Afternoon Delight

Sky Rockets in Flight:  Afternoon films on TV

When you ask viewers what they like to watch on TV, movies routinely comes near the top.  There’s something big and immersive about them.  Which is hardly a surprise when a film costs millions and TV programmes don’t.  With TV sets growing in quality (definition) and quantity (screen size) watching films at home has never been as close to the cinema experience.

[By the way, before we go on, Do you care whether we say ‘film’ or ‘movie’?  It’s hard to say which is more anachronistic; referring to 2-hours of superior, cinematic  entertainment using the word which describes the material on which it was once captured and stored (film), or the fact that people in it move about (movie).  I’ll alternate].

ANYWAY.., films.   At ITV, when we asked viewers where they liked to watch films, most said at home rather than at the cinema – a combination of cost, convenience, comfort, company and control.   (So TV is to the cinema as the internet is, supposedly, to TV).  And we found that three ‘Ex-Factors’ explained how they chose a film to watch – Experience (of watching it before), Experimentation – they could watch a bit and see how it goes, and Expectation – based on the timeslot and knowledge of the cast.  At least two of these are things that TV has that the cinema doesn’t.

But films are a bit of a bugger for TV executives to schedule in the evening on the terrestrial channels, what with watersheds, news and the rest to work around.  But the afternoon does offer some possibilities.

Heaven Knows Mr Allison – an afternoon film that you just missed. Its title inspired records by The Smiths AND Elvis Costello

Yesterday, Channel 4 had Heaven Knows, Mr Allison, a Mitchum/ Deborah Kerr film from 1957, and Channel 5 had a made for TV drama starring John Larroquette (I gave it 8 minutes – I think he did his best work in Nightcourt). That’s it for terrestrial channels for a typical weekday.  But many TV viewers peel off to watch films on TV On Demand, or on DVDs, or from a movie channel.  (That’s peel off, like a plane leaving a formation, not peel off, as in taking off clothes.  Though that can happen too.  I know because I once watched Crash that way).

Let’s think about the afternoon.  It’s something of a disappointment, is it not, as a daypart.  And there’s a clue in the name.    It is named, boringly, for being after the most boring halfway point evah.   ‘After’ starts off with a disadvantage (versus before), because it’s about looking back and regret and what might have been and the deflation and anti-climax.   So after-noon is doubly lame.

But then again…. hold on for a moment, there’s a song that celebrates the ‘Joy of 2 to 6’ –  ‘Afternoon delight’.  What’s it about, you ask?  It celebrates, as legendary Anchorman Ted Burgundy puts it, ‘daytime love-making… the naughty type’,’ve got some bait a waitin’ and I think I might try nibbling a little afternoon delight.  Sky rockets in flight.  Afternoon delight.

It came out in 1976 and was the rudest hit record until Sheena Easton’s Sugar Walls eight years later, emerging at around the time that ‘Reginald Perrin’ was attempting to ‘make the sparks ignite’ with his secretary.

Reggie Perrin’s secretary Joan. Now lives in Coronation Street under an assumed name

And it reminds us that even if the name is bland, there’s something quite romantic about the afternoon – it’s when matinee idols strut their stuff.   What a lovely expression, Matinee Idol.  

Dirk Bogarde. Classic matinee idol looks, apparently

‘Matinee’ implies a drama shown in the afternoon that is lower quality or less ambitious than its evening equivalent.  ‘Idol’ suggests enthusiasm bordering on adoration.  Together they mean an actor whose good looks succeed in compensating for his appearance in lesser vehicles, and helps to explain why the people on daytime TV – from Phillip Schofield or Gino d’Campo and Carol Vorderman seem to carry a slightly greater erotic charge than they deserve.

It’s also a much safer time for romantic exertions, since heart attacks peak in the morning.  Serotonin and endorphoin levels are also higher than average in the afternoon, according to Russell Foster.  He’s an expert.  So I’m guessing that raised hormones might make people ready for some emotional exercise.  Or digesting food, conceivably.

For many viewers, the afternoon offers something rare: a couple of hours without being interrupted and a chance for indulgence.  A few mothers have to break away to collect school children, while others await their return.  But most people aren’t going anywhere. I don’t think it should be left for Channel 5 and Channel 4 to show romantically tinged films.  That’s what BBC2 is for.  There’s an awful lot of bored housewives, house-husbands and all the rest of the daytime TV crew, waiting to be swept off their feet a little.

We don’t all want ’50 Shades of Grey’.  That sounds like awfully hard work.  TV viewers want to put their feet up and be transported somewhere special, in the company of someone dashing, in a way that David Dickinson and Alan Titchmarsh can’t quite pull off.


Come on, it’s sexy and funny, all at the same time

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