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15.06.2016

What We Miss About TV

TV as we know it is dead, here's what we miss

By Hugh Upsher

Well, a misleading title if I ever saw it. We are now in the golden age of television and the ways in which we can consume our new favourite shows are better in every conceivable way. Today you’re able to find out which shows are the absolute best, then immediately start binge-watching an entire series until your eyes bleed. However, I don’t miss anything about how television used to be, but if there are moments that I will look back on fondly, these are them:

Open time

I divide my childhood memories up into pre and post getting a M-net decoder. What will go down in history as the most cruel, yet genius, sales tactic ever conceived, M-net would broadcast a daily slot of prime-time viewing seductively named open time. The trick was to tease it out just long enough for the unconverted to catch maybe the first thirty seconds of the movie before slamming the door in your face. I would sometimes sit for minutes staring into the static silently hoping someone at the broadcaster would accidently flip the switch and turn it back on.

Infomercials

I miss watching hours of banal infomercials and being entranced by the relentless repetition of the slimy sales pitch. I miss the dude using a Big Green Clean Machine to hold the full weight of a bowling ball. I miss the guy who set the bonnet of his red BMW on fire to show how awesome his car polish was. I miss watching that hyperactive chef hacking through a boot and a Coke can with his Shogun kitchen knife. I miss the impossibly clumsy housewife going out of her way to spill things onto the floor. I miss watching the aerospace bed being driven over by a massive truck. I miss the mind-blowing body transformations made possible by simply drinking a certain tea or using the Air Walker for twenty minutes every other day. And I really, really miss Isabel Jones. 

The video store

Some of these stores are still around bizarrely enough, but back in the day they were the hot ticket for a slamming sleep over party. You would walk in, see the eight copies of Shrek, and then realise that they’ve already been taken out. You'd then browse around for twenty-five minutes, laboriously reading the blurb on the back of each box because IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes didn’t exist yet. Finally you would pick up The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and think, ‘how bad can it be?’ Then you’d get in the car and hope the copy you got wasn’t too badly scratched to play in your machine, or prior to DVDs, that whoever had rented it before you had been kind enough to rewind it after they were done watching it. 

Being a slave to a schedule

Nothing stressed me out more as a child than trying to get home from school in time to catch the start of my favourite cartoon. There was no option to rewind, no PVR and there was a very real chance that you would never get another chance to see that particular episode ever again. Luckily Dragon Ball Z episodes were made up of 40% recap of the previous episode and 40% preview of the next one. In the case of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, I am still to this day unable to watch every episode of their bizarre three-season run. Then there were the late night slots, where I was forced to coast through garbage shows waiting for eleven thirty so I could catch the newest episode of South Park, or anything else that I found stimulating...

As much as I miss bouncing between the same four channels, praying that something vaguely interesting would pop up, those days are far behind me now. The era of disruption free, on-demand TV shows that are amazingly written and brilliantly produced is here. Now we just need modern adaptations of Simba Surprise, Reggie’s Rush, MTN Gladiators and KTV power edition to surface.