While easy to program, DVRs are not as memorable as TV guides and yellow highlighters — BY HARINDER NOTAY
My mum only bought Radio Times and TV Times at Christmas. Published by BBC and ITV, these weekly magazines contained listings for the U.K.'s three terrestrial television channels: BBC 1, BBC 2, and ITV (in 1982, Channel 4 was added to the mix). Throughout the calendar year, my mother did not see any point in buying the guides; they were a frivolous expense that she could not justify. But during the days surrounding Christmas and New Year's, Radio Times and TV Times featured a whopping 10 days of material (instead of the usual seven). These issues were special—and they represented a period in our household when all the family had finished work or school and when we were home together.
From the moment my mum set foot in the house with the two holiday-themed guides, it was a race between my two sisters and me as to who could read them first. Our initial order of business: to see which film would air on Christmas Day after the Queen’s Speech at 3:00 PM. Our second task: to see which film BBC would air first in the New Year. Generally, the BBC screened the biggest blockbusters.
My childhood took place during a time with no computers, mobile phones, or fancy organizational apps. So it was out with the coloured highlighters, hunting for the films I wanted to watch:
If two musicals aired at the same time, we faced the dilemma of determining which was better and so deserved to be highlighted pink. Lest you forget, with VCR technology, users could only tape one channel whilst they watched another. In other words, for our purposes, one of the two musicals had to be sacrificed. 😱
During the holidays, this dilemma/sacrifice happened often: you'd watch your least-favourite film live while taping your favourite. For instance, Singin’ in the Rain taped instead of Guys and Dolls (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1955). Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen, 1954) taped instead of Calamity Jane (David Butler, 1953). It was a serious business, and there were winners and losers.
My dad was an electrical engineer for Sony, so Betamax, not VHS, was our taping device. Although both have ceased production, we still have a working Betamax player (and a spare one in the loft). Even now, if I go home over Christmas, my sisters and I look over our Beta tape collection—musical after musical, hit after hit from the '40s and '50s—which still brings a smile to my face. We love a good musical.
Then as well as now, Gene Kelly makes me smile and lifts my heart. One year, the BBC decided on an all-musicals theme for its festive period. Oh my, I was in heaven! So many Gene Kelly movies to tape...
Today, I don't need to ready my highlighters or select a sacrificial lamb, so to speak. I simply program the musicals into my SKY box a week in advance. It's an easy task, but arguably not quite as memorable as my childhood routine.
Harinder Notay has a Master's in Optometry and lives in Cheshire, England. She first saw Singin’ in the Rain on TV at age seven and was stunned by what Gene Kelly could do. The man defies gravity. Amazing.