Sunday evenings are so fraught in
our house these days that Monday mornings, no matter how dreary the weather,
tend to bring a measure of relief.
The blame for this state of
affairs lies squarely – or rectangularly, if you want to be literal – with that
infernal instrument in the corner of the family room, the ethereal glow from
which seems to have reduced my normally incredulous, down-to-earth wife to a
condition every bit as bewitched, bothered and bewildered as that of a love-sick
muse in Pal Joey.
“Make no plans for Sunday
evenings,” is a seasonal edict in this household. It ought to be nailed to the front door, like
the Diet of Worms – not just as a warning reminder to me but as a deterrent to
casual visitors. Not that we get many
casual visitors on Sunday evenings; since they too are probably in similar autumnal
confinement, glued to their own shimmering goggle-boxes.
The first ordeal yesterday
evening was the manufactured tension of the Strictly
Come Dancing results show. In enduring it, there was compensation of sorts
when the ‘celebrity’ dancer removed from the competition turned out to be a
burbling (and bumbling) little sprite named Macdonald, a fashion designer by
trade, whose breathlessly camp excitement made everyone around him appear as downcast
as bereaved relatives at a funeral. Given
the onslaught of his relentless gushing and giggling, they were entitled to
feel that way. I swear they perked up
visibly when his death sentence was announced by the deciding judge’s vote.
Next week’s episode may be made
more tolerable – one can only hope – by the ejection of the rumpled and witless
Hairy Biker, although compere Bruce Forsyth – presumably on instructions from
the producers – has craftily nominated him ‘The People’s Favourite’ for this
series. This follows the Strictly tradition of subliminally
whipping up support for the contestant who is palpably the least competent on
the dance floor.
After Strictly came The Paradise, a serialised account of the
goings-on in a provincial department store at the turn of the twentieth century,
a revival of a programme to which M became strangely attached a year or so back. This programme at least serves a useful purpose,
though, as a warm-up act for Downton
Abbey, which I probably don’t need to tell you is not about the goings-on
in a religious community but about the non-events in a country house in Yorkshire after the turn of the century. Now in its fourth series, Downtown has moved forward
in time to the Twenties, a period depicted that seems less like the Roaring
Twenties of popular legend than the Dismal Decade that it probably was.
At least there’s an occasional
rape, or car crash, or death-in-childbirth, to enliven proceedings, though
curiously these incidents – contrived largely to get rid of cast members whose
contracts have expired – are apparently widely regarded by the viewing public
as a betrayal, a shocking departure from the comforting soporific mini-scandals
that provide the show’s routine dramatic fare.
This week’s episode might have
been titled ‘Bates Knows’, as the eponymous valet was finally informed about
the sexual assault on his wife, a lady’s maid, at a recent weekend party. Mr. Bates has pledged retribution on the
perpetrator, so perhaps we can look forward to being treated in coming episodes
to a murder.
I was going to write about why
the government thinks it’s a good idea to place Britain’s nuclear power
capacity under the ownership of China, or the prospect of putting British
soldiers on trial for the Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry in 1972, but
those are stories subsidiary to the
revelations from Strictly and Downton.
We have our own Bloody Sundays to
preoccupy us now.
Go on Mr. Bates, give the bastard