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O Magazine

The deadly channel-hopping experience

– 電視死亡

Two hours of unsatisfactory TV gonzo dementia with Kiko Amat

Illustration by
Luis Mazón

I never watch the telly. I’m not saying this to appear as intellectually superior, because the seed of my cathodic discontent was planted during my teenage years, when I wasn’t exactly a translator of Greek or a contemporary dance critic, and it received its final blow in 1993-95: my slacker period par excellence, a time in which I did nothing more than wanking like a monkey, smoking joints and getting fat (“sitting on my sofa”) as if someone had plugged a bicycle pump into my anus and had started pedalling.

I’ve got to say that even if those everyday hobbies weren’t exactly profound, they seemed to me a much better option than watching TV. Anything seemed better that watching television, even during my Dumb Years. Sitting in front of that raucous box and seeing (without the possibility of a dialogue or of free will) arseholes saying stupidities, small-time traders advertising their trinkets and repetitions of films or series that were already rubbish the first time around was the epitome of backing down. Total defeat. I’ve already said this: I wasn’t quite there at the time, but watching the telly seemed the final humiliation. I’m losing it, guys, but not that much. Not yet.

Since then I haven’t watched TV ever again, not even by chance. I don’t like it, it makes me nervous and it makes me indignant in not a very profitable way. My dear brother in law always says sorry when he starts channel hopping with the remote with no clear destination, arguing that “a bit of channel-hopping is not so bad”, but I think he’s wrong. Accelerated channel hopping through the many current TV channels is bad indeed and can break you faster than a 6th century frontal lobotomy (with no anaesthetics). Watching television is a really pointless way to pass the time. I just can’t get why people find it fun at all.

And precisely because I don’t get it, my dearest readers, I’ve had no other option but to jump into its wild waters and immerse myself in its opaque contents. Putting my life at risk for you once more in this… DEADLY CHANNEL-HOPPING EXPERIENCE! [Drum roll sound effect!].

1) Adán y Eva (Cuatro): I can’t believe my first encounter in this arduous journey is this colossal bunch of filth: an absurd soft-porn programme, morally akin to the Benny Hill show and with the political and sexual ethics of Los bingueros, seemingly script-written by Salacious Crumb (Jabba el Hutt’s abnormal pet) and Thanos (or a skrull) in the midst of a raging haemorrhoid attack. That is to say: a jabbering twit and someone who hates the human race. The premise of this unbearable piece of shit is simple: you place a naked heterosexual couple (Adam and Eve) in a not so desert island and when they get inevitably horny, you send them a kind of snake of the discord in the shape of a third party (male or female). And then you shake it all a bit so that each one shows their worst side and start eating up the others in front of the camera as if they were fighting cocks while a few desperate old guys jerk off at home with the occasional (and prudish) glimpse of a pubis. Their conversations seem to range from the grossest sexual innuendo (“Hold the bat with strength”, nudge-nudge, wink-wink) and the declarations of incurable stupidity (“I consider myself a mad person”, a female contestant affirms, and I would recommend locking her up at the mentally handicapped area of the Sant Boi loony bin). A programme, in sum, that looks like a joke told in a bar full of old falangistas: male chauvinistic, fascist, banal and horribly predictable. God, what a start…

2) En la tuya o en la mía (La 1): Yes, this is the Bertín Osborne programme everybody talks about. The fascination arises, as many commentators with more tolerance to nausea than me have already pointed out, from its fundamentally anachronistic essence and its flatulent and demented genuine Spanishness. It consists in placing this human wardrobe of a man in his own house and make him receive the visit of different similarly social and politically oriented people (don’t expect the people from the PAH or the Pussy Riot members; although, if you think of it, this last idea would be a laugh!). Bertín is like our local version of Bill Grundy (but hottie style): a meddler who thinks it’s still 1954, catcalls like a cavern man and is always half tipsy (and clears his throat all the time like an old chestnut-seller), waiting for his own humiliating Sex Pistols. I’m warning you: they’re not on their way. Bertín, as I said, only invites brain-dead celebrities akin to his own ideals, people famous for absolutely nothing, old-fashioned melodic singers, politicians during their campaign or dictator’s granddaughters. Never mind its feudal outlook when it comes to gender questions, richness distribution and social class, what happens with this programme is that it’s sleep inducing to a catatonic state. A coat hanger with a wig would ask better questions than the guy with the open shirt. El Cid, dead and on his horse, would be able to look into other people’s lives more acutely than Bertín. The only memorable moments of En la tuya o en la mía come about when, thanks to the big glasses of fierce Spanish red wine he doesn’t cease to gobble up, Osborne starts confessing very private things. Like (holy cow!) when his twenty-day-old baby died in his arms. Wait a minute: is this the most obscene thing or the most incredibly touching thing I’ve ever seen in my life? It’s either the most cynical exploitation of one’s own tragedy ever, or the unexpected confession of a man broken by sadness. I’m still trying to decide.

