Oi. Are you listening? Can you just switch that off for one sec? Or at least turn it down. Thanks. That's better. Because we need to talk. Apparently the British are watching more television than ever before, at least according to a survey commissioned by a marketing organisation for the commercial channels, who are presumably cock-a-hoop.
Our average weekly watch is up by 8 per cent compared to last year, to 30 hours 8 minutes. During the horrifically cold winter and early spring, audiences have been glued to Glee, captivated by Come Dine With Me, bingeing at the Freeview banquet, Sky Plus is the limit. We've been meaning to catch a chewy science documentary on BBC4 and never missing a minute of Motorway Cops. We've watched Simon Cowell, the news, The Thick of It, football, some more football, and far, far too many ads for Go Compare. It all adds up to an average daily dose that now stands at a frankly unbelievable 4 hours 18 minutes. Does that make you feel gross and vacant and slightly ashamed? There's more. New research has uncovered a correlation between letting toddlers watch two hours of television, and poor academic performance and obesity later in childhood. Use a Charlie and Lola DVD to babysit little Farley while you answer emails and he'll grow up stupid, fat and, I might add, entirely normal.
For there's really nothing wrong with watching lots of TV. It's fun. It kills time. It's great to shout at. In the most enjoyable periods of my life, I've watched the most television: as a child, when I got up at 6am to fit in a clear stretch of viewing free from parental controls; in my early twenties, living in a shared house with friends, when EastEnders and Gladiators brought us together in the evenings; in happy cohabitation, when taking turns to bark at Kirstie Allsopp or Huw Edwards feels like the very definition of romance. In darker, lonelier, more itinerant times of life the television has been left to gather dust in the corner of my bedroom as its owner leaves the house for another evening in search of company. If TV is domestic bliss, too much TV is heaven. I don't believe it's bad for either kids or adults (the study which focused on children found a correlation, rather than a causation between television and later problems; surely the issue is neglectful parenting, of which "too much" television may be a symptom).
Over the last three weeks, TV has proved a force for democracy and discussion; despite the chatter in the run-up to the ballot that this would be a 21st century "digital campaign" in which virals would clash with acerbic tweets and Facebook groups set the agenda, thanks to the leader debates this has clearly been a TV election. If you look at Twitter in the evening and follow political topics, the tweets are in service of the television election, relaying commentary on a hilarious Newsnight gaffe or questionable BBC poll "of 16 floating voters".
Tonight I'll be in my usual spot on the sofa, laptop to hand, telly remote control in the other, watch it all unfold and, yes, shouting, for four hours, 18 minutes or perhaps even longer.
Fancy a fad celebrity diet anyone?
If it's spring and you're a woman it must be time to check your brain in at the door and try a fad diet. A bevy of already-thin celebrities have been revealing their eating habits this week. Naomi Campbell told Oprah that she's following the near-starvation Lemonade Diet, also known as the Master Cleanse, also known as the cayenne-pepper-and-maple-syrup regime that helped Beyoncé drop 20 pounds for her role in Dream Girls. This diet has been around since the 1950s, and provides the body with just enough sugar to keep a girl upright and staggering forward, while overstimulating the bowels with pepper. It's touted as a "detox" by those who believe in the existence of toxins (and ghosts, aliens etc), but unarguably causes short-term weight loss. We also read in Hello! about tiny Cheryl Cole's adoption of Eat Right 4 Your Type, or the blood type diet, which claims to tailor a bespoke eating plan for Os, ABs, As and Bs. Again, while, as far as I can see, its basis is utterly unsupported by medical evidence, it limits food so severely to ensure weight loss. "It's made such a difference," chirrups Cheryl. I think we can all agree it was about time she lost that blubber.
New to me is the Baby Food Cleanse, which Grazia reports is Jennifer Aniston's monotonous regime of choice (she lost 7lbs in seven days; from where? Her hair?). "Food includes fruit smoothies, pureed oatmeal and pears with cinnamon and soups containing dandelion greens." Jen's dietry svengali, celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson, believes that pureed food aids efficient digestion, causing weight loss. Again, it's the tiny quantities of calories that give away this diet's "secret".
If it's all such silly stuff, why is it so hard not to wonder if one of these mad schemes might be worth it, just for a week, just to lose a few pounds I don't need to lose? Simply, because like most of us, I can't resist a short cut. Maintaining your figure, if that's what you want to do, is a marathon effort not a sprint, one that requires constant vigilance and (in my view, unacceptable) compromise on the sensual pleasures of life. Isn't a little of what you fancy, physical activity and a healthy check on narcissism just as simple a plan to follow?
Fashion's all-time low
It's a triumph for the low of waistband. The Crown Prosecution Service has withdrawn an application for an Asbo to prevent 18-year-old Ellis Drummond of Rushden, Northamptonshire from "wearing trousers so low beneath the waistline that members of the public are able to see his underwear". The contemporary low-slung trouser – waistband teetering on the fullest curve of buttocks, threatening to de-bag at any moment – is inspired, some say, by the appearance of inmates of West Coast prisons in the US, where prisoners have their belts removed as a suicide risk. Adopted by hip-hop culture, the look suggests both hidden firearms and wealth (ie, "I'm too rich to care about not being able to walk").
Shaun Cole, a lecturer at the London College of Fashion, who is writing a history of men's underwear, comments: "There are lots of theories about how the look came about but it's associated with the time of the Aids pandemic. If you think of the associations with showing the buttocks, even under underpants, it's such a weird mix of embarrassment, humour, sexuality – there's also a subconsious element of contempt." Or as Ellis Drummond might now feel like saying, kiss my Asbo.Reuse content