My Life in Television
First published on JVTV September 1st 2017
I’ve often wondered how many hours of television I’ve watched in my 47 years. If we estimate 3 hours viewing per day since my 5th birthday then that’s just under 47,000 hours of television. I went for 5 as that’s probably the earliest age I can remember actually watching stuff.
One of my earliest memories is being home from school and having a Birds Eye shepherds pie for my lunch (in the days before Causton School put me off mash potatoes for life) watching Issi Noho and Pipkins before kids TV made way for The Cedar Tree and Crown Court.
Issi Noho was a program about a magic panda. He wasn’t very good at magic and his human owners would often get into mishaps caused by Issi’s malpractice. Pipkins ran for many years. Hartley the Hare, Topov the Monkey, Octavia the Octopus and Pig. I remember learning about death from the Pipkins crew.
Having only 3 channels until late 1982 when Channel 4 came along we were restricted with what we watched. Kids TV, soaps, a bit of home grown stuff and American imports. There was no 24 hour channels. 10am to 11pm if we were lucky. Kids TV on the main channels at tea time and if you missed something than that was it. No catch up service.
My TV watching habits were influenced by my mother. Crossroads, Coronation Street, Dallas and Dynasty were regularly viewed. Saturdays seemed to be my day for the TV. Dad at the labour club or at football, mum doing mum things round the house and the girls out horse riding or kissing boys. I’d have sole charge. It would be Swap Shop and Tiswas in the morning followed by Grandstand and World of Sport in the afternoon. I’d keep it on ITV most of the time flicking on to BBC1 during advert breaks or when WoS showed the horse racing or old people bowls.
Once the sport had finished it was time for Doctor Who. Tom Baker was my doctor. I cried when he fell off the tower and changed into Tristan Farnon from All Creatures Great & Small! Then we’d have the American imports such as Dukes of Hazard, Nancy Drew Mysteries, Wonder Woman and The A Team before Ted Rogers’ 3-2-1 and finally Match of the Day before bed time. (Saturdays alone probably skew my 3 hours per day average!)
As the 70’s turned into the 80’s I was watching shows like Minder, To The Manor Born, World In Action, Play Your Cards Right and was an avid viewer of the news. The first thing I can remember about the news is the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper and then the siege of the Iranian embassy.
Two things then happened that revolutionised my TV watching. We got a VCR in the summer of 1981 (initially a VHS then a Betamax) and for Christmas 1981 I got a portable TV. To begin with we’d tape things we were watching and re-watch immediately. It was Tomorrow’s World stuff right in our front room. After a while we got the gist of it and I could tape Panorama whilst we watched Minder. The concept actually blew our minds. It was incredible.
Then came the launch of Channel 4. On the way to school I went to the newsagent and purchased a copy of The Sun (sorry) and spent my day going through the TV section to work out what I’d be watching. Countdown whilst we had our tea then it was off to bed. Brookside, The Paul Hogan Show, The film (I thought it was P’Tang Yang Kipperbang but research tells me it was Walter staring Ian McKellen with PYK on the following night) and the Comic Strip Presents Five Go Mad before I went to sleep.
Brookside instantly became a favourite and I’d watch most episodes and also the omnibus on a Saturday tea-time.
As I moved into my teens I’d still dabble with kids TV with Grange Hill a must watch along with Press Gang, Murphys Mob, Byker Grove and Magpie. If the sisters got hold of the remote it would be Blue Peter but as I was in love with Jenny Hanley I’d always plum for Magpie. Jenny was my 2nd TV love after Sally James from TISWAS.
As the networks expanded and TV moved in breakfast TV and broadcasting beyond midnight they had to fill the schedules with something. In the early 80’s that something was Australian television. Production values weren’t the best in Australia so the TV companies purchased on the cheap. The Sullivans, Young Doctors and the legendary Sons & Daughters would be broadcast at lunchtime and in the afternoon just before the Kids stuff started. The Betamax’s timer facility certainly got some use.
Through early to mid 80’s I’d be watching great stuff like Auf Wiedersehn Pet & The Bill which carried on for a quarter of a century along Aussie imports such as Prisoner Cell Block H, A Country Practice and Police Rescue.
I turned 18 in 1988 and with that we saw a fair few changes to television. Neighbours made it’s move to 5:35pm and became the biggest TV phenomenon of the time culminating in the wedding of Scott and Charlene which was watched by over 20 million of us. Emmerdale Farm became a fully networked evening soap, The Bill moved to twice a week all year round and London’s Burning made its debut.
