There was a time, not so long ago, when it seemed as if the whole of television went off on one big summer holiday. Come mid-July, it felt as if producers, directors and schedulers switched off their computers and headed as one big mass of corporate jollity to go hang-gliding in the Dordogne or whitewater rafting in Colorado.
I’d imagine them leaving the office keys and a great big pile of dusty DVDs with the caretaker, accompanied with instructions to play endless repeats of Inspector Morse, New Tricks and Only Fools and Horses for the mugs who stayed at home. After all, we’d never know the difference, would we, the sad sacks who chose not to join the sunshine-chasing throng crowding onto low-cost airlines.
Only the truly tragic wanted to watch new TV shows in the summer, and as everyone else was away on holiday, what was the point of wasting good new programmes on these lost causes? And even if they holidayed in the UK, well surely everyone was packed into cliff-top caravans in Bridlington with non-functioning TV aerials and only the sound of the puffins for company?
Ah, my friends, how times have changed. The Great British Bake Off makes a very specific point of launching at the height of the summer (it’s second episode is on tonight, BBC2) and, not only that, stay-at-homes have been paddling in the deep waters of some very good dramas as the heat throbs in the air. This is a particular delight as there was for so long the unspoken, unacknowledged fact that any new drama screened in summer would be rubbish, shoved out at a time when hardly anyone would see it.
But Top Boy started last week on C4, and The Mill and the superb Southcliffe finished recently, having played to respectable audiences on Sunday nights on C4 at the height of the heat wave. This week the much-liked detective drama Vera started a new run on ITV, while, on the same night, BBC1 launched Tony Basgallop’s melancholy, sinuous crime drama, What Remains, about the death of a young woman whose body lies undiscovered in an attic for more than two years. This is brave scheduling, as What Remains doesn’t exactly scream post-beer-soaked-bank-holiday-Sunday-barbecue wind-down watching.
I suppose this has much to do with changes in our viewing habits – we can record and store good things even while we are bobbing about on Lilos in Gran Canaria, secure in the knowledge we aren’t missing a minute of New Tricks.
And for people who holiday at home, they can be fairly sure that their dinky rented holiday cottage will at the very least have Freeview and possibly even a DVD player, so you can take your box sets and spend a week catching up with Game of Thrones in-between staring out of the rain-spattered windows. Even caravans have moved with the times and have Sky packages.
And maybe, just maybe, not everyone goes on holiday in the summer. Maybe some like the quiet of a city emptied (well, almost) of other people as they relish a night in with Mel, Sue, Paul and Mary and a perfect Victoria sponge.