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Armchair Nation An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the TV by Joe Moran

Armchair Nation An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the TV

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Sue Baker's view...

An entertaining look at how television has insinuated its way into our lives. As well as remembering key television moments there are reminders of the social aspects of TV’s growth, the changing role of the Cinema, there is the “couch potato”, the introduction of home entertainment centres with public entertainments from theatres to pubs feeling the effects. Part journey down memory lane, part social history, Joe Moran does a fine job in describing television’s impact from amazing novelty to overwhelming multi-channel 24-hour presence.

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Who is Sue Baker


Armchair Nation An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the TV by Joe Moran

But what does your furniture point at?' asks the character Joey in the sitcom Friends on hearing an acquaintance has no TV. It's a good question: since its beginnings during WW2, television has assumed a central role in our houses and our lives, just as satellite dishes and aerials have become features of urban skylines. Television (or 'the idiot's lantern', depending on your feelings about it) has created controversy, brought coronations and World Cups into living rooms, allowed us access to 24hr news and media and provided a thousand conversation starters. As shows come and go in popularity, the history of television shows us how our society has changed. Armchair Nation reveals the fascinating, lyrical and sometimes surprising history of telly, from the first demonstration of television by John Logie Baird (in Selfridges) to the fear and excitement that greeted its arrival in households (some viewers worried it might control their thoughts), the controversies of Mary Whitehouse's 'Clean Up TV' campaign and what JG Ballard thought about Big Brother. Via trips down memory lane with Morecambe and Wise, Richard Dimbleby, David Frost, Blue Peter and Coronation Street, you can flick between fascinating nuggets from the strange side of TV: what happened after a chimpanzee called 'Fred J. Muggs' interrupted American footage of the Queen's wedding, and why aliens might be tuning in to The Benny Hill Show.


'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

'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

'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

'A richly detailed book, as profoundly nostalgic as scoffing Findus Crispy Pancakes or Bird's Eye Potato Waffles.'

- Roger Lewis Daily Mail

'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

'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

'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

'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

'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

'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

About the Author

Joe Moran is Professor of English and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University. He contributes regularly to the Guardian and other newspapers. His book On Roads was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and, together with his previous book, Queuing for Beginners, received unanimous critical acclaim.

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Book Info

Publication date

13th November 2014


Joe Moran

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Profile Books Ltd


320 pages


The Real World
eBook Favourites

TV & society
Social & cultural history



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