Nostalgia shows are, essentially, entirely pointless shows that teach you nothing about the world. Expect maybe, that right now, you’ve got it good. However, the fact that they’re pointless doesn’t mean they’re without merit.
Electric Dreams, the series currently running on BBC Four, is an exercise in looking back at decades gone via technology and gadgets.
The usual schtick with programmes like this is to feign some kind of importance. Shows tend to look at food or fashion like they actually mean something beyond practical use. Electric Dreams however realises that it is not trying to help you understand your world better or unlock your soul, but rather, have a fun time wallowing in old pop-culture and, as such, comes away from the whole thing feeling a lot more vital than other nostalgia programmes.
Last night’s show was set in that gloriously odd decade of the ’80s. In that time, as the programme showed us, we got one famous invention per second. Think about it… you got BETA Max, VHS, ZX Spectrums, Commodore 64s, Walkman stereos, BBC Micros, the CD player, cheapo synthesizers, the Sinclair C5 (pictured above), Microwaves, things with remote controls, portable gaming, answering machines… and so on and so on.
Of course, many of these things were invented years before, however, it wasn’t until the ’80s that they found a way into British houses.
The family who signed up for this little jaunt through pop-culture history gamely tackled everything the ’80s threw at them, which in the case of the dad, meant hilariously going to the shops on a C5 and recalling those glorious hours spent screaming and kicking a home computer because it just wouldn’t do what you told it to do.
Whilst mum and dad rolled the years back, the kids found themselves staring curiously at all this cumbersome gear and occasionally, becoming rather fond of it.
Weirdly, this show isn’t really about the family. In fact, far from it. This show is Gadget Porn. When the participants open a box to reveal something from the ’80s, you don’t watch their faces or reactions… rather… you find yourself flooded with memories of The One You Had (or equivalent).
To be quite honest, I couldn’t care less what the family thought about the stuff they played with… I was more interested in watching Gia Milinovich excitedly jumping up and down in a shed full of old video playing devices. That’s what I would have done. The shots of Manic Miner and Clive Sinclair’s weird red staircase coupled with the overreaction to radiation poisoning from microwaves was infinitely more interesting than what some kid thought about a Nintendo Game and Watch.
It’s not that the family did anything wrong… it’s just that I was having way too much fun recalling my own memories about that time. It would have been nice if they’d all been sent to a mock miner’s strike though…