June 3 1953 was a very special day for the British people. Most of the millions who sat in someone else’s home squinting at crackling black and white images of the Queen’s coronation could scarcely have dreamed that, 60 years on, this new-fangled invention would have liberated them from the need to interact with any other human being.
‘I remember kneeling on the front room in Mr and Mrs Parker’s next door transfixed by it all,’ says Norman Rice, now a sprightly 72-year-old from Accrington, who watches repeats of Last of the Summer Wine around the clock on Yesterday. ‘Of course in them days people didn’t really get TV etiquette. You just had to put up with the old dears yattering on in the background about the coronation robes and the smell of wee from Mrs Parker’s senile old grandad.’
It was the coronation that, more than any other event, united the British people in the joyous realisation that televisions could spare them the trauma of dealing with each other’s tiresome personalities. For that dream to become a reality, however, would take years of technology development so that the screen would be big enough to prevent any distractions and the sets cheap enough for all to afford one in each room.
For those who came of age to Muffin the Mule and the potter’s wheel, the joys of a lifetime’s couch-bound inactivity is tinged with sadness that their parents’ generation died without seeing Made in Chelsea or Miranda. Appropriately, though, the royal family itself has played a major role in helping broadcasters to ensure that Britons always have something better to do of an evening than listen to each other’s tedious anecdotes.
‘Over the years, they gave us half a dozen weddings, several babies and a car crash,’ said Rice. ‘However, the major breakthrough came when broadcasters found that, no matter how mundane or idiotic the royal family was, they could recycle what it was doing as cost-free entertainment. Reality TV was born. God bless you ma’am.’
Oxbridge with a major HT to sydalg