Settle in for a story featuring: a minor domestic, some light self-reflection (while listening to an 80’s compilation) and lots of love.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.
Minor Domestic (about TV choices)
Husband: “What’s this bollocks, now?”
Me: “The Sewing Bee.”
H: “OMG, there’s another one! There’s the baking one, the cooking one, the bloody making pots one and now this one! They’re all the same show!”
(Note: He doesn’t count Strictly or Forged in Fire in this rant because he actually quite likes them.)
Now I know, and you know, that he’s right. Same format for the Great British Bake Off, Sewing Bee Great Pottery Throw Down, MasterChef, and all the other ones you can think of. And I do really like them. But I hadn’t really thought about why I like this format so much.
Why do I like these programmes?
I do get invested in the individual contestants, especially with Bake Off. But it’s the little bits of expert knowledge that I really like. When you get the potted history of a German pastry, the firing temperature of a particular material, or the origin of a certain type of dress – I LOVE it!
It’s not a 1 hour special on ‘The Sailor Suit’, it’s a little bite-sized bit of distilled information.
I love the brevity – the focus on the interesting, strange or funny.
And I’m continually delighted by human inventiveness, creativity and commitment to making beautiful things.
Across time, countries, communities – people turn everyday things, like food and clothes, into displays of talent and love.
- Do we need trims or fancy buttons? No
- Do we need intricate carving on the blade of a weapon? No
- Do we need to decorate the vessels that hold our water? No
- Do we need spun sugar? No
But how wonderful they all are! And how much more interesting the world is with them in it. Their creators go beyond everyday necessity and into enriching the soul.
Familiarity breeds comfort
I like the security of a familiar format. I know the framework of what’s going to happen next. It’s the same level of comfort as re-reading a favourite book, or another one by the same author. You don’t have to be braced for impending shocks; you know there won’t be any.
A peek behind the curtain
These shows are a peek into the experts’ world. In the moment, I understand the contestants’ brief and the factual explanation. While being completely at one with the fact that I’d be absolutely dreadful at the execution. I’d have no idea how to get from instruction to finished product. And I watch in awe as they produce their bake/garment/sword/garden gnome in what seems like a ridiculously short space of time.
I’m not a spatially aware, physically creative person. I can make a decent Victorian sponge. But I’m not going to be making a gingerbread house from 3 types of biscuits any time soon. Turning a flat pattern into a 3D garment bamboozles my brain entirely!
I respect their skill. And am always in awe of the experts’ experience when their demonstration makes a process look deceptively easy.
I can nod along with the theory and wax lyrical about the finished products. But have no idea how one becomes the other.
This brief immersion in other worlds is also something I love about my business life. I’ve learned about all kinds of things while working with some incredible experts: tax, gin, immersive floral art…to name but three.
I can’t ‘do’ any of these things – but I can wax lyrical about you doing them in a language that your clients understand. It’s the bonus of not being the expert. Not being ‘in’ the business. Asking the questions your non-expert clients ask so I can understand exactly how fabulous you are. And then tell everyone else!
No, I’m not in demand for pub quizzes
Disappointingly, I rarely retain any of the information I’ve learned from either client work or this style of show. It seems to just evaporate from my brain.
No side line as a super quizzer for me. Although I do consider myself a tasty prospect as a professional Answer Smash player – should anybody be looking!?!?!?!?
Competitiveness I understand
Even though they’re technically against each other, in these particular competition-based reality shows there’s usually a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’.
I’m not competitive by nature, so I get this ‘I’m gutted for me, delighted for you’ attitude.
There’s also a good sense of perspective. Gentle humour reinforces acceptance that, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t the most important thing in the world. (Compare and contrast with sports commentators.)
But to these individuals, in that moment, it is the most important thing. They invest their time and skills, and risk being in the public eye. And as a viewer, I’m right in that moment with them.
The best bits of the crowd I’ve found on twitter are like this. We take our business and your business very seriously. But we’re also aware that we aren’t dealing with life or death situations here. There’s no such thing as a ‘words emergency’.
Your job is important to me. The questions I ask are crucial to me doing my best work. And my desire to do my best work for you is sincere.
After all, this is a mutually-assured success situation! Your business does well and maybe there’ll be more business for me. And, well…(*awkward British shuffle while trying to say something nice*)… I just like you, so I’m rooting for you.
As a ‘creative’ community (not sure about that word either) we want each other to do well. We help each other find work and figure out work conundrums. Why wouldn’t we?
And we celebrate others’ successes. Again, why wouldn’t we?
We sympathise, share stories and cheer each other on. Much like the Bake Off contestants.
THIS IS NOT A PITCH!
But, despite all these parallel joys between lovely shows and lovely freelancing, for the love of all that is holy and unholy, let’s NEVER bring the cameras in!
(I freeze in fear if there’s someone else in a GoogleDoc when I’m there! I dread to think what’d happen if you pointed cameras at me…)
With thanks to the lovely Leigh James and Penny Brazier for the words to describe this kind of TV show.