England has several TV channels these days, rather than the same four or five that we had for decades. However, more does not necessarily mean better. Most of the TV channels these days are either shopping channels, trashy channels, religious channels (nothing wrong with that, but TCN is run by American billionaires that showcase some very dodgy preachers), rolling news channels (good for nervous breakdowns) and quiz shows (boring, for the most part). Many of the standard terrestrial channels just repeat the same old hash day-in and day-in, there are only so many antique, buying-a-house and soap operas anyone wants to watch.
So what’s the alternative? Many young people these days never watch the main channels, they just stream stuff, and that’s a pretty good idea for many. Recently a newspaper reader mentioned that Nadine Dorries MP had expressed surprised that younger people were not watching the mainstream channels, and tended to stream stuff on YouTube. They wrote ‘The culture secretary?! Wait until she hears about Netflix!’
Seriously, there are a few good channels, but you will have to do a little work to find them. One obvious choice is to watch less TV. There are plenty of other good things to do: go for nature walks, play with pets and children, go to the pub and chat with friends, visit relatives, read books, listen or play music, visit museums or art galleries, go to the cinema, sleep, have a bath – take your pick! But for those days when you just fancy chilling on the sofa in front of some good TV, here are some better options.
Some of these choices are online only. If you prefer to ‘watch real TV’ from the sofa, you can either invest in an Internet TV ( so you just plug and play from the screen). Or for older TV sets, you can buy a scart lead from Argos and just plug it into the back of your TV and select the hdmi option on the remote, to turn your TV screen into what you’re viewing on a laptop. Just be sure to turn the laptop around the other way to avoid duplicate screens playing at the same time, or you’ll feel like you are in a TV shop.
One final note: do check as sometimes you may not need a TV license. Many people are exempt, so don’t pay unless you need to. There are mumblings about making the service subscription based, or scrapping fines for little old ladies who can’t afford to pay the very expensive license fee. One bizarre law still in place is that blind people still have to pay a portion of the license – and they get a discount if the set is black-and-white!?
- BBC 4 is likely the best choice for mainstream TV. It does vere 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 are likely to find something worth watching, if you’re bored.
- Byline Times TV and The Real News Network are two good online places to learn what’s going on in the world. The first is a TV version of a wonderful indie newspaper and the second is a citizen’s journal network, where good reporters tell you what’s going on in the world. Both channels are funded by viewers, so there are no ads and no bias, political interference or companies stopping the truth from being told. They are enlightening!
- Now TV is a good option if you don’t like any of the offerings on mainstream TV. Unlike Sky, this is far cheaper and all you do is buy a box and then choose a package (entertainment, film, sport). Some of the channels are good like Sky Nature and National Geographic so you can mix and match here, to come up with something good.
- Britbo is a good collaboration between BBC and ITV, and offers all the ad-free classics that you likely enjoy – from Inspector Morse and The Office to all the classic comedy series like As Time Goes By and dramas from yesteryear. You’ll also find films like Notting Hill
- Disney Plus is less than £10 a month. It does offer a lot of trash, but also you can sit the children down to watch all the classic original Disney films from Jungle Book to Cinderella. Plus you’ll get some good Disney films from yesteryear like Hayley Mills in Pollyanna. National Geographic has now signed up so offers some nature films, and you can also use this to watch popular programmes like Gray’s Anatomy.
- Conscious Living TV is an American worldwide online channel, devised by an entrepreneur and his entertainment lawyer wife, which they thought up on the back of a boarding pass on their honeymoon! It offers nice programms on vegan cooking, eco fashion and sustainable spiritual living.
Start Your Own Independent Cinema
The cinema should be a nice experience. Go out with some friends to view a nice film on release, have some cola and a bucket of popcorn, then amble back home. In truth, most cinemas these days are owned by huge companies and rarely put out interesting arthouse films. Four people enjoying a fizzy drink and popcorn along with the cinema tickets, can set you back £100 or more.
This smartphone projector offers a ready-made mini cinema to view favourite movies on the wall with up to 8 times magnification, using just your phone. It reflects the image through a glass lens (so any text or subtitles will reverse). Keep lens out of direct sunlight. Not for children under 14.
There are alternative independent cinemas around, so check these out as they often have good films and a much nicer olde-worlde style atmosphere. They also tend to be run for the love of film, rather than solely for money. You can find a list nationwide at Independent Cinema Office.
It’s quite complicated with licenses et al, but another idea is to start your own independent cinema, for the benefit of your local community. The free guide includes info on suitable buildings and technical considerations to costs, programming, marketing, staff and finding an audience. It also includes case studies from very small to very large venues, where you can hear the personal experiences and insights of people who have launched one. You can then host screenings of films like Kiss the Ground (climate change) or HOPE (what you eat matters).
The other simpler idea is to do what some Transition Towns do, and just organise screenings of films in rooms over your local pub etc, which likely already have licenses to play films and music, and serve food and drink etc. In Devon, the independent Barn Cinema is set within a beautiful 14th century building, and often works with the local Transition Town to show films that are about environmental and community issues, rather than big blockbusters.