Inside Television: What's the point of a TV boycott of the Winter Olympics?

 

Will you be boycotting the Winter Olympics on human rights
grounds? And would anyone notice if you did? People would certainly notice a
Clare Balding boycott. She’s one of the BBC’s most popular personalities and
one of the country’s most visible gay women, yet, as you read this, she’ll
already be in Russia, preparing to lead BBC2’s coverage all the way through to
the closing ceremony on February 23rd.

Last year, following a boycott call from Balding’s fellow national treasure, Stephen Fry, she released a short statement explaining her decision to attend. “I will do so because I am a sports presenter who happens to be gay,” she wrote. “I think the best way of enlightening societies that are not as open-minded as our own is not to be cowed into submission.” For Balding and other notables with a Sochi invite this has clearly been a difficult decision to come to. For the rest of us, taking a stand in support of the international LGBT community could be as easy as switching channels.

Or that’s the theory, at least. The attraction of the TV boycott is that it allows viewers to vote with their remote on issues they feel passionate about. Last month fans of the massively popular American reality TV show Duck Dynasty had an opportunity to demonstrate that power. Network A&E had suspended Duck Dynasty’s patriarch Phil Robertson ‘indefinitely’ in response to remarks he made calling homosexuality a sin and suggesting that African Americans were happier before the Civil Rights movement. Within nine days he’d been reinstated, after a Facebook page calling for a boycott received over a million ‘likes’. The celebrations from Phil’s supporters were cut short, however. His first show back saw a ratings drop of 33 per cent among adults aged 18-44.

So does that mean viewers object to Robertson’s bigotry? Or that they support it? Or did everyone just forget what they were boycotting? Who knows. What it does show is that this powerful weapon is also a blunt and unwieldy one, since any even slightly nuanced political is liable to get lost in the data. How will the BBC distinguish between those taking a principled stand against Putin’s law prohibiting “gay propaganda” and those who just find Bargain Hunt re-runs more entertaining than the four-man bobsleigh? 

That doesn’t mean armchair activist should sink into a state of (even deeper) apathy just yet. Viewer boycotts might be next to useless at bringing about change in the real world, but there is a particular sort of televised evil for which they are ideally suited. Her name is Katie Hopkins and as we learned this week from Channel 5’s ratings-bait The Big Benefits Row, reasoned debate is futile against her. So if you’re sick of the kind of TV that exists purely to generate ratings, there is one practical solution: Stop watching it.

A Happyish way to remember Philip Seymour Hoffman

The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman has saddened many who never met him. You don’t have to have known the man personally to appreciate the value of his work in films like The Master and Synecdoche, New York and to regret that there will be no more such performances to look forward to. What’s more, perhaps his most intriguing career move to date, was just on the horizon.

Hoffman had just been cast in his first TV lead, as “successful but self-loathing” advertising exec Thom Payne in the new Showtime series Happyish, but had only completed filming the pilot when he died last Sunday. When similar situations have arisen in the past, the series has been either re-shot with a new actor or discarded altogether. Let’s hope Showtime can see a way to share some of Hoffman’s precious last work with as wide an audience as possible. 

CATCH UP

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com

Seinfeld fans don’t like to be trifled with, unless said trifling is done by the Soup Nazi, in which case we’ll meekly accept it. After much exciting speculation about a Seinfeld reunion, this week we saw the deeply disappointing reality; a lacklustre two-minute Superbowl ad. Give that a miss and watch a full episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s current project, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, instead. I recommend the one with Louis C.K.

http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com

Births, Deaths and Marriages, ITV Player

There was some obligatory swooning over the Royal Baby in this excellent two-part documentary about Westminster registry office, but the most interesting moments concerned mere commoners. This celebration of the extraordinary moments of ordinary lives was surprisingly touching. 

https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/births-deaths-and-marriages/series-1/episode-1

Dispatches: Hunted, 4oD

Officially, Russia is welcoming gay athletes for the Sochi olympics, as long as, in Putin’s words they “leave the children in peace”. This documentary explores the reality of life for the gay men and women live in Putin’s Russia all year round. The climate us so intense, they’ve taken to calling it “hunting season”.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/4od

Looking, NowTV.com

If you do decide to boycott Sochi - or simply had no idea it was on - here’s a great alternative. Episode 3 of HBO’s dramedy set on the San Francisco gay community features a well-cast cameo from His & Her’s Russell Tovey. He plays Patrick’s new boss and potential love interest Kevin - but is Kevin actually gay

www.nowtv.com

Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape