When you have a gathering among friends, especially with those whom you seldom see and should catch up with, what do you do and where do you do it?
Outside of home, on 'neutral' ground to everyone's ease and convenience of travel is one way. No worries about food and drinks mainly. But what if it's held at a friend's home? Depending on how large the group is, food can either be cooked by the host, catered, or shared ala potluck, or a combination of these options. The type of food and drinks served depends on the time of day or theme of the gathering, if any.
Entertainment? For me, nothing beats conversation in the company of good friends, maybe with some soft background music at the most. Unless it's a movie marathon get-together, the television set should not be left on (if it was on before the friends arrive) or turned on during the gathering in my opinion.
I find the television distracting and an anti-social element when you have company. People will start watching the box instead of catching up with each other and bonding. Some say conversation can still take place but it would certainly be centred around what is being watched, rather than meaningful chatter.
What if one of the guests decides to turn the set on himself? I think that is not a very nice thing to do. If the show he wanted to watch was more important than meeting his friends, then he should have just stayed home and watched it on his own TV (unless he doesn't have one!).
Maybe another reason for watching TV instead of making conversation is that the person feels out of place or even worse, is avoiding conversation with certain people he dislikes perhaps, for whatever reason. Still, I think he should not do it. Can't he just talk to others he feels more comfortable with?
What do you do if that happens when you are hosting? Tell the person politely to turn it off to avoid distracting others from making meaningful conversation? I think that's one way. The person should respect your request and be sensible enough to realise his mistake, intentional or otherwise.
Another way would be to have the gathering at the part of your home where the TV is not located, such as in the garden if the weather is suitable, at the dining area, lanai or patio. Some people avoid such situations by placing their TV in a private family room, bedroom or AV room if they have enough room in their house.