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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,
    • 'The Testaments is, first and foremost, a manual of resistance ... a type of resistance that is organised, articula… ,