Insights from the TV Guide


I recently gained some new insights into aging from a rather unexpected source: the TV Guide. I’m talking about the magazine. I wasn’t clicking or scrolling through an online version or navigating the one on my TV screen. I was paging through the printed guide published monthly for subscribers of DSTV, featuring schedules of all the channels.

TV Guide cover with Sally Field sitcom Gidget 1965

Sally Field was a TV Guide cover girl when she premiered in “Gidget” in 1965

The Non-Digital Crowd

This TV Guide is delivered in the post. Hard Copy via Snailmail – which takes us deep into analogue territory. So this concerns mainly the 50+ demographic. Because these days TV is largely watched by pensioners. It is ignored by the youth, who don’t buy TVs. Their media consumption is almost exclusively via their digital devices.

There has been controversy in recent years over whether the TV Guide should be phased out. Unsurprisingly, most complaints about its possible demise came from older people. The clamour for the continued publication and posting of the TV Guide was from the age group that still engages in what is now called Appointment TV.

old woman watching TV

Appointment TV

This harks back to an era when appointments ruled, when there was no such thing as sending a “Running Late” message after an appointed hour. Appointment TV means that you plan ahead to watch. Live. So you show up in front of the TV, on time.

Appointment TV is seen as a quaint holdover from the previous century, but I confess to getting rather nostalgic about it. I liked it when a lot of people were watching the same show as you, at the same time. Not taped or PVR’d for later viewing when it suited you personally, but together with everyone else. So that next day at school or work we could chat about what we all watched on TV last night.

There has been a lot written about the insularity of life as focused on the screens of phones and computers. It is blamed for the “collapse of public discourse”. Back when TV was a mass medium, broadcast at specific times, we didn’t all live in our own individual bubbles. There was a stronger sense of community.

Old School Style

Anyway, back to me paging through the TV Guide, Old School style. Mine is mainly taken up by schedules printed in tiny writing. (Which doesn’t seem user-friendly for the crowd that’s always losing their reading glasses.)

I turned the page and was hit by a question that had nothing to do with anything on TV: “Are your stairs a struggle?” There was a photo of a woman in a chair at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs and she was wearing a seatbelt.

woman on stair lift

I was a bit unnerved by both the image and the question so – as one can do in the analogue world – I quickly turned the page.

There were a few more photos of TV stars, and articles on ordinary people who are now TV stars on reality shows. I turned the page again – and there was another photo of another person at the bottom of some stairs. A man this time, sitting in what looked like a dentist’s chair, with his hand on what looked like a gearstick.

man on stair lift

I quickly turned a few more pages, and was again confronted with that same unnerving question about the Stairs Struggle, which turned out to be an ad for a stair lift to transport you up or down without having to climb.

Shows – and ads – target older people

These days the TV Guide is full of ads for gadgets and devices and machines for old people. To help them – us, me – up the stairs and out of the bath. And, needless to say, to assist in the TV room. Where a chair can be installed with an Eject button, for when you’ve had your fill of TV and need some help getting up.

Another confirmation that TV watching is a pastime of the aging is found in the ever increasing number of movies and series that are aimed at older people. This would seem to represent a positive development for actors, especially females, who used to battle to get roles in TV and film after they hit 50.

Due to the graying of populations worldwide, there are larger audiences than ever before for programmes featuring older people. Which we can read about in the TV Guide that our agemates have succeeded in keeping in print.

Sitting is the new smoking

Before I close, and with all this talk about TV and its guides, I feel a duty to add a warning about the dangers of too much TV. A recent study vindicated the old maxim about Everything In Moderation. More than three hours of TV a day was shown to double the risk of “dying prematurely”.

However, that study doesn’t show that sitting around reading something highbrow is any healthier. It’s the sitting that’s bad for you, no matter what you’re looking at. So if you aim to die “maturely” you are advised, as I’ve exhorted you in this blog before, to do less sitting.

sitting is the new smoking


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