Today I have done nothing. I slept in. I watched television; a terrible “comedy” film about an American becoming the King of England following the tragic deaths of the entire royal family in a photography accident – don’t ask. I had my sister-out-law’s banana loaf (left over from the quiz) for breakfast and toast for lunch, a little snooze in front of Homes Under the Hammer, and then, before I knew it, Songs of Praise was on, which always means that Sunday is over. I haven’t watched this particular show for years; to be honest I tend to avoid it like the plague. Today’s episode featured an entire congregation wearing bright red, which felt cultish and weird. I stared in horror for a while before turning the sound off. I’ve never understood the importance of Songs of Praise in the 21st Century. They got rid of Top of The Pops because it felt old-fashioned, like it had lost its way, so why has this particular dinosaur continued to haunt Sunday night television?
Hymn singing is certainly not an art form; it’s something which people endure – particularly as it’s always done badly. You wouldn’t dedicate a weekly slot to featuring school orchestras and amateur choirs murdering awful works from the classical canon, so why on earth do we still watch hymns, whilst the cameraman zooms around the church trying to find the prettiest woman in the congregation to use as a default shot? If it gets too dull, show them a nubile blonde, that’ll keep the Dad’s from reading the paper.
The other problem with Songs of Praise is, of course, that it reminds you that it’s a Sunday night and that you have work or school in the morning that you’re not quite ready for. Nathan calls this sensation “homework tummy” and he’s not far wrong. Perhaps the purpose of Songs of Praise is simply to fulfil that function. It gives you half an hour of non-telly to zip around the house throwing things in washing baskets, sending those emails that have been waiting all week to be sent and scraping the caked-on mud off your rugby boots so that you can sit down and enjoy the decent Sunday night telly, like Antiques Roadshow. I suspect the simple truth is that people are so disinterested in religious programming that Songs of Praise has remained alive simply because no one can be bothered to think of an alternative, and also that the BBC had to find something to do with Diane Louise Jordan after she got too old to be on Blue Peter.
I suppose the one good thing about the present BBC1 Sunday night line-up is that it no longer includes Last of the Summer Wine, which was inexcusably awful television. Old men falling into rivers and trying to snog old ladies in wrinkly tights is not and has never been funny. Ghastly.
And for those who like a laugh - here's a picture of the lovely Philip Sallon doing the musical theatre round!