Musings On TV: To Watch Or Not To Watch

For a few years now my hubby hasn’t wanted to renew our TV licence, with a great deal of ambivalence from me. Since he brought it up again the other day, I began thinking for the umpteenth time whether I could do without it as a viewer, and whether it was in fact innately useful for writers. Useful in the sense of exposing us to story arcs with beginnings, middles and endings laid bare in the visual, a variety of structural forms, dramatic units of scenes, separate threads of points of view which splice here and there, then separate off again…all the things I learned about on a writing course which looked at developing the use of stage drama and film structures and techniques for use within creative writing, from which I learned so much. Surely carrying on watching some TV would enable me to keep soaking up this material almost subconsciously, which would aid my writing of characters in different settings with dialogue exchanges and body language displays, with close up visuals and wide camera shots descriptively translatable into fiction, and which I consciously put to use in On Turtle Beach. In fact, whenever I’m doing some fiction writing I’m actually imagining directing a film, and when I end my ‘shift’ my character is left waiting in the wings and tapping their foot waiting for me to return to move them on in the story. Isn’t fiction still all about the visual drama unfolding, as much as information and following a story in words is, just like we get when watching TV?

So this is my dilemma, and it is more viable a conflict  than in the past because there is no question that the quality of television today in the UK has plummeted, with far too many quiz shows, soaps, talent shows, people filming each other falling over shows with loudmouthed presenters amplifying their misfortunes to get cheap laughs, pet programs, cooking programs, endless antique programs, and dubious reality TV feeding the  cult of celebrity, and don’t get me started on the adverts. There is nothing rich in experiencing the viewing of this kind of television, apart from if you’re living in a care home where it provides a welcome level of stimulation in the afternoon in the day lounge with a cup of tea and a digestive. And this is why I understand a few people I know doing without a TV set altogether, perhaps using something like Netflix when they want some dramatic entertainment, or simply doing without any ‘watching’ of any alternative source, with more time to read, and yes, it has to be said, more time to write! But it would be a case of feast or famine for me and my hubby, because our internet speed is too slow for Netflix here in the bonny Borders, so there remains no such compromise to soften the shades of my black and white quandary.

So I know what I would potentially gain from no TV, namely less ‘drivel’ exposure and more time to read and write in the evening. But what would I miss? Well I would miss the news, because I don’t get my daily dose of that from anywhere else like my hubby does from the radio or his tablet, and I’ve noticed myself over the years taking far more interest in it than ever before. I once scored something like 3 out of 10 in a school test on current affairs, much to my confused mortification, right before my defences kicked in exclaiming to myself who cares about that kind of stuff anyway? So I’m happy to report those days have changed. I’d also miss high quality dramas for engaging in as both viewer and from what they can teach me as a writer. Same goes for films. Ever since my childhood days perched in front of the family TV on a Sunday with a Yorkie bar to nibble, watching those classic black and white movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood or those pioneering farmers going west in their wagon trains to make new homesteads, I’ve loved a good film. And I love nature programs. Who would want to miss listening to the wonderful David Attenborough describe the lifestyle of such amazingly formed creatures in the Blue Planet series, filmed with astonishing skill and ingenuity, which brings people together in their awe of the natural world with an encouragement to respect and protect this world we live in? And I’d miss well made documentaries, history programs, and travels further afield. And I have to confess, with some red-faced shame, I would miss my ‘zoning out’ time, half listening to a soap opera while I crochet, which I know I should have packed in years ago (that’s the soap, not the crochet ;>)), but the habit is so hard to break when you’re curious about how the next plot twist will pan out, or how they are going to write out an actor whose ‘disgraced’ himself in real life. Then there’s hook after hook and those trademark cliff-hanger endings just before the theme tune takes over, blaring out its ever so familiar and weirdly kind of comforting strains. Such cliff hangers which you can so easily find at the end of chapters within a fast paced thriller novel driven by the plot more than the characters. And so we return to fiction once again, and therein lies my predicament. To watch TV or not to watch TV?

Concessions made so far:

1. A discreetly sized ‘box’ not dominating the living room – fine with me, in fact wanted by me by design. Some kudos here, folks  ;>)

2. No Sky TV or extra paid for channels.

3. No recording of anything (I know someone who records series after series of dramas but can’t find the time to watch them) – proved to be fine with me.

4. The use of wireless headphones for me – remember my hubby says he can’ do without’ any TV (putting it mildy here) so things are getting a bit tight!

