Simon Hoggart

Box of Delights

Armchair Nation: An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the TV

By

Profile 456pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

We didn’t have a TV in the early 1950s, not even for the coronation. To the middle middle classes, television was a bit naff, like lava lamps later, or giant screens today. But in 1956 we went to live in America for a year and everybody had a television, just as everyone had a car. My parents had their favourites: Sid Caesar in Your Show of Shows had us creased up every Saturday night. They also loved Person to Person with Ed Murrow, in which the famous war reporter interviewed a celebrity, the twist being that the celebrity was in his or her own home, and Murrow himself was in the studio smoking a cigarette, the length of which remained mysteriously the same for thirty minutes. This was an early example of what is pretentiously called ‘the grammar of television’; Murrow, like us, was watching on a screen, while we watched him watching.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter