TELEVISION, for better or worse, is a near-constant in our lives, with flickering boxes in at least one room of most houses, waiting rooms and offices around the country.

They churn away, hour after hour, day after day, trying anything to keep us watching for a few more minutes, promising us something new or exciting, but when was the last time you saw something that made you think?

Alternatively, if you can cast your minds back that far, when was the last time you saw something that wasn’t the same seven people, and the two or three who might end up running this country?

As a nation, probably even as a species, we have become so dependent on television to satiate us that we don’t seem to care about the content, so long as the reassuring glow is there, watching over us, like a night light to hold our hands in the brief hours between us getting home from work and drifting off to sleep.

The same old soap operas have been serving up the same overwrought family dramas for decades, like the last dried-up burger at a barbecue – nobody wants to eat it, it’s so leathery and dry, and of such little nutritional value it’s really not worth it, but people will choke it down because who knows when there’ll be another one?

Just like you can’t waste food, you can’t have dead air, so here – watch these suspiciously talented amateur chefs cook dishes in a Michelin star restaurant while you shovel another forkful of ready meal into your face, and just be grateful you don’t have to read a book.

But every now and then, in between the reality shows and the over-dramatic hysterics, there will come along a show which makes you pause for a second and remember the power of good television.

A show that tells a story that would not come over as strongly in any other medium, and you genuinely feel lucky to have seen.

In the past six weeks, I saw three of these shows, and I feel all the better for them.

First up was an episode of Inside No 9 called The Twelve Days Of Christine. The show itself is a series of unrelated stand-alone 30-minute episodes, and this one looked at about a decade in the life of a woman, played by Sheridan Smith, as she grew up from a flirty young woman into a divorced single mother.

I won’t spoil it, because if there’s any chance you can find it and watch it, I cannot urge you to do so strongly enough. Other episodes in the series have been broadly played for laughs with horror elements, and this one had some creepy moments, but the rug-pull ending caught me completely by surprise, and the final moments were heartbreaking and beautiful.

Next was a documentary called Life After Suicide – a brave documentary from the BBC, which explored what it is like for the families of those who feel like they cannot go on, and end up taking their own lives.

The host, Angela Samata – whose husband took his own life – met men and women whose partners had killed themselves, and spoke to children who had lost their parents. All the while, she was looking at her own son, and praying he would always feel comfortable enough to talk to her about his feelings, rather than bottle them up until he could only see one way out.

Lastly, Code Of A Killer was an ITV drama looking back at the birth of DNA fingerprinting, and how it was first used to solve a criminal case. Yes, there was the occasional unnecessarily contrived moment, but David Threlfall and John Simm worked with a mainly excellent script and solid direction to create a three-hour feature, based on a true story, which rarely felt that long.

Obviously, there has been a great deal of decent filler on the airwaves between the news, soaps and reality shows, but this is the sort of thing we should be crying out for more of – not just entertaining, but thought-provoking, surprising, and even, dare I say it, original.

Instead, we see death threats and million-strong petitions because an oafish and overpaid presenter beats up someone he considers an underling and doesn’t have his contract renewed.

We’re better than this. It’s all very well switching off our brains for a while and letting the warm glow of the LCDs wash over us, but we should be asking for more.

Change the channel, write an email, and let the programme-makers know what you think otherwise we just get what we’re given – bland, uninspired and uninspiring gruel for the eyes.

At least that way, when you complain about the rubbish that’s all over the screens, you’ll know that you tried.