I am not thinking about the US presidential election in five days, I am not. It is not occupying me, it is not pervading every other thought. Okay, it is distracting me from UK politics.
And I will say this. I think it’s frightening how “truth, justice and the American way” is now multiple choice.
Stop. Think of something totally different. Think of something silly.
Here you go. Back in the day, when politics was boring –– concentrate, William, push it away –– say around the 1980s, American network television used to have more adverts per hour than we did in the UK. I can’t remember, I think we got two ad breaks during an hour drama, but I know America had four.
Since American writers knew this too, naturally every hour drama had four acts. They’d build to big enough point in the story to hopefully make sure you’d come back after the ad break. Fine.
It’s interesting now when so many old network shows are being streamed on pay platforms without any ads. There are streaming platforms like BritBox and ITV Hub where it offends me how poorly the shows are broken up. Watch any of the hundreds of Doctor Who episodes on BritBox, for example, and every single one begins with the first half-note of the Delia Derbyshire and Ron Grainger’s theme, then stops to play out a BritBox sting, then carries on with the episode.
And ITV Hub, surely no human editor is choosing when the ad breaks go. Rather than fitting in around the breaks that were already there from when the shows first aired, it feels like there’s a timer and at some interval we just get a break. Forget the fact that it is invariably at a poor point in the episode, every time the ad break is over and we return to the show, we see half a second of the previous scene.
Back in the day, when a US one-hour show would air on UK commercial television, we got one or two fewer ad breaks. What this meant, though, was that in every hour drama we would reach a key dramatic point, then the screen would fade to black.
It would then immediately, instantly, fade up again and we’d usually be right back where we were.
Not knowing that it was because of a missing ad break, I remember coming to think that this was a dramatic, artistic choice. That it was in some way emphasising these key scenes, that television drama had invented its very own dramatic punctuation.
I came to think that the story blinked.
I’d like to think that next Tuesday night I’ll blink and it’ll be over. In 2016, I stayed up late to watch the US election results, sitting on the same couch I am on now as you and I talk, and all night turning steadily to stone. I don’t know if I can go through that this time but then I’m not thinking about it, clearly.
And I’m not thinking clearly about it.
Not when we’ve got 1,280 days until the next UK general election.