Lockdown is better than being a teenager in the 1970s

I’ll tell you what, there’s a lot more on television now than there was in the 1970s, and there’s still nothing on.

Searching through the television schedules, there’s a sense of what a Saturday evening felt like in teenage years. The search through the television schedule in the newspaper in those times did not take very long. A single tabloid page of the Daily Mail was split into three columns. The left-hand column listed BBC 1 programmes, the right-hand column listed those on ITV. In the middle column there would be the picks of the day, below which appeared the BBC 2 lineup. Watching television was all there was to do.

Even in the years at sixth form college, weekends were devoid of excitement. The college discos and birthday parties of friends were always on a Thursday. Perhaps the venues were cheaper, perhaps the DJs were cheaper. Who else wanted to go out until 1 am and get up at the usual time the next morning when Friday and Saturday nights awaited when there would be no need to care how late you stayed up?

No matter how bad television now may seem, it offers an extraordinary range of choices. In the 1970s, Saturday evening television was from a time when BBC programmes might attract tens of millions of viewers. There was The Generation Game, and Parkinson and Match of the Day.

Looking back, it’s hard to imagine why so many watched The Generation Game, even Bruce Forsyth, the ever cheerful presenter must have felt frequent cringe moments. But when there were only three television channels, only one television in the house, and there was nothing else to do, Bruce Forsyth was watched.

Late on Saturday night, there would be the Hammer House of Horror or Westerns where the bad guys would commit some heinous crime and would be tracked down and shot by the good guys (Valdez is Coming remains my favourite Western and vengeance film of all time).There was something unsatisfactory in the films where the bad guys did not get shot at the end.

Even in a time of lockdown, the choices available to teenagers are vastly greater in number than they were in the 1970s. Even if the electronic programme guide on the television offers nothing whatsoever that you might want to watch, the options offered by smartphones, tablets, laptops and games consoles are immeasurable. Social media provides a degree of connection unimaginable five decades ago.

For those living their lives in a virtual world, for those whose reality is online, lockdown may seem hardly noticeable.

For someone who grew up with Bruce Forsyth, the chance to go out now would be welcome.


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