3) Asignatura pendiente (The film of La 2): Thanks, oh, lord, for sending this my way and allow me to develop a magnificent social and cultural theory. Since nothing illustrates better the Spanish disposition than the string of programmes I just mentioned: Adán y Eva, Bertín Osborne and a bore of a film by José Luís Garci. We live, as you can see, in a country which is pathologically incapable of finding a middle ground between Cro-Magnon man stupidity on the one hand, and stiff, corny, depressing and hard to digest solemnity on the other. We go from eschatological jokes to bad imitations of Ingmar Bergman, with no halts or control. Asignatura pendiente is, as you might imagine, yesterday’s liberal MONSTROSITY that gave way to today’s cultural supplements: mediocre, stiff, deadly boring and completely devoid of any sense of humour. A horrible film, pure 1977, grey and with no rhythm whatsoever, a downer, an absolute fright for kids from the seventies as myself (and even for my parents; in fact, I think NOBODY actually liked these shitty movies), allegedly intellectual and with “a moral message”, badly dubbed and with a Basque folk soundtrack (no, dear god, nooo!) and, as a dessert, with José Sacristán, whom after several decades is still unable to perform without giving the impression of reciting someone else’s lines. At least Silvia Tortosa, a strange woman with a tumultuous life that would deserve a more serious article than this one, appears on it. But, hey, let’s channel-hop again and see what happens.

4) El viatge de Companys (TV3): I’m not a big fan of documentaries that reconstruct the facts described. I prefer archival images, talking heads and men with deep voices (David Attenborough, for instance) explaining in detail the German offensive at the Ardennes. Reconstructions with actors always look kind of like an A-Ha music video, with “sexy” chiaroscuros and wobbly curtains, actors with severe facial contractions and a tendency to general grimace. And if they are about the Spanish Civil War, even worse, since they make me think about sad eighties series such as La plaça del Diamant and the hours my mom spent crying over them. It’s the setting, you know? In Spanish television they think that setting something in the forties means using an old car, a back-and-sides haircut and a soldier with a moustache in the background, even if he’s wearing Nike and using a Samsung mobile phone. All this said, this documentary has some decent actors on it, and for TV3 that’s a bloody miracle!

5) Football (3/24): Hop. If there is something more boring than TV in general is broadcast football. I’m not staying on this channel another minute. Hey, wait a minute! Is that Luis Enrique? I had dinner with Luis Enrique once. I mean, at the same restaurant, at about one hundred metres from his table. But I saw the way he behaved in public and I spent a long while of that dinner not paying any attention to my red-haired wife; only trying to catch a glimpse of the guy’s movements, unashamed. Adulation, my friends! I’d never seen anybody as flattered as FC Barcelona’s trainer that night. It was flabbergasting: he was surrounded by five macho-men, good-looking and sporty (not a single woman) and they were buttering him up so blatantly that the only next thing they could have done would have been getting under the table and start sucking him right there and then, under the red squared tablecloth. Believe me: I’m a reasonably funny man, but no one is as funny as L.E. seemed to be that night. The members of his entourage kept on pissing themselves laughing and hitting the table at every one of the idol’s comments, even if he was talking about something horrible such as Thalidomide children or the most recent case of school paedophilia. Those five arse-lickers laughed to the point of asphyxiation, I swear to god, and in such a servile and indignant way that I almost ended up pissing myself laughing too. Fame, oh my lord… What a harmful thing. It turns people into the worst idiots; don’t tell me it isn’t so.

6) Canal 33: I can’t even remember what programme it was, because I skipped over it with the speed of a drone. But it was about classical music and conductors… ZZZZZZZZZZZ.

