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?
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….