TV ON TRIAL: Television Behaving Badly; as One Old Favourite Returns, the Debate about What Was the Golden Era of Television Has Been Rekindled. TV Is Going on Trial to Find out Whether Things Have Changed for the Better or Worse since the 1950s. Chief Feature Writer Paul Groves Investigates

The Birmingham Post (England), March 26, 2005 | Go to article overview

TV ON TRIAL: Television Behaving Badly; as One Old Favourite Returns, the Debate about What Was the Golden Era of Television Has Been Rekindled. TV Is Going on Trial to Find out Whether Things Have Changed for the Better or Worse since the 1950s. Chief Feature Writer Paul Groves Investigates


Byline: Paul Groves

As I flick through The Post's television guide on a Saturday morning at the week's viewing ahead an old children's programme inevitably pops into my head.

Not so much the content of the programme itself, rather the title - Why Don't You...Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?

Little wonder that our house's DVD library is growing steadily given the predictable and offputting fodder served up. As the number of channels increases, so the quality of the programmes being aired appears to be diminishing.

Or is that simply a tired old argument from someone wearing rose-tinted spectacles?

Television is a dominant force in 21st century society and in truth has held an increasingly tight grip on our lives since the 1950s. But was television a more positive mediumwhen its grip was slightly looser? From tomorrow, BBC Four is putting the box in the corner of our living rooms on trial and asking viewers whether the golden age of television is now a dim and distant memory.

Is today's television bland, derivative and moribund, or are we in fact reaping the benfits today of the foundations laid decades ago? Have we never had it so good?

TV On Trial invites the great British public to vote and pronounce their verdict on whether today's television is better or worse than it used to be.

During the coming week, BBC Four dedicates its schedule to broadcasting some of the outstanding TV programmes of the past six decades of British television. Each night is introduced by two prominent broadcasting figures - one a champion, the other a critic of that evening's featured decade.

Viewers then register their votes and comments on what they believe to have been the best decade via email, text message and telephone. And, by pressing the red button on the remote control, they can choose to watch all the archive programming uninterrupted, with no comments from the pundits. A live debate show at the end of the week-long ``trial'' announces the result.

A highlight of the week is a modern adaptation of The Quatermass Experiment - to be broadcast as alive two-hour drama next Saturday. ``We're looking at the widely-held assumption that British TV has deteriorated in quality since the early years of the medium,'' explained presenter John Sergeant.

``Some believe that the television of yesteryear was qualitatively better than the TV broadcast today - but does that view stand up to scrutiny?''

Each night, the two commentators - just like the viewers at home - will sit on a sofa in front of a television. Here, they'll see in full a range of programmes selected from the mid-point of each decade - 1955, 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2005. Intermittently, they will comment on what they're watching. …

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TV ON TRIAL: Television Behaving Badly; as One Old Favourite Returns, the Debate about What Was the Golden Era of Television Has Been Rekindled. TV Is Going on Trial to Find out Whether Things Have Changed for the Better or Worse since the 1950s. Chief Feature Writer Paul Groves Investigates
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