Updated: Apr 27, 2019
The TV we knew when we were children in the 80s is long dead
As a child, I never saw a series in full, it was impossible before box-sets or recordable tv with the only exception being Doctor Who specials at Christmas, New Year and Easter time. I never followed the TV guide’s timetable and missed a lot of tv and I imagine that was the same for everyone else.
Each series probably had a set formula that opened and closed in a similar way and each episode repeated the same show in a deja vu way. MacGyver fixes something in South America with some chewing gum and a Swiss army penknife or MacGyver makes something explode in Central America using only a penknife and some chewing gum and I imagine each chapter started and ended a lot like an episode of Murder She Wrote.
Cabot Cobh must have been the murder capital of the world and suspiciously it all happened within earshot of one elderly woman.
The closest thing to Jessica Fletcher in real life was Rose West but I think we all know what was fertilising her rose garden.
Mrs Fletcher was always present at a book launch, tv interview, driveby shooting or drug deal gone bad.
I’m sure a young Jessica Fletcher was at a book depository when a young Lee Harvey Oswald asked her if she wanted to go to Forde’s theatre.
“I remember it strange that he was carrying a rifle over his shoulder when he asked me to the cinema but thought nothing of it at the time.” I’m sure John Hinckley Jr confused Jessica Fletcher with Jodie Foster and only shot Reagan to impress the woman with murder on her mind.
In 50 minutes or 25 minutes for a half hour show, scripts must have had to been very strict with difficulty expanding into a second episode.
Two part-ers did happen of course but they were rare and I’m sure even 24 allowed you to take a few hours rest as the genius of a 24-hour clock worked well with the 22-24 episode format for each American series.
The restless pace took place within a day and you could watch several seasons in a week. A great series but I’m sure there are many dangerous drinking games to go along with all of these programmes.
Take a drink every time The A-Team gets captured, take out a socket wrench-set or blow-torch, find a scrapyard with the parts they need or an army truck goes flying through the air and take a shot whenever the army/military police show up too late to capture The A-Team.
Familiar formats work which has been very strange to see being used now in films with Star Wars Episode 7 following A New Hope’s storyline in Episode 4 which was, of course, the first film as confusing as the maths is to explain.
Just like Star Wars, there are only a certain amount of Death Stars to destroy and princesses to rescue on a weekly basis. TV today seems to allow for more character progression and the ability to tell a story over a season as opposed to a single episode and The Killing was an incredible two season series to follow to climax where one murder lead to many different suspects with the detectives relentlessly looking for the killer in a much more realistic role.
In one scene the father appears to be crying on screen for at least a couple of minutes which would have been impossible to film for a 25-minute episode. Our one-dimensional characters have filled out into human beings. The series was a little tedious at times to watch but the payoff was certainly well worth it.
These restrictive timelines have been comically addressed in cartoons like Family Guy and I remember one episode where a shock twist at the end of Family Guy leaves Petter Griffin turning to the camera and saying something like, “We don’t have time for this story”.
We now have the time and just like Star Wars, we can watch the generational gap between Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader and the arrival of Luke Skywalker and later General (Princess) Leia’s son turning to the dark side.
If there is anything I have ever learnt from watching TV, always carry a Swiss Army knife in case you find yourself in a scrapyard with a well-armed team of ex-soldiers framed for a bank job in Hanoi and never pull a gun on an old woman who has cornered you for a crime.
Always check that the local police aren’t waiting for you off-screen and never ring Agent Fox Mulder as his reception in an alien tunnel is always impossible to hear and speaking of phones, Chloe, get Jack Bauer a smartphone, it will make your life easier.
Summing up, tv has evolved, their budgets are better and the casts come straight from the red carpet. We are now talking about A-listers like Charlie Sheen appearing in a Sit-com until he gets replaced by Hollywood A-lister and ex-Demi Moore boyfriend, Aston Kutcher. That 70’s Show actor who went from tv to the big screen and back again in a very short time.
TV has changed a lot and I imagine tv and advertising will change a lot in the near future and the day of Soap Operas will be replaced by people skipping the soap and going straight to the programme, a problem advertisers will need to address as the public choose when and where to consume the programmes they want. The TV we knew when we were children is long dead. Long live good tv.