Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys
Although England has several TV channels these days, it’s a bit like ‘adding an extra lane on the motorway’. It just creates carnage and traffic, rather than a few decent quality programmes that we used to have, just a few years back. More is not always better. Today we have shopping channels, religious channels (often run by American billionaires showcasing some very dodgy preachers), rolling news (good for nervous breakdowns) and quiz shows (mostly mind-numbingly boring). Many terrestrial channels repeat the same old hash and there are only so many antique and buying-a-house programs that anyone can tolerate.
Watch Less TV!
This is the obvious one. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying Colombo on a rainy afternoon (in fact, it’s one of the best things to do!) But don’t be scared of the ‘off’ button, if nothing’s on. Interior designers often recommend changing the layout of sofas so that they are more geared to conversation (so face two armchairs across from the big sofa with a coffee table inbetween). Rather than just ‘set the sofa to watch TV’). Or do other things: go for walks, play with children and pets, read books, play or listen to music, visit museums and art galleries, go to the theatre, sleep, have a bath – take your pick!
Composer Joe Bates gave up TV to heal from a broken heart (thinking spending time watching rom-coms on Netflix would make him feel worse). The month-long experiment lasted 18 months. In that time, he doubled the number of books he read, got better at chess, and started turning up in person to his local club. He even learned Chopin’s Scherzo No.2 (a piano piece he thought was beyond him).
If you want to do something more, you’ll need to do something less. If you happen to spend 30 minutes as day staring at a wall, you can take up a hobby cost-free. Joe Bates
Do You Need a TV License?
We all hear about those ‘detector vans’ going around streets. But many people actually pay for a TV license, when they don’t need one. If you DON’T watch or record TV or any channel, nor watch life on streaming services nor use BBC iPlayer, you can give up your TV license and claim a refund on unused time. One bizarre law still in place is that blind people still have to pay a portion of the license – and get a discount if the set is black-and-white?!
There are mumblings about making the BBC subscription based. Some dinosaurs oppose this. But the harsh reality is that we’re moving into an age, when most people don’t watch terrestrial TV. When former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries heard that most people under 25 never watch the BBC and stream movies online, she was surprised. Wait till someone tells her about Netflix!
The reality is that old poor pensioners are going to prison to pay for a hugely expensive license, in order to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to TV presenters). And what’s with always having two – one says a sentence then keeps silent while looking to the other presenter to say the next sentence? That never used to happen with Anna Ford. We have the attention span to focus on one newsreader at a time.
The BBC that results from this will be smaller, less able to pay footballers’ wages to football presenters, and bankers’ salaries to newsreaders. But that is an inevitable consequence of no longer having the absolute monopoy over content and transmission, that the BBC claimed in 1922. Mark Lawson
Why We Love Gary Lineker
The monopoly and political ramblings of the BBC (and whether it’s impartial or not) has recently come to light with the suspension of Gary Lineker (often called ‘the world’s best sports presenter’). Even if you (like many of us) know diddly squat about the beautiful game, it’s no secret that Gary is a likable, intelligent and empathic man, who has used his platform to try to bring attention to the plight of desperate refugees, who he acknowledges have been far less fortunate in life than him.
Although he agrees he may have overstepped the mark with his remarks that government language of those fleeing across the Channel reminded him of propoganda from the Holocaust, what irked many (including two fellow presenters who walked out during his suspension) is that political bias does not seem to go the other way. Often if Caroline Lucas (Green) or an independent is occasionally on political talk shows, they are frequently shut down from speaking, while right-wing MPs appear to carry on regardless. Yet nobody is ever booked for that!
Better Terrestial TV Options
If you just fancy chilling on the sofa with good TV, here are some better options.If you don’t have a scart lead and want to watch something good in terrestrial TV, the best choice is likely BBC 4. It was going to be binned but due to protests, it’s now not being binned. But it will now only offer mostly repeats, rather than new programmes. It varies between interesting (Inspector Montalbano, Michael Portillo’s Railway Journeys) and highbrow boring. But as long as you are prepared to wait until 7pm when it starts, you often can find something worth watching.
Check out The Joy of Painting by Bob Ross. Even if you prefer watercolours to his traditional oil-painting, his programs are moving meditation. He spoke gently as he was traumatised by shouting in the Army, so promised to never raise his voice when he left. His gentle manner and excellent teaching style gained huge acclaim, before he died of emphysema just 52. In real life, he was obsessed with squirrels and would ‘drop to his knees’ if he saw one, wishing to rescue them all. Read how we can save both red and grey squirrels.
Now TV is a good option if you don’t like offerings on mainstream TV. Unlike Sky, this is cheaper and needs no satellite dish. Just buy a box and choose a package (entertainment, film, sport). Some channels are good like Sky Nature and National Geographic.
Britbox is a good collaboration between BBC and ITV, and offers ad-free classics that you likely enjoy – Inspector Morse, The Office, As Time Goes Buy. Plus dramas and films from yesteryear.
Online TV Options (get a scart lead)
If you can’t afford a new Internet TV, a scart lead (from any electrical shop) is a good option. You just set your remote control to hdmi then plug the lead in the back of the TV and hook it up to your laptop. This way you can ‘watch TV like normal’ (from the sofa on a big screen) while watching online programmes instead. The only caveat is to switch the laptop around the other way. Otherwise you’ll see the programme on two screens, and feel like you’re in a TV shop.
Byline Times TV and The Real News Network are two good online channels to learn what’s going on in the world, without conventional news (which often is more like gossip mixed with propoganda). The first is the TV version of a wonderful indie newspaper. The second is a worldwide citizen’s journal network (the reporters are from their own country – so if the program is about Ukraine, the journalist is likely Ukranian). Both channels are funded by viewers, so there are no ads or bias, no political interference or companies stopping the truth.
Disney Plus is cheap and although it does offer a lot of trash, this is the place where your children can watch all the classic originals films from Jungle Book to Cinderella. Plus good newer films from Disney like Pollyanna (Hayley Mills). National Geographic has now signed up so your little ones can a bit of educational nature too.
Green Eco Online TV Channels
- Conscious Living TV is an American online channel, devised by an entrepreneur and his entertainment lawyer wife, thought up on the back of a boarding pass on their honeymoon! It offers nice programms on vegan cooking, eco fashion and sustainable living.
- Gaia is a nice worldwide online TV channel, with thousands of quality programs on everything from spirituality and green living to vegan cooking, sustainable travel and yoga classes. There’s a free trial then it’s around £10 a month, and if you have a special film or programme that you just have to share, you get a special link to send to a friend for temporary access.