Next year, I am going to learn how to watch television and listen to the radio.
Or more specifically: next year, I am going to learn how to watch television and listen to the radio by myself.
Of course, I used to do nothing but this. My fond memories of watching TV when I was growing up aren’t as a family: it was my own shows, alone. My formative experiences with comedy, watching Fawlty Towers and Red Dwarf and Trev and Simon’s Stupid Video over and over and over again, were solitary experiences. There was nobody about in the middle of the night, where I sat watching Pets on 4Later. And those 10 minute Television X free-to-air promos… actually, let’s skip that one.
Still, over the years, things changed. I moved in with my girlfriend, and we started watching more TV together. And gradually, watching stuff by myself got less fun. If a show was really that great, I’d want to share it with her. Sure, I might enjoy a show by myself… but it was far more fun to watch it together, to laugh together, to stare in horror together, to talk about it afterwards together. And slowly, it became a habit… to the point where, without really even thinking about it that much, I barely watch anything by myself any more. It just doesn’t appeal to me at all.
Which is all kinds of wrong really, isn’t it? Of course watching programmes with someone is great and amazing. But for it to be the only way to enjoy things is ridiculous. Some of the deepest connections I’ve ever made with programmes in the past have been when watching them alone. But forgetting all of that, there’s simple practicality issues: I’m missing out on so many great programmes because of my insistence that we have to watch everything together. When there’s a Tony Hancock boxset on your shelf, and it’s going to take you five years to get round to it because there’s so much else to watch and so little time to watch it, there’s a problem.
My brain is wired up all wrong. Time to get it fixed.
Radio comedy is the biggest casualty of the above. I never want to listen to it by myself, but it’s always more natural to want to watch television when you’re sitting on the sofa with someone. So to start with, next year I’m going to load up my phone with the very best of radio comedy – On The Hour seems as good a place to start as any – and start listening.1
It’s going to feel weird. It’s going to feel wrong. And with every single funny joke, I’ll feel a pang of sadness that I can’t turn and share it with someone. But I’m just going to have to force my way through it.
Time to rediscover the joys of connecting with programmes alone. I’ll never get through all the shit I want to experience before I snuff it otherwise. If I don’t, a deathbed regret that I never listened to all of Radio Active seems a very real possibility.
For those curious, I asked my Twitter followers what radio or podcast comedy I should be listening to – with the caveat that On The Hour and Knowing Me Knowing You were a given. The answers I got, in strictly alphabetical order, were: Adam and Joe, Armando Iannucci’s Charm Offensive, Armando Iannucci (Radio 1 show), Banter, The Barry & Angelos Show, The Burkiss Way, Cabin Pressure, Count Arthur Strong, Do The Right Thing, Down The Line, Fags, Mags and Bags, Fist of Fun, The Goon Show, The Grumbleweeds Radio Show, Hancock’s Half Hour, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme, Kevin Eldon Will See You Now, King Stupid/The 99p Challenge, Lionel Nimrod’s Inexplicable World, The Mary Whitehouse Experience, The Men from the Ministry, The News Huddlines, Old Harry’s Game, Pappy’s Bangers & Mash, Pappy’s Flatshare Slamdown, Party, Radio Active, Saturday Night Fry, That Mitchell and Webb Sound, That Was Then, This Is Now, The Shuttleworths, Speakers, The Unbelievable Truth, Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully, Why Bother?, and You’ll Have Had Your Tea.
I was specifically warned against ever listening to The Castle. ↩