MOST people watch television for light entertainment. Comedies, soap
operas, sport, movies. The true couch potato knows and loves television because
participation is so gloriously and indolently passive.
In recent years, some smarty, who knew an awful lot about guilt, thought that
lifestyle programs extolling healthiness might just pick up an audience. Thus,
in any week, the committed couch potato can vicariously get healthy (Healthy,
Wealthy and Wise), can learn to cook healthy food although they crave a quick TV
dinner (Consuming Passions), get the lowdown on their sex problems (Sex/Life),
improve the garden which has turned to weeds while they have watched the telly
(Better Homes and Gardens, Burke's Backyard) and improve their brain (Sale of
the Century) - only kidding.
The roots of this kind of programming probably date from the 1970s' American
obsession with television fitness programs which made people such as Richard
Simmons household names. Certainly, in the 1990s, lifestyle programs for the
sedentary and unhealthy are hugely popular. With this in mind it was natural
that XYZ Entertainment would establish the Lifestyle Channel, which started on
Foxtel, Austar and East Coast Television last Monday.
While 75 per cent of the programming - have you ever tried to fill 24 hours a
day, seven days a week with lifestyle programs? - will be sourced outside the
country, 25 per cent will be locally produced material starring people who,
until now, have had their brief spots on television and radio. Thus, Angus
Stewart, who was a regular on 2BL and Sydney Weekender, now gets his own show;
and alternative health expert Pamela Allardice, one-time editor of Nature &
Health and a regular on Midday, will have hours and hours to persuade her
audience that herbs and spices are better than a visit to the local doctor.
The rest of the local team includes Kay Stammers on parenting, Dr Cindy Pan
on all things medical, Peter Harris on how to become a home handyperson, Jane
Blatchford on style, Scott McGregor on antiques, Rachele Lowe on pet care and
Patrick Collins on food and wine.
In the first month, these people will offer viewers such invaluable
information as how to pave a path through your garden (and the whole garden if
you want), how to plaster your home, how to prepare an el cheapo dinner party,
how to administer first aid to your pets, how to collect 2,000 toy fire engines,
how to use old newspapers as garden mulch, how to get the baby back to sleep,
how to make natural cosmetics and how to avoid migraine headaches. Of course,
you won't have much time to do any of these things because you'll be watching
telly. Maybe you could try plastering the walls while you watch ...
The overseas material will range from specials such as Great Railway
Journeys, The Body in Question and In Search of Buddha to fascinating programs
with titles such as Brain Sex and Thighs, Lies and Beauty.
There is only one way to watch this channel. Sit in front of the telly all
day (preferably on a beautiful day with the curtains drawn), send out for a
family-sized super-meaty pizza, settle a slab of beer beside the couch, decant
an entire tin of food for the cat and marvel at why so many people want to
improve your life.