TELEVISION executives these days have to find ways of retaining the attention of the viewing masses without necessarily spending more than, say, seven shillings and a tanner on programme expenses. Gone are the halcyon days of variety shows featuring world class entertainers who knew how to entertain.Does anyone besides me long for “Sunday Night At The London Palladium”, and brilliant series like “The Morecambe and Wise Show” and “The Two Ronnies”? Now the poor sods who, by accident or design, are glued to the goggle box, have to make do with offerings which, in many cases, use members of the general public, all gratefully accepting their 15 minutes of fame via slots involving persecution by Simon Cowell and his panel of showbiz “experts” on the X Factor, exposing themselves as attention-seeking halfwits on Big Brother, playing leading roles in wife swapping, taking part in culinary competitions and attempting home improvements. Riveting stuff? I think not.

The trouble with this kind of televised dross is that the vast majority of people undergo a transformation when faced by a television camera and sound crew. Very rarely, if ever, does anyone come across as natural, the only possible exception being when Joe Public is interviewed on a news channel and asked to relate their version of an event which they have witnessed or have meaningful knowledge of. The rest of the time they struggle to keep pace with the professionals and invariably finish up running off at the mouth, spouting complete cobblers.

Boris and I have taken to having our daily constitutional around the postal district of BL1 rather earlier than usual since the end of British Summer Time (what a misnomer that is), which means that he and I, and Mrs Shawcross, fill in the 45 minutes or so before our evening meal watching a BBC Two programme called “Escape To The Country”. This involves a couple of “townies” looking to flee whatever location they currently occupy and swap it for a des res in more salubrious surroundings. The only obvious ingredient which the programme makers must clearly insist upon is that whoever volunteers for inclusion, must have the money needed to effect the change.

I have to confess that watching televised shots of magnificent country properties, with lavish interiors and gardens large enough to stage a major sporting event, is interesting in only one respect. They are mentally filed for when I win a Lotto Jackpot or major dividend on the football pools. However, what I do find interesting, nay fascinating, is the dialogue between various anchor persons and people hoping to escape to the country. Without exception, the property tourists express delight at what they are shown, accompanied by toe-curling quotes such as “It ticks all the right boxes” or “This is SO me”. A woman on one recent programme mouthed so many “Ohs” and “Ahs”, I thought she had wandered in from that amusing advert for Seat cars.

The one expression no-one has yet come out with is: “Half a million quid for this pile of rubbish. You’re ’avin a laff”. I’ll keep viewing until someone does.