Clueless summer stand-ins are running the show

'TV series launched at this time of year are almost guaranteed to be absolute stinkers'
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The Independent Online

Our normally sunny little house has been a house of pain and suffering lately, with my wife and I wishing for oblivion, as we both have been suffering from the most hideous, horrible, endless summer cold. My wife keeps asking me if we can't have that nice Dr Shipman as our GP.

Our normally sunny little house has been a house of pain and suffering lately, with my wife and I wishing for oblivion, as we both have been suffering from the most hideous, horrible, endless summer cold. My wife keeps asking me if we can't have that nice Dr Shipman as our GP.

Because I have been ill, I have not been going out racketing around town, but instead I've been staying in, lying on the couch and watching DVDs and videos. One film that I rented - partly because there wasn't much else in the video shop that I had not already seen - was Fight Club, even though the adverts for the film didn't lead me to expect too much. From what I could remember, when the film first came out in the cinema, the reviews had been negative, and the film had faded quietly away, unwatched and unloved. I had the general impression that it was some sort of misogynistic boys' flick.

Well, I couldn't have been more wrong; it came as a total surprise to me: what a brilliant film! For a start, nobody had thought to mention that it is a comedy. And not only is it a comedy; it is that rarity among comedies - it is actually very funny and it is making some serious points, too. Fight Club is a satire (admittedly rather uneven) on the emptiness of the American dream, particularly its emphasis on material possessions. What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and yet lose his own soul? Plus, as the film points out, far from getting the whole world, you'll be lucky if you get fobbed off with a couple of flatpacks from Ikea.

I'm beginning to speculate on how many of the other movies that I have avoided in the past because they got bad reviews or look like they stink are in fact deeply serious works of art with an important message for us all. I now wonder whether the black US comic Martin Lawrence, in his film Big Momma's House, is perhaps concerning himself with a Kantian quest for a reason-based, non-consequentialist ethical system. Is, perhaps, Ben Elton's Maybe Baby a covert examination of where we stand in a world in which postmodern distrust of the idea of a stable self has left us, literally, alienated even from ourselves?

Summer is not a good time to be stuck in the house feeling ill, though, because all you want to do when you feel low is to flop down in front of the TV. You don't necessarily need to watch anything terribly demanding, just something with a glimmer of intelligence behind it, that you have not seen already some 10 or 12 times. But the quality of programmes on the TV at this time of year is absolutely diabolical.

Most of the output consists of constant, never-ending repeats of programmes that were made 20 years ago, and that is the best of what is on offer: the new series that are launched at this time of year are almost certainly guaranteed to be absolute stinkers that the television companies are hoping to sneak out in an attempt to recoup some of their money by using them as airwave-filler while nobody is watching (hence my having to spend my easily earned money on renting videos and DVDs).

There are two reasons why this situation occurs at this time of the year. First, it is assumed that there are many fewer viewers actually watching television in the summer months, because people are either outside in the sunshine, enjoying themselves, or they have gone off abroad on their summer holidays.

The second reason is also connected with summer breaks. At this time of year, it is the senior, more experienced and more competent members of staff who go off on their holidays, and those who are left behind in charge at the television stations are the juniors - who are obviously a lot less capable of taking the responsibility for producing good-quality programming.

I have to say that this state of affairs also exists at newspapers and magazines, which - if you look - get a lot thinner during the months of July and August simply because they are written, designed, printed and edited almost entirely by fresh-out-of-college teenagers doing work experience or reformed crack addicts on the Government's New Deal programme for the long-term unemployed. The net effect of newspapers being put out by such inexperienced staff can often result in their being mgggly twa roof tupping plagg mu combo Kosovar.

Many scientists assert that, with the depletion of the ozone layer and the heating up of the planet's ecosystem, soon it is going to be summer in Britain all year long. I can believe that; I can believe that we are in for 12 months, year in, year out, of hot, humid, muggy weather.

I see proof of this approaching 365-day British summer contained in the fact that the entire nation seems to have been left in the care of some accident-prone idiot called Tony Blair.

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