Thursday, June 21, 2018

Retro Television Etiquette

A new etiquette has sprung up around the tiny screen, but it is supremely simple compared to the tangle of taboos surrounding speech. Thanks to television, it is now possible to pass an entire social evening without a dozen words being spoken. You simply have a “tv party.”

New Etiquette Arises As TV Replaces Talking


Etiquette has become much less tricky since television moseyed on the scene. Before tv, the chief hazard of social life was conversation. As oldtimers may recall, this messy business was riddled with pitfalls forbidden topics, Freudian slips, grammatical errors into which a person might topple at any minute. But tv, if it has not settled conversation’s hash, has at least dealt it a severe blow. To be sure, a new etiquette has sprung up around the tiny screen, but it is supremely simple compared to the tangle of taboos surrounding speech. Thanks to television, it is now possible to pass an entire social evening without a dozen words being spoken. You simply have a “tv party.” Here below is about all you have to remember:


BE SURE your guests know what programs they are in for. One man’s passion may be another man’s bore. Don't invite more people than you can seat. Deploy chairs in advance so everyone can see. Keep the lights on, but low. Once the set is perking, leave it alone. Nothing unsettles a tele-guest more than to have his host forever twirling knobs and angling antennas, while mumbling apologies for the reception. Beware, lest the numbing influence of television numbs your sense of hostmanship. Guests continue to have the first and last word. If tv wasn’t included in the evening’s plans, but gets turned on anyway, let the guests pick their programs. If there is a tele-phobe in the crowd who doesn't cotton to ANY program, he too must be cared for, even if it means talking to him. 

GUESTS, meanwhile, should behave as guests. If they come to watch, they should do so. Fidgets or any Dark Ages urge to chitchat should be left at home. They shouldn't handle the set. If it’s off, they shouldn't turn it on. If it’s on, they shouldn't switch channels or ask the host to, unless it's clear nobody else likes the present program either. If the guests are missing their favorite program, they can drop a feeler, “Say, aren't the fights on Channel 4?” But if the host replies “So they are,” and doesn't budge well, next time they'd better stay home if they like fights. Under no circumstances (unless asked to) should the guests try to “fix” the unit or improve the reception. Nor should they pick fault with either reception or performance. Many people have an emotional identification with their tv set, and to criticize it is to criticize them. – Don Goodwin for the Sun, 1964

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia