Alex Proud points out that in the 1970s, the middle classes boasted about ‘not watching TV’. “I remember parents telling us that TV rotted your brain and gave you square eyes, and you should be reading books, and maybe some of that went in.”
How did we get to today when educated, discerning consumers admit to guilty pleasures that include Strictly and Love Island. If you admit to not watching TV these days, people look at you disbelievingly, and are slightly annoyed by the smug statement.
Producers of mass market TV have got us to believe that ‘everyone loves a bit of reality TV’ - a kind of ‘go on you know you want to’ line that chocolate companies have been using for years. Or if you decry entertainment on TV you’re actually being an elitist snob, because it’s an accessible form of cheap entertainment for the masses.
No Drive-Thru’s for Alexander Proud
Now… there is no alternative. Alex Proud notes that scientists have produced plenty of robust research to show that “telly is the mental equivalent of a drive through McDonald’s. It’s chewing gum for the brain. MRI scans show book reading brains lighting up like a firework display, while TV-watching brains are practically flatlined.” It’s frightening, says Alex Proud, TV can retard development of young minds and increase obesity. But when science disagrees with vested commercial interests, people become less interested in the facts.”
Is there really no alternative? Alex Proud says he had a personal wake up call sometime ago. He would come in from late nights working and slump in front of the TV, but realised that watching telly is more like spending your life knocked out on Tramadol. Some people spend almost two months annually in front of the TV, Alex Proud feels that “quickly looks like pointless, wasted years of your life”. “You may say to yourself, that you’ve worked hard, so you deserve that downtime. I challenge you, I suggest that the pleasure of vegetating in front of the TV, isn’t really that pleasurable in the long run.”
Alex Proud says: “Once I gave up those hours in front of the TV, I started reading more. I’ve been working my way through all those books that I had bought online and that had sat on shelves defying me to open them for years. Reading books is considerably more fulfilling than buying them online while watching TV.”
Plus, says Alex Proud: “If you read, you go to bed earlier, and you don’t sit still for the same hours that you do once you immerse yourself in a boxset. It was partly why I took up walking”.
Alex Proud has also realised that once you stop worshipping at the shrine of the latest boxset, you begin to question whether those endlessly long running shows are even that good. Or whether after series one they became formulaic, addictive and mind-numbing. “Good ideas that wound up as shaggy dog stories because they started broadcasting before the writers knew the ending. Labyrinthine plotting that, were it in a book, would welcome a good editor.” says Alex Proud.
Not all TV, is Bad TV
Of course, notes Alex Proud, “I am still involved in TV. I appear on news programmes and am often asked to give my opinion on current affairs and the arts. I’m not suggesting that all TV is rubbish, or that watching any television is inherently bad, but all life needs balance.”
Alex Proud suggests that there are other more rewarding ways to get your cultural and intellectual fix that add to your knowledge, range of interests and your social life. “This might be the opportunity to suggest that you take up an interest in art, photography or invest hours in the hobby that you’re always saying you have no time to pursue.” says Alex Proud.
Alexander Proud’s Top Pick
As a collector, and art lover, Alex Proud is an advocate of the arts, and has spent years researching, buying and exhibiting art that he feels adds to the cultural landscape. “I would encourage you to look at Proud Galleries online photographic collection.” says Alex Proud.
“Of course I’d love it if you also bought something, but that’s not really the point. It’s free to look, to read and learn about the incredible talent and pop culture history of London and the UK. Instead of playing computer games, trawling social media or zoning out in front of Netflix, why not educate yourself about the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. Better still, leave the sofa and venture out to explore a gallery or museum on foot. The world is out there and it’s more interesting than the latest episode of Eastenders, and whilst slightly less violent and glamorous than the latest series of Peaky Blinders, it’s probably just as thrilling if you actually immerse yourself in it.” says Alex Proud.