Are there any childhood memories that compare to watching what we were allowed to watch on television? When, if you wanted to see something, you had better be seated in front of the set when it was scheduled to come on. There were no VCR's, DVD players, or Netflix. In the summer there were reruns of the prime time shows but you were usually outside playing until after dark. At least, I was fortunate enough to have had that privilege.
Unlike a school day, you didn't need mom to wake you up on Saturday morning. Can you remember the feeling of sitting in the floor in your pajamas, feasting on a bowl of sugary cereal goodness? You had your favorites and you knew what came on which channel and when. Looney Tunes, Land of the Lost, Space Nuts, H.R. Pufnstuf, to name but a few. To change the channel you had to actually get up, walk over to the TV, and turn the dial. (Slowly, or your father would hear it and holler, "Are you trying to break it?") And that Saturday in the fall when the new programming would start? Exciting! You would be riveted to the set all morning, from 6:00 until at least 11:00.
Did you have an after school TV ritual? With me it was Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch. I'm sure others came and went but those were the mainstays of the 3:30 to 5:00 time span. And every so often they would have the after School Special, in which someone had a horrible problem that was solved with smiles, all within the hour. Back then that was the first I would hear of things like drug abuse, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, divorce, and the like. We just didn't have the news coverage that we do now that brings all those things into our homes 24/7. Of course, there were a lot fewer people to do those things, too.
Prime time was family viewing time. I will always remember my father's laughter during The Carol Burnett Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and All In The Family. On Sundays we watched Disney. It would be a movie or cartoons or a wildlife special or an episode of a serial. As a tenderhearted child, I would cry during Disney when the baby animal's mom and dad would die during a wildlife show. And it seems like they always died. Seems kinda shifty now, thinking back on it. Often the serials were based in the wild west. Then the Mutual Of Omaha's Wild Kingdom would come on! Always exciting. Confronting wild beasts! Oh, you were always on the edge of your seat!
TV's I Have Known And Loved
My father was an electrical engineer. One of his many pastimes was building TV sets. They were kits and the parts were sent through the mail, a little at a time. So we had two or more TV's before it was fashionable to have more than one. Color TV's, no less! And big, console jobbies!
When I was twelve I was given my first TV set of my very own. It was black and white in a rounded plastic cover that was bright red. It was love at first sight. At last I could watch something all by myself in my own room without any input from mom, dad, brother, or sister. I could watch as late as I wanted (as long as I kept the volume down).
When my first son was born, thirty-three years ago, we were able to get the new thing they call cable. It had maybe thirty channels, but that was a giant leap up from the four we had grown up with. As I fed the baby at one in the morning I could watch Bachelor Father and My Little Margie on the "oldies" channel. It was heaven.
Television has grown right along with America. Some in good ways, some in bad. We could share in the glory of the space launches and sit glued in amazed horror while they showed coverage of terrorist attacks. Now the cable brings us twenty-four hours a day of just about anything we can imagine. And say you want to be reminded just how that skit from a comedy show in the seventies went, you can just go to YouTube and more than likely, someone, somewhere has uploaded just that skit. Video games mean that you can interact with your TV instead of just watching. There are so many choices for watching, from DVR's to DVD's and Netflix, that you no longer have to worry that you missed out on your favorite show.
Now I am fortunate in that the TV's that I have are big and flat and not just color but also high definition. However, I will always recall fondly that little red black and white. I know that some call it the idiot box or the boob tube. But for me, I have a love affair with TV that consists of nothing but good memories.