7) Acció executiva (8TV): At first sight, this film seemed a piece of shit, but after a few minutes of attentive examination I realised it was about the assassination of JFK. And it questioned –in telefilm format and with the worst script ever after Showgirls– the conclusions of the Warren Commission; which is quite something, since it was filmed in 1973. And 1973 are the years that Burt Lancaster seems to have in the film, appearing here at the dawn of his career and life, wrinkled as a scrotum dipped in a cup of tea for several geological eras, but with a hint of his perpetual sarcastic expression (now a geriatric grimace) as shown when he played J.J. Hunsecker or in The Crimson Pirate. In any case, I should confess that I got hooked and I spent a long time watching this film detritus. But this isn’t as difficult as it would seem, since it was about Kennedy’s murder, something purely hypnotic to me (like the Nazis, or JTR). I’d even watch a JFK biopic starring Joel Joan. Well, maybe not. But almost… Almost!

8) A Greek 2003 noir film (BTV): Noir. Greek. 2003. That’s all I have to say about it. I hopped channels with the speed of a shooting star, as you would have done yourselves.

9) Top Chef (Antena 3): Another of the great mysteries of our sunny land. Half of the country is unemployed and living off social services, and the other 49% who work survive eating pate, chorizo and the supermarket’s own brand beer, but if you turn the TV on there are all sorts of programmes about super chefs and high cuisine, as if the potential target were the owners of Downton Abbey or some mad sheikh from the Emirates. Seriously: apart from the wild poshness and colonial classism characteristic of this kind of artefacts, who the hell can stand, without howling too loud or destroying any pieces of furniture, so many references to “cleaning fish”? I like cooking more than your average man –I’m not the typical guy who lives on Coca-Cola and Twix– but despite of that I can’t get this obscene fascination for the food of the rich. Well, for food in general. There’s not that much to it is there? No matter how many “reductions” you perform and even if you erect impossible ziggurats with them, it’s just foodstuff, for Christ’s sake. I can’t spend all that time listening to posh cooks spitting culinary inanities. My time on this Earth is finite.

10) Gumball (Boing): As I’ve been able to prove many times in the past, the best of TV are, still today, animated cartoons. Gumball (as happened with Futurama, The Simpsons, Sponge Bob Squarepants and a long etcetera) says more about current society than all the boring analysis of highbrow publications. And it does so in an electric, entertaining and often hilarious way. Its teachings are also invaluable, believe me; about friendship, about boys/girls, about obligations, about blood ties, about growing up, about injustice. If I had a daughter, I would show her The Goons episode (from Gumball) time and time again, since in it there’s all that a girl needs to know about her sex and her place in this unfair world. The only thing I’m worried about is that it’s already past midnight and Gumball is still on, and I don’t think the target audience are adults. What kind of kid is still up at this time, c’mon?

11) Gym Tony (Cuatro): I demand knowing who writes the script of this colossal pile of faeces. I would like to see his face to make sure he doesn’t have a space slug (like in Futurama) slurping his brain. Let’s see: the tone of Gym Tony, archetypal Spanish sketch comedy, is somewhere between Benny Hill (again; they should put a statue of him in some channel’s offices) and the jokes on faggots and twangy folks that Arévalo told on 1,2,3 in 1979. The type of gross, troglodyte, “apolitical” and homophobic sense of humour that marketing people of such channels think appeals to the nation’s average brain. They tend to think kind of low, as usual, and take for granted (in a very patronising way) that they’re dealing with the minimum brain capacity possible, an IQ similar to that of a starfish who fell from its crib during its first days of life. Should we have to analyse Spanish spectators basing ourselves in Gym Tony, that slap in the face of intelligence and common sense, we would conclude that there are only stumbling zombies in a destroyed planet out there. You, my readers, already know that I’m a bit of a brute and, if I put my mind to it, can watch Top Secret (not the most subtle thing ever) many times on the trot, but this bunch of filth is beyond me and all of us. It’s an insult to the (political but also merely entertaining) possibilities of humour. It’s horrible, to make it clear, and not funny at all; even if there’s people getting drunk all the time (something I usually like). What a waste of money and possibilities, holy Mary! It’s almost like the hideous series they mock in Ricky Gervais’ Extras, “When the Whistle Blows”, all dirty jokes, gay profiles in embarrassing cliché mode and political parodies in the style of Pedro Ruiz (inoffensive, centrist and arse-licking). The worst thing in TV today!

Conclusion: TV is still where I left it in 1987: the rubbish bin. Only deeper: at least at the end of the eighties we had Black Adder and The Young Ones. See you in another thirty years, abhorred television, I hope you’ll be a bit better then, love. It hasn’t been a pleasure.