TV resolutions for the New Year

Benjie Goodhart / 09 December 2019

Our TV critic resolves to watch Channel 4 news from beginning to end, and not try to get his wife to go to bed just before Match of the Day starts.

New Year’s resolutions are for imperfect people. When I step back and take a look at myself, I find it difficult to conceive of any improvements that could possibly go towards making me a better person. However, my editor has asked me for some resolutions, so let’s just play along with the (frankly absurd) conceit that I am, in fact, fallible. Were that the case, these might be some of the ways I could improve my behaviour with regards to the telly.

I will not delete 157 episodes of my children’s favourite cartoon so I can record the football. Not again. Never again. Nobody wants a repeat of that day.

I will not watch films with car chases and explosions in them every time my wife is out for the evening.

I will watch more science programmes. And more arts programmes. I will be more high brow.

I will also watch an episode of a soap opera. And a gameshow. I will be more low brow.

Basically, I will stop being so relentlessly middle-brow.

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How to budget in the New Year

I will watch Channel 4 News in its entirety, from beginning to end, at least once. I CAN concentrate on news for a full hour, even the finance bits.

I will stop watching recordings of Tales of the Unexpected out of a misplaced sense of nostalgia. They are absolutely dreadful. (I should know, I’ve watched about 60 in the last month).

I will stop shouting at the telly during Question Time. I am a sufficiently sane and scientifically aware individual to understand that they can’t actually hear me. (See also my shouting being unable to influence a sporting occasion on the TV).

I will stop falling behind on dramas, recording them, and then running around the office with my fingers in my ears shouting “No spoiler alerts, la la la la la” every time someone starts talking about the latest episode.

I will go to bed when I am tired. I will not flick through obscure sports for two hours after my wife has gone to bed, developing a temporary, one-time-only and completely inexplicable fascination with competitive canoeing.

I will use TV less as a babysitting tool when I have had enough of parenting.

Actually, let’s face it, I won’t. But I will finally teach my mother how to use Netflix on her telly so she doesn’t watch the entire new series of The Crown on her telephone, as she did with the first two series.

I will successfully answer a science question on University Challenge.

I will stop passing comment on the hairstyles in University Challenge. Especially on any repeats featuring my niece. (Yes, she was in the team, for Magdalene College, Oxford, and yes, I was deliriously excited.)

I will stop saying things like “You look wrung out, darling,” to my wife at around 10:25pm on a Saturday night, as the clock ticks down towards Match of the Day.

I will stop saying “Gosh, aren’t they normal!” every time I see Princes William and Harry interviewed on the telly.

How to keep your New Year’s resolutions

New Year’s resolutions for the broadcasters

Okay – that’s quite enough of that. I’m going to be so busy trying to live up to these entirely unrealistic life goals I won’t have time for anything else. Let’s move on, then, to the TV stations. What changes could they make, in order to make the world a better place in the New Year?


Stop showing the X Factor. It was looking tired a decade ago, now it looks like it’s died of exhaustion and been picked clean by vultures.

Enough with the crime documentaries. Seriously. It’s been about three years now. I’d call that a problem.


Get rid of The Apprentice. There are enough horrible people in the world already, without us needing to train a whole load more of them. A programme that rewards someone for basically being the most cut-throat, mercenary git in the group is not to be admired. And while we’re at it, why must we glorify Lord Sugar’s bullying style.

Climate change is real, not conjecture. I understand that you need to be fair and impartial, but this doesn’t mean you have to have a climate change denier on every time you feature someone discussing the planet’s future.

We could have the occasional week without a version of MasterChef.

BBC Parliament: You are there to show what happens in the corridors of power. Why on earth did you think it was acceptable to cover wall-to-wall pantomime... Oh… wait…

Channel 4

Naked Attraction: Just no.

Channel 5

Your obsession with watching poor people being visited by bailiffs is grotesque and exploitative. Stop it.

All broadcasters everywhere

We really don’t need any more cookery shows.

Or shows following the emergency services.

Or property shows.

Or fly-on-the-wall documentaries set on warships, in hotels, or in airports.

And my final ban is... ... ...


Okay, look, it was funny at first. The long pauses, on shows like X Factor or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire used to be quite jolly. But now the pauses go on forever. They are interminable. You basically have to double the running time of programmes just to encompass the pause. Enough, already. We are busy people, we have stuff to do. I can’t spend a cumulative total of three weeks a year watching pauses.

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