Written by Dotty Winters


Morality tales

Everyone’s favourite time-travelling adulterer is coming back. Naturally it’s got Dotty Winters wondering about the dubious lessons to be gleaned from some of our best-loved telly shows.

It was acceptable in the 40s: time-travel philandering sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart is back. Photo: BBC.

It was acceptable in the 40s: time-travel philandering sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart. Photo: BBC.

Apparently 90s sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart is coming back. Nicholas Lyndhurst is set to reprise his role as Gary Sparrow, flitting between the Second World War and the modern day, and trying to navigate his complex love life.

Press coverage suggests this is a mild and much-loved story, which has always confused me. The plot seems to be founded on the principle that it is perfectly acceptable to pump another woman, as long as you travel back in time first.

I’ll admit that, given the vagaries of time travel, I’m not entirely clear which woman Gary is cheating on, but he is definitely shagging around, and in my book, that’s not very charming, even if you do it in a natty trilby.

Taken to its natural conclusion, the time-difference defence would suggest that you can bump uglies with whoever you want whenever it is British Summer Time and that doesn’t seem like it would work out well for us all.

The plot of the latest incarnation of the series hasn’t been revealed yet, but I’m relatively confident it will contain a storyline where Nicholas Lyndhurst wipes out all post-war civilisation through a fancy-pants modern antibiotic-resistant STI, and deceit.

“Episode after episode of My Family, the dysfunctional and needy parents reacted with total surprise at the realisation that they’d produced dysfunctional and entitled offspring.”

However, if you look closely enough it turns out that lots of our much-loved telly classics are founded on some pretty shaky life lessons.

I used to have a family member who whenever they would come and stay would move one of the rugs in my house so it was at an angle to the wall. Every time they stayed we’d be engaged in the world’s most passive-aggressive rug-off. I’d leave the room, she’d move the rug, I’d return, put it back, eventually I’d need a wee… And so on. It was completely infuriating. Surely I can expect to make basic rug-based decisions in my own bloody house.

Imagine this battle, but magnified by eleventy-million and you have Changing Rooms. A programme where your frenemies get to announce on national telly: “See your home? I don’t like what you’ve done with the place.” Yes, you get a free fridge-freezer, but you won’t be able to see it past the bodged paint job and three acres of orange decking.

If I left my house for the day and came back to find someone had thrown all my furniture in a skip and rag-rolled my walls I would lose my shit and phone the police. Trust me, if I’d wanted rustic grapes stencilled onto my MFI kitchen units I would have done it by now. I am genuinely perplexed as to why this show didn’t regularly end up with someone screaming at their family through frustrated sobs before sliding into medical shock.

When telly isn’t making us feel ashamed of our homes or gardens it is focusing on our bodies. I feel I’ve been so thoroughly reprogrammed by telly-fashion that I can’t even see a wrap dress without reflexively imagining the imperfections and problem areas it has presumably been purchased to hide.

Photo: BBC.

Photo: BBC.

When Trinny and Susannah critiqued people to tears in their mirrored wardrobe I thought we’d reached new lows, until Hole in the Wall came along. This blessedly short-lived gameshow featured tinfoil-wrapped celebrities contorting themselves into weird shapes in order to fit through a shape cut in an ominously advancing wall.

In a stunningly innovative move a show was created which took ALL the fat-shaming and sprinkled it with a massive dose of tall-shaming and not-being-bendy-enough shaming, with added Lycra.

The game effectively sorted the worthy from the unworthy based on size and height, like the human equivalent of the which-stamp-do-you-need-gauge at the post-office counter. “I’m sorry former-boy-band member, I’m afraid I’m going to have to put that down as a small package.”

Sometimes the terrible lesson we learn from a television programme is simply that it’s OK not to have to recognise the consequences of your own actions. That’s the lasting impression left by My Family, a sitcom populated by incredibly attractive irritants.

Episode after episode, the dysfunctional and needy parents reacted with total surprise at the realisation that they’d produced dysfunctional and entitled offspring. As if by magic.

It’s easy to criticise telly for its obsession with the body beautiful and youth, so when we get the chance to watch dramas with a more diverse cast it should be good news. Unless it is Last of the Summer Wine, a series which taught us that there are five main types of punchlines:

• Being old
• Being poor
• Being northern
• Being the Wrong-Sort-Of-Woman
• Falling over

There now, doesn’t that bring out the warm fuzzies in us all?

Well, maybe there's a lesson about perseverence in there instead. Photo: BBC.

Well, maybe there’s a lesson about perseverance in there instead. Photo: BBC.

And while we are talking of women, I imagine the concept meeting for Mrs Brown’s Boys went something like this:

“You know what isn’t funny?”
“Right, but how could we make them funny?”
“We could get a man to do it?”

In case you’ve missed this, the lesson here is that it’s fine to laugh at women, as long as you mainly pay men to act them. Just like Shakespeare and twice as classy.

I’m off to watch Orange is the New Black; at least that is totally morally unambiguous.


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Written by Dotty Winters

Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.