Which TV genre is the comb?

Changing television

The Onion once mocked comb manufacturers for allowing their core product to remain creatively moribund compared with the astonishing technological developments seen in the toothbrush and razor industries.   Thirty years ago they had all been selling cheap commoditised products with little differentiation.

Toothbrushes are now crafted to advanced specifications, pharmaceutically endorsed and with a price-tag to match.

And look at razors.  Multi blade, vibrating, colourful stratified, segmented and high-tech.  They might have been developed by NASA.  After tackling the comb in its heartland head area (shaven heads have NEVER been so popular) the razor has extended its reach to the pubic region, with the comb in inexorable decline.  We await, with some fear, the razor making a push towards the inside of the mouth to take on the toothbrush.

Look at this mofo. Might have been developed by NASA

I’m too scared to put this in my mouth

But a comb is still a comb, unchanged, mired. (In fact someone asked to borrow my comb yesterday and there wasn’t one in the house. And I do live with people (children) who have hair (currently).


The only comb in my house. It’s not for me.

And I wondered which types of TV programme are the comb – unchanged and gimmick free.

Which one is the toothbrush – transformed, but operating in the same space.

And which is the razor, modernised and extended to new areas?

I suppose sport might be the razor… it has speeded up, taken on 3D a little quicker than other genres, and people pay far more than they used to.  Though you could argue that programmes like Superstars, It’s a Knockout and We Are the Champions were all types of sporty programme from yesteryear that have gone, so it’s not all growth.   And while we may have Champions League Football all over the shop, we’ve lost Grandstand and World of Sport.  And there’s more football and cycling, but on BIG TV, we’ve lost cricket, boxing, show jumping and wrestling.  So for people who pay the extra, sport has been transformed, but for others it may have retreated a little.

OK, so what about drama?  You used to hear complaints that we had lost the Dennis Potters and Mike Leigh one-off dramas. But actually, the dramas now  seem to be more clever, complex, nuanced and ambiguous than they used to be.  Steven Johnson has written a book about it.  Perhaps that’s the toothbrush?

Reality programmes?  It used to be Seven Up, and look at it now…  And it has affected other programmes – verisimilitude in comedy and drama, real people on news programmes, liveness.  Then again, the golden age of Faking It, Driving School (aah Maureen) and Airport was some time ago.  Then again, we now have TOWIE, so that’s progress…

Comedy?  Are comedies more varied in style?  Is humour more nuanced?  Has the range of comedy extended? Perhaps comedy is the comb.  (And here’s an excellent blog post about how we remember BBC dramas better than ITV ones).

Entertainment.  Is Britain’s Got Talent the New Opportunity Knocks?  Is X Factor just New Faces with a back story?

The News?   Is the news the comb? Hardly, not while Krishnan Guru-Murthy is on Twitter.  Or perhaps?

I’m going to call Sport the toothbrush, because of the price people pay for it.  But it is still broadly in one place.  It’s function is broadly unchanged

Reality programmes are the razor.  They’re cheap and plentiful, but the way they have transmuted into different forms is akin to the addition of batteries and blades, and because women have found a whole new area to use them.  And I have a 99p nose-hair remover which reminds me of Big Brother

Reality TV: eg Kim Kardashian. Like a razor for beards, completely useless

Televised Sport: the toothbrush. Mouthy, brightly coloured, expensive

The comb in television? What do you think?


A comb.
You’ll notice the plastic ‘teeth’ have the same length, but two different girths. Classic, yes, but unambitious? So which TV genre is similarly unchanged?

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