Growing up in the 1970s I watched as much TV as humanly possible. When we had important visitors to the house my mum would merely turn down the volume, and by the time we went to bed you could have fried an egg on the screen.
Now that I am a middle-aged, middle-class professional the only thing that has changed is I watch even more of it. I have a TV in my bedroom, in the kitchen, lounge, and access to it on my phone, iPad and laptop. But all my adult life, since I began mixing with educated, privileged people, I have been plagued by TV snobs.
You know the type: if you admit to watching Coronation Street, or Eastenders, you are treated as though you walked straight off Jeremy Kyle. But The Archers – because it’s on Radio 4 and about rural characters rather than chav townies – is perfectly acceptable. TV snobs hate the telly because the relentless, unconditional consumption of it is carried out by those of us born on the wrong side of the tracks, and because it gives us a voice. Working-class people get on all the quiz shows such as the marvellous Cash in the Attic, and can even become stars after a stint on Big Brother or Geordie Shore. Gone are the days when the only folk seen on telly were posh and white.
If I am raving about the latest episode of something, the TV snob will not merely tell me that they’ve not seen it, but will also announce that they do not have a TV, unable to hide their proud, superior smugness at divulging this information.
‘I don’t have the time’ and ‘It’s a waste of my time – I can do other things while listening to the radio’ are two of the most common responses. But what the TV snob means is that they are busier and more important and cultured than me. Ironically there’s plenty on telly for TV snobs these days. Whole channels are devoted to art, opera and gardening.
The TV snob will have a telly somewhere in their Farrow and Ball painted house, but it will be an old portable, hidden away like a lecherous uncle at a family party, with a vase of rough cut roses perched on top. They don’t mind watching something educational, such as a documentary about the Rwandan conflict with Arabic sub-titles, but will switch off before they are sullied with the theme tune to Man v. Food. They will, however, happily listen to that puerile shite while a load of posh twats whinge on about stupid things on Radio 4.
On the occasion when TV snobs stay at my home and something such as a rerun of Gavin and Stacey comes on, they will perch their hessian mules on the coffee table and affect the look of a skinny woman in a restaurant who has just decided to have the ‘death by chocolate’ pudding. It is a guilty pleasure for them. Reading a book is, of course, a far better use of their time.
I may never be able to explain to the TV snob my excitement at the episode of Footballers’ Wives where Chardonnay set fire to her synthetic Bristols, but if they’re happy to sit reading Proust while the dulcet tones of an over-educated radio presenter pollutes the room, then let them stew in their own elitist juice.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.