For about six years now, my parents' television has been linked up to a BARB ratings box (I'd link you to the site, but they ask you to fill in an annoying questionaire before you even start SO FLIP THAT). It's basically a magic viewer counting machine, which plugs into the telly, and comes with a little remote control thingy that you use to tell it how many people are watching, what age group they are and so on.
When my mum was asked if she was interested in getting the BARB box installed, we had the following conversation:
MUM: ooh, some chap asked if we wanted to take in a sort of survey thing, for television ratings. Do you think we should?
ME: does it have a provision for saying about thirty people are watching at any particular time, say off the top of my head for example, when something I've contributed to is on?
MUM: Hmm, let's have a look.
Sound of mother flicking through paperwork.
ME: SIGN UP SIGN UP NOW NOW DO IT.
A bloke arrived and plugged the box in.
MUM: (interested) So if only a small number of people have these boxes, does that mean they sort of extrapolate the numbers from those who do? (my mum really would use the word extrapolate, she went to library college, and still knows the Dewey Decimal system off by heart, oh yes).
BLOKE: Yes indeed. In fact, although each BARB box viewer officially counts for five thousand viewers, a number of these boxes are with students, or poor people who don't have the concentration required to input the information on the remote each time, so IN FACT, each viewer probably counts for about fifty thousand instead.
MUM: That's weird, I thought I could hear my son laughing hysterically hundreds of miles away (this is when I lived in Kent).
ANYWAY, it was a brilliant system, the two dogs counted as viewers in their early thirties (dog years) and mum made sure they had nice wildlife programs on when she went out to work.
WHENEVER GREEN WING OR BOB THE BUILDER WERE ON:
MUM: RIght, so I've put down you'll be watching it, and your brother, and your cousins as well, and the dogs.
ME: I know for a FACT Falmouth Rugby Club are, to a man. huge fans of both shows and watch them dedicatedly.
MUM: Right, on they go then.
INTERESTING FACT: a senior Channel 4 person told me that Green Wing got its second series recommission 'by fifty thousand viewers'. Now I'm not saying that we got the second series purely by my mum having a BARB box, but- actually that is what I'm saying.
Anyway, this morning my mother informed me that BARB have lost the contract for viewer ratings, and the box is being taken away this very day.