What do women want from TV? 

16 April 2018 tbs.pm/65445

From the TVTimes Midlands edition for 20-26 May 1956

Authoress Ursula Bloom’s first book “Tiger” was published when she was only seven years old. Her literary output since has been prodigious: she has written about 80 books — romantic novels, mysteries and autobiography. She is also well-known for her stimulating and sensitively-written newspaper articles.

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THREE of us were discussing what women really want from the TV programmes, the alterations we would make, and items which would disappear for ever, if we had our own way. Already TV holds an important place in the lives of most of us. More so in those of women, who generally have more time to look in than men.

We split programmes into two categories, those which set out to be helpful, aiding with housework, the running of the home, informative documentaries, and the other kind which are there to entertain.

We had much to say about the first kind of programme offered. “Women are not so interested in fashion as men seem to think,” said Helen. “I find it maddening to see the sort of clothes which I could never afford to buy. Besides, in the short space of time one never sees them properly, so I just don’t look at that sort of thing.”

Mary was more helpful. She thought Helen was right in saying that the TV screen did not give the looker-in time to appreciate the detail which, maybe, she would want to copy at home.

The magazine a woman can pore over offered greater facilities than either TV or the films, and she added : “If programme planners imagine that women look at fashions for the fun of the thing, they are wrong. The first question every woman asks herself is: will it suit me?”


On the other hand she admitted that cookery was far better displayed on the screen than from a book of recipes. You see all those little knacks of professional handling which make the big difference. I think cookery is good watching; I have picked up lots of tips from it, though I must admit that I find household hints boring.

“That’s because they tend to be too preachily given,” said Helen. “They ought to be interesting, and they are not. They always savour of the schoolroom. No, I don’t watch them.”

We all liked documentaries. At this time of year when the thought of holidays in the dim distance is beginning to intrigue, travel pictures are a joy. Helen likes nature pictures, and informative ones about other countries.

None of us wished to watch instructive ones about London, or the big cities, or matters of that kind. Probably this is because today, transport has made expansion easy for the individual; we go about a great deal more, and many of us can see this sort of thing for ourselves.

“That is it,” said Mary, “we want to see something which we can’t see for ourselves.”

I am interested in the sky, and the weather lore. Mary shares this liking, adding that they provide “a change from the home.” She thinks all women like something which takes them out of the domestic set-up. (Programme-planners, do take note of this one.)

We were all of us interested in national events, but then who isn’t? We liked the sporting events, also. We agreed on the point that the Test matches which hold our husbands spellbound, leave us yawning! Racing — unless it was one of the very big races — did not arrest our attention, but tennis, rowing, motor-racing and boxing were all interesting.

“Well, they move very quickly,” said Helen, “and that’s important; it means you have got to watch closely. And again it’s the same old thing, I don’t want to learn to do things better in the home, which I am sick of. I want to be taken out of it, just as if I went to the theatre, or the flicks. In a nutshell that’s what I want from TV.”

On the entertainment side, we discussed the drama. We all felt that the short play was long enough to be unsettling, and short enough to be frustrating. We liked long plays, to which we could settle down comfortably, which arrest the attention and hold it, and move fast. Too many of them moved slowly — we agreed on that.


“If that happens,” said Mary, “it is much worse than in a theatre. There is a certain difficulty in concentrating in your own home, where all outside sounds have a personal connection, and are likely to be disturbing. I think that is why the play has to be so very much more compelling, than when you go out to the theatre to see one. There the outside sounds mean nothing to you, whereas in your own home the mere dripping of a tap is distracting.”

Quicker movement. More vital interest. A sharpened speed, we felt were necessary.

Variety was not interesting in the same way as when one visited the music hall. I suppose there is something about a joke, which means that it is not the same on TV as on the stage or on the flicks. I think this is because it is always better received en masse.


When you hear — and see — your neighbours laughing, you become infected by their humour, and everything seems funnier in consequence. A joke certainly loses much, when you sit back to it with a cup of tea in the home, and listen, probably alone!

Mary likes symphony concerts, because she finds infinite joy in actually watching the individual instruments. She thinks this adds to the pleasure of listening to music. Helen and I prefer the piano. We feel, at a time of the day when one wants to kick off the shoes and let down the back hair, there is nothing more soothing than to listen to and watch the perfect pianist. This to me is ideal entertainment, and always refreshing.

Quiet, good music has everything to offer. The rowdier kind was not popular with us, and again it is probably because, to the woman listening in her own home, this strikes the wrong background.

YES // Drama . . . but it must move quickly

Children’s programmes we felt were very good. Mary pointed out an improvement which she thought could be made. She has two children of four and six, and would prefer to have the young children’s programmes first, with a definite break wishing the babies goodnight, so that she could take off her younger fledgling and get her to bed, while big boy was left behind for his particular programme. This would make sure that he would stay spellbound where he was, and she would not have to hurry with the little one. I think that is a good idea myself.

I personally would rather see more of the realistic for children. I am not at all sure that the constant production of highly imaginary figures, of the strip-cartoon nature is a good plan. Are we not stuffing children up with too much of this, when we could give a combination of something more useful at the same time? Something which covered both scenes.

“You would think of that, just because you are a writer!” said Helen scornfully.

I agreed, somewhat crushed — but I still think it. Perhaps the answer is that it is easy to criticise, not so easy to change matters. All the same I am convinced these are the points which women discuss, and think about in TV.


  • Ursula Bloom (1892-1984) wrote over 500 books, making her the world’s most prolific author in her lifetime. She also wrote under the pseudonyms Sheila Burns, Mary Essex, Rachel Harvey, Deborah Mann, Lozania Prole and Sara Sloane.

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