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Open Access 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 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. Here, the author draws on a viewer reminiscence project to emphasise how favourite entertainment shows once integral to family life in the 1960s and 1970s 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 contemplate 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 television 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.
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Keywords: British light entertainment programmes; Remembering Television project; affect; archive; broadcasting history; clip shows; family viewing; materiality; memorabilia; memory; oral history; television; textual analysis; vintage

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dr Helen Piper is Senior Lecturer in Television Studies in the Department of Film & Television at the University of Bristol. She has just completed the study ‘Remembering Television’, another outcome of which was a recent exhibition in Bristol. Piper has published a number of articles on popular television, some of which also address the transformed experience of collective viewing.

Publication date: September 1, 2015

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  • NECSUS is an international, double-blind peer reviewed journal of media studies connected to NECS (European Network for Cinema and Media Studies) and published by Amsterdam University Press. The journal is multidisciplinary and strives to bring together the best work in the field of media studies across the humanities and social sciences. We aim to publish research that matters and that improves the understanding of media and culture inside and outside the academic community. Each volume includes feature articles, a special thematic section, a video essay section, and a reviews section that covers books, festivals, and exhibitions. NECSUS is targeted to a broad readership of researchers, lecturers, and students, and will be offered as a biannual open access, online journal.

    The journal is published in Open Access, with the following Creative Commons copyright license: Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

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