Friday, 9 April 2010

Television - the drug of the nation*

Since returning from England on Tuesday evening, the television in our house has not been turned on. Not once. Not for a single news bulletin. Books have been read. Blogposts written. Conversations held with children. Drawings drawn. Tasty meals prepared. Bicycles ridden. But not a second of TV has been watched.

In stark contrast to our six days in England. We soaked it in. British television is so good in comparison to Polish TV (I explain why here); hours of excellent comedy and drama and of course BBC News (what could be more gripping than the Prime Minister setting off to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen for the Dissolution for Parliament?).

As I sat back enjoying post-Lenten beer and cheese while glued to the set at my brother's house, it occurs to me that I could comfortably watch two hours of TV a day when it is so compelling. But two hours a day... over twelve years... that's ONE WHOLE YEAR I'd have spent watching telly had we stayed in England! Let me run this past you again. We've lived in Poland for over 12 years. During that time I've watched hardly any television at all. Had we stayed in England over that same period, I'd have been watching quality drama, documentaries, news and comedy, lots of it and regularly. And why not? Polish TV is simply not good.

So is my life richer or poorer as a result? To borrow a quote from Sir Henry at Rawlinson End ("If I had all the money I'd spent on drink... I'd spend it on drink"), if I had all the time I'd spent laughing at TV comedy, I'd spend it on laughing at TV comedy. The rest, I think, I'm better off doing something more productive. Laughter is wonderful, one of the great reasons to be alive. Humour is an indicator trait of intelligence.

This was brought home to me at lunch today, with a fellow Anglo-Pole also living in Warsaw for many years... but one who benefits from the surreptitious use of a Sky satellite dish to receive a wide range of quality British viewing. His conversation was sprinkled with witticisms that I recognised from British TV comedy. Does regular exposure to witty programmes such as Have I Got News For You, Mock the Week and QI raise viewer's intelligence (he says returning to the theme of a recent post)?

Now - over the past 12 years - have I missed any truly funny Polish TV comedy? During the communist era, Polish political cabaret was not only funny - it was dangerous, intelligent and subversive. Since 1989, has Poland come up with any comedy worthy of the name?

Watch this. This is considered funny by Poles. It is depressing, pathetic, unfunny. It angers me. It pains me to hear my fellow countrymen laughing at this garbage.

* Title of this post - a reference to a song by the Disposable Heroes of Hiphopracy


Jeannie said...

One of my all-time favorites was the Fawlty Towers series.

student SGH said...

evening post -> morning comment

Can you explain to me one thing to me then? Once I heard the humour is strongly associated with your social position and what I heard the highbrow sense of humour is represented by Monty Python, lowbrow is attributed to Benny Hill and for the middlebrow stands Mr Bean. Benny Hill is quite obvious, as for Monty Python given who the founders of the group are and that you have to be intelligent to grasp it I also get it (Poles have a different sense of humour, alas). But Jaś Fasola, as it was translated into Polish. It doesn't hang together to me that British middle class can be embodied by dim-witted museum caretaker played by Rowan Atkinson...

The Polish television has one mission to complete - to go bust as soon as possible and leave the army of mediocre journalist out of work. Plus we should scrap the license fee possibly quickly. BBC proves the value of public media, Telewizja Polska and Polskie Radio disprove it.

Chińczyk - I generally don't get those jokes. The best days of Polish cabaret are gone, we won't see the performances such as Z tyłu sklepu by Kabaret Tey.

And TV. Since Plus minus is gone I turn my box on once a week, to see long-term weather forecasts. There are plenty of other nice activities.

Island1 said...

Ouch. I'm pretty sure a sketch like that could get you arrested in the UK.

Interestingly, I had to point out the stunningly obvious racism to Polish friends. If you don't live in a multi-cultural society these things are not so obvious, unless you're Vietnamese of course.

My wife tells me that good Polish comedy does exist, but it's not on TV.

Nepotistic link:

Szczurek said...

Gosh, am I the only regular reader of W-wa Jeziorki to find this sketch side-splitting funny?

Maybe it needs explaining to those who instinctively reach for adjectives like racist when trying to understand the behaviour of Poles.

You see - given the fierce competition in the gastronomic sector - customer service there is usually very high, and that offered by small family run businesses, like Chinese restaurants, is higher still.

Unfortunately, customer service at the appalling level portrayed in the sketch is an everyday experience for Poles dealing with the tax office, PKP, TPSA and, much as it distresses me to admit it, Tesco!

Anonymous said...

Could it be because you were raised on British TV, which has always had good comedy, news and drama with a heavy US accent since the 50s.

Therefore, your British raised expectations of what will be shown and what is good are different from Polish ones.

A number of Lithuanians, Russians and Poles I know complain about the lack of ¨nice films and concerts¨ on British TV, complaining about silly comedy shows (such as, er, Mock the Week, Have I Got News for you, QI etc,) and ¨old¨ films (what the British call ¨classics.¨)

Viewers raised on Soviet and Polish TV in the 60s, 70s and 80s like high quality films shown at prime time (not at 2 am as on British TV) and May Day/Victory Day/New Year concerts by the leading estrada artists. (CEE estrada is one popular music form that seems utterly foreign to British tastes.)

Polish viewers did not expect made for TV comedy or drama, because it was never on and they have not developed a taste for it.

Anonymous said...

I too wondered what happened to great Polish TV and film. There are so many talented and educated people there. Is it the funding? OR is the cause different? Does Democracy provide less of an incentive to poke fun at Communism or empty store shelves? I had TV Polonia twice and cancelled it twice, because of the programming. Though it did have some funny old films my uncle laughed at, like Jak Rozpetalem II wojne swiatowa. My favorite channel here and there is the weather channel of course. You have to know what to wear the next day or whether to vacation in Sopot or Zakopane. Seriously, I have no doubt that Polish TV and film will evolve over time and the way we look at television will change altogether. TV set as we know it today will disappear and so will printed material, to be replaced by Internet based TV and eBooks. In the meantime Michael, I would suggest get a satellite dish that can beam up some British programming to Jeziorki.