The other day, a television weather man told me to “Take care”. If he had actually been in the room with me at the time, and if I was, say, juggling chainsaws or seeing how long I could hold my hand over a naked flame, fair enough, I should indeed “take care”.
But of course I was doing neither. Not that night, anyway. And he wasn’t in the room with me. He was in a television studio and he had just told me about the weather. Which of course is why I, and no doubt you, watch weather forecasts. We want to be told about the weather. I don’t watch weather forecasts because I want the weather presenter to be my friend. And don’t expect him or her to be solicitous about my wellbeing.
Similarly, when a weather man or woman smiles brightly at the end of a forecast and tells me, “See you later” (they do this a lot), I have to insist that, no, you won’t “see me later” because, apart from the fact that you can’t actually see me (dear God, I hope not, you can’t really can you?), we are not friends. You will not “See me later” because I am not going to meet you for a drink and a chat; we’re not going on holiday together. You are a weather person and I am a viewer. It’s how life should be. We all know our place.
But I fear that any campaign against the enforced mateyness of television presenters is doomed to fail, because everyone is at it. I know I am not the demographic for the worst offender, BBC3, which doesn’t want Jurassic-period viewers like me for whom The Flintstones was actually a fly-on-the-wall documentary series.
Still, I am there most nights for Family Guy, so if I tune in even a bit early I feel like I’ve turned up at a nightclub wearing a Crimplene dress and a Donny Osmond cap.
Who are these people talking to, I wonder, as the announcers/presentation people/call them what you like chortle, make lame jokes (boys and girls, leave the gags to Seth Macfarlane, please), tell me what’s in the episodes before allowing me into what’s always called “your Family Guy double”. Double what? And it’s MINE? Really? Can I keep it? Like I can keep what you always call the entertainment bulletin “your nightly showbiz news”? Don’t even Young People find this battering ram of fake chumminess annoying?
There was a time when people like me, who abhor any kind of over-familiarity from strangers (call centre people, don’t call me Alison, call me Madam please) could seek refuge in the dignified impersonality of BBC1 and BBC2. Nope, now everyone there’s got all chatty, too, all bright and breezy, like a stranger at a bus stop who wants to talk to you about her awful boyfriend.
Oh, how I yearn for the olden days I have heard so much about, when BBC announcers wore evening dress behind the microphone and talked with accents that could chop bricks, when respect for an audience dripped like lemon drizzle from a sponge cake.
So you can keep your breezy familiarity because from now I’m going to mute the lot of you, so I won’t be seeing you later. Take care!
This is an edited version of Alison Graham’s column in Radio Times magazine, published 29 February