When I hear people say that they don’t watch television because there is nothing on, I think, “Seriously? You are either too young or just don’t remember the days when there was really nothing on.” After the news, and perhaps a late-night movie, the Star Spangled Banner would be played, followed by a test pattern and then nothing but the sounds of static and what looked like snow on the screen until around 6:00 in the morning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHqA83gdBwA
The night of my marathon ten-hour baby-sitting job, I didn’t bring a book because I never expected to be there that long, so I had nothing to do but stare out the window and check on the kids a million times. That was pure frustration and boredom and a moment when I could honesly say “there was nothing on tv.”
Those were the days before cable tv, Netflix, and video rentals. There were not hundreds of stations to watch, but rather three main networks: CBS, NBC, and ABC, or as I still say today, channels 2, 4, and 7, which makes Dad crazy. (My New York friends down here all understand what I mean.)
There was something special about that time which I miss. Growing up, before it was possible to buy, record or rent movies, there were particular shows that were aired only one time each year, so it became a household event. There was no other time you could view those shows and movies.
I remember anxiously awaiting the nights when we would all gather around our television set (and most families had only one) to watch Rudolph the Red-Reindeer, The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, March of the Wooden Soldiers, Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz. Those viewings were the watercooler moments of our day, when we would return to school and discuss the movie that we all had enjoyed on the same night.
While it is true that most of these classics are still broadcasted to our homes once a year, I would argue that it is not the same when you can pull out one of these movies from your personal collection to watch at any moment, or turn on a movie channel and choose a favorite to watch. Somehow the excitement is lost when all the kids at school in every home in the country are not watching Dorothy landing in Oz at the same moment.
And while I am mentioning Dorothy, let me walk you all down my lane of memories to the time when I first viewed the Wizard of Oz in color. Uncle Bob was the first family member that I recall who had a color television, and I remember going to his house and being so amazed when Dorothy left her black-and-white house in Munchkin Land and walked into the splendor of red and green and blue and yellow. That moment is etched in my mind. Until that night, Dorothy’s ruby slippers were always just black and white. I am not sure when Grandma and Grandpa were able to afford a color tv.
Do I want to go back to the era of 2, 4, and 7, followed by the addition of channels 5, 9, 11, and 13? No, of course not, but there is still something special about that time–something magical about tuning into a show and seeing the NBC peacock, which indicated that the show we were about to watch was now being broadcast in color. The excitement of that time is just gone. I can’t explain it, but I believe only others of my generation or earlier can understand that special feeling.