Having the TV remote all to yourself rocks


Having the TV remote all to yourself rocks

Did I get/feel "close" to family and neighbours because of all this television watching?


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Thu 10 Aug 2017, 9:32 PM

Last updated: Thu 10 Aug 2017, 11:33 PM

When I was a kid, and we had just purchased our television set, there used to be a crowd around the living room, where the TV stood proudly on its four legs - yep, back in the day, the idiot box had legs to stand on, not a wall to cling from - on weekend evenings. Weekend evenings - Saturday evenings and Sunday evenings - were when movies, interrupted by two capsules of news, were telecast. The folks next door, a joint family teeming with members (at least 14 to 15 of them), didn't have their own television set - but since they were (yes, all 14 or 15 of them, across sexes, age groups and generations) "close" friends with my family members, they would pop by for some communal viewing.

On evenings a "popular" film was being aired, there'd be a "house full". Some of us would have to stand or squat awkwardly on the floor, trying to avoid banging into the centre table or getting entangled in grandpa's long legs. And on evenings when less popular films had their day, there would be a frantic struggle to get the best seats. I remember dining table chairs, all eight of them, were lined up to beef up the sofa set's inadequacies; plus there were myriad stools and, of course, hand/arm rests that doubled up as seats.

Weekday evenings were when other kinds of television programmes did the rounds. Sports round ups, news analyses, magic shows, social commentary, farmers' specials. even a few serials (I loved 'em all!). The folks from across the road didn't drop by on weekdays, but everyone in my joint family would be "watching". It was, yet again, a communal affair, albeit less crowded; I never had to sit on a hand rest on a weekday evening.

Did I get/feel "close" to family and neighbours because of all this television watching?

Nope. In fact, I hated the fact that there would be so much non sequitur-ish chatter and general white noise. Back then, I took television viewing very seriously (since there was so little of it on offer), and wanted to be as focused as possible. I'd secretly wish everyone else would disappear, allowing to me bask in solitary splendour. me and telly, that is. My favourite fantasy those days was I'd grow up and live in a house I had absolutely no blueprint for - except that it would have a television set. And I wanted to live alone in that house because I wanted to watch TV all by myself.

Alas, that was not to be. TV time was, whether you liked it or not and for whatever it was worth, family time.

Obviously, in the days of yore, there were reasons for this throwing everyone together into the mix. You know them all too well: there was only one TV set in most middle-class households; you couldn't stream movies on your individual phone set or your tablet; there was no internet and/or social media, so most of us had nothing to do for leisure - except watch television. Etc etc etc.

We have come a long way. Today, everyone - or at least a significant chunk - is complaining that "family time" around the television set has become a rarity. Recently, Ofcom (that's short for the United Kingdom's Office of Communications) has said - according to a report in The Guardian - that "45% of people watch a programme or film alone every day while nine in 10 watch alone every week". And that's supposed to be a crying shame.

As everyone rushes in to try and halt the baleful march of self-destructive family deconstruction, I want to know: what is so wrong in enjoying watching a film or a television programme by oneself? Why does everything - including watching Black Mirror or House of Cards - have to be about family time? If my spouse wants to binge-watch Breaking Bad while I'd rather gorge on Devious Maids, why is that such a deal breaker? Surely there's a better way to feel connected to your child than watching Tom & Jerry together?

I came across a piece on modern-day television audiences on the Net, a site called statesboroherald.com, where a man tells us of his "re-bonding" with his son while watching a telly series together; apparently, they had been drifting apart, but just because they both appreciated the travails of a terminal cancer patient trying to make a quick buck out of a makeshift meth lab (yes, I'm referring to Breaking Bad), they start singing odes to each other. Seriously? That's all it takes to mend fences? Methinks it's a desperate attempt to justify "me-time" - by implying television watching can have a positive cascading effect too.

Can I be left alone to watch TV by myself, without being swamped by (serial) guilt?

Sushmita is Editor, wknd. She has a ?penchant for analysing human foibles

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