Watch Shite on TV
Stuck at home in lockdown? You've no excuse. Watch some shite.
Photo by Stephen Monterroso on Unsplash
Depending on your employment status, lockdown means that a major chunk of us are stuck indoors right now. The telly has never seemed more like our friend. Thank the maker for streaming services is all I can say.
It's been an opportunity for many of us to binge on all the great TV that we didn't get round to seeing when it was first on the box. Mad Men was the first of these for me (yeah, yeah, better late than never). As I write this, it's The Handmaid's Tale - a perfect antidote to the dystopian times we're living in, right?
These shows are pure quality. Not to mention the others I've worked through recently, like Succession, Better Call Saul, The Mandalorian, Sex Education...I could go on.
As a scriptwriter (one of the hats I wear) watching and analysing these incredible shows is like having your own nutritionist when you're trying to get in shape for some sporting event or other. You're learning from the best in the business. The invention, the craft, the sheer bloody ingenuity of the writers as they paint their characters into a corner, then find a way to get them out of it. It feeds and nourishes your own imagination.
But that's not what I'm advocating here folks.
I'm saying, watch some shite instead.
Now let's be clear (caveat, caveat, caveat) what I'm about to talk about is not really shite at all. I personally love this stuff.
When I'm talking 'shite' ("when aren't you?" har har) I'm talking about TV that you wouldn't immediately associate with being a benefit to your brain. Not the news. Not a documentary. Not a classic film or TV show.
I'm talking Car SOS. Say Yes! To The Dress. Next Top Model (all versions). Homes Under The Hammer. Don't Tell The Bride. And yes, Grand Designs.
In other words formulaic, 'fact-ent' (factual entertainment) programmes. Which are not shite in the true sense of the word (in case anyone tries to sue me).
This is the realm that's often called 'chewing gum for the eyes'. But I personally regard these shows as like your favourite blanket, or a toy you had as a kid. You know what it feels like. There's nothing surprising, But that's okay - it's just pleasing, with no unexpected emotions.
So how is your creativity helped by watching a load of shite (not)?
Well, think about how children sleep better with a bedtime story. Their brains are relaxed. But this has still come from nurturing their imagination, without them really thinking about it.
The same applies to adults. There's a story weaved through all fact-ent TV shows. A beginning, middle and end. Conflicts and challenges to be overcome. Everything going oh-so-nearly wrong. Then victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.
Maybe it can all be dismissed as non-challenging storytelling. But it can work wonders to put our minds back in order so we can think more clearly.
Not least because there's something about the familiar structure of these shows that gives the mind a break. You don't have to get hung up on the narrative or try to second-guess how the story setups will be paid off later. Once you've met the 'characters' you pretty much know how this is all going to end. You know where the plot twists are coming because you've seen them so many times before.
There's nothing wrong with that either. It's comforting, familiar and for that reason, utterly watchable.
And while you're watching this stuff, your unconscious mind could well be going to work on a creative problem that demands a solution.
In truth, all this stuff is purely anecdotal to be fair. It's simply derived from my own personal experience and what works for me. In an ideal world, I'd like to quote you some scientific studies that back up what I'm saying here.
But I can't be arsed - Homes Under The Hammer is on in a minute.