NEVER was a telly man. It was always the pictures for me. I was brought up in a Glasgow where all the men looked like James Cagney and wanted to be John Wayne.

It was a town that revered films. There were cinemas everywhere and it was one’s civic duty to go at least once a day.

The MacDonald clan came late to the television culture. My dad said it was chewing gum for the eyes. He didn’t fund chewing gum for the gub so by the time we had a telly I basically had a job and had left home.

Fairly quickly, my job as a sub-editor involved working at night and daytime telly was a test card, though at first it took my half an hour to realise this. I had mistaken it for a Pinter play.

Subsequently, I was on the road as a sports journalist and did not have a telly. My mate, in an outbreak of charity, once delivered an unwanted one to a flat I was occupying in my divorced dotage. It was called a studio flat. Only because ‘flat as small as a telephone box’ doesn’t have quite the same allure to potential renters.

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The gifted, ancient TV had a back on it like Quasimodo wearing a rucksack. This, combined with the size of the only room, meant that I could have the telly but could only watch it if I opened the front door and stood outside. I did this only a couple of times a week.

But the triumphal accession to a state pension has been accompanied by a series of welcome innovations. I am now allowed to walk very slowly on busy streets, feign being hard of hearing to jobsworths, and allowed personal shopping facilities in the cardigan section of local stores.

I also have invested in a new telly. It cost more than a premier league striker and covers one my walls in my suburban garret. I came to it with all the joyous innocence of an Amazonian Indian observing his first Iron Bird.

My aim was to see what all the fuss was about. I was not completely ignorant. I save that trait for writing columns. No, I had been nurtured on the brilliance of Morecambe and Wise, glimpsed the odd stocking on Play for Today and watched football matches, the last usually in pubs after having ingested industrial qualities ethanol.

I therefore knew TV had its merits but was content to leave these with others.

As I grew older, I was still a pictures man. It had its rewards. Tarantino with a growing son. Trainspotting with a precocious daughter. The GFT on a Monday night became a ritual. I cut out the old Sunday Herald voucher and went without discrimination. I was rewarded by some marvellous films I may have otherwise missed: The Prophet, most of Terence Davies, some of Steve McQueen, director not actor.

HeraldScotland: John WayneJohn Wayne

The GFT, incidentally, was a return to childhood. My auntie worked there when it was the Cosmo and we were ushered in regularly without paying. I watched everything I could without judging it good or bad. It was the pictures. That was more than enough.

Thus as a callow youth I could watch Visconti’s Death in Venice without being encumbered by any need to understand it. Which was handy.

My comprehension increased through the years and my attendance was constant. Until Covid. And the new telly whose magnificence deserves another appellation such as Bringer of New World to Old Eyes or Transport to Joy and Enlightenment, in the style of a favoured Apache pony.

There may be those readers who know this already but there is a lot of channels. Some of them are dedicated to special subjects such as shouting in kitchens, showing people houses they won’t buy, and talking on the phone while not wearing clothes.

But there is other stuff. It shows that we are living in the golden age of television. It stretches back to the Sopranos which was first broadcast in 1999 and ushered in a 21st century that has already been marked by televisual genius.

The small screen has stretched to accommodate innovation in storytelling, framing and theme. Bold broadcasters have allowed series to take their time. Background can be painted exquisitely, characters can be built intricately, stories can unfold like a slow, rolling wave.

Comedies, too, need not have a laugh every line. They can be reserved, even coy. The laugh can come almost as a surprise in the style of Schitt’s Creek or as a release in Curb Your Enthusiasm, both of which would not have survived the first peek of a 20th century commissioning editor.

There has also been a proliferation of extraordinary documentaries that ally the power of the visual to taut, concise storytelling. I label this the Ken Burns genre.

I have consumed all this with the vigour of Desperate Dan approaching a Killie pie.

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There is an element of guilt in this. I have not abandoned film, simply because there are hundreds of them on the telly. But I have abandoned the cinema.

This may be only temporary but I fear the telly has won the battle of the screens in my household and many others. It doesn’t mean the end of the film, of course, but it may signal a significant reduction in cinemas.

There is a sense of personal loss in this but it is shamefully fleeting. I have no time to indulge in it. After all, I have three seasons of Ozark, 12 episodes of Jazz and the entire catalogue of ESPN sports films to watch. This weekend.

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