Not on the box – Viewpoint

Ladies and gentlemen of the internet. Come on a journey with me to the dark side – a cavernous living room where there’s no focal point, where sofas sit facing each other… a world in which all of the pixels are dead! Witness the insufferable smugness!

We know them, we come across them in all walks of life – the uber-poseurs (the ones who know it really should be written über). They lean in to you over their flat white, and bristle your arm slightly with their elegantly tailored Belstaff coat as they smirk and say “Oh no, I haven’t got a television” BEFORE THEY’VE EVEN BEEN ASKED. You swear you didn’t ask the question, or even think it, but they’re desperate to tell you about it. They’re like the vegans of the entertainment world.

People who don’t watch tv these days remind me of good-time fun-loving Oliver Cromwell.  No Christmas, no parties, no football, no theatre. A puritanical spirit that may have made sense 40 years ago when there were three channels all showing repeats. But now they’re cutting themselves off from such spectacle – amazing, important and rich cultural experiences. And was Oliver Cromwell a happy bunny? Well he’s not on record for smiling very much.

Cromwell – having a blast

And shouldn’t life be about the pursuit of having a nice time, as best as you can, to totally misquote Jeremy Bentham? It’s so important it’s in the United States Declaration of Independence and the Americans are cheeful people. Loud, unnerving, and a bit frightening en masse, but resolutely cheerful. Like toddlers.

People who say “Oh no, I haven’t got a tv” or “I’m far too busy to watch tv” are looking down their noses at this terrible waste of time. This way of thinking used to be aspirational – even now, if someone asked you how many hours of tv you watch in a week you’d round the number down wouldn’t you? And it’s not just about passively sitting down for hours, which the news media keeps reporting on as worse for your health than smoking/ eating asbestos/ jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Hey at least with jumping you’d be getting a bit of exercise. All this time wasted in front of the gogglebox. It’s rotting your brain!

The aspirational middle classes kind of admire this old fashioned thinking – “Ooh the Fortescues at no.75 don’t have a telly! They’re very cultural! They say they don’t have time for telly between re-reading War and Peace, taking Tarquin to his riding lessons, hosting dinner parties and going to Shakespeare in the Park.” And fair enough, if you don’t have time to watch tv, if you’ve got hobbies or kids (people tell me it’s impossible to have both) this pastime might not be in your top 10 list of things to do but that doesn’t mean you can snub your nose at it. Honestly it’s not a waste of time.

Stats courtesy of

It’s a golden age out there – Netflix, Amazon and HBO are all on the scene and making waves, showing the old terrestrial broadcasters that they need to raise their game. TV dramas are the new Godfather films, the new Lord of the Rings, the new Truman Capote. We are spoiled with such high quality and diverse offerings.

Do you remember when you muttered and sighed because your drama teacher wanted you to watch a subtitled French film? Hard luck buddy because now thanks to BBC4 and their Nordic Noir obsession everything that’s worth watching has subtitles. Give it 10 minutes to tune in and you’ll be entranced. If anything there are too many high-quality shows to keep up with them all. Watching tv isn’t about suffering through Gladiators on ITV on a Saturday night any more (although shows that you can watch with your brain turned off are still there and absolutely thriving.)

Trust me when I say there really is something for everyone. And there’s always something new and exciting to look forward to. Open the iPlayer or Channel 4 website. Don’t worry – no one will judge you. Say yes, enjoy more, and don’t cut yourself from what could be culturally rewarding experiences. And as Ollie Cromwell never said – be happy!


Author: sarahhamstera

Mum always warned me watching too much tv would give me square eyes - let's find out if that's true! TV reviewer at Birmingham, UK

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