Lately — well, say since about September (so, is that more than lately?), things haven’t been going so well in several of life’s major departments. Nothing drastic, just not-so-good. And how have I responded? By turning on the television.
I once lived without television for 5 years. Not out of some sort of superior attitude, but because I get lazy when things break. The television didn’t break, but the antenna on my roof did. After about 2 years of accepting this situation, I attempted to fix it. A friend of mine came over to hold the ladder and to oversee my potential death (because what could be worse than dying on a roof and no one finding out about it for ages.) So I did try. I did climb up a very steep ladder and I did wander about on the not-so-stable roof and pick up various pieces of debris that just might be my aerial (or is it an antenna?) and I did yell down to my friend as I moved bits of metal around to see if my interventions were having any impact on the ET-phone-home TV screen in my flat below.
Several years passed before I moved home and re-entered a life that included some television.
In the intervening years I’d spent substantially more time book-bingeing and singing into the mirror with my hairbrush for an evening’s entertainment than is normal for me. I’d also struggled at social occaisions. Without shared neighbours to gossip about, it’s amazing how much chit chat is devoted to X-Factor or 24 or … I don’t know … I can’t remember what else was on television in those years that went over my head — but I did find out the socially awkward way that TV accounts for a great deal of small talk. All I ever had to contribute was “No, my television is broken.” Which rarely proved the perfect conversation starter.
But I digress. The point I was going to make is that I’ve been reaching for the television lately. It’s become my comfort food. And not just any television — in fact, not even the actual television — me and my MacBook have been climbing into bed together. Yes. And what have we been doing? Downloading “Death in Paradise” from BBC iPlayer.
Which leads me to the subject of this weekend’s blog: crime dramas and murder mysteries in particular.
If you haven’t seen “Death in Paradise”, it’s a LOT better than Midsomer Murders (which is one of the only murder mysteries that I don’t particularly approve of and will only watch if there’s no other on offer… because of the ridiculous number of murders that take place in this sleepy part of England in every single episode and the generally beige tone of the central characters ) — but is a bit like it in its similarly very gentle handling of cold-blooded killings. I haven’t checked but am sure that the critics will just despise Paradise for its silliness and all those cliches about Caribbean laid-back-ness but I for one really hope it lasts a few more seasons… far worse things, have.
Now, I used to blame my mother for this habit of reaching for the nearest murder mystery when life got tough. She raised me to believe that a nice Agatha Christie was the best cure for imaginary worries (real ones were best handled by ice-cream.) But I’ve come to realize that mom cannot be held responsible for what appears to be a more universal phenomena. Beyond Poirot and Ms. Marple, consider Morse, Taggart, Cracker, Prime Suspect, Silent Witness. I know I’m dating myself — but then there’s The Killing and what about Wallander!! I know I’m also locating myself as clearly not in America. Which leads me from my first question, why are murder mysteries comforting to so many of us? to my second … Doesn’t this tradition seem particularly strong on the British Isles (which withstood the temptation for real-life crime drama for a long, long time.)
So, I ask you — can anyone out there explain to me why nothing makes me happier these days than curling up to watch Detective Poole talk to his teeny green lizard?