One of my earliest memories of TV was watching the Apollo Moon landing in April 1969. I can remember the whole family gathering around a tiny screen that was fixed in a huge cabinet as we tried to make out the fuzzy shape of Neil Armstrong descend onto the lunar surface. Space exploration became an instant interest from then on. Other early memories of television are of sitting with my father and mother watching Laurel & Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, The High Chaparral and Bonanza on Sunday afternoons, The Magic Roundabout, Roobarb and Custard and Top Cat before going to bed on a week day and The Banana Splits on a Saturday morning.
I consider myself lucky enough to have been able to witness some of the TV greats. As a family we all looked forward to watching Morecambe & Wise (Christmas isn’t the same without them), The Two Ronnies (Not so keen on the music based sketches though), Till Death Us Do Part, Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game, Porridge, Whickers World, Open All Hours, The Benny Hill Show, Only Fools and Horses, The Tommy Cooper Show, Dick Emery, Dad’s Army (Surely the best cast show of all time) the list goes on. The good thing about TV in ‘those days’ is that, as there were only 3 (and later 4) channels you could be sure that your friends would have watched the same thing as you did, when it was actually on. There were no recording devices then. The advantage of this was that when we all got together we could, and would, re-enact the sketches and gags at length without annoying someone who’d not watched it yet. I still feel the conversation between groups of friends has become limited now what with some recording programmes on their PVR, some looking to buy them on DVD and others deciding to download them from the internet, no-one wants to talk about what you watched until they’ve caught up. By then the momentum has gone.
There are plenty of other programmes I watched over the years. Series such as M*A*S*H, The World at War, Absolutely Fabulous, Alan Partridge, Have I Got News For You, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, The Fast Show, Big Train, Spike Milligan’s Q Series, Carl Sagan’s The Cosmos, The Old Grey Whistle Test (TOGWT) becoming essential viewing. As the years progressed newer and bolder, possibly more risqué programmes caught my eye. Men Behaving Badly, The Young Ones, Bottom, Blackadder, Have I Got News For You, Police Squad, They Think It’s All Over, Top Gear, Coupling, Gimme Gimme Gimme and The Day Today all took comedy in directions no one thought of at the time.
I’m also a lover of a good documentary and believe that the BBC programmes are second to none in this field. Having said that, The World at War has to be one of the best documentary series commissioned. With the BBC came David Attenborough with his ‘Life’ series, The Blue Planet, Earth the Power of the Planet, South Pacific, Space, Wild China, Walking with Dinosaurs and Michael Palin’s travelogues. All fantastically filmed and fascinating to watch.
Nowadays, in my opinion, quality TV is hard to find, however, there are a few gems out there if you’re prepared to look. Jools Holland and Later have given us a worthy replacement for TOGWT and comedies like Scrubs, The Green Wing, Spaced, Father Ted, The Simpsons, Have I Got News For You (still), The Office and Little Britain have continued the standards set by their predecessors. Along with this we have new concepts like the excellent 24, the USA’s view on English history via The Tudors, The Band of Brothers, and a re-invented Top Gear continuing to make TV worthwhile. I don’t watch too much TV now but do make time for shows that are well made and have an element of fantasy about them, like the Sarah Conner Chronicles (third series please), Dollhouse, the Vampire Diaries and True Blood. Even Larkrise to Candleford and Cranford can be included here I think.
So, that rounds up my experiences with television. As you will see the majority of the shows are comedy. I’m a strong believer in that comedy is good for your health and today, with the hectic and stressful lifestyles we lead, I think it’s more needed than ever.