‘Aspirational’. It seems it’s impossible to get a TV drama made these days without that word being attached. Because what does it actually mean?
It all began with Cold Feet. That was the first show to be ‘aspirational’. We aspired to be like the characters, we identified with them, but we were always slightly bewildered how they managed to afford to live in such vast houses. But it was really Fat Friends which established ‘aspirational’ as an essential part of TV drama. Which seems to mean:
Living rooms and kitchens painted in bright, summery, catalogue colours.
Candles in the bathroom. Hundreds of them. Like in a voodoo ceremony.
Road signs or random words stuck decoratively on bedroom walls.
And most importantly:
Fairy lights used to illuminate the stairs.
Actors should be impeccably styled and wear bright, summery, catalogue colours. Plots should be upbeat and nothing particularly bad should happen.
My suspicion, though, with ‘aspirational’ is what it actually means. Which is ‘middle class’. It’s a way of saying middle class without using those words. It means the show's about people with large disposable incomes which they spend on buying road signs to stick decoratively on their bedroom walls.
I’m not knocking aspirational. I love At Home With The Braithwaites with a devotion second to none. I rather like Mutual Friends. But... well, I think making Survivors aspirational might have been a mistake. I realise gritty-realism might be a hard sell, but if your show’s about the apocalypse, people are tuning in for gritty-realism, death and despair. Not fluffy picture frames.
The original Survivors ended when they managed to get electricity for the survivors’ farm. I suspect the new series will end when they manage to get electricity for the fairy lights they’re using to illuminate the stairs.