It's a Mann's world: Upsizing the television

Olly Mann

Sometimes size does matter, as Olly Mann’s latest home improvement mission proves…

I am the owner of a new television. Well, I say owner; I bought it on 0% interest, so technically it’s still owned by a financial services company. But it’s in my sitting room, alongside my photo albums, and my fireplace, and our old sofa with the cat’s claw marks up the side, so it certainly feels like mine.

Our old TV was adequate, but it wasn’t “smart”, so an ever-swelling bundle of wires hung out the back of it. Compared to the paper-thin screens you find on even the cheapest tellies these days, it was also comparatively chunky. We’d just done up our house, and understandably wanted to complete the look with a smart, thin TV. Svelte intelligence is desirable. The focal point of our swish new living space must not be a fat dunce.

So, thin and smart: this much we knew. We also wanted to spend no more than £1500, but, this budget having been set, there was of course no serious likelihood we’d spend any less. (When the time came, we traipsed around the store looking at all the discounted models until we found one we liked with a reduced price of exactly £1500. So, we felt like we were getting a bargain, even though we were actually maxing our budget. Psychology!)

What we hadn’t agreed on was size. Frankly, I was torn. Big TVs are all the rage now, but Dad led the charge in the 1980s, and I still bear the scars. Whilst my schoolmates perched over weeny microwave-sized TVs, with nowt to watch but four terrestrial broadcasters, my father, a self-made man with simple pleasures, invested in not one but two satellite receivers, Betamax, and a simply enormous rear-projection unit made by Grundig. It was housed in a giant wooden cabinet, and, with the press of a inch-long button, it would emerge from its case with stealth and poise. I used to invite friends round just to watch it pop up and down. It must have cost thousands. It was like something a James Bond baddie would have in his lair.

But even as a child I sensed there was something brash and Yuppieish about this. More sophisticated families—those with actual books on their shelves, rather than coffee-table tomes and car magazines—seemed to believe that any screen larger than a broadsheet newspaper was the height of vulgarity. A TV may be necessary to watch the news or the snooker but to enlarge the visuals to wall-filling size was simply naff, like having a personalised numberplate. One did not live in the Odeon. TVs should be heard, but not seen.

"Dad’s giant television was like something that a James Bond baddie would have in his lair…"

My in-laws are like this. They have, in recent years, purloined a reasonably decent telly, but I suspect if the government hadn’t insisted upon digital switchover, they’d still be goggling the same measly box they were in 1985. Even now, their telly is relegated to the far corner of their living room, as if it’s something they wheel out occasionally, like a hostess trolly or a ping-pong table, rather than the entertainment device to which they surrender for five hours most evenings.

But I understand their snobbery. My little cottage is 120 years old—youthful by British standards, but still an environment where a gargantuan screen seems out of place; almost Steampunk. So, like I say, I was torn. I wanted a screen big enough to dazzle me during The Greatest Showman, yet small enough that when the Prime Minister addresses the nation it doesn’t feel like Big Brother is watching me.

The store we went to—a vast electronics warehouse on a sprawling retail park—was, in itself, enormous. You lose all sense of scale in there. It’s like trying to buy a bicycle in an aircraft hanger. In there, a 40-inch television looks like a postage stamp. A 50-inch screen seems modest. Even a 65-incher seems a plausible candidate.

We ended up plumping for a 55-inch, because—in there—it felt like a reasonable, middle-of-the-road option. The first warning that perhaps we’d gone A Bit Big was when I couldn’t fit the box in our car—a family estate, which comfortably holds three suitcases. I had to go and borrow a van just to take it home.

Once it was in situ, the packaging torn into bits and dumped in a skip, I realised we had, in fact, made a mistake. The News At Ten looked like an IMAX movie. Alistair Stewart came on and I screamed.

My wife’s parents came over for tea, and despite their apparent positivity, yes, I could tell they were judging us.

But, what can I say, I’ve grown to love my mammoth screen. It is, definitely, too big (50 inches was our true destiny, hey-ho). But I’ve gotten used to it. And now I’ve tasted the delights of true home cinema, I don’t want to turn back. Dad never lived to see Ultra HD, but wow, would he have loved it!

So, decry my déclassé home stylings all you like. I won’t hear you over our soundbar, anyway.