‘Crying on TV has broken out of its talent show confines’

Can everyone on TV please dry their eyes, pleads Radio Times TV editor Alison Graham

Shirley Ballas crying (BBC)

I like Bank Holiday Mondays, those welcome blips in the calendar that scream: “I’m a free day, waste me! Go on, no one will judge you if you sit in your dressing gown until 2pm eating croissants. You’re at work again tomorrow, when once more you will be a productive and useful member of society, when people will stop you in the office kitchen to talk about Bodyguard – and there will be carrot cake because it’s always someone’s birthday at Radio Times.”

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So Bank Holiday Mondays tend to be squandered on daytime television, and I don’t feel I must face any kind of judgement as I pick my way through the daffodils of Homes under the Hammer, Wanted Down Under and Escape to the Country (of course, without Escape to the Country my life would be a long bleak avenue of existential despair). And, a new one for me, BBC1’s Murder, Mystery and My Family.

Well it’s got “murder” in the title, and “mystery”, so clearly it’s right up my bloodstained boulevard. I enjoyed it, too. It’s a clever idea where two barristers re-examine evidence in old murder cases where the guilty were hanged but where modern-day family members feel there has been a miscarriage of justice. Then a judge reviews the case and decides whether the conviction is unsafe.

I’m not sure what happens after that. But anyway, it’s a hit and will return next year with a new series.

Watching this random episode, though, instantly, I knew, I just knew, as I looked straight at the family member, and said, “That lady is going to cry, as people always do on television when they unearth a long-dead distant family member’s sad story.”

Sure enough, she did cry, quite a lot, about a relative she had never met (the convicted woman was executed for killing her husband in the 1920s). Here we go again. The tears, the ascribing of motives and actions that no one can possibly know because it all happened nearly a century ago. The standing at the grave, weeping, with the words “It’s been a journey, I feel like I know you now.”

OK, the only journey anyone undertakes is by bus, train, car or bike. And no one knows anyone they have never met. But I can’t blame this participant for having a sniffle. After all, everyone is doing it. One day soon, Huw Edwards, or more likely the ridiculously self-dramatising Tom Bradby on ITV News, will wave their hands in front of their faces in that little “I’m going to cry now” pantomime gesture as they sob about Something Sad.

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Crying has broken out of its talent-show confines. They’ve always done it on The X Factor, they do it on MasterChef, and they do it on Great British Menu. Really, so your scallops look a bit wan? Your squid ink pasta isn’t very inky or squid-y? Stop blubbing and get over yourself. It’s dinner. It’s not like you’ve tried to split the atom only for the atom to roll off the counter top and get stuck under the fridge. Everyone, everywhere on television, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: please dry your flipping eyes before we’re all washed away on a great tide of tears.


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