A Toast to great television

A Toast to great television


SOMETIMES I get sick when I travel a lot and about two weeks ago I travelled a lot and I got sick. I was bedridden and moping around the house for days, which is why I missed a recent deadline for Madam Wheels. I haven’t been so unwell for a long time, and I’ve never watched so much television.

‘Apparently there’s a method of watching a lot of a television all in one go that I’ve heard my goddaughter refer to as “bingeing”. I love the word, and that’s exactly what I did.’

But how unexpectedly glorious that experience turned out to be – so much so that since recovering I’ve been finding myself sneaking away at odd hours of the day and catching up on some of my shows. This would have been unthinkable only a few weeks ago.

Television has come a long way since I last spent any considerable time watching it – probably around the time Blind Date was on for the first time - and while I was out of action I started really to appreciate and understand The Companion’s obsession with streaming services. We have Stan, Netflix, Foxtel and all of the free-to-air on-demand services, all connected to the televisions throughout the house by a wireless network of blinking devices of varying shapes and sizes.

Now I know why The Companion has spent so long setting the whole lot up, and why he wanted the same set-up at the farmhouse. I don’t know what I’d have done without it while I was laid up.

Apparently there’s a method of watching a lot of a television all in one go that I’ve heard my goddaughter refer to as “bingeing”. I love the word, and that’s exactly what I did. Norsemen, Maniac, Schitt’s Creek, Detectorists, not every episode (there’s a lot of them) of Jerry Seinfeld in cars getting coffee with comedians (it’s called something like that) and possibly my favourite of the lot, the wonderfully bonkers Toast of London.

And also Man Down, and Green Wing. And Ozark – Jason Bateman! That’s a LOT of television, for me and possibly for anybody. I also watched a full movie – Arrival – but I had to look up some online reviews to fully work out what had happened in that one.

I do recall reading a famous American writer suggesting that the real opportunities to do something genuinely creative and exciting has shifted from film to television, and I’d say on the basis of what I watched, he’s right. I suppose when a streaming service reaches so many people and makes so much money, it can afford to take a punt on a movie or a series that’s a bit left-field, and to give the creative types some free rein to do their thing free from the shackles of having to generate a billion dollars at the Box Office. It’s like what happens when you turn a car designer loose with a blank sheet of paper and a brief to design a full-body, all-senses driving experience, rather than briefing him to come up with something the manufacturer can shift a couple of million of, at the lowest possible cost.

Madam Wheels is a car-lovers’ website, not a TV review publication, so I have checked in – briefly – with some car-themed shows I spotted (and I’ll have a deeper look in coming weeks to see if there are any unearthed gems out there). I think the best of the lot is the Seinfeld show. Short (20 minutes or so), with a different car in each episode. Seinfeld gives us a little rundown on its history and quirks, and we get to see him and a different comedian in each episode driving around looking for a coffee shop (or just pootling around the White House grounds with Obama).

I’m not a fan of Top Gear, mostly because of Clarkson, perhaps ironically (though I do like James May); and the shows that are essentially car restoration projects would be far more interesting if they weren’t just so American. On that note, I suggest you have a quick look at Project Binky on YouTube – and watch in amazement and awe as some sort of low-key English engineering genius with an unhealthy obsession with grinding drinks too much tea and attempts to transplant the engine, gearbox and suspension of a turbocharged Toyota Celica GT-Four into a Mini (a real mini, not the current abomination).

I have not yet got to the stage where, faced with the delicious prospect of a couple of hours with nothing better to do, I’ll flick on the TV instead of taking out one of the cars and doing the 26-km downhill run to the junction (and then back up the hill – a different challenge altogether). And I do believe it never will come to that. But now, when I look out the window and it’s simply too wet to be out … I wonder if Toast will ever actually come to blows with Clem Fandango?