why i find relief in telly made for seniors
The golden years.
Feeling anxious? Of course you are! It’s a nightmare out there – a dizzying sequence of bad things happening all the damn time. How are we supposed to get out of bed or brush our teeth when everything is such a flippin’ ORDEAL? Luckily, humans invented escapism. It looks different for everyone. Some people love gaming or K-pop or following goofy dogs on Instagram. Maybe you read this very magazine. Here’s what I do: I watch a lot of TV and movies for and about old people, especially posh old people. Just when we’ve all concluded (quite rightly) that boomers ruined the world, I’ve developed a fascination with watching the over-60s set on screen. I love seeing those money-hoarding fuddy-duddies do absolutely anything: falling in love, joining book clubs, solving murders, touring beautiful gardens or repairing 19th-century clocks.
I had this realisation right around the time when He Who Must Not Be Named won a certain election. The silly reality TV I’d loved for years had created a political monster, and it didn’t feel as innocently entertaining as it used to. Stuff I used to like – true crime documentaries, juicy teen dramas and prestige TV shows about terrible people – had too much drama going on for my delicate soul. I preferred the sedate, low-stakes pace of movies like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Calendar Girls, or TV shows like Escape to the Country.
For a while, when I was really down, the only thing I could bear to watch was Antiques Roadshow. It’s so, so boring, which is precisely the point. The most troublesome thing that could happen to you on Roadshow is that the tea caddy you bought at a car boot sale is only worth the 10 pounds you paid for it. I developed parasocial relationships with the Roadshow appraisers, who have upper-crusty names like Bunny, Alastair and Lennox Cato; I liked to think we’d be pals, sipping brandy and reminiscing about the time Alastair found an 18th-century teaspoon in a gumboot. My favourite is the breathless, red-faced jewellery expert Geoffrey, whose eyes actually twinkle when someone brings him an undiscovered Fabergé.
My passion for Roadshow spun out into other, equally yawn-inducing media for old folks, including Gardening Australia, Bargain Hunt and The Repair Shop. If there’s a show on free-to-air about an ageing veterinarian, a super-long train journey or tour of Italian gardens, you can bet your arse I will be watching it. What have they got in common? Heart-stopping action – in that they have so little action your heart might slow to a complete stop.
I especially love watching old, rich people fall in love. It’s Complicated is a joke of a movie title; it’s never going to be complicated for Meryl Streep because she has such a beautiful kitchen – as if you’d be miserable with a giant island bench and a glass of red wine. I could watch It’s Complicated with the sound off; the warm lighting and brown-beige decor is more than enough to settle my nerves.
So here’s my humble recommendation for you: the next time it all becomes too much, or you need a break from everything, take a cue from your nan. She knows a good time, and a good time looks like a cosy home in the countryside, endless cups of tea and a wardrobe full of neutral linen smocks and chunky jewelry. Your greatest worry should be whether you’ve chosen the right wallpaper for the sunroom. Maybe you’ll fall in love with your neighbour, a charming, wily septuagenarian who looks like Bill Nighy. Old people on screen are a nice reminder, too, that the coolest, most relaxing days could be ahead of you. The best is yet to come.