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Rant: Texts on TV by Matthew Webster

Blog | By Matthew Webster | Jan 04, 2024


Texts on TV There is a trend in TV dramas which is beyond irritating: we’re expected to read messages on phones to understand the plot. The trouble is that I can’t read the text – it’s just too small. It’s not my fault; my TOM PLANT eyesight is fine, we have the largest television we have ever owned (29 inches wide) and we certainly don’t want anything bigger. The TV producers clearly believe that we either have one of those huge screens you see in pubs or that we sit awfully close. However, like normal people, we sit on the other side of the room and, before you suggest we live in Downton Abbey, we are only about ten feet away. I can’t believe I am alone in this. In fact, I know I’m not; I raised it at lunch the other day with half a dozen others of my vintage and was met with vigorous agreement. It’s not good enough, and at best it shows a lack of courtesy by the producers to the people who watch their stuff.

Producer George Martin insisted that the Beatles’ early recordings be played through a cheap little speaker before being finalised, as the public was going to be using a transistor radio or a Dansette record player, not the expensive speakers in the studio.

That would often lead to changing the mix so that it worked better on the modest equipment that real people owned. In the same way, I would make it a condition of any TV commission that somebody has to watch it on a normal TV, the size that normal people own (not what a football player has in his home cinema) – and make sure the phone messages can be read from ten feet away. At least then we would know what’s going on in the story. Or, I suppose, I could only watch dramas set before smartphones were invented. Actually, on reflection, that sounds quite appealing.

MATTHEW WEBSTER