The retro TV set: brutality in action


Slinging the aerial across the room was one way to express anger and frustration and was the pre-warning of what was heading the TV’s way.

OUR treatment of the old TV sets was brutal. Even though they were heavy, bulky and pretty robust we really laid into them: kicks, slaps, punches and stonings were some of the common forms of punishment dished out by us. Were the beatings deserved or were we just vile creatures who enjoyed lashing out when the picture or sound quality was poor?

Reason to be brutal part one

The television set is welcomed into the home – getting it through the front door and into the living room was like a full body workout that left you out of breath and sweating buckets. Once powered-up and channels tuned in, the focus of attention would be picture quality: indoor aerial positioning required. Can’t find the correct aerial position to get a good picture? Slinging the aerial across the room was one way to express anger and frustration and was the pre-warning of what was heading the TV’s way.

Reason to be brutal part two

When Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel sung about White Lines, they weren’t referring to a problem with the television. Unfortunately, white lines was a common feature on faulty televisions. Some TV sets went-to-town on the line sequence: black lines, multi-coloured lines, lines in all directions and squiggly lines. The brutal punishment: a few hard slaps to the top and side to eradicate the issue. Did the slaps do the trick?

Reason to be brutal part three

The television set is plagued with faults: poor picture quality, distorted sound and random lines makes the whole watching TV experience a frustrating pastime. Enough is enough the the full repertoire of brutality is unleashed: slaps to the top and sides, pounding punches to the back, karate chops all over, kicks to the sides, the slipper treatment and the use of any other weaponry within reach.

The brutal end

After months of punishment and brutality, numerous visits to the repair shop and spending lots of cash on new parts, enough is enough; the decision is made to get rid. Some TV sets, reaching the end of their lives, had their working components used elsewhere. Sadly for many others, they were left out on the street to endure all seasons weather conditions as a mark of failure.

Looking back, and I’m not proud to admit, but I was one of the many people that dished out many hours of television brutality. Those beatings I gave to the various TV sets were undeserved. At the end of the day, and looking back at the whole brutality saga, the TV’s corrective response to punishment was always temporary; soon it was back to its playing-up ways again. I hope those television sets I treated badly are well and truly dead and their spirit killed off; one of my biggest fears is to be haunted and tortured by a posse of bulky, push-button TV’s from the 1970s and early 1980s.

Enjoyed the post? A nostalgic collection of stories featuring a fun and factual look back at British advertising, leisure and entertainment from the 70s and 80s are featured in the new hardback book, Section N Underpass. Get the rundown here by clicking the front cover below:

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