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Question of the week: which aspect of old TV would you bring back?

Posted on November 23, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Remember TV when you were kid, eh? Just four channels or maybe just three, full of programmes that don't exist any more. Maybe they were even black and white rather than colour. Great, wasn't it?

Of course, I'm not just talking about nostalgia for a TV show or TV shows that have long been cancelled and forgotten about, shows that haven't been imitated or copied since – or maybe copied ad infinitum to lesser and lesser effect. There were wholly different ways of doing TV back in the old days.

Remember the variety show? The shows that allowed people to criticise what they'd seen on TV, like Points of View, Right To Reply and Open Air? How about the "long running viewer competition" like Puzzle Trail, in which viewers would get more and more clues each week until someone got the right answer? Did you know ITV once even broadcast a play performed in ancient Greek?

Not these days. Doesn't happen.

So this week's question is broad:

What aspect of old television would you bring back?

My choice would be the old Open University programmes. For the uninitiated, the Open University is a UK university that lets people work towards degree remotely from their own homes at their own pace. Nowadays, with the advent of the Internet, DVDs, etc, tuition is largely done through other media, but for a few decades, the BBC used to broadcast Open University TV programmes late at night and early in the morning on weekdays, and for a big chunk of the mornings on BBC2 at the weekends.

Imagine that: being able to watch university-grade lectures on dozens of subjects for free in the comfort of your own home. Watch a half hour social studies programme on the tension between deterrence and justice in criminal sentencing, then a geography programme about malnutrition in India, then a mathematics programme about non-Euclidean geometry, one after another.

Look, here's one about velocity diagrams!

I was young, I should have been watching Going Live: I watched the Open University instead, and I'd like it back, please. How about you?

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