Suzi Godson: We're far too brain dead to bother watching telly on a Saturday night

The long hours' working culture has turned the traditional week on its head

Monday 23 September 2013 02:32

I'd like to blame Cilla, or Dale, or Chris, or even Simon Cowell. Television on a Saturday night - the traditional time for family viewing - is a turn-off for increasing numbers of people. Research just published shows that the Saturday night audience has fallen from 20 million to 18 million over the past 10 years. Meanwhile, TV viewing on Monday nights peaks with audiences up from 18.8 million to 19.8 million.

More than half of the viewers polled said that they no longer watch telly on a Saturday night. As a subscriber to the most elaborate and expensive combination of terrestrial and satellite television available, I can guarantee that despite having more than 60 channels, on a Saturday night there is never anything worth watching on any of them.

But the viewing patterns are not just due to the turgid over-rehearsed unpalatability of Blind Date and its successors. It's more to do with the fact that the structure of our working week has changed so dramatically.

Once upon a time people got at least an hour off in the middle of their working day, during which time they could carry out chores like shopping or eating. (However, in a typically British stroke of genius, institutions such as banks and post offices were shut during that hour, rendering it virtually useless.) But, today, anyone who wants to stay employed realises that taking a lunch hour, and knocking off at 5.30pm, is simply a quaint 1950s fantasy. Those who are committed to their jobs have to be present in the workplace for ever-increasing amounts of time, and visibility is as important as productivity. At any given moment in an office full of people, a large percentage of employees will not be carrying out the job they are paid to do. But it doesn't matter. If it is 6.30pm, and you are shopping online or playing solitaire, and the boss looks out and sees you tapping away, you create the appropriate impression: "Hmm, young so-and-so from sales and marketing is really putting in the hours."

Spending more time in the office has contracted the amount of free time we have so much that we have had to find other ways in which to unwind. For some, that involves doing yoga, shopping, or visiting galleries. For everyone else, it involves the consumption of alcohol. Widely available, relatively cheap and hugely effective, a couple of glasses of wine now act as a life-support system for the brain-dead, Microsoft chimps that we have all become.

In general, the working week follows a fairly predictable pattern of alcohol consumption. It starts on Wednesday - the hump of the week - which begins the slide towards the weekend. Thursday is now "the new Friday", according to publicans and restaurateurs, and Friday is not always something you can remember. Obviously, Saturday is written off simply because it can be. And the singer Craig David is so wrong. On Sunday we don't chill; we cram in all the stuff we were too hung-over to do on Saturday. And since everything is open - including the pub - everyone, bar the five people watching Songs of Praise, can usher in the start of another working week over a couple of pints.

Naturally, by the time we 21st-century wage slaves get into the office on Monday morning, we are exhausted. Kept going by caffeine, pain-killers and the promise of a double bill of Coronation Street when we finally assume the recovery position on the sofa armed with a remote control and a takeaway pizza, we can at least look forward to some top telly.

For years programme schedulers have been playing their best cards on a Monday night. Big draws such as Martin Bashir's interview with Michael Jackson and a documentary about the Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? fraud were screened then. The biggest shows - Coronation Street, EastEnders and Spooks - all get given that slot. It's rich pickings, and who's complaining? Anyone dumb enough to watch TV on a Saturday night ought to get a life. Or a DVD.

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