It’s been raining rather a lot today here in Prague and I’m feeling quite sleepy. This should be the perfect opportunity to flake out in front of some mid-afternoon TV. Sadly, there is a problem. Digital switchover day was 30th April – last Thursday – and neither myself or Czechman has made the effort to buy a digital receiver or ‘set-top box’ as they’re called here. I’d like to pretend that’s because we regard the medium of television as being beneath us and spend our evenings reading extracts from the Collected Works of T.S Eliot to each other, but the sad fact is, we’re both just lazy.
So, what delights am I missing out on? Well, my observations on Czech TV will be rather superficial, due to the fact that I can’t really understand much of it. However, the daytime schedule seems to be dominated by re-runs of old American serials dubbed into Czech: cop shows and soaps and comedies, some of which I recognise, some of which I don’t. Even in the Czech output, there are echos of formats I recognise from my trashy viewing binges back home: reality TV shows where some grotesquely fat person is forced to exercise and stop eating too many cakes, another one where an angry chef shouts a lot at some hapless hospoda owner about how crap the food is (this one’s imaginatively titled ‘Yes, Chef!’) and a soap opera called, wait for it, you’ll never guess – ‘The Street’. So far, so run of the mill. However, there is one ray of gleaming hope in the schedules and it comes in the form of ‘Five Against Five’.
‘Five against Five’ is the Czech version of the quiz show called ‘Family Fortunes’ that used to be on in Britain when I was a youngster. There are two teams each with five people in (hence the catchy Czech title) who try to guess the most popular answers to a question posed to 100 members of the public. Here’s an example, just in case you haven’t got the idea. Name something that people consume a lot of in hospital (I know, I thought this was weird). The top answer? Blood, closely followed by tea. Apparently the reason for this is cultural: the Czechs also believe that consuming vast quantities of some special tea-like brew when ill will restore you to optimium health. My students tell me the stuff is vile.
Anyway, the main reason I love the show so much is that it’s the only thing on Czech TV which I can actually understand. Some of the questions are real posers. For example, name a quality which a good secretary needs. Foreign languages? IT skills? Yes, they were all up their on the board but so was – S-E-X. The Czechs are certainly far less politicially correct if their quiz shows are anything to go by. Czech this one out (pun intended). What toy doesn’t a little girl like to play with? Soldiers? Lego? A toy car? One team member actually said (you can see where this is going…) – penis. Even the normally loquacious presenter was lost for words when the contestant came out with that one.
Thanks to the fact that the answers are flashed up on the screen, I can manically flick through my dictionary in an effort to build my vocabulary and work out what the hell is going on. This is now my idea of fun here in Czechland. I think my next entry needs to focus on the more typical expat pastime of drinking Budvar in smoky backstreet pubs until the wee hours, followed covering the cobblestones in vomit. Perhaps I could skip the last part.