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Armchair Nation: An intimate history of Britain in front of the TV

Armchair Nation: An intimate history of Britain in front of the TV [Kindle Edition]

Joe Moran
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Moran has fast become Britain's foremost explorer and explainer of the disregarded (Juliet Gardiner, author of 'Wartime: Britain 1939-1945')

At last! The view from the sofa. A history of television that reflects the lives of those who watch it - and that means pretty well all of us. Informative, evocative, funny, moving, sometimes even startling, Joe Moran, Britain's premier historian of the everyday, has pulled it off again. (Juliet Gardiner)

Terrific...both erudite and highly entertaining (Simon Hoggart)

Joe Moran is the most perceptive and original observer of British life that we have (Matthew Engel)

Joe Moran's affectionate and erudite chronicle of our nation's love affair with TV achieves the impossible - it is scholarly AND accessible. It is a compelling account of a golden age and reminds us in the process that today's age of plenty has diluted the cultural impact of TV (Michael Grade)

A quite brilliant history of a now lost world of British terrestrial television, Armchair Nation is as warm and friendly as an old valve set and, correspondingly, also crackling and humming with new insights and fresh research. (Travis Elborough)

All that time we were watching television Joe Moran was thinking about it. This wonderful book is packed with stories and characters, shot through with Moran's customary affection for the ordinary and the overlooked. A beautiful study of that flickering box that keeps us enthralled. (Sam West)

Joe Moran is a wonderfully gifted social historian, with a ravenous capacity for research ... He is particularly good at overturning the bogus collective memories to which television so often gives rise ... His sources from diaries and memoirs are rich and varied ... Armchair Nation offers rich pickings for those, like me, who struggle to remember (everything we've watched). (Craig Brown Mail on Sunday 2013-09-08)

One of the most entertaining things about the book - and there are many - is finding out how many of the things we think we know about television are either myths, or simply hogwash ... As well as being consistently perceptive in his observations, Moran has done something I would confidently have thought impossible - he's made the history of British TV as dramatic as it is fun. (John Preston Sunday Telegraph 2013-09-08)

You will find a lot to love in Armchair Nation. Impeccably researched ... Perhaps the most admirable thing about this book is that it treats television with proper seriousness. (Rachel Cooke New Statesman 2013-09-13)

A richly detailed book, as profoundly nostalgic as scoffing Findus Crispy Pancakes or Bird's Eye Potato Waffles. (Roger Lewis Daily Mail 2013-09-13)

A formidable historical analysis of the gogglebox ... Moran's achievement is remarkable given the breadth of subject matter ... Extensive research is lightly worn (Arifa Akbar Independent 2013-09-14)

Moran is scholarly but welcoming ... But in its insights, clarity and honest wit, it's hard to imagine a more engaging book on a subject everyone already thinks they know about. As in the best TV itself, you find yourself learning something new with almost no effort. (Phil Hogan Observer 2013-09-01)

A warm, witty cultural history of television ... Moran creates a compelling and surprising patchwork of the nation through its viewing habits and rituals ... Armchair Nation may provoke nostalgia, but it's never enslaved by it - it's a timely and hugely entertaining assessment of a medium in flux. (Gabriel Tate Time Out 2013-08-28)

Quite wonderful, beautifully written ... it reveals a seated nation, something which has never happened before. There is nothing like it. (Dr Ronald Blythe)

A scholarly, accessible and illuminating history of the everyday. (Philippa Williams The Lady 2013-09-20)

Armchair Nation is as compulsive as any soap, as informative as any documentary and as funny as any sitcom. Moran knows and loves his subject, exploring well-covered territory as well as the less familiar with wit and perception. (Harry Venning The Stage 2013-10-17)

Joe Moran is a superb elegist of the mundane ... Armchair Nation is a captivating look at a universal but unsung subject: the British television viewer ... packed with glorious details (Ysenda Maxtone Graham Country Life 2013-10-23)

One would expect a book from a professor of English and cultural history to be immaculately researched, but the real joy of Armchair Nation is that it's crammed full of such wry, perceptive cultural nuggets ... genuinely enthralling. (Ben East Observer 2014-12-21)

Book Description

The story of television and how it has changed our lives - from the moon landings to the X Factor.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Armchair Nation 12 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In its early chapters the book is evocative and engaging - it does capture the early years of television very well and those of (at least) middle age will enjoy the unfolding drama of a brand new media landing, increasingly, in the homes of ordinary people for the first time. It is however a book of two parts - on page one the author tells us he was born at the beginning of the 70's - it is, perhaps, reasonable to assume that he couldn't bring a first hand critique to bear for another fifteen years or so. Unfortunately the moment the author has cogent memories the book goes downhill - prior to, it is a work of organised modern history and does quite well but once Moran has personal recollection it rather falls apart into the trite and obvious. One hardly needs to buy a hardback to be reminded of Gazza crying, Delia causing a run on cranberries or the nation staying up late to watch Taylor beat Davis. Television will always have these moments but they are not defining in the scheme of things and Moran fails to bring any in-site whatsoever to them. He might just have well have mentioned Attenborough with the gorillas or Angela Ripon high kicking - take your own personal pick.

