Now that IS the question.
My Mum and Dad got their first TV set around 1962. It was in a walnut cabinet with rolling concertina doors, could get BBC1 and ITV in black and white, plus a variety of radio stations. Obviously us kids weren’t allowed to touch it as it sat majestically in the corner.
To be honest, I can’t recall very much around then other than Watch with Mother (my favourite was the Wooden Tops with Spotty Dog) and we didn’t watch it every day. In later years, I remember that programmes didn’t start until after 4.20pm, the only ‘soap’ was Coronation Street and apparently around midnight the National Anthem was played and the little white dot appeared in the middle of the screen.
Colour TV was introduced in the US in 1953, but it wasn’t until 1967 that the first colour broadcasts were available in Europe. If you could afford colour, you were considered to be Megga Rich, but my parents didn’t get their first colour TV until the late 1980s, and that was only because they couldn’t get their black and white set repaired.
These days, having at least one TV seems to be a necessity as you can sit the kids in front of the box to keep them entertained and out of your hair as you do something else. I know one family who had a meter on the back of their rental set that took 50p pieces. As this took preference over the gas meter, it was not unusual to see the kids wrapped in blankets watching cartoons!
Hubby and I had an ex-rental portable TV when we first got together. It got the 2 main BBC channels, ITV and Channel 4, but nothing else. The picture grew a bit fuzzy over the years, and so we eventually had to replace it. We gave up on the soaps as they were nothing more than shouting matches and characters in one would be recycled into the others so we never knew which one we were watching anyway. Those storylines are still being rehashed so as nothing is original, we’re not missing much. In 1989 we got so sick of football, we went to a second hand shop armed with fifty quid and asked the guy if he had a video recorder we could afford. He didn’t, but must have hated football too as he took pity on us, letting us have the pick of what he had available and giving us a year’s warranty to boot, bless him.
We got into the habit of turning the set on as soon as we got up rather than listen to the rubbish they called music on the radio over breakfast. Evenings were the same, but in truth we didn’t actually watch anything. The only programmes we may have been interested in were either nature, a couple of the American crime series and the news. We seemed to own a video copy of most of the films coming on, and those we didn’t have were interrupted by advert breaks, or a half hour break for the News. You lost the gist and 10 minutes after it resumed you had another advert break, then 10 minutes of film and The End credits. Eventually, programmes started interrupting the adverts, in fact the ads were probably more entertaining anyway. Let’s face it, we had the infamous Love Story over coffee, keeping in touch with Aunty B and her ‘ology’, people being encouraged to buy toilet tissue for their dogs and not forgetting of course the Aliens with a liking for instant mashed potatoes. Then came the craze for Reality TV, Big Brother, hasbeen celebs getting dirty in the jungle or tripping the light fantastic, and the talentless alphabet, all of which have snowballed over the last few years, and does not interest us in the slightest. We were forking out over £100 for a licence each year for something we didn’t really need and so in 2007 we dumped the Box altogether.
This opened up a whole can of worms as people could not understand what we did with our time in the evenings. It was as if we’d beamed down from Planet Setless and so funny to see the look of absolute horror on their faces when our response to their question ‘Did you see………’ was simply ‘We don’t have a TV’. Instant silence. It was like throwing a switch. Few had little else to talk about or could think of nothing unrelated to say, so shuffled away back to their sofas and the comforting hum of transistors.
We have no regrets. We walk the dog which is better for all three of us, play scrabble or cards which keeps the brain active, listen to music, write our blogs and we talk to each other. I agree it helps that we have no kids to keep entertained (we so miss Tom and Jerry!) and if we want to watch a film, we slip in a DVD: no cuts, no breaks, no ads, and we can pause it if we need to go to the loo!