Notes from a newcomer

Marion examines our need to watch TV

Watching television is an age thing, isn’t it? My theory is that people born before 1954 have an inbuilt sense of guilt about turning their sets on before six in the evening. There are exceptions to this, of course; it’s perfectly OK

to turn on just to catch the one o’ clock news and weather forecast – and if you are feeling a bit off-colour then naturally you are allowed to curl up on the settee with a blanket and watch old films in the afternoon.

Another exception to this rather tenuous rule that I have just made up is sport; men of all ages enjoy an inalienable right to watch the box at any time of the day or night provided it is football, cricket, the Olympics or

international tiddlywinks. Women, on the other hand, can only indulge in guilt-free daytime viewing if they are doing the ironing at the same time.

Is it because when we over-fifties were growing up there was no daytime television to speak of? Once the Flowerpot Men had strutted their stuff for the toddlers and Andy Pandy and Looby Loo had waved us goodbye, there was nothing

more exciting than the test card to gaze at until the BBC announcers had donned their formal evening wear in readiness for the night shift. Whatever the reason, somewhere in our minds the belief has formed that there is something just a little decadent about sitting down to watch television during the day when we should be doing something more constructive – like reading the paper or

listening to the radio. Or going for a nice brisk walk.

The post 1954 generation has no such hang-ups. As soon as they are up and about, on goes the box and stays on all day – rather like moving wallpaper, because nobody actually pays it much attention. And sitting down to watch as a

family no longer happens because children have sets in their bedrooms and can watch pretty much what they choose. (Fortunately, space doesn’t allow me to venture into most wrinklies’ thoughts on that aspect of today’s viewing habits; suffice to mention ‘steam’ and ‘ears’!) I can vouch, however, that the solitary viewing trend isn’t confined to youngsters – one couple I know have separate

televisions so she can watch the soaps and he can watch golf (when he is not out on the course playing).

Yet when my conscience finally allows me to pick up the remote at the end of the day, I find I flick gloomily from channel to channel. The cry goes up (as it does most mornings on Wake Up with Wogan) “There’s nothing on the telly!” Curious that, as there is more on the telly than ever before. We are spoilt for choice, but perhaps after four decades of relying on the magic lantern for

entertainment, the ‘magic’ begins to wear thin. Personally, I never thought the charm of garden programmes would ever pall but these days even Gardeners’ World barely tickles my jaded palate. And I’d pay good money to give that Diarmuid Gavin a hard slap!

Marion Clarke

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