The book is written in strict chronology which works well as early technology advances and unfolds but it leaves narrative strands untapped. There is virtually nothing about how politicians responded to television and how, given the fact that the title is 'Armchair Nation', how the viewer responded to the politician. There must have been something to say about how, in a television age, Sir Alec Douglas Hume, a patrician toff looking not dissimilar to Yorick's skull lost to a media savvy, Gannex'd man of the people, Harold Wilson, but apparently not - not when one has to get in the nail biting final between Will Young and Gareth Gates on Pop Idol.

Bright start, disappointing finish. Overall a distinct lack of penetrating insight and, in the latter stages, a compete loss of way.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The TV in the Corner 6 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This book is a fascinating history and evolution of The British Tv set in ANY book you will read on the subject.
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Totally fascinating; I immediately ordered several moree copies and gave them to my long-time colleagues in our industry (TV broadcasting)..
Endlessly entertaining in a relevant way.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and engaging. 14 Aug 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The quality of TV on the First World War has come along amazingly but only through this output could we now be getting such wonderful TV coverage.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A trip down memory lane - Magical. 27 Sep 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I can still recall the day our family purchased its first colour television and the sheer sense of wonder this triggered following my formative years spent watching such classics as 'Watch with Mother', 'Captain Pugwash', 'Billy Bunter' and 'Mr Pastry'in black and white. That's just over half a century ago and much has changed in that time as this book so brilliantly reveals. Not only has programming changed fundamentally but as the author shows programmes have also changed us. Which isn't surprising given the centrality of the media not only to our culture but Western culture as a whole. There's a reason why some enthusiasts spot mistakes, such as TV aerials in programmes such as 'Downton Abbey' - its because they are now in such abundance, and this trend as the book explains started in the 1940s (not with the Coronation in 1953); although today the satellite dish has changed the shape and placement of aerials. The book shows how programmes, both good and bad, have influenced us over the years. The author does so in a highly engaging manner with numerous examples. This is both a witty and erudite cultural history which made me think more carefully about the past (and the validity of some of my memories about old TV programmes and what this might mean). The prose is fluent and if like me you are now a 'penshioner', then there's only one way I can describe this book: simply magical.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A more incisive approach is needed 12 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There are two sorts of television history which do not mix very well.

Traditionally, television history has been written in technical terms, but such histories can place a heavy demand on the lay reader. More recently, histories have been centred on the television programmes and their impact on viewers. For example in 2005 the American PBS network broadcast a documentary entitled "Pioneers of Television" which was entirely about entertainers such as Milton Berle, Carol Burnett and Sid Caesar, with no mention of America's technical pioneers such as Zworykin and Farnsworth.

Joe Moran's new book helps us to bridge the gap between these two sorts of television history. Much of the early technical impact, in the UK anyway, centres around John Logie Baird's public demonstrations and experimental BBC broadcasts in the 1920s and early 1930s. But even as late as 1952, the BBC were only broadcasting television for 5-6 hours per day. The major growth in television was driven by two events; the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953, and the start-up of independent television in 1955.

Moran describes the impact of television in terms of very readable anecdotes, among which he smoothly inserts some telling statistics. As the years wore on, the technology continued to improve, but its impact on viewers was gradually overlooked in comparison to the impact of the programmes themselves. Television reached a sort of plateau after the arrival of colour in the 1960s, but thirty years later the mass audience began to be fragmented, thanks to multi-channel developments; competition between broadcasters intensified.

Today the technology is more advanced than ever, with the demise of the cathode ray tube and the arrival of digital display, large flat screens, HDTV etc.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well researched.
Published 10 days ago by colin Birkinshaw
4.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says on the Tin, without Keeping you Glued
Generally a very good account of TV’s arrival and impact. (I confess to a minor quibble with the small and faint font, meaning I struggled to read unless the lighting was... Read more
Published 4 months ago by GermanGeoff
5.0 out of 5 stars Great little book...
Excellent book sent very quickly. Many thanks.
Published 4 months ago by Tracey Bonell
5.0 out of 5 stars A nostalgic and engaging read
In a thorough book, Moran pulls off the difficult trick of producing a scholarly work while keeping it interesting and accessible to all. Well worth reading.
Published 6 months ago by G. A. Stride
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia
Read and remember all the good old progarmmes that were on TV, far better than the rubbish we have today with endless cooking programmes and reality shows.
Published 6 months ago by Mr. John F. Marcham
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
Cannot overdo my recommendation!! Marvellous scholarshp and entertaining as well. What else can I say but go for it now/
Published 11 months ago by Donald S Gellion
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Really informative, some of the content is of course well known, but there are interesting references to pre war television, always a murky area, as well as to the ending of the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Brian Wiles
5.0 out of 5 stars great fun great history
Television is bringing people classes nations all over the globe closer than any other cultural phenomenon
with everyone viewing it several hours daily. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Kerstin Hallert
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