The death of Paul Daniels got me thinking - was TV more magical back then?

Paul Daniels, who has died aged 77 after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. Photo: John Wright/BBC

Paul Daniels, who has died aged 77 after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. Photo: John Wright/BBC/PA Wire - Credit: PA

I grew up with Paul Daniels. He didn't live in my house, though he may have been there all along, hidden by one of his clever illusions. Or just crouched behind the sofa.

He was a regular on our TV on weekend evenings, on shows including The Paul Daniels Magic Show, Odd One Out and Every Second Counts.

It's easy to forget how amazed we were by his magic tricks and illusions. And they really were amazing, groundbreaking and hugely entertaining (though I did hate the Bunko Booth).

Daniels's death got me thinking about prime time TV when I were a lad. But I'm not about to gush about the 'good old days'.

For TV wasn't better in the past – it was different.

I loved Doctor Who with Tom Baker in the lead role, and I loved the modern revamp, particularly with Doctor David Tennant.

Old Doctor Who now looks comical, with wobbly sets and cardboard monsters. But it was amazing at the time, and it should not be compared with today's extraordinary episodes.

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Going back can ruin, not enhance, our nostalgia. I used to love the cartoon Hong Kong Phooey – until I watched an episode a few years ago and was aghast at the production quality.

I had the same experience with two series that gripped me as a young teenager – By the Sword Divided and Tripods. They were superb in the 1980s, but naff today.

I think we do ourselves a disservice when we are dogmatic about things being better in a particular era.

If you cite The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, Dave Allen and Porridge as evidence, I'd counter with Cannon and Ball, Jimmy Tarbuck, Little and Large, Jimmy Cricket, Russ Abbot and Hale and Pace.

Today, I loathe Russell Brand and Little Britain. But I love QI and Alan Partridge.

I hardly dare look, but I suspect that my guilty pleasures – Dallas and Dynasty – appear ludicrous through 2016 eyes. They gave me so much cheap entertainment, though.

For what it's worth, I think we are in the midst of one of the greatest-ever eras of TV, with the rise of Nordic Noir and endless superb series from the US, including House of Cards, The Walking Dead and Homeland.

For some people, these will one day be the 'good old days'. Others tut and shake their heads, in a quiet lament for TV glories gone by.

Would it not be better to enjoy each era in equal measure? Now that's magic.


Governments just cannot resist, can they?

Elected to manage the economy and keep us safe, they almost always succumb to the temptation to wipe our noses and tell us off.

I never had a nanny as a child, as my parents were quite sufficient to almost meet my demands. If I did have a nanny, I can hardly think of one I would like less than the chancellor, George Osborne.

Yet that is the role he is trying to play by introducing a sugar tax on the soft drinks industry.

He has walked into the nursery and snatched away another of our toys, while painting the room grey into the bargain.

It's interesting to note that most of the things that give us (though not all of us) pleasure are heavily taxed – including alcohol, cigarettes, TV, driving and, soon, sugary drinks.

There is one very personal pleasure that is yet to be taxed, but I'm sure Mr Osborne is consulting the ghost of Oliver Cromwell to find a way to raise a levy on it.

I don't advocate eliminating all of the above taxes (just most of them). But I see no reason – not even the jumping Jamie Oliver – for the sugar tax.

Yes, there is a childhood obesity problem. And yes, sugary foods and drinks are playing a part in it.

But there has to come a time when we allow people to take control of their, or their children's, lives.

Adults who put on weight because of sugary drinks are choosing to drink them. Children who do likewise are either choosing for themselves or having the choice made by their parents.

It is not a government matter: it is largely a matter of good parenting.

But this tax does not discriminate between good and bad; it gives all of us a slap on the wrist for being naughty.

It reminds me of the teachers' technique of threatening the whole class with detention if one person did not own up to putting a dead bird in her handbag.

I don't see why I should pay more for a beer because some people get into a fight when they've had a few. And I don't see why I should cough up extra for a full-fat Coke because some people are on the chunky side.

Firstly, it won't make a difference, as people who crave junk food and drink will either pay a bit more or find something else to consume.

Secondly, it's none of your business, Mr Osborne.

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