Dr John Smith: The relentless urge to change and improve

DIY programmes and others have helped fuel our consumer society, says Dr John
DIY programmes and others have helped fuel our consumer society, says Dr John

Fifty years ago BBC2 was launched.

It was the third television channel (can you imagine that – only three!) and had to make its own way.

It soon developed the concept that we all, in some way, wanted to improve.

So there were gardening programmes, cooking, home improvement, foreign languages, travel.

When some of them were shown again last week they seemed amateurish and naive, and they were all in black and white.

But the trend had started and has multiplied exponentially ever since. You can always do better, look better and have happier, more fulfilled, lives.

Except it never stops, there always has to be a new idea that can make us dissatisfied with what we have.

I guess these early programmes were one of the things that has fuelled our consumer society.

When I was a child we had lovely doors.

Barry Bucknell the TV Do It Yourself guru suggested covering them up with hardboard – so dad did.

Worse still Barry suggested covering the hardboard with wallpaper – so dad did.

Within a year or two they were hopelessly out of fashion but my dad was running out of energy so the doors stayed as they were.

Fifty years on I would love to go back to the house.

I suspect I would find that the doors had been stripped back to the original, painted or even taken back to the wood.

How I wish they had never been touched but we had to improve, things could only get better.

Now we have hundreds of TV channels urging us on with relentless pressure.

Gardens have become fashion items, decking, slate, box balls.

Fashion houses don’t just have designs for four seasons but they now have mid-season too.

Even Christmas has become something to design, innovate and improve.

Faster and faster it goes, buy more, do more, see more.

I am not saying that BBC2 caused it all but unwittingly it has had a jolly good try.