​                               They say the best way to take the temperature of a nation is by watching its TV for a 
day – though they don’t say where. If that’s the case, as Mark Piggott discovered, 
we’re all in trouble…

The thing I resented most about working for a living was missing all that lovely TV. Getting sacked gave me
control over my own remote. Immediately I invested in cable, my window on the galaxy. Having spent years on
the dole, it didn’t take long for me to get back into a familiar routine: Wake up, bedroom telly on, quick Tommy Tank over Lorraine Kelly, mop up just in time for breakfast with Matthew Wright. 

Back in the Eighties we only had the test card for company, or, if that wasn’t available, Sons & Daughters. Cable TV has changed all that. Now you don’t have just three channels of cack at your fingertips, you have three hundred - all at some point showing David

Take Kilroy (pur-lease!) The only way I can spend thirty seconds in his company is by imagining his entire
audience are auditioning for a role in some bizarre orgy. I thought he’d been permanently removed to the
Hezbollah Channel yet here he is on Boondocks TV, still giving the camera that weird intro at the start:

You drink turps - and you’re a pilot?"

Over on ITV Trasha does her best to get all the bleach-haired, ear-pierced Norfolk trailer-trash to do a Springer. The theme for today’s show is “I’m Not Your Mom!” An older woman turns to a younger man and tells him: "I’m not your mum." 
The younger man looks slightly sad, but says nothing; the audience gasps politely. I flick.

There’s always the real thing on some forgotten cable channel, Jerry Springer on a loopspool: ‘I’m Sorry I Killed 
Son With Chainsaw.’ Families sit innocently at a table laden with custard pies. I wonder why the British call the 
Americans stupid for making the programme when we’re the muppets who buy it, watch it and produce the opera.

Time for some news. Here are today’s headlines as read by Taff zealot Huw Edwards:

"The government are looking at a revolutionary idea from America to get rid of gun crime. Under the US
scheme, pistols, semi-automatics and even Uzis can be simply left in large, open ‘amnesty bins’ and taken
away. And, according to a new survey conducted by Smith & Wesson, guns are cool, especially on teenagers..."

Following the regular jovial analysis of which Middle Eastern country we’re bombing the fuck out of today and
exactly why they deserve it (those olive farmers just aren’t interested in peace, apparently), there follows a two-hour Harry Potter advertising megafest. You know the sort of thing: interviews with book-binders, footage of JK Rowling having a dump. This is why we pay our licence fee... (alright - you do). 

I flick. This is the only power left now for men. Martin Shaw is charging about in a Porsche with a judge’s wig 
on, drinking whisky as he drives and being fellated by some teen bimbo. The scene cuts to his angry boss, 
the Lord Chancellor.

"You’re out of control, Deed!" (Insert Frost, Morse, Winton, whatever).

Did I mention I have kids? Little darlings they are, all four of them. Five, whatever... 
Unfortunately, any positives to being a father are greatly outweighed by the negatives, in the form of Cbeebies 
in general and Boogie Beebies in particular – I mean, did they ever make more than two? If I see that bloke in a
green t-shirt pretend to be a time-piece one more time I’ll stick a grandfather clock where 
he can’t read it.

Every time Big Cook Little Cook comes on, my kids start clamouring: “turn it off! Smash it! Let’s all move to 
South Ossetia!” Can’t think why, the recipes are great. And where did they get that tiny speccy bloke? Though 
I can’t help noticing how the big one seems a bit sulky. Every time the little cook says, “I know! Let’s look in 
the Big Cook Cookery Book!” he snaps “yes the cook! Big cook’s book! Let’s all look in the 
twatting cook book!”

The announcer cuts in. "Next this morning, Kilroy sits alone in an empty studio contemplating 
his existence and wonders what it’s all about..."

I flick. "I love the Cretaceous Era” (again!) - Phil Jupitus with an over-rehearsed monologue about every time you
bought fizz-bombs that plesiosaur would nick them on the way home from the tuck-shop. 

I flick to the wildlife channel:

...Yet, even here, the natural order is being overturned, the survival of an enormous 
variety of inter-dependent species is threatened by a new, and the deadliest of all 
predators: the mongoose...

