I don’t watch much television. Yes, I got sucked in to the yeasty suspense of The Great British Bake Off and enjoyed the three-part documentary on Iceland’s party fayre specialists (a prawn ring empire overseen by The Incredible Berk), but it’s fair to say I’m pretty out of touch with telly. And perhaps that’s why I haven’t yet fully recovered from the BBC’s execrable I Love My Country.
If you didn’t have the pleasure – and if viewing figures of quite a lot less than four million are to be believed, you probably didn’t – the show is a mash-up of Nuremberg rally meets Saturday Night Takeaway. Marshalled by Gabby Logan, one of those fixed-grin presenters who you can all too easily imagine happy-clapping through Triumph of the Will seventy years ago (Tess Daly, I’m looking at you too), two teams of low-rank celebs answer questions while whipping the studio audience into a frothy frenzy of patriotism.
The reviews were not great. Even the Mirror described it as ‘a shapeless shambles’. Here’s how dismal it was – David Walliams was slated to present it, but pulled out due to ‘other commitments’. David Walliams! Let’s not forget that this is a man who just last year gave a firm yes to the job of narrating Top Dog Model.
That this is bumbling, arsegravy TV is not really the problem though; God knows there’s plenty of that. It’s the undiluted cynicism of Union Jacking off over everything in such an unquestioning way.
I’m uncomfortable with the whole idea of loving a country – any country. Love is an unconditional thing. It’s an acceptance of faults and foibles in a way that runs counter to reason, which is a wonderful thing when you find it for another human being. But why should we be expected to feel that level of unconditional emotion for nations, which are the creations of men with maps, a set of ephemeral ideas and a snazzy flag?
I find many things about Britain saddening. Public transport. Most of the weather. The fact that Richard Littlejohn continues to enjoy well-paid employment, when in any just world he would be wordlessly placed in a soundproof box before being shipped to the Russian steppes. But many other things are truly brilliant, and I have deep affection for them. Much safer perhaps to dispense with all this love business, and consider your home country a good friend – one with many great virtues, but in need of a verbal slap around the face now and then.
The advantage of the friend idea is that it works pretty well when dealing with other countries too. If you and your home nation have to be in love all the time, then any affection expressed for another country can be perceived as an infidelity. But if you’re just friends, you can invite other states to the party. France is that pretty, cool, flaky friend who turns up late wearing corduroy and convinces you that they somehow make it look good. America is the life and soul of the party, but talks a bit too loudly and sits in the chairs other, quieter guests thought they had bagged. Germany, who actually organised the party in the first place, has come up with a very sensible system for handling the recycling at the end of the evening, which unfortunately they’re talking to everyone about.
Some Americans – even the most wonderful and liberal ones – can struggle with this concept of a more platonic relationship with countries. I once went on holiday with three fine Californians. For reasons that were unclear at the time, they spent up to four hours a day reminding me of the things Uncle Sam had invented. From memory, America invented paper, electricity, cars, cream, football, orgasms, the colour orange, steam, cigarettes, Brie, Sherlock Holmes and legs. To defend my country’s honour I had to kill them all with a trowel.
So rather than making patriotism patronising, why not replace I Love My Country with re-runs of the vastly more entertaining Going for Gold. Henry Kelly’s smorgasbord of late 1980s Europeans united a continent behind the crazy-haired representatives of their country.
Invite everyone to the party. No-one likes a jealous partner after all.
For more of this kind of rubbish, you can follow Land of Dope and Tories on Twitter @MrGlazed.