The way we watched: Vintage television programmes, memories, and memorabilia

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This paper explores television viewing memories of a kind that have rarely been acknowledged, whether in in formal histories of television or by the ubiquitous archive ‘clip show’. Much of the academic work that explicitly addresses questions of television and memory has been disproportionately preoccupied with viewers’ recall of historical events, but here the author draws on a viewer reminiscence project to emphasise how the favourite entertainment shows once integral to family life in the 1960s and ‘70s, are today bound up with the more complex and diffuse emotions that surround the everyday past. The author also uses the idea of ‘vintage’, specifically as a designation for something that ‘belongs’ to a certain period, to think together the connections between memories of programmes and the sentiments evoked by the vestiges of television-related material culture (including ‘the box’ itself and other items of memorabilia). Both reminiscence and the acquisition of vintage goods are ways of constructing the cultural past, and both differ markedly in form and outcome from the re-consumption of the TV archive that is routinely promoted by broadcasters and DVD distributors. The paper will conclude that as critical re-engagement with the extant moving image text is a poor substitute for the original performance, reminiscence and vintage material culture might offer more effective insight into past engagement with television. For similar reasons, the study of both memory and materiality may provide appropriate intellectual contexts to complement the study of old programmes in text-centred critical/aesthetic discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalNECSUS : European Journal of Media Studies
VolumeAutumn 2015
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2015


  • Television
  • memory
  • vintage
  • family viewing
  • archive
  • British light entertainment programmes
  • clip shows
  • oral history
  • materiality
  • broadcasting history
  • textual analysis
  • Remembering Television project
  • memorabilia
  • affect

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