VCRs weren't invented yet and we watched at the channel's behest. "I have to rush home, the last episode of I, Claudius is on and I can't miss it' could be heard in offices all over Australia. Remotes consisted of 'James, change the channel, please, this is awful.' And up he'd dutifully get and change the dial.
Later we had a real remote that didn't require feeding, but was attached via a longish flex to the actual TV. And then came the VCR and freedom to watch what you wanted, when you wanted to, rather than some programmer's idea of when you ate your dinner.
If you didn't want to watch TV, there were alternatives – radio (often called 'the wireless') broadcasting The Goon Show, The Prarie Home Companion, Lux Radio Theatre of the Air and so on. Or there were the movies, which in those far-off days we actually used to dress up for and finally, live theatre, something of a treat involving good clothes, quite a lot of preparation and the tiniest bit of snobbery.
The VCR was just the tip of a very large entertainment iceberg. Suddenly you could not only watch what was on TV currently or you had yourself recorded, you could buy and watch old TV shows, movies and documentaries both current and ancient.
Then we got the TV giant Foxtel, offering a range of 'on demand' followed by Netflix, Stan, Dave, ABC, iView, Britbox, Acorn, Binge, SBS On Demand and so on and so forth all for a modest monthly fee. Now the world was truly our artistic oyster.
Filming and broadcasting theatrical performances was not a new idea - in the mid seventies the American Film Theatre filmed a number of stage performances such as A Delicate Balance (Joseph Cotton, Katherine Hepburn and Paul Schofield) and The Man in the Glass Booth (Maximillian Schell, in a fantastic and moving performance). The trouble was then, you had to go to the cinema to watch them, far removed from curled up on the sofa with the cat and a pizza.
But it gave us, the casual viewer, a chance to see performances by great actors to shows we were never, ever going to see live in Perth, where a travelling troupe performing The Merchant of Venice (Prunella Scales) was a really big deal – mind you, she was fabulous as Portia.
But until now it hasn't been possible to see some of the great productions from Australia, a land rich in talent and imagination and with no shortage of truly outstanding actors, directors and breadth of vision.
Into this sad void has stepped Australian Theatre Live (ATL) a new and exciting subscription platform of mainstage and independent theatre, opera, dance, acrobatics and music for you at your convenience.
This is ideal for the theatre-lover stuck at home in isolation, too far from the city, students, the deaf, those unable to physically get to a theatre and viewers who just want to watch great staged plays and events at home.
The catalogued library of films so far includes productions from the Sydney Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre Company, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Sydney Festival, Kings Cross Theatre, the Old Fitz and more are being added every month.
Australian Theatre Live is a Not-For-Profit organisation and registered charity with the stated aim 'to inspire, encourage and promote artistic achievement at every level of our society and to enable all Australians to enjoy, criticise and participate in the development and direction of our artistic heritage.'
The cost is minimal at $7.99 a month (or $74.99 for a year's subscription). You even get a week free to try before you buy. The website to look without obligation is here.
Buy yourself some popcorn, put your feet up and prepare to watch some the finest theatre Australia can produce.