), and now he is rivaled only by cot death for the position of most hated thing on TV. Nick Clegg’s existence isn’t aspirational; it’s a bloody nightmare. Another round of applause for Cambridge.

Brooker’s really, really angry

How TV Ruined Your Life, although vastly enjoyable, hasn’t got it right. TV simply isn’t to blame for all of the world’s problems. Television is diverse: for every episode of Made and Sweet Sixteen, there are countless reruns of The Inbetweeners and Peep Show. We don’t have to watch stuff that depresses us. Moreover, television’s primary function is to entertain us; not to provide a realistic representation of our own lives. Unfortunately, in this instance, Brooker has got it wrong.

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