Tales From the City-Life Without A Telly- or the signal fades to black


It’s the end of week three of no telly, and I have to say; I don’t miss it at all. There is a rather large spot where the television once rested. Now, I have to think about what to put there. A large plant? A stack of books? A fish tank?

I will have internet again, and there I can catch up on wonderful programmes like The Hour, and my current favourite, Downtown Abbey, but I can do that on my own time and not by the television schedule. I will madly and with zealous Google like mad. I will download pod casts and films, but a television plonked in the front room? For now those days are over and without regret.

I remember as a child we were only allowed to watch television on Sundays and for only an hour. Instead of hundreds of television stations, we had two. We all sat around the television after dinner, and the rest of the week l was meant to be doing other things. And other things we did. I read, wrote, and practiced the piano. I played outside in alleys and city parks and when I got older, well there was always the teenage nonsense one gets up to. Later on life gets busy with studies and somewhere after that, we settle down with kids and family and curl up on the old Chesterfield to watch television.

I remember how excited my father was when he arrived home from work one day with a carefully wrapped brow paper parcel. We were going to be the first people on the block with colour television. We rushed into the front room with him and waited with excitement. He placed a wobbly plastic sheet in front of the set and turned the television on. How we howled our disappointment and voiced our ridicule, the people had either blue or orange faces and everyone’s feet were green on the bottom. My father quickly, and looking back on it, with great disappointment, took the plastic sheet down and nothing more was ever said of it. Children can be cruel when adults make mistakes, and we took great pleasure in commenting about those blue faces for days on end. How easily we dismissed technology, but those were early days and little did we know how television was to take over our lives and sometimes not for good.

It’s interesting living on both sides of the pond, take the American Soap Opera, it is pure fantasy. Everyone has had the plastic surgery look, Hollywood star makeup, hair that one sees only in a magazine, butlers drive expensive cars, student live in flats done up with only the best furniture ( no one ever struggles unless they are losing an empire) even the maids drive home in cars, then take the British Soaps. BBC America tried Eastenders and dropped it due to lack of popularity. Was it because the people in the British Soaps looked..well tired, used, and too much like real life? They were not the “beautiful people” and the homes were…well…how do I put it…sad compared to the American soap homes with marble stair cases. Here on Eastenders houses were old terraced houses needing paint, women had fags hanging out of their mouths, and it seemed everyone shouted about nothing; it was hard to imagine how the British Soap Characters would react to real problems. No one on the street does their own laundry, eats at home, or leaves the street without taking a taxi. Or so it seems!  The American audience did not want reality, they want fantasy, and so American soaps are the stuff dreams are made of, but either way, British or American, it’s an escape. On the one hand, your problems are not as bad as the ones in the British soaps, or if they are, maybe there’s a solution, as many episodes almost cross the line from pure entertainment into social education and awareness issues,  and in the American, well isn’t that is the high life is how everyone  is supposed to live? Interesting to note the Soap flake companies were the main sponsors in the early days; hence, the moniker soaps. They were only shown during the day when..ahem…the pretty little housewife had nothing to do. Never mind about multitasking, ironing, running a wash whilst watch a soap.   Housewives Choice aired from 1946- 1967. Can you imagine a show with a title like that going over today?

Family watching television, c. 1958

Family watching television, c. 1958 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although television first started broadcasting long before the war, the reception was not good and many a time a good smack on the top of the set, set things right, or someone held the aerial up trying to get a better signal.  We started in the 50’s with our black and white television, it had a black and white test card showing the station’s logo. I vaguely remember the screen being an army green colour, and it was safely incased in a smart wood box. Truly a piece of furniture in the house. The room was reorganized so that everyone had a good view of the tiny screen. How we howled to the antics of I Love Lucy and her long-suffering husband….Ricky! Even my playpen had a good view. (Gosh child rearing has changed! ) Soon television dinners and  colourful trays to watch the shows and we drifted from the dinning room table to the living room, and then a step further to eating dinner, texting or face-booking,  or going to dinner parties as a guest only to stand listenting to private laughter as everyone face-books each other. That is the long road we have travelled, from a little box in the corner of the room, to a small box we hold in our hands.


Has television been good for us? Here, I stand on the fence, on the one hand it has broken the family into separate independent units, it has been a nanny, a companion against loneliness, but I believe it has also brought the world closer together, with shows crossing borders and nations.  We find we laugh at the same things, we cry together, we watch in awe the spectacle of nature and we learn from the dramas of life long gone, that we are not that different. For this alone, Television has been a good force in man’s life. I think I’ve learned what I needed to, I can live without it, I can enjoy it when I have it and that’s not a bad lesson to have learned. So life without a telly signs off. It’s past the midnight hour, and the screen must go blank for now….

About susan sheldon nolen

It’s rare to catch me without coffee, a form of camera, or my beloved wire fox terriers. I love the history, the art, and it’s a massive part of my life, as I either paint, write, or get interrupted by my dogs, reminding me of the real world. I hope you enjoy your time here. It’s such a privilege to have readers.
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12 Responses to Tales From the City-Life Without A Telly- or the signal fades to black

  1. Cameron says:

    We watch a a lot of BBC (not BBC America, they don’t show the good stuff!) and I hadn’t really thought about the “beautiful people” thing, but it’s very true. Mark and I love British programs, and quite possibly because the people, the homes, and the lives seem normal and real in a way that Hollywood can’t seem to grasp. Also because the British sense of the intelligent absurd is approximately a million times more developed.

  2. Pseu says:

    Glad you are surviving… though of course you have chosen Spring to start this and I do wonder about the long cold dark nights of winter….

    • Hi Pseu…I never thought about that! I just did that..or so I say…ahem..cough cough! I’ll worry about the dark winter nights a little later on! The signal may come on then! 😉

  3. I love this, and Cameron’s comment which follows it. I think you’re wonderful to give up telly: I have loved it and been more than a little addicted since I was a small child. But when blogging came along: there was no time for it any more.

    Long live the extra space in your living room 😉

    • Well I am pleased then that you have no time for tv as you have been producing some amazing blogs! A real pleasure to read! So I’ll be greedy and hope you don’t have time for telly for quite a while! 😉

  4. crubin says:

    I don’t think I could pull off getting rid of my TV. I don’t watch a lot, but I enjoy my downtime with it before bed. Otherwise my brain would never shut down. 🙂

  5. I’m with Crubin, Susan! I don’t watch much TV nowadays, but I know it’s there, just in case I need to. But, fair play to you for doing so. It is intrusive, shows more repeats than new programming, and runs to it’s schedule rather than anyone else’s, but it is also comforting, informative and (at times) entertaining.
    At one time, I used to watch whatever was on, right up until the closedown with the national anthem at the end of the night…

  6. Susan, I’ve been without tv for almost a decade, and I don’t miss it. (I think I told you that already.) I do get a kick out of the looks from people who wonder how on earth I can live without it.

    • Hi Andra I’ve gotten the same strange looks and what? But what will you do? I’ve gotten very used to the radio though. I do dreadfully miss full access internet. I can’t wait to get that back up and running again!

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