The travesty with daytime TV is that so few people get to see it. Unsurprisingly, viewing figures have boomed over the past few months with the majority of the world staying in, but its value is something we’ve known about for years.
We keep a regularly updated library of the latest 4K Blu-ray discs, and accounts with all the major video streaming services, but a whole lot of TV testing is done with whatever’s on UK TV during office hours. And, as far as we’re concerned, the shows below give anything on Netflix a run for its money.
But it isn’t just that these programmes are objectively the best things on telly – they are thankfully really useful for what we do when we test TVs, too. From gaudy studio colour schemes to sweeping country landscapes, as well as the ability to hop between standard and high definition versions, there is so much about daytime TV that’ll help you adjust your TV's settings and get the best possible picture.
One of the best things about daytime TV is that you know what you’re about to watch just from the title of the programme, which means less time reading listings and more time focusing on the art. In this BBC smash hit, two teams hunt for bargains in an antique shop, clad in red and blue fleeces the shades of which ought never be worn, trying to lose as little money as possible when they sell the items at auction.
Though humiliating, those fleeces are actually vital for being able to spot the contestants as they shuffle dismally around dusty antique shops, and the juxtaposition is a stern test for your TV's colour and contrast – a great place to start when perfecting your TV picture.
Come Dine with Me
What’s amazing is that Come Dine with Me is on six times a day, and still nobody has ever seen the same episode twice. The premise is basically that five people each host a dinner party, pompously mocking each other’s cooking despite each having come up with broadly the same meal, and the winner gets £1000 that they can use to paint their living room a slightly different shade of beige.
If you can stomach the embarrassment you’ll feel on behalf of everybody on screen, then it’s the kind of no-frills production that’ll give you a decent idea of how natural a picture you’re getting from your TV.
Four in a Bed
Who knew the world of bed and breakfast could be so cutthroat? Kind of a sister programme to Come Dine With Me – and useful for many of the same reasons – this one follows four sets of B&B owners as they stay at each other’s establishments and pay however much of the bill they reckon it’s worth.
The best bit is the last episode of the week where they all get together and reveal the payments. There is always a couple who resemble bespectacled pencils, who promise conflict then back down immediately when it comes to the crunch, and a grey-faced old man who claims to be "the opposite of a game-player" while underpaying everyone by 30 per cent to claim an empty victory. Fine tune your contrast levels while shaking your head in disgust.
Escape to the Country
This one is about non-descript couples who have made loads of money in the city and, now that their boring kids have fled the nest, want to live somewhere with less going on where they’ll probably be able to fit in a bit better.
While it is usually their old neighbours who appear to have made the real escape, the show leaves us in no doubt how lucky we are to live in a country with landscapes so devastatingly beautiful as the UK. Unsurprisingly there are many shades of green for your TV to sift through, and it’ll be a test for how well it represents depth as much as colour differentiation or detail.
A Place in the Sun
Another stone cold classic with TV-tuning benefits similar to those of Escape to the Country, only this time it’s a bit like being on holiday. These people want to find a house in a different, sunnier country, so expect a lot more bright blue skies and seas contrasting with white sands and colourful, celebratory cocktails.
As far as adjusting your TV's picture settings are concerned, you could really put any daytime quiz show in here; most if not all share the same bright, migraine-inducing lights that challenge the colour control of any set.
But Pointless is undoubtedly the best of the bunch, for its concept of having to choose the correct answer that fewest people knew, the on-screen camaraderie of Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, and the fact that it’s taught us more chemical elements than our browbeaten science teachers ever could.
Whether you like it or not, you cannot deny that the news has really taken off. Essentially the world’s first reality TV show, the news is not only broadcast 24/7, 365, but now comes in a wide range of flavours, thanks to myriad rolling news channels.
It looks like a quiz show at the start with all its lurid colour schemes – which makes it quite fun, and without the need to know anything in advance – and the filter-free out-of-studio action means you get a really varied example of what your TV picture is doing.
Kind of like a spin-off series from the news, these early morning magazine shows are pretty much all mad as a box of frogs – but none more so than This Morning. Made all the more surreal by the fact the actual Prime Minister could be interviewed only moments before a sheep possessed by the spirit of a goat, it has that same picture diversity as the news except you’re not expected to learn anything.
Homes Under the Hammer
For this to follow proper daytime TV naming convention it should really be about demolition, but at least a lot of the houses sold at auction on Homes Under the Hammer look like they’re halfway there. What’s more, it’s the only daytime show to feature a Premier League winner and member of the Coventry City Hall of Fame.
Dion Dublin joined the team on this BBC show in 2015, and you can see them all clambering around some pretty grotty buildings that will make the most of any dark detail your TV can dredge up from stained carpets and holes in walls.
Proving that you can in fact make a successful TV show with a budget lower than £0, Doctors celebrated its 20th birthday this year and is due to recommence filming this month after an enforced break due to this global pandemic. At last, some good news.
A soap opera set in a fictional West Midlands doctor’s surgery, there’s a lot of A-level drama project about the scripts and acting, and a lack of polish that somehow gives the picture a kind of hyper-realistic quality. With a sharp enough screen, you should even notice the grain in some of the wooden performances.
Need some extra help? There's always our (slightly more serious) guide to setting up your TV and getting the best picture.
This article inspired me to register and say that this is not the publication I used to buy in John Menzies more years ago than i care to mention. You've managed to reinvent, and while the authoritative tone and basic usefulness remain, there's a much wider scope and just this sense of fun!
It's all much appreciated, so thank you and well done.