Tom Hodgkinson: 'We took a TV home. I admit I am weak'


Related Topics

The television is back. Five years ago, in a fit of anti-capitalist pique, I unplugged this instrument of Beezlebub. I decided that I didn't want all its horrors flooding into the family home. I didn't want The X-Factor, CBeebies, Dick and Dom, the Ten O'Clock News or the dreary gloom of EastEnders. Mr Murdoch and his evil ways could stay out of my house for ever. Like Plato, I decided to banish the playwrights and their portrayal of negative character traits from my ideal Republic. My children would grow up unsullied by the false promises of consumerism. Instead, they'd learn useful skills, carpentry and violin.

The children were not pleased that they were being denied a basic human right. But they had to put up with it. I figured they weren't really deprived: after all, there were piles of DVDs and iPlayer soon arrived on the computer and Victoria and I borrowed a box-set of The Wire and enjoyed that. I'm not quite so puritanical as to deny that there is nothing good about the telly. Clearly there is work of genius out there.

So it went on for five years. We were blissfully TV-free. I read an absolute stack of books. If I was on my own in the evening, I would drink real ale while reading, and that was a real joy.

The problem with television is that it tends to leave you feeling deflated and even a little depressed when the programme is over. You have a feeling of dread that now you have to return to reality. It is the bread and circuses of our day. But reading a good book is genuinely nourishing.

It was truly wonderful to be without all the advertising. Watching the children being brainwashed into wanting things by clever techniques and repetition had driven me crazy. In a frantic world, the respite from murmuring distraction and greed-producing propaganda was hugely welcome.

The problem, though, with banning TV is that you are seen as a crank. Victoria would accuse me of imposing my tyrannical ways on the rest of the family. An action that I took in order to defend my freedom was interpreted as removing the freedom of other people – that is, the freedom of my family to watch the telly. "You're a Puritan!" Victoria railed. I defended myself by saying that in actual fact I am very much against the Puritan revolution of the 17th century and its attack on the merry old ways of England. But I got the point.

And, after some degree of pressure, I began to think: "It's all very well for me to reject the world and its evil creations, but my children are going into the world. They are hungry for it. They have not yet been jaded by it. Do I have the right to prevent them from seeing it, even if I happen to disapprove of it?"

So it was that a few weeks ago, with a mixture of sadness and excitement, I found myself in the aisles of Comet with my 11-year-old son Arthur, inspecting the wondrous machines now available. We eventually selected a flat-screen LCD model and took it home. It reminded me of the day our father brought back our first colour telly in the 1970s. It was a thrilling moment. Later, Arthur said: "That was the best day of my life."

So if any readers out there have thrown away their telly, having read me fulminate against its evils, I apologise. You will accuse me of selling out. If it was purely up to me, I would do without it. But, in the end, a combination of nagging and libertarianism defeated by earlier resolve. And in any case, I admit it, I am weak. As Ovid put it: "Monitis sum minor ipse meis," which translates as "I fail to live up to my own precepts."

And how has it been? Well, my main worry was that I would become addicted to it and spend evenings watching the telly rather than reading and drinking beer. That has not happened: I think five years was enough to get me out of the habit. Occasionally, I watch TV with the kids and I see the adverts. They still make me foam and fulminate: toothpaste and tissues seem to be advertised very regularly, and with a sinister degree of manipulation. Apart from that, Horrible Histories has been good fun. Who could fail to find Outnumbered brilliant and hilarious? I have managed to miss completely Downton Abbey, and that has given my Puritanical side a huge degree of self-righteous pleasure. But we did watch loads of films over Christmas. And now we can watch Doctor Who along with the rest of the country. Our children feel normal. Hello, world.

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of 'The Idler'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine