Few of those I teach seem to watch traditional television channels. If television is watched at all it is Sky Sports or Netflix, otherwise time is passed on social media platforms.
It is strange to think that traditional television seems to be going the way of printed newspapers. It is suggested that linear television, where programmes are broadcast in a scheduled, published sequence, lacks a long-term future. Programmes will be made available for people to watch them on demand; the concept of everyone watching at the same time will disappear altogether.
There will never be the excitement that watching television brought fifty years ago. Children’s programmes were very limited. There were only three channels, and BBC 2 only showed programming directed at younger viewers on Saturday afternoons.
BBC 1 began with Play School, then there was Jackanory, the storytelling programme. On Mondays and Thursdays, Blue Peter was shown at five minutes to five o’clock; on Fridays, it was Crackerjack. Somewhere in the schedule, there must have been space for other programmes, for the reflection brought memories of Casey Jones, the theme music playing and replaying itself through my mind:
Stop, look, listen ’cos you’re gonna hear
A brand new story ’bout a great engineer,
He’s the greatest of them all we claim
Number one’s his engine, Casey Jones his name.
Casey Jones a steamin’ and a rollin’,
Casey Jones you never have to guess
When you hear the tootin’ of the whistle
It’s Casey at the throttle of the Cannonball Express!
There’ll be Casey Junior and old Redrock too,
Fireman Wally and the rest of the crew.
In a thrilling adventure that’s a lot of fun
When Casey takes the throttle for another run!
Episodes of Casey Jones were watched with enthusiasm, the characters seemed to have as much flesh and blood reality as the people who appeared on the television news. It was a surprise to discover that the two series that were made of Casey Jones dated from 1957-1958. The programmes I watched with enthusiasm were at least ten years old before they were broadcast in England between 1967 and 1975.
Watching clips from Casey Jones online, it seems unlikely that the programme would now have the power to grip the imaginations of younger people, but nor do the programmes that are being made now and nor do the social media platforms. In fifty years’ time, no-one will remember the clips from YouTube and Tik Tok and the like, in the way that Children’s Hour programmes from the 1960s are now remembered.