As the 80’s become the 90’s we lost Doctor Who for 16 years and The Verseys got Satellite TV. Guess what? We didn’t get SKY like most people. We got the ill fated BSB. With the square dish.
I believe we were the first house in Felixtowe to get it. Which was nice. We got The Movie Channel, The Sports Channel, Galaxy, The Power Station and Now. The first 2 channels explain themselves whilst Galaxy was an entertainment channel showing rather a lot of BBC repeats including the early Doctor Who.
The Power Station was a specialised music channel whilst Now was a lifestyle channel.
BSB didn’t last long as by the year end it had merged with SKY. So we had to get another dish installed!
Soaps again dominated my viewing with Eldorado airing across 1992 and 1993 along with Australian import E Street. ITV produced a cop series with a difference in 1993 which saw Robbie Coltrane as police psychologist Eddie Fitzgerald in Cracker.
Late 1992 UK GOLD launched which at the time was the greatest thing to happen to TV viewing in many a year. For the first time ever we’d get to see programs from the BBC and Thames TV archives.
Just some of the shows UK Gold repeated in its early days were classics such as:- Just Good Friends, Top of the Pops, Minder, George and Mildred, Bless This House, The A-Team, Are You Being Served?, Blakes 7, EastEnders, Crossroads, Dallas, Neighbours, Sons & Daughters, Dynasty, Eldorado, Juliet Bravo, Casualty, Angels and The Sweeney to name but a few.
We now find ourselves into the mid 90’s and our choice of channels has risen to well over 50. The BBC still was the kingpin of broadcasting and in 1996 aired what is arguably the greatest drama series ever made, Our Friends in the North. A 9 part series that focused on a group of friends from Newcastle spanning 31 years from 1964 to 1995. It’s a cliche but they don’t make then like that anymore!
Reality TV was all the rage at the turn of the century. Big Brother launched and we saw the return of the manufactured talent shows. In the early days Big Brother was revolutionary television and I watched along with millions of others. In recent years it has become a show featuring some of the most horrific humans ever born. It’s spawned many similar shows which are so cheap to make schedulers are preferring these over quality drama.
We are now well into the millennium and with the inception of broadband, illegal torrents and subscription based television we have seen the biggest seismic shift to how we watch TV since the video recorder many paragraphs ago.
It was around 2006 I started to watch American drama. I’d watched things like The A Team, Hart to Hart and of course Dallas and Dynasty but with the world at my finger tips via a keyboard and phone line I could watch anything I liked.
Heroes was the first modern US drama I got into. True of many US dramas where it starts off amazing and then peters out into absolute drivel. Over recent years I’ve watched:- Criminal Minds, Prison Break, The OC, One Tree Hill, Desperate Housewives, Tru Calling, Dexter, The Good Wife & Sons of Anarchy to name but a dozen.
I watched the first few series of Breaking Bad and then gave up as its the most overrated TV show of all time. I’m almost up to that point with The Walking Dead. Eight years and nothing has changed. 10 minutes killing zombies, 10 minutes of Rick being all moody, 10 minutes of the other characters getting a turn, 5 minutes of silence and then 5 minutes of a cliff hanger that makes you want to watch the next episode.
My TV obsession has developed even further as I now collect digital copies of old and new shows. The current count is over 1,1000 different series including many mentioned above.
Well that’s about it for my 40 odd years watching TV. Hopefully you’ve kept with it til the end and I’ve brought back some memories of long forgotten shows. All that’s left is to leave you with a few top tens of my favourites. I haven’t included US shows as there’s still a lot I need to watch to make the top 10’s accurate.
|TOP TEN SOAPS||TOP TEN BRIT DRAMAS||TOP TEN BRIT COMEDIES|
|10||E Street||10||Grange Hill||10||Goodnight Sweetheart|
|9||Coronation Street||9||Boys from the Blackstuff||9||Peep Show|
|8||Dream Team||8||Life on Mars||8||Phoenix Nights|
|7||Crossroads||7||Line of Duty||7||Fawlty Towers|
|5||Prisoner Cell Block H||5||Minder||5||Father Ted|
|4||Sons & Daughters||4||The Bill||4||Blackadder|
|3||Dallas||3||Cracker||3||The Royle Family|
|2||Dynasty||2||Our Friends in the North||2||The Office|
|1||Brookside||1||Auf Wiedersehn, Pet||1||Only Fools and Horses|