Flying with Honey Boo Boo

Guilty Pleasures at 30,000 feet.

Words: Lee Tulloch

I’ve been travelling too much. The reason I know it is that last week, flying back from Dubai, I found myself watching four episodes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on Emirates’ ICE entertainment channel.

If you don’t know what Honey Boo Boo is, I’m reluctant to educate you but, briefly, it’s either the most brilliant or most horrifying program on reality TV, depending on your tolerance for a 7 year-old Red Bull drinking, beauty pageant winning minx from McIntyre, Georgia, and her proudly White Trash family.

As it turns out, it was perfect, vacuous airline fare, especially the episode about the pet pig, but I’d only pressed PLAY because I’d exhausted most of the other possibilities on the system. I’d taken so many flights the past three months, I’d seen every movie I’d wanted to see, plus all the available episodes of Modern Family, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Thirty Rock and Mad Men.  

Years ago, I used to fly regularly between New York and Australia. I recall being beside myself with delight the first time Qantas started playing all night movie marathons, catering to those restless few who couldn’t manage to sleep sitting bolt upright as the plane hurtled through the night.

Those were the days when each cabin had one screen. I suppose there are at least of couple of generations who can’t remember this (although passengers on certain US airlines can still enjoy this retro experience.) These days, travellers from the Asia Pacific region demand seat-back screens and at least 100 TV/movie choices, and our excellent airlines oblige, but in the old days were forced to – unbelievably – make sure we’d brought a good book.

Nowadays, there are so many movies to catch up with, followed by backed-up issues of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker on your iPad to read, that the humble book may not get a look in.

I find, as a general rule, anything with Tom Hanks in it makes a great sleeping pill.

If you’re lucky enough to be seated at the premium end of the plane, the screens are almost cinematic, given how close we sit to them. A few weeks ago I watched Skyfall in a Qantas Business Class seat and that chase across the Istanbul rooftops was as thrilling as it might have been on the big screen. But even the seat-back systems offered in Economy have improved in recent times. (Although a smart person brings their own headphones – loathe those flimsy, scratchy airline ones.) An engrossing film is engrossing even when it’s screened iPad size.

How many adults go to the cinema these days, anyway? We’re hooked to our TV screens, watching The Killing, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Homeland, Mad Men, Top of the Lake and dozens of other superior series produced by HBO and the like. TV is for adults, cinema for kids, as they say. The small screen experience offered by airlines is like settling down in front of the TV at home, without the phone interrupting, and with a friendly attendant to bring you drinks and snacks.

You may be sitting in a catapulting cocoon surrounded by 300 other people, but your zonked-out, semi-sloshed, pilled-up fellow passengers aren’t the least interested in what you are watching, so you’re free to indulge in some guilty pleasures. Too embarrassed to be seen buying a ticket to Sex and the City 2? On a flight, you can watch it without fear of judgement. SATC2 is what I call a good ‘plane film’ –  a movie where it makes not one jot of difference to your understanding of the plot if you fall asleep during the screening. Which, of course, you will do many times.

Movies in the air not only keep boredom at bay.I find, as a general rule, anything with Tom Hanks in it makes a great sleeping pill.

And then there are the pleasant surprises. On my last flight, having seen just about everything, I reluctantly tuned into Bernie, starring Jack Black, expecting it to be a remake of the remake of Weekend at Bernie’s. In fact, it was a smart and funny Richard Linklater film based on a true story about a cheery funeral director and a crotchety old lady (played by Shirley MacLaine.) I recommend it the next time you board a long-haul flight.

Although I still bring a page-turner with me, I admit I’ve done less reading on planes since the introduction of movies-on-command. But for many people – call them perverse –  the luxury of a long flight is still the hours available to spend with a good book, oblivious to Honey Boo Boo’s siren call.

  1. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo – something I will have to look out for 🙂

  2. by webology on October 25th, 2013 at 10:39 am

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