Thought Leadership

A choice of viewing

By Colin Walls

I am not a fan of TV and, for a good many years, have watched very little. I appreciate that this makes me rather odd, but I really do have better things to do most of the time. Partly this is due to the content. I am not interested in sport, so that eliminates one reason to watch. News etc. is delivered at such a glacially slow pace that they get about 2 minutes of information conveyed in an hour. Other current affairs and documentaries are often little better. Comedy seems to have gone off in recent years; although I like QI, for example, I do not think there is nothing much to match the overall entertainment provided by some of the classics of the past [M.A.S.H. for example]. Soaps, game shows and most “reality TV” is a complete waste of bandwidth. Drama can be good; I have enjoyed The Bridge for example, and I think the latest Star Trek franchise goes from strength to strength. So it is not all bad, but I still cannot see a reason to devote more than a couple of hours per week at most to viewing.

But maybe things are changing …

Historically, I was always frustrated by the “tethering” effect of TV. To see a show, you needed to be sitting in front of the TV, uninterrupted, for its entire duration at a specific date and time. Non-compliance meant that you missed the show. The advent of VCRs and then hard disk recorders changed all that. I am not sure that I can remember when I last watched TV “live”. Choosing when to watch and being able to pause at will changed the whole viewing experience. Now we have “catch up” and various other on-demand viewing services and things get even better.

I have always appreciated the fact that, with a book, if someone recommends a particular volume and you enjoy it, there may be the opportunity to find more in the same series and/or other work by the same author. On-demand TV does the same thing. Someone tells you about a show and you can go home and watch it when you want. If you like it, you can see the whole season and maybe past ones as well. This is a much richer experience.

So, my [TV] life has changed. When I do watch TV [which is still quite infrequently], I always turn to Netflix or BBC iPlayer. If I find myself at a loose end in the evening and one of my hobbies is not calling me, I may settle down for an episode or two of Star Trek Discovery [or, maybe, Enterprise, which is also very good]. I might also follow up on recommendations for shows that friends have suggested, which can lead me in surprising directions.

A recent recommendation sounded very unlikely: Queer Eye. The idea of the show is simple enough: a team of five, [very] openly-gay guys travel around the US to visit people, who have been nominated by friends/family, and give them a complete life make-over. This process encompasses their home, their wardrobe, their diet, their personal appearance [hair etc.] and their emotional/psychological wellbeing. This sounds very full-on and in-your-face – frankly very American – and it is, but maybe that is the only way for it to work. The show is delivered at an exhaustingly fast pace, but with an amazing level of sensitivity, which has a very genuine feel to it. I guess it is the very open approach of the presenters, who allow their emotions to show very readily [one of the attractive features of many gay guys], that allows the show to work so well. I find myself easily wrapped up in the events of the show and can find it quite emotional. This is all rather surprising! I am also amused by the name of the show; the word “queer” has gradually evolved and morphed through my life to have a variety of meanings.

Maybe TV is not so bad after all …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at