Monday, November 20, 2006

How It's Made

Have you ever seen How It's Made? Probably not. The Discovery Channel shows it every night at 8pm for an hour. I've never seen more than two minutes of it. It's the dullest thing ever.

And yet, it's dull in quite an admirable way. In the busy world of multichannel satellite television, most channels desperately hurl shiny things at you during prime time. Not the Discovery Channel. How It's Made is a show that does exactly what it says on the tin. It consists entirely of short films of factories, with close-ups of machines making products. There are generally no people. A cheerful-sounding narrator offers gloriously uninformative commentary. It's a bit like the "through the round window" segments that Play School used to do 25 years ago, except much, much more boring, and shown in prime time.

The glorious thing about How It's Made is that there's absolutely no pretence of making an interesting show. They seem to carefully avoid covering any product that might be remotely intriguing. The introduction to each show - the only bit I ever watch, because it comes on directly after Mythbusters - is like a glimpse into a parallel dimension of extreme dullness. There's a sort of zen purity to it.

For example, here's the introduction to today's show. Imagine this being read out in a cheerful yet utterly bland voice, to the accompaniment of the sort of music you used to get during the countdown clock on schools' television programmes in 1987.

"Today on How It's Made:

Decorative mouldings - transforming your room into a palace.

Commercial pulleys - making the wheel that turns the belt that lifts the load.

Industrial rubber hose - supplying the machine's lifeblood.

And sheet vinyl flooring - lino's great usurper."

God bless them. They're practically daring you to turn off. Sheet vinyl flooring, as your big main event. In prime time. You've got to respect the purity. Nobody in their right mind would actually watch the show, but there's something comforting about knowing it's there, don't you think?