My current conclusion, through exploring the issue within this post, is that maybe I could just about commit to a new years resolution to make an effort to watch less TV –  and a conscious, habit-breaking, effort will be what is required. But, that said, I just might just be up for the challenge now!

Views and experiences on this most welcome!





About lynnefisher

Writer and visual artist living in Scotland, INFJ type Writer's blog: Art: Twitter @writeartblog Writers page Facebook Artists page Facebook
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12 Responses to Musings On TV: To Watch Or Not To Watch

  1. All the gripes about Tv quality apply here in the Antipodes too… which is why I didn’t bother to get a new TV when ‘they’ did something which meant you had to update the old TV. I’ve never missed it… probably because the only thing I ever watched by then was the weather forecast – for drama, suspense, human interest, traedy etc etc !!!!!


    • lynnefisher says:

      Yes, well that sounds the same, and I can see why you don’t miss it. And yes what a drama can be made from the weather. Maybe if I lived in my dream place of Arizona in the canyon lands I wouldn’t miss TV at all – the call of the land and nature would counteract it totally! Plenty of time outdoors in the sun, then inside to write, no thoughts of wasting my time watching TV!


  2. You say this, “Quality of TV in the UK has plummeted.” Let me tell you: it is no different in America! I think ever since the second season of the Real World (when they realized “fights = ratings”) and the whole Survivor phenomenon, reality TV has taken over. There is no more creativity. Look at how many remakes come out in theatres. Where has originality gone???


    • lynnefisher says:

      Right, so the quality has deteriorated on both sides of the pond, that’s cleared that up then, I was wondering. And yes, all the survival stuff is rife here too and reality TV, so it’s the times we’re living in. You’re right about all the remakes too – think you’ve made a very eloquent point!


  3. An excellent resume of thoughts that must go through most of our minds from time to time.


  4. A.P. says:

    My view is probably irrelevant, but if it helps any, I kept an RCA Victor telly with a six-inch screen and a 36-inch antenna in my closet for years. Every now and then I would drag it out and plug it in and wind up watching some B movie that would stick with me till the next time I decided to pull it out and watch it. Other than that, I would only watch television when visiting my mother in a distant town, maybe once every two or three months. After her death, I can’t think of a single instance when I have watched T.V. at all. I’ve never liked it, and it has no real place in my life.


    • lynnefisher says:

      Okay, Andy, I couldn’t imagine you watching much TV at all ;>). I hope I don’t come across as rude here, but from what little I’ve seen of American TV, I don’t think I could handle much of it either – so that may have a bearing here. Cheers to you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • A.P. says:

        Not sure whether you were concerned about coming across as rude toward *me* or toward Americans in general (regarding American TV) – but I didn’t perceive any rudeness. I might have been rude when I was harping on the grammar of “its” versus “it’s” however. 😉

        But no, most people who know me can’t even imagine me sitting still long enough to watch T.V., whether it’s American, British, or in another language for that matter. I’m the type for whom it never crosses the mind to go see a movie, or even rent one. When I do watch a movie, of any sort, it stays with me forever — my mind never ceases to mull it over. So I can’t imagine seeing things like movies or T.V. shows on a regular basis — it would overload me completely.

        I’m actually trying to change some of this in my old age. Meditation has been recommended, of course…


      • lynnefisher says:

        Yes, Andy, was concerned about being rude towards Anerican TV ;>) …it is so ‘full on’ compared to over here, a massive, visually exemplified, cultural difference. I get why you wouldn’t want to overload your senses though, that is a huge part of TV no matter what part of the world you live in! Good going with the meditation, it seems to help so many people in this fast paced and rather stressful world we live in. Cheers for now. (and no problem about the its thing)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve not watched live tv or had a tv licence for about 2 years now and don’t miss it in the slightest. When we did have tv, we inevitably watched repeats of favourite shows only with an occasional film thrown in … generally I’d get bored of that too with advert breaks every ten minutes – it ruins the escapism! I’m lucky that I can have netflix and I switch between that or dvds for entertainment as I can watch favourite shows or films over and over again. I’ve not agreed with tv licensing for a long time and think a fairer system would be for the BBC to be a paid subscription service instead of the way it currently is (but that’s another topic completely) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Hi Predictability! Thanks for sharing this. Yes, adverts ruin the escapism, so they get muted immediately, but still there is the interruption. I won’t watch repeats generally, and what’s with Dad’s Army being churned out over and over again? So if I was in your position with netflix being viable I think I could cope with not renewing the licence. No daytime TV either, goes without saying on that one. And yes, a subscription service for BBC would be more welcome. Thanks for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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