The amazing thing with cable is, you can actually listen to the radio ON YOUR TELLY! And it uses only 
2,000 times more electricity than the old transistor! What can we find today… ah yes, “my tuppence-worth” 
(every side, forever), in which uninformed listeners relieve themselves of whatever profundities have revealed 
themselves as they sat on the lav reading Fiesta. Somehow I manage to find one from the archives, circa 1938:

…Well as far as I’m concerned, at the end of the day if Hitler wants to annex parts of Byelorussia, what’s it got to do 
            with us?

Bored with looking at the cable TV logo while I listen to dispiriting cries for help, I do a search down the lower regions, the rancid bowels of television.

Later on KYTV, more Highland flings on - Take the Low Road!

            DISSOLVE TO:

           INT. CORNER SHOP. DAY
We see two old ladies in a shop, speaking in Scottish accents.

                OLD LADY ONE
I see McDougall bought an extra packet of biscuits.

​                OLD LADY TWO
(sniffing disapprovingly)

Along with everybody else, I unsubscribe to all the Sky Sports channels over the summer, but I suffer
withdrawal symptoms during this time. To my great joy I managed to find the end of something
football-related over on Rochdale Canal Plus:

​                                                   VOICEOVER
…Ryan Giggs was discussing existentialism with Jacques Derrida. Next week:
Consciousness, Belief, and Self Expression: Bernard-Henri Levy in rhetorical debate with
Sam Allardyce.

I flick, expecting to watch something called 100 greatest philosophers, with 
contributions from Kate Thornton, Vernon Kaye and Stuart Maconie. Why 
don’t they do a TV programme, the 100 greatest talking heads? Maconie on 
Wylie, Eamonn Holmes on Eamonn Holmes… it’s a winner. Anyway I’m 

​               VOICEOVER
Following Stuart Maconie’s tragic death, here’s the new schedule for tomorrow night. At seven 
thirty, Alan Bennett’s romantic comedy about middle aged Yorkshire folk, Thirtysummat. That’s 
followed by twee nostalgia and craic-fuelled simpletons in Ballykissarsehole and later tonight, Surreal Rooms.

    We see TRIPPERS I AND II in a grey room staring blankly around and blinking.

​               CAROL SMILLIE
Fed up with decorating? Change your mind every five minutes? Spending a fortune on wallpaper and brushes? Constantly
painting and moving furniture around like an arsehole? Now here’s an easy solution: LSD! (to TRIPPERS 1&2) So, space
cakes, has the acid kicked in yet?

​               TRIPPER #1
Oh wow, look at the wallpaper!

​               TRIPPER #2
Oh my god, the carpet’s going to eat us!

​           Both jump under the table in sheer terror.

Join us again next time, when the Hargreaves family from Warminster re-decorate their maisonette 
under the influence of ketamine.

I flick... On Aunty’s Sporting Bloomers (BBC#537359236) a pole vault snaps- HA HA HA - and then Terry Wogan’s puzzled features: “...And next, Ayrton Senna, showing how not to negotiate a bend at two hundred miles per hour.” Cue footage, jaunty music, funny
honking noise as car crumples and helmet cracks. Death Race 2000 will be on after the ads. I
flick… Johnny Vaughn’s latest broken-down vehicle, Spaced Cadets, in which a group of
psychotically narcissistic students think they’re going to an airbase in Suffolk, instead of which
they’re blasted into deep space…. on ITV more amnesiac nostalgia set in 1940s Yorkshire,
 Where’s the Heartbeat...? 

In a futile gesture of protest, I switch off the telly and stare at the wall.

Four seconds later I switch it back on. You never know. You might miss something.

Mark Piggott’s novel “Fire Horses” is published by Legend Press.

with Mark Liam Piggott

Home Defence UK
A Symptom of a Greater Malaise
No Flicking!
Ubiquitous: Dickinson
The future's NOT orange: Kilroy-Silk
Humdinger turkey zinger: Springer
A welcome in his valleys: Edwards
Out of control: Deed
Truly execrable: Boogie Beebies
Sacked agent: Big Cook Little Cook
Covered from head to toe in human excrement: Kilroy-Silk
A sort of benevolent, all-seeing God in human form: Attenborough
Incest, tornadoes, civil war: Just another day in Take the High Road
Star graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Allardyce
Run over by a fucking great big fucking bus: Maconie
Rhymes with silly: Smillie
Disappointed: Piggott

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