I have (yet another) confession to make: I LOVE television.
This isn’t so hard an admission to make these days, since I feel we’re in a current golden age of television. Who doesn’t love it? The quality of writing is generally excellent, and the proliferation of cable original series makes it easy to find a show (or shows) of your choice.
When I was a kid and teenager (and to some extent, young adult), one had 3 choices: ABC, NBC, or CBS. The big three networks pretty much dominated television, and even if one could afford something like HBO or Showtime (my family couldn’t), they offered only movies; cable never, to my knowledge, forayed into making their own series. As a result, there wasn’t a lot of variety or innovation in TV.
I didn’t grow up with a television in my bedroom, as so many kids eventually did (these days, they can watch on their laptop or ipad or smartphone or whatever). We had one of those big monstrous televisions that acted as another piece of furniture, with the convex screen embedded into an ornately designed wooden box that equaled the approximate weight of two elephants. You had to actually get your butt off the couch to turn the knob to change the channel (UHF or VHF? What did that even mean?). You had to fiddle with the antennae on the back (the “rabbit ears”) to focus the picture sometimes, and get rid of the “snow”.
I’m not so old that it was all in black and white-it was always in color-but old enough to remember being beside myself with excitement when we got our first VCR. Renting movies from the video store was awesome-you didn’t have to catch it at the movie theater before it was gone forever, or wait for it to make its debut on one of the network’s “movie of the week”.
Movies were great, but I still loved television, every minute of it, and have since childhood. Once I got out of the ’70’s with Sesame Street, Captain Kangaroo, Mister Rogers, The Electric Company, and Schoolhouse Rock, I graduated to that amazing, glorious (and sometimes painful) period called ’80’s television.
Every day after school, I rushed home to watch soaps with my mom and sister, particularly Guiding Light. After that came the sitcoms: The Jeffersons, Three’s Company, MASH. After supper and homework, I was allowed to watch one primetime show. My favorites? Knight Rider, MacGyver, and Quantum Leap (though QL may have been early ’90’s). There were the crime shows of the period: Simon & Simon, Murder She Wrote, Magnum PI, Matt Houston, Hunter, Jake and the Fatman. Oh, and I loved my sci-fi: V-The Series, and Star Trek Next Generation (and every incarnation made after that). More: Fantasy Island, Charlie’s Angels, Love Boat, Dukes of Hazard, Facts of Life, Family Ties. Laurel and Hardy and The Three Stooges on Sunday mornings with my dad. Weird movies on TV38 Sunday afternoons, like “Hell House” and “Kingdom of the Spiders”. Don’t get me started on game shows. I could go on and on.
Did I ever do anything but watch television?
In the ’90’s, my TV-watching did taper off, as I worked, went to school, and basically tried to “get a life”. I was in my twenties and looking for love; I read more books and began my journey into writing. I didn’t have much time for the boob tube. I never watched one episode of Friends, and only later caught up with Seinfeld re-runs (and X-Files, of course). There may even have been a period when (gasp) I didn’t have a TV.
It was in 2004 that TV caught my attention again, with Lost. My husband and I were sucked right in; it was the first time in many years when I literally counted the days to the next episode of a TV show. Though I’d always loved television, this was the first time that the word “obsession” could be applied. And it didn’t end there-TV has only gotten better. I can’t begin to describe how agonizingly long it is between seasons of Game of Thrones; how frustrating it is when Grimm takes a month-long hiatus in the middle of the season; or how The Walking Dead is the first show I’ve ever binge-watched, and I still can’t can’t get enough.
I’ve always been a bit ashamed of my life-long love of TV; I can’t help thinking that I could have employed my time in a more productive manner. On the other hand, long before books and movies, television was where I discovered my love of Story. For that reason alone, I’m grateful for the endless hours of screen time I’ve put in over the years.
What’s your relationship with TV? What are some of your favorite shows? Did you survive ’80’s television?