SATURDAY NIGHT : Couch potatoes on a cross-Channel cruise

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The Independent Online
As The Simpsons started, Guy and I shared a smile. It was a repeat of the episode where Homer pays the engineer $50 to get an illegal hook-up to cable television, and also the first show we had watched together since last winter, when we tuned in every Sunday, stoned out of our skulls, along with a shifting cast of pals and girlfriends.

Then Homer disappeared, replaced by a commercial for Sky TV's latest mini-series Scarlett - the sequel to Gone With the Wind, starring Joanne Whaley-Kilmer as the heroine, and Timothy Dalton as The Man Who Didn't Give A Damn. Telepathically, we shared a memory of last year's epic mini-series, the standard by which all others must be judged: Andrew Morton's Diana: Her True Story. Ah yes, we still linger over that soft-focus shot, seen through the bathroom mirror, where a post-binge princess puts two fingers down her throat and barfs into the toilet bowl.

"They know what they're doing," I said.

"They know, they know," echoed Guy, shaking his head.

"They might pretend they're naive."

"But they know exactly who they're appealing to."

The idea that cable television is perfect for pot-heads is nothing new; any slacker theorist worth his or her salt will tell you that Nickelodeon, MTV and Bravo are made to get stoned with. But Guy and I have a theory that the juice is starting to flow both ways: that, by a process of osmosis, television is starting to look more like the work of demented reefer-takers while, as the "real" world gets wired, it takes on the more bizarre qualities of cable television.

This is more than a theory. It is a reality we share, the place where we live. We call it "Cable London".

We think the best way to understand all the weird crap in our capital is in terms of a continual, interactive cable television experience, with an infinite array of channels, every one specially tuned to your karma. We constantly zap from channel to channel, always on the alert for a stimulating programme.

Sometimes we find ourselves in the art channel, at a private view, with people in suits pretending to be present for reasons of culture and erudition - when, of course, they are merely appearing on the same channel as us. We accept that, like them, we have all been sent there by "central casting". However, we are aware of the fact while they tend to have overlooked it. Which means they are not really present at all; just like people on television.

We often select one of the many nightclub channels featuring babes in advanced states of inebriation. Inevitably, someone will point out that nightclubs these days are full of skinny young girls in short skirts out of their heads on drugs. And Guy and I,gamely playing our bit-parts as the anarcho mystic pot-head wierdos from Hell, will grin salaciously and nod our heads like those toy dogs people used to have in the back windows of their cars.

Every facet of life can be seen from the couch-potato point of view, as merely another channel on fabulous Cable London. The discerning viewer can zap through an infinite number of channels, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a cast of millions, sets that money cannot buy, and storylines that get stranger every day. Fortunately, for the experienced zapper, interactivity is always optional. As long as you know which channel you are tuned to, you can modify your behaviour to suit.

When Guy and I are not seeing each other, we get into our regular channels, or fly to the end of the dial for more exotic programming. Lately, he has tuned to the Love Terrorists channel, which revolves around Angie, an American girl he describes as "thecheerleader of the revolution" and who seems intent on seducing the whole world, one by one. Last weekend he went to see her band, Nice Mob, performing in a disused shopping mall in Golders Green, north London, with an audience composed mainly of Jewishestate agents. The evening ended with everyone dancing and chanting mantras. We reckon this is the Kosher Techno Hare Krishna Free Love Reform channel.

This weekend, we may well select the Nightclub Babe channel again. Those girls from Sign of The Times, the archetypal girly gang, have launched a one-nighter called Malibu Stacey. This, incidentally, is the brand-name the Barbie-esque doll owned by Lisa Simpson, daughter of Homer. The club flyer states clearly, "Dress Code: No Knickers". How can we regard this as anything but an expression of our karma ?

Welcome to Cable London. Turn on, tune in, er ... that's it.

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