Those of us who grew up in Britain in the 1970s have a profound nostalgia for the television programmes of our youth, and the “social glue” they provided. Now with hundreds of channels, and TV on-demand, that shared experience appears to have gone, but has social media given it a new lease of life?
In his book Nice to See It, To See It Nice, Brian Viner lovingly recaptures a 1970s childhood in front of the telly. With just three channels, and no video recorders, PlayStations or Wiis, choice was limited – which meant there was a good chance your friends and neighbours were watching the same programme as you.
Comedies such as Dad’s Army, Fawlty Towers, The Two Ronnies and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, were essential viewing – and the main topic of playground discussion.
Standing head and shoulders above them all, however, was The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show. For Viner, the whole Christmas experience was judged on the quality of this one TV highlight. And, of course, it was a main talking point among family and friends, and even when school resumed in the New Year.
Such times seem like ancient history, now we have grown accustomed to hundreds of channels, Sky-plus, programmes on demand, and the countless TV-based games.
So the idea of TV providing a shared experience has gone. Or has it?
TV shows such as X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing, which draw the big Saturday night audiences, and even far more obscure programmes on smaller channels in midweek slots, are now the subject of “live” social media discussions.
You don’t have to wait for the playground next day, you can discuss the programme, as it is broadcast, with other fans – yes, even people you don’t know – by following the appropriate Twitter hashtag as you watch.
Of course, keeping one eye on the TV and the other on your computer or phone, may not be everyone’s idea of enjoying a programme, but it’s an example of how social media can bring people together in ways we couldn’t have imagined in the days of Morecambe and Wise.