A number of weeks ago MP William Hague raised a concern in the House of Commons that sixty-two percent of this year’s TV schedule is repeats and that most of the content is owned by the BBC. The concern was that licence fee payers were not getting value for money. The argument being that people who like certain television shows tend to buy the boxset and certainly they do not want to pay for it again in the form of repeats on the BBC.
It seems like a sound argument, only it is grounded in a traditional view of how people watch television. Television viewing habits have changed immensely with more people accessing streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Even the BBC makes a large amount of its content available online through the iPlayer service. Digital channels like Gold and Dave provide us with repeats of old time favourites such as Porridge, and The Two Ronnies, demonstrating there is still a demand for classic shows. Even the notion that people would have to buy their favourite shows on DVD is becoming an outdated notion.
So the question is; why do channels like the BBC utilise repeats so much at Christmas? There are probably a number of reasons, it may be that we are so busy at Christmas that we don’t have time to sit down and commit to a new series. It could also be that the schedulers realise that what people really crave at Christmas is nostalgia.
Take one of the UK’s favourite sitcoms Only Fools and Horses. There will inevitably be people who point at Only Fools, as the main ‘repeat offender,’ but for me personally it is always a comforting watch. Whenever the Only Fools and Horses, 1989 Christmas Special, ‘The Jolly Boys Outing,’ is on I always make a point of stopping to watch it.
The reason its favour has lasted is because it resonates with people. It is about relationships, and central to the show was the relationship between brothers Del Boy,and Rodney. In an age when men weren’t encouraged to speak their mind the show regularly featured heartfelt conversations between male characters. In between the wheeling and dealing were stories that explored family values as well as Granddad’s death and Cassandra’s miscarriage.
The show combined consistently strong and genuinely funny writing with quality acting. It seems a far cry from the original content that the BBC currently produces which amounts to vehicles for stand-ups and panel shows.
There was a time in my life when I was made redundant and I had to move back home with a much older brother and my widower Father, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Buster Merryfield. For a year my life resembled the Trotters flat in Peckham. When I watch Only Fools, now it takes on a whole new meaning for me.
Christmas is a time for reflection where we take stock of our lives and recount stories of the good times. The longevity in shows like Only Fools and Horses, demonstrates the appreciation for nostalgic TV shows. The joy of repeat viewings are that for one hour we can be transported back to the first time we watched it or to that point in time when we were happy.
If the price of that feeling is my licence fee then that’s a price worth paying.