We are all, to a greater or lesser degree, creatures of habit. For you, for instance, Monday night tea is steak pie, mash, gravy and mushy peas. This is your customary Monday dish, it’s a comfort and a happy trig point at the start of the working week.
But imagine if a total stranger breezed into your house, switched off your oven and insisted that tonight, Monday, we’ll all be having spaghetti alle vongole and if you don’t like it you can lump it, because that’s what’s been decided by people you’ve never met.
What’s more this outrageous menu change isn’t just for tonight, it’s for ever. It’s steak pie on Fridays now! You’d quite rightly be cross at such peremptory high-handedness.
Spread this imaginary scenario to television and it’s infuriating. Someone has decided that Only Connect, my favourite television quiz show, should be uprooted from Monday nights, where it’s happily sat with its best friend University Challenge for three years, to Friday nights.
It seems someone has decided that OC is a better fit with QI and the two should now sit together like kids at junior school.
No, no, no, no. Only Connect belongs on Mondays, because Monday is quiz night. We watch University Challenge, where we are intellectually kicked repeatedly in the shins, then we watch Only Connect, where our brains are pummelled but in a nice way and with cake afterwards.
We’ve all been very happy with this arrangement since OC moved from BBC4 to BBC2 in 2014, that’s how we like it.
We are the OC gang led by our beloved Victoria Coren Mitchell and we are significant, as the show easily gets well over two million viewers most weeks.
Only Connect doesn’t belong on Fridays. On Monday we need our quizzes because we need a bit of a clip round the ear to shake off our start-of-the-week sluggishness. Fridays are feet-up wine box open (yes, I know how to live), a microwave curry and Have I Got News for You or some such daft panel game.
But Only Connect isn’t a daft panel game, it’s fun and happy but you have to think, hard. Once, just once, in all of the years I’ve been watching, have I actually secured a full five points answering a question. I know that it will never happen again. OC doesn’t fit on Fridays, it’s for giving our minds an electric shock at the start of the week, it wakes us up. We want to wind down on Fridays, not wind up. But some total stranger who isn’t part of the OC gang has decided that, no, it’s a better partner to QI than it is to University Challenge. Wrong, just plain wrong.
QI is a comedy panel show, OC is a quiz show featuring real people showing us their brains, not celebs trying to be funny. Did this person think that we in the OC gang are so nerdy to the point where we never leave our bedrooms or need help putting on our gloves that we wouldn’t notice the shift?
I thought it was moved just for Christmas but no, it’s been moved for life.
The wider point here is – why annoy viewers like this? It’s perverse. I’m sure someone will pop up to argue that thanks to leaps in technology we can record it on Fridays and still watch at 8.30pm on Mondays if we wish. But this misses the point. Old-fashioned scheduled television still needs its communities or it will die out and viewers of well-watched niche shows will lose their happy sense of togetherness.
In an increasingly diffuse and distracted world, that would be a big, big shame.