'I'm ashamed by my big TV – and Britain, you should be too'

Rob Temple
·6-min read
Rob Temple's TV is so big that visitors have been know to remark that it's ridiculous
Rob Temple's TV is so big that visitors have been know to remark that it's ridiculous

For depressing reasons that I won’t go into but you can probably guess, I recently moved from a larger house to a smaller house fit for one. I took my ‘almost-too-large-but-I-think- I-get-away-with-it-actually- no-I-probably-don’t-it-just-looks-silly’ telly with me, and now it looks like I’ve smuggled an IMAX into my caravan-size living room. 

The TV is the first thing you see when you enter through the front door. It’s probably the first thing you see when you enter the street if I have my curtains open. And it’s certainly the first thing guests – I’ve had a few – remark on. Apparently it’s acceptable in polite society to tell the owner of a piece of furniture that it’s “ridiculous”, so long as that piece of furniture is my TV.

And it is ridiculous. Firstly in terms of positioning. There’s no natural slot for it, so it lives at a kind of rude angle, jutting out between two rooms (or open plan areas), looking as foolish and thuggish as a giant beanbag at a dinner table. And secondly, it simply shows things too big. I had Eastenders on once and Phil Mitchell’s head was twice the size of mine, which is terrifying when you live alone. Horror films are a no go now: watch The Shining on my monolith and it’s like the living room is actually filling with blood.

At least I’m not alone. According to a new report by Which?, decent quality small TVs are vanishingly rare – and one possible explanation is that manufacturers concentrate their resources on bigger screens, because that’s where the demand is. It used to be considered a bit garish, even uncouth, to have a giant TV dominating a room; now, we adore them so much we mount them proudly above our mantelpieces. What happened to the great British sense of understatement?

(Actually, it’s not completely dead. In many of the estate agent photos of houses I saw round here, a telly didn’t feature at all. It was just a lot of living rooms with sofas facing each other. Either people like having a chat in Cambridge, or they have elaborate systems of ropes and pulleys that hide their plasma stations. I think I can guess which.)

Which? said the average size of TV users search for is a massive 49 inches - Robert Daly/Caiaimage
Which? said the average size of TV users search for is a massive 49 inches - Robert Daly/Caiaimage

No, this giant telly just won’t do. It often feels like it’s watching me. And imagine what the neighbours would say if they found out it’s also 3D – and curved! (The man in John Lewis really saw me coming that day.) A smaller telly could be moved around the house, which would be nice – not that I’d ever actually bother. And it would go some way to convincing (fooling) guests that I have other hobbies than watching Masterchef (plates as big as my coffee table!). 

How did we end up as a nation of big TV lovers? I’m pretty sure it’s just a pride thing – the BMW of the entertainment world. My parents are already talking about getting a telly “one step up” from mine. Occasionally someone will visit who’ll say “ah that’s not big!” and I’ll spend hours wondering what kind of Showcase Cinema set-up they have in their house.

What they should do is make the fee of Netflix and Sky and the BBC licence all dependent on how big you’re watching their shows. I’d get a small telly in a flash – but then I’d probably feel a bit cheated, because the price difference between a small telly and a big one really isn’t astronomical. I suppose it’s like when I order two pizzas because it’s cheaper than one and end up with too much pizza. Only now, I have too much TV.


'I ditched my massive TV and I couldn't be happier'

By James-Innes Smith

James Innes-Smith now uses a monitor instead of a TV
James Innes-Smith now uses a monitor instead of a TV

When it comes to choosing a TV does size really matter? I'd argue that it's the quality of the output that needs to expand rather than the actual screen, but let's focus on the means of delivery for now.

I ditched my old Sony 40-inch Triniton CRT behemoth about five years ago and have never looked back. As broad as it was wide, the hideous beast filled an entire corner of my sitting room and took two hefty blokes from the council to remove it. My flat instantly doubled in size. The dusty detritus that used to accumulate around the ugly glass stand – scratched DVDs, old copies of the Radio Times, half-eaten apple cores – no longer tormented me. A calming houseplant now fills what had become an ugly, chaotic space.

For a while I considered buying a swanky new replacement but found the giant borderless screens intimidating and the 4K resolution garishly unconvincing – news readers, soap stars and game show hosts looked especially freaky with their over-lit makeup and rigidly gelled hair dos. Besides, I really didn’t have the space for 65 inches of idiot box. Who does? 

I decided to keep things simple and went for a discreet 19-inch monitor that also doubles as a useful work screen when plugged into my laptop. There's no built in sound but it's easy to plug in a couple of speakers. The resolution is high enough to keep images crisp but not so high as to make Huw Edwards look like a Burlesque dancer.

With the monitor positioned on my desk, I am no longer tempted to slouch on the sofa for hours on end, mindlessly flicking through channels I have no interest in actually watching. Hysterical, schedule driven terrestrial TV no longer holds much appeal and I find myself increasingly attracted to rigorous long form discussion shows on YouTube that don’t require giant screens to make them more interesting.

Besides, according to a learned, scientist friend of mine, size doesn’t matter – it’s about where you position yourself. The larger the screen, the further away you need to sit. A small TV is only small if you’re a long way from it. I sometimes watch Netflix on my phone and have no problem with the tiny screen size as long as the material is absorbing enough.

In the end it's all about the quality of the material, so my advice is not to waste money on a naff space invader and instead limit yourself to quality content beamed from a neat, unostentatious monitor.