I accidentally watched three minutes of Big Brother on Friday night. A lass who appeared to have been made out of the left-over bits from a self-assembly super-model kit was discussing her eviction. Dreadful, dreadful freak-show stuff.
It got me pondering about the goggle box. Increasingly I find myself watching DVD sets, currently The Wire and Mad Men, rather than 'live' TV. My habits have changed. Here is what I watched last week, as far as I can recall:
Grand Designs Revisited
I get my news headlines from the BBC web-site and news and comment from the radio so find TV news out of date if I've heard Today, the World at One, PM or the 6 o'clock news (and sometimes all of them). For discussion of the news I read a newspaper.
Whole days pass without the TV being switched on at all and then I use the catch-up service on the iplayer. Shame Match of the Day isn't available though.
I grew up in the 1950s and watched a 15 minute lunchtime children's programme on a black and white set. By the early 1960s I can recall there being two five o'clock programmes for children on weekdays. These were extended fifteen minutes earlier by Jackanory (a talking-head story-teller with illustrations) and by five minutes later with the Magic Roundabout slot.
As I grew older I was allowed to stay up to watch Thunderbirds (coining the phrase supermarionation for a puppet show) at 7p.m. followed by The Man from Uncle which ended at 8.50 and I had to go straight to bed.
Colour TV came to our house in 1972. On marrying, Mrs Mustard and I decided to do without a tele for a couple of years. It was a good decision and we had some fun evenings talking, or listening to BRMB radio (Robin Valk's rock show). I spent a month at my in-laws during the 78 world cup though. We got a tele, a dog, a cat and a son in the space of about six months in 1979/80. A video-cassette recorder wasn't available until about 1984 but I recall the joys of days off from my first curacy watching hired movies. I guess the next generation have no idea what it is like to 'miss' a programme.
But for the first 30 years of my life it was not possible to rearrange viewing time. You either watched or didn't. Being sent to your room and missing TV when I was a child was a real punishment. Apart from during occasional illnesses Mrs M and I have never had a TV in the bedroom and won't.
On my list of things to try and avoid these days:
Any reality TV where reality consists of a mainly false environment
Any audience - elimination programme where you vote (which costs)
Anything with horses in it - racing, jumping, grooming or western
Situation comedy with a canned laughter track
Documentaries about surgery, weight loss or bodies being weird
But sensibly watched and carefully measured TV entertains, informs and keeps you company. My knowledge and skills base has been singularly improved recently by Time Team, Coast, Grand Designs and Masterchef. It's a long way from Rag, Tag and Bobtail.