Saturday-night television is like a long walk past a dispiriting row of shops. There’s the fried chicken place, the pavement outside littered with dumped and indestructible yellow containers. The cheap jewellers’ with the tatty earrings that make your lobes itch. The launderette where the customers gaze at their washing, wrapped in lonely misery. The rubbish newsagent that refuses to stock stamps. Dreary, dreary, dreary. There’s nothing there for me.
Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway… The Cube… The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins… and now the return of The Voice to BBC1. For me, Saturdays are a write-off, a vast empty desert of glitter. Not that I begrudge anyone these shows, but do they all have to be clustered on one night like a necklace of cubic zirconia?
Anyone who likes a bit of grit in their TV oyster is exiled on Saturdays, either to catch-up or DVD box sets. And before you say, “Why are you at home on a Saturday night?” I will say, “Mind your own business,” followed by, “We’re not all out cage-dancing or at the cinema watching subtitled films about the perils of yak-farming in Kurdistan.” Why shouldn’t people like me want to watch a bit of exercising telly on a Saturday night?
Don’t tell me, “But Doctor Who is back this week.” I know, but that’s an early-evening family drama. I’m talking about grown-up time from 8pm when we’ve had our dinner, we’re full of trifle and that very good grenache from the off-licence and we want to get into something that might be rewarding, rather than skimming a carpet of sequins. Or dear old Casualty. Why is it still berthed on Saturday nights? Move it to Tuesdays so Holby City can be dumped. No one needs two separate dramas set in the same hospital week after week. Free up Saturday-night BBC1 drama hour for something that’s not creaking with age and is just a tiny bit challenging.
I know I’m not alone in wanting Saturday-night telly to offer me more than a shiny floor or a tedious hospital melodrama. A recent repeated episode of Foyle’s War that went out on ITV3 at 9pm on a Saturday won an audience of 1.7 million. That’s twice as many viewers as the Doctor Who repeat on BBC3 and is an excellent figure for a digital channel. In fact ITV3 is proving a life-saver for Saturday-night refugees from the main channels, what with its line-up of Poirot and Lewis repeats. So we’ve seen them all before..? So what. We are DESPERATE. Look, too, at those BBC2 Dad’s Army repeats, episodes we all know by heart. Nearly two million each!
I’m sure one of the key reasons for the success of all of those Scandi dramas on BBC4 was their double-dose scheduling on a TV night that has habitually neglected anyone who wouldn’t know Jessie J if she tap-danced on their windpipe. Two hours of The Killing or The Bridge or Borgen from 9pm were events, something to look forward to, to tickle the brain and fire up the synapses. Now they’ve gone and Saturday nights are wastelands once more.