Review of 2009: Or: Someone Say Hello To Quincy Jones For Me and the death of reality

2009 has been one of the weirdest years of television I can remember… although, that said, that may well be something to do with the fact that every year before it has merged into one long super-year, full of amazing and equally awful TV.

But yeah, this year… the year that is waving goodbye to the Noughties in favour of a decade we seemingly haven’t got ’round to naming yet… was particularly strange. There’s been some really good shows that have cropped up, with praise due for Maxine Peake in the astonishingly good (and grim) Criminal Justice.

A pat on the back also needs to go to True Blood. Despite being one of the trashiest things I’ve seen in years, there’s something quite pleasing about a glossy American show bursting onto our screens with bloody fangs and a great big hard-on.

However, show of the year might just have to go to the brilliantly creepy Psychoville. Despite leaving me wanting on the final episode, there was a lot to love about the slasher-comedy. From the twisted mindwrongs of the folks who brought us The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville showed that TV still has the ability to throw out something from leftfield that’s inventive, fun, intelligent and thoughtful. It was pretty funny too. The Black Lace ‘Superman’ scene became an immediate classic in my brain.

Even though it wasn’t a TV show, more of a TV spectacle, the US presidential race drew to a close and in January, we got to see the unthinkable: A black man being sworn in as President of the United States of America. Regardless of whether you agree with his politics or even like the bloke, it is a pivotal moment in history that was captured by our television sets… for which we should be eternally grateful.

However, Obama wasn’t the only black American filling up our screens this year. The death of Michael Jackson was television at its most weird. Jackson’s death was surprising enough in itself, and the endless spools of news coverage of each non-event that surrounded was enough to make an entire nation of telly watchers feel drunk. That was nothing compared to the dizzying spectacle of Jackson’s funeral itself, which allowed the whole world to feel simultaneously sad, amused and angry. Of course, this paved way for the subsequent seance with Derek Acorah (“Say hi to Quincy Jones for me!”) and dancing tribute show.

Stranger still was the horrendous TV event of Jade Goody‘s broadcasted funeral and filming of every single dying breath she took. The cameras whirred and cynics like me couldn’t help but imagine this poor girl being instructed to look ‘more ill’ by directors as she squeezed out the last of her days on this earth. Forget all the dodgy stuff she’s done in the past for a moment and you’ve got television so uncomfortable that it almost makes you want to throw away your TV set forever.

Elsewhere, reality TV stepped into the surreal, with the rise and fall and seconding coming of Susan Boyle. Her turn on Britain’s Got Talent saw people sniggering at a woman for looking a bit old fashioned before they erupted into shocked and embarrassed applause when it turned out she was alright at singing. If people loved Boyle for her voice, there’s no explaining their love for John and Edward on The X Factor. Jedward bounced into our lives and made one segment of the nation feel iller than they had ever illed before, with the other clapping wildly, confused and creating new emotions to deal with the weird dancing drug nightmare that appeared on our screens weekly.

Meanwhile, the reality old guard looked to die a death. Big Brother limped to a near halt and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! revived painful memories through niche porn via Jordan. The show made sales of wire wool shoot through the roof as viewers tried to get the dirty feeling from under their skin after each transmission.

2009 also taught us that if you’re an older woman on a decent wage, you’re doomed, with the ageism row kicking up at Strictly Come Dancing and Countdown. With perfect comic timing, we also got to see the idiocy of youth with the astoundingly bad Live From Studio Five, the infamous Super Super shorts on Channel 4 (click here if you missed those) and the mystifying Pants Off Dance Off which saw members of the public, some with disabilities, awkwardly stripping to pop hits until they nearly showed their genitals to the braying mob at home.

The close of the Noughties also saw the inevitable death of Teletext, killed by the superior wastelands of internet. However, as one technological thingummyjig shuffled off to the reel skip in the sky, we also got a chance to play with 3DTV. Far from a rousing success, it was a dose of stupid fun that we needed in the middle of some seriously disturbing programmes.

First of all we had the BNP on Question Time which saw every man and his dog yelling abuse at the BBC for allowing such a complete mong to appear on a political show. Mercifully, Nick Griffin lived up to the hype making himself look like a complete and utter simpleton in front of millions of viewers.

As strange (and kinda thrilling) as that was, it had nothing on the weirds of The Execution of Gary Glitter which has already gone down as one of the wrongest programmes ever to air on television. This show looked like a documentary from the future, where Glitter had been put to death by rope with talking heads like Garry Bushell cheering along and throwing popcorn at the corpse. Still, at least we had Ghost Hunting With The Happy Mondays to distract us.

The last big TV event of 2009 (not including the imminent Doctor Who shows) was down to The X Factor. TV spilled out and onto the streets as the race for the Christmas Number One took a surprising turn.

Joe McElderry, drippy X Factor victor, released ‘The Climb’, which was kept off the top spot by sweary sixth form politicians Rage Against The Machine, as sections of Britain flexed their muscle to tell everyone just how much they didn’t like Simon Cowell having another chart topper through Yule.

Overall, the feeling of TV in 2009 has been one of death. Formats are being put to sleep in front of our eyes with reality shows coming off the worst and, of course, the pile of celebrity cadavers is close to toppling over on to us. Here’s hoping that 2010 is just a weird… just a little less voyeuristic (but not too much, or we’ll have nothing to harpoon).

About the author

I'm Mof Gimmers.

I've been writing about TV for a long time. I love it and loathe it in equal measures. I'm pretty sure the TV feels the same away about me too.
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