Lists of Fury

“Don’t want to be a puppet or a ventriloquist
‘Cause there’s no ventilation on a critical list”
– Elvis Costello: ‘Strict Time’

As I write this, there’s a programme on TV called The 50 Greatest Documentaries. It follows the traditional, time-honoured format of these crappy list shows in that it seems to take up a ninety-seven hour slab of prime-time TV scheduling

[I’m nocturnal: midnight is prime-time for me]. To be fair, it’s on More4 – the UK home to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, The West Wing & Father Ted – so it’s not as bad as it could be. For one thing, it’s only a Top 50. By definition, it is exactly 50% leaner than the majority of the programmes that make up this vile and pernicious cheapskate genre. Plus, it features insightful commentary from the likes of Nick Broomfield, Michael Apted and Morgan Spurlock, which makes a pleasant change from the usual cavalcade of goddamn witless pundits whose sole claim to fame seems to be the fact that they’re goddamn witless pundits.

[In case you’re curious, pop-pickers, Around the World in 80 Days was at 27, Fourteen Days in May was at 15 and One Day in September was at 14. This seems to prove that the prominent and gratuitous use of the number ‘One’ in a documentary title does not automatically guarantee chart-topping status. Nice try, though.]

In any case, I switch channels and find that More4’s somewhat less-dignified sister digital channel E4 [aka, ‘The Big Brother Channel’, or ‘The One Where Friends Seems To Be On All The Bloody Time’] is showing The 100 Greatest TV Moments From Hell. Now this is more like it. An endless array of mind-numbing clips interspersed with vacuous soundbites from that thriving repertory company of interchangeable pundits like Gail Porter, Start Maconie, Kate Thornton and Gary F*****g Bushell.

I didn’t mind these shows so much at first, but that’s probably because I didn’t watch them. Things like ‘The Top 100 Movies’ or ‘The Top 100 Albums’ have their place in the grand scheme of things and I’m sure they’re fairly watchable in a Bank Holiday viewing sort of way. I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to entertainment options, the oversaturated first decade of the twenty-first Century can be a confusing place to be. There may be people out there who need guidance and structure. There may be people who need lists. But now the situation seems to be out of control. The Top 100 British TV Shows, The Top 100 Commercials, The Top 100 Cartoons, The Top 100 Stand-Up Comedians, The Top 100 Boy Bands… the list is endless, but that doesn’t seem to stop it from growing. It’s only a matter of time before we’re treated to The Top 100 Hermaphrodite Amputee Volleyball Champions.

Or, better yet: The Top 100 Numbers. “At number 23 – holding steady for its second consecutive year – is the number 23.”

I’d like to hear Stuart Maconie pontificate about that.