Nobody watches late-night TV any more. Nobody normal, at least. The only evidence that it plays to anything other than dead screens are the rolling text messages displayed on the shopping shows and the ominously muted conversations on the chat channels. People had to be watching and calling in, but who?
For all I knew, the models could be miming and the text messages could be written by the production crew. It still seemed more logical and believable than the idea that actual physical people were texting a television channel in the dead of night to compliment them on their extendable mops, or that there were actually people who hadn’t discovered the sleazier corners of the internet by now.
But, there I was, watching it all at four AM. My boyfriend was slumped next to me, half-asleep with his hand resting on my thigh and an empty can of lager lodged in the crook of his arm, the ringpull coated with wet ashes. He was chuckling to himself and murmuring something about green jeans. Late-night TV seemed like a good idea.
Even the repeats were repeats. I didn’t want to buy a set of three matching cashmere sweaters or talk to Cindy from Newcastle. The BBC showed nothing but rolling news footage of shrapnel and rubble. Channel Four showed a sign-language version of some dour public health lecture about cholesterol. ITV was it’s usual tawdry self, only lent a small amount of class by comparison to Channel Five.
The most interesting thing on the telly was an unused channel. The programme guide said “Channel not available”, but it was available. I found myself in the middle of what appeared to be an old gameshow from the eighties.
A young woman with frizzy blond hair, a boxy red power suit and a pointed grin stared at the camera. ‘Hello and welcome back! When we left off, Malcolm and Eunice were in the lead – but Deborah and Edmund are eager to catch up.‘
The camera cut to two couples. If they were still around, they’d have to be in their nineties by now. The men had moustaches and round spectacles, the women had cardigans and large earrings. Before I could comment on this, my boyfriend murmured something about time travel and asked for another beer. It didn’t seem like a bad idea.
When I’d got back from the fridge, the show was still running. I handed him a can and opened one myself. The frizzy-haired presenter grinned at the camera once again.
‘So, next question. Which implement is best for de-boning a human body? Remember, no conferring.‘
The couple to the right buzzed first, the noise sounding like a thousand flies trapped in a jar. The man stroked his moustache and said: ‘Well, Eunice might disagree, but it has to be a claw hammer. Solid, reliable and perfect for levering out those tricky femurs.‘
His partner glared at him for a second. Pent, tight fury behind her black eyes. Finally, the presenter held up a card and said: ‘Sorry, I’m going to have to pass this one over to Edmund and Deborah.‘
A huge grin shot across the other woman’s face. ‘Pliers and a hacksaw!.‘
The presenter frowned and said ‘Ohhh, too bad. I can only accept one implement. The correct answer is, of course…‘
I turned the TV off. As I said, nobody normal watches late-night TV these days….