It’s Sunday evening. You’ve got work in the morning, and therefore you have the fear. A giant, all-encompassing fear. The FEAR. Here it comes. AARRGGHH. “Hello, Sailor,” it purrs. Right before it drops its trousers…
Yup; you need something comforting. A sedative. Something to cloak the fact that you have but a short time on earth, and you’re spending it as a meaningless husk with no genuine friends, a faulty carburettor, and a 9am meeting with that waffling cockmuffin from Accounts to look forward to.
Thankfully the BBC knows this, and as a result have been filling their Sunday night schedules with soothing, untaxing wibble for decades. Programmes such as Sing for Your Jesus (sorry: Songs of Praise), Old People and their Tat (working title: Antiques Roadshow) and that show where some old codgers from Yorkshire skid down a hill in a bathtub for all eternity.
Countryfile slots neatly into this cavalcade of TV gruel (as a bonus, it also gives the BBC something to do with all those former Blue Peter presenters clogging up the cellars of Broadcasting House). Each week, some nice (i.e. excruciatingly bland) ex-Blue Peter type travels to an idealised, CGI landscape, where they slowly ramble in a cagoule, then interrupt local people performing pointless, menial tasks, such as looking at sheep, patting a combine harvester, or extolling the virtues of Brexit.
You can tell it’s CGI because they go to places with silly, made-up names such as ‘Worcestershire’ or the ‘Yorkshire Dales’, whilst it’s obviously not the real countryside because there’s no soiled mattresses or assorted builder’s rubble dumped in a hedgerow. No morose couples dogging in a rural lay-by. No vaguely-racist “Vote UKIP” hoarding in the farmer’s field overlooking the dual carriageway. No stink of shit. I mean, why do they do that? Why do they fill their countryside with the stench of effluent? I know that it’s not the city and therefore there’s nothing to do, but you’d have to be one seriously-bored mo-fo to think making things smell of shite is a viable hobby.
Maybe it’s either that, or horse mutilation?…
Meanwhile, beneath the tranquilising incidental musak: “Look at this lovely, idealised landscape,” coos the Blue Peter sort. “I bet you wished you lived here, and not in shitty Wolverhampton.
“Now, let’s go and meet this old cunt communing with a dry-stone wall, whilst I talk really slowly, as if explaining how doors work to a particularly backwards child.”
Which is just what we need on a Sunday evening… although even here, the BBC realise that they can’t keep this gloop up for an entire hour; the competition for audience loyalty is fierce, and what with Knight Rider or live hardcore porn over on Channel 5, Countryfile proceeds to mix things up – just a little.
ZAP! Have an investigative journalist with a sombre expression show up for five minutes to pose hard-hitting questions of a rural bent – ‘Are ramblers bastards?’ or ‘Is the merger between the National Trust and the National Front good for bees?’ or something.
POW! Here’s Adam, a real life, enthusiastic farmer, using his visit to the prize village bullock as cover for his one-man campaign to spread bovine TB throughout the country.
K’BOOM! And here’s John Craven – he’s faster than a raven, don’t you know – trying to flog us a calendar filled with photos of voles in dew. It’s 2018, mate; no-one uses calendars. Also: we all know you spend the proceeds on crack whores and cocaine.
Finally, all great shows climax with a song and dance routine. Think Sir Laurence Olivier’s rousing moves at the end of The World at War each week, or the cast of Mrs Brown’s Boys performing a naked black mass as the credits roll.
Accordingly, Countryfile ends with the weather forecast. The fucking weather. Except, it’s special weather, because they make the meteorologist do it wearing civvies. ‘Normal’ clothes, not the job interview clobber they’ve just changed out of following the proper forecast at the end of the evening bulletin; the same job interview clobber they’ll change back into for BBC News 24 duties in about five minutes time.
And yet, even here Countryfile can’t resist with fakery. The weather presenter may look like they’re high above the UK in an upper-atmosphere dirigible, contemplating clouds and jetstreams and Barry from the Rhondda shining his laser pen into the cockpit of an overhead 747, but – spoiler alert – they’re actually in a green screen studio in London, hiding from the oligarchs and giant, mutant Pearly Kings and Queens that comprise the capital’s populace these days. I mean, they can’t even see this CGI Britain hiding behind them – they could be sweeping an arm across a particularly dirty episode of Howards’ Way and be none the wiser.
Also: when I say ‘normal’ clothes I don’t mean ‘normal clothes’. Normal clothes are what we wear when watching Countryfile. Jeans. A t-shirt with an offensive slogan. Fishing waders. Nipple tassels. Fishnet long-johns.
Instead, it’s a fashion trend known as civvie meteorologist – which basically consists of dressing like an indentured groundskeeper in a Ken Loach film, or perhaps an extra in The Vicar of Dibley (a show that ran for over 4,000 episodes, based entirely on the premise that the vicar is lady addicted to battenberg and everyone in the countryside is as thick as pig shit).
So, what have we learned? That everything is a sham. That the countryside is better than Wolverhampton, but not by much. That bees are ambivalent about the National Trust / National Front merger. That I’ve been listening to The Archers for years, yet still don’t really know who anyone is. And – most importantly – that Mondays are shite, but John Craven is dishing out the TV tramadol, so everything’s okay, then.
Put me down for twelve calendars, please – I quite like voles.