Idiot box. Boob tube. Little blue screen. Television: It’s bad for us. It scrambles our brains, makes us passive, kills creativity and eats up time. To most people, though, it’s irresistible.
Until I got older and began spending so much time alone in silent apartments, I wasn’t into random viewing at all. My family got our first tv set when I was four, and even then I remember being restless and bored when it was on. When the whole family came together to watch The Ed Sullivan Show or Dinah Shore, it was such a rare event that I’d stay just to be in the same room with them, but I found it almost painfully difficult to sit still. (Maybe it was their choice of programming, come to think of it!) I did like Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton, but most television bored me.
Now I couldn’t live without it. When I used the phrase “random viewing,” I meant that (1) I didn’t keep it on if I wasn’t actually