My friend Godling tells me his parents are too senile to tell him about the old days. I somehow doubt this. I suspect that they no longer allow him near the house and have installed an electric collar permanently around his neck which they can activate if he's sighted.
Nevertheless, he asked me about what it was like before TV, and I thought I'd tell a little story about my memories of TV. Just for his benefit.
We didn't have it on the farm where I was born; I know that. And those were the salad days. The only real form of entertainment in the house was the piano. The normal entertainment, as everyone knows in their heart of hearts, is outside. It's a shame so many kids these days stay inside, lighted by neon and bulb, lured there by that other bulb, the box of doom. Nothing has changed our world as much as TV, and I've always said, TV was the damnedest thing I'd ever seen in terms of "changing life as we know it" . . . until the internet came along.
I guess we got our first black and white TV when I was around five. I don't remember any of the shows that were on then or how much my parents and I watched it. I'm sure it must have been a lot, since it was so new. But I don't remember any specific shows until the color TV came along.
Bonanza was the first TV show in color, I believe. I think it was around 1959. Then there was Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. I think my old man held out for a while after Bonanza went color, and was swept into this world of color when Disney threw the final rope around his neck.
This was in a time when, if you were the first on the block to get a color TV, folks would actually come over and go "oooh" and "aaah." These were the sorts of TV's that look funny to you, now. They were small tubes in big wooden cabinets. The speakers sucked. The picture sucked. But, by God, it was color, and that was almost like real life, wasn't it? We could all be wearing big cowboy hats and wishing mom hadn't died (or did the Cartwright boys get together and kill her one day?), or we could be bouncing around with big black ears as mice. Annette would not have been very sexy in black and white, but in color? There was an instant chubby for a young boy (and his old man, too, probably).
The funny thing is, the great shows were still in black and white. Like the Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock.
The biggest change in a youngster's life (except for maybe that other one) is when TV takes over real life. Instead of actually going out and playing baseball, he can sit and watch baseball being played. This is much easier and you can eat junk food at the same time, too. You wonder why folks in America are so goddamned fat and lazy? And the real baseball had green grass and blue sky and fun. The baseball on TV had about 3 camera angles, was in black and white, and was not a lot of fun. Just a vacant complacency.
So, Godling, there you have it. That's the history of TV as I know it. And now I watch my daughter spend hour upon hour watching this damned box, not getting any exercise, having her mind shaped and formed in ways that I cannot even imagine by the fuckwits at MTV and all the other insidious cocaine-addled network executives.
Heaven help her, and heaven help me try and find who I was meant to be without this alien in the house.