As Generation Y tune out, UK TV is increasingly grasping at the grey pound. Great British Bake Off and Mrs. Brown’s Boys may only be the start.
Hotel of Mum and Dad is one of the most irritating shows on television. This wretched ball ache manages to be among the more patronising shows on BBC3; the equivalent of finding a deep-fried turd in your bucket of California Chicken. The programme capitalises on the worst recession in a hundred years and soaring property prices by pointing an accusatory finger at young people struggling to make ends meet and screaming ‘get out of your parents’ lives you lazy fucks.’
But then, maybe that’s a harsh summation. Perhaps our parents really did only expect us to be around for the first 18 years. After all, at no point during the nine months of pregnancy that preceded the birth of their innately narcissistic millennial could it possibly have crossed their mind that the whole ‘parent’ thing could be for life. At least I assume that’s the case for the entire management team at Mentorn Media, who produce this dull, whinging show.
The UK is an ageing nation; producers are following the ratings into a black-hole of outdated sitcoms and vapid talent shows
Every generation loves to blame the preceding and following generations for shit. Millennials (or ‘Generation Y’ if you’re hip) can now add crap TV to the long list of grievances we have with our parents and their financially irresponsible buddies. The UK is an ageing nation, and as the primary demographics watching TV become those interested in soft foods and haemorrhoid creams, producers are, of course, following the ratings into a black-hole of ‘nostalgic’ (outdated) sitcoms like Mrs. Brown’s Boys, vapid talent shows like the Great British Bake Off and (God help us) The Voice, documentaries about the good old days (Robert Peston Goes Shopping), and low budget panel shows stuffed with inoffensive humour.
Then of course, there are programmes like Hotel of Mum and Dad, the sole aim of which is to blame absolutely everyone other than the baby-boomers for the problems in our society. It’s almost a kind of propaganda: Give the TV money and it will pet your head and tell you that none of it is your big fat fault.
With the end of Skins in August, the last British show aimed at pushing boundaries and moving small screen culture forward died. And with it, presumably, went the last of the young adults who actually bothered to watch television at all. Our hyperactive little brains prefer to digest stories online – social media has pushed our generation into a new entertainment paradigm. Besides, why watch some patronising bullshit on the BBC when you can download or stream amazing American dramas for only a fraction of the cost of a TV licence? Or better still, invest your time in social media, which allows you to contribute to a dialogue rather than sit on the sofa, while the box in the corner drones on and on at you about all the problems in the world, subtly discouraging you from ever acting, or doing, or even thinking about them for yourself.
TV needs to find a new niche. It needs to do things the internet can’t, besides appeal to people who can’t use the internet
Where television demands that you passively watch and listen, the internet empowers. It emboldens. It allows. Presented with this challenge, TV execs initially tried to stem the migration to social media by muscling in on the internet’s territory, introducing a bunch of online, interactive features and eventually streaming services to earn a few extra advertising dollars. Channel 4 is still pushing this with the whole ‘second screen’ thing, but by and large the British TV industry’s approach to dwindling young audiences now seems to be a prolonged sigh and an indifferent shrug. The gravy train is over. TV’s grip on the public is in an inevitable decline, and all that is left to do is desperately try to grab the last few banknotes sticking out of pensioner’s pockets while metaphorically sucking them off in their own damn living rooms.
Television is not doomed though, just like radio wasn’t when TV itself first came along. All the medium needs is to find a new niche. It needs to do things the internet can’t, besides appeal to people who can’t use the internet. That thing is high budget drama. Producers on social media sites like Youtube and Vimeo lack the funds, and films are too short to explore complex characters like a TV series can. The audience is already there: Millennials in the UK apparently can’t read books (half of us are illiterate and the other half can’t pay attention for long enough, if you believe the news) and the number of people illegally downloading Game of Thrones and tuning into Sherlock should be evidence enough that those are the kinds of shows that we want. To get young people back, all the TV industry has to do is stop pissing about with statistics and profit margins and make some quality British TV instead of shit like Hotel of Mum and Dad.
Is that really so hard?
All images: BBC