Blaise Tapp: Each generation’s own version of nostalgia

80s VIBE: TV Nostalgia is often accompanied by the likes of Depeche Mode.
80s VIBE: TV Nostalgia is often accompanied by the likes of Depeche Mode.
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Never look back, we are told, which is sage advice if you are trying to forget about a miserable relationship or once owned a Jason Donovan LP.

But it is human nature to hark back to periods in time which hold fond memories for us. It used to be that at Christmas and birthdays, grandparents would routinely dig out a battered, faux-leather bound photo album and embarrass self conscious teens with pictures of them as toddlers, clad in dungarees and a BA Baracus sweatshirt.

But now, thanks to smartphones and social media, memories are far easier to access, although I am unsure whether reminding your Facebook pals that it is three years since you put banana on your pepperoni pizza really counts as nostalgia.

And it is nostalgia at which Brits really excel. Visit any bookshop in any town and you will find shelves packed with the ubiquitous local history publications while rock and pop groups of yesteryear continue to cash in on the reunion industry.

And newspapers such as this one do a grand line in jogging their readers’ memories by printing pages of archive pictures and revisiting stories which beautifully capture a bygone age. It is articles such as these which stir readers the most – it can be hard to take for any self respecting journalist, but the public love old news.

But it is television where the art of nostalgia really comes into its own and such programmes are really easy to make: take an out-of-work comedian to provide the needless commentary, dig out archive footage and bung on a soundtrack comprising of Depeche Mode, the Stone Roses and Nirvana and the makers are guaranteed millions of viewers.

The viewing public is comfortable watching telly and films they are familiar with, which explains the seemingly constant stream of big money remakes. The latest trend is resurrecting 1960s and 70s comedies, which has seen a feature length revisiting of Dad’s Army hit cinemas recently and the BBC has gone even further by announcing it plans to remake the classic shows Hancock’s Half Hour, Steptoe and Son and In Sickness and In Health using original scripts. The decision will no doubt delight millions of old codgers but it hasn’t pleased everyone. There has been an argument that this trend for reviving iconic shows from the past stifles fresh ideas and makes life difficult for writers of modern shows but surely the public can decide whether they want to watch a new version of Up Pompeii! or Citizen Khan. A no brainer if ever there was one.

The main challenge today is that there are 100s of channels compared to the three that their predecessors had to cope with four decades ago.

But good writing didn’t stop in the 1970s and I would stick good money that in 20 years my kids will be watching repeats, and possibly remakes, of classics such as Phoenix Nights, The Office, Gavin and Stacey and Alan Partridge.

It is true that we all love nostalgia but each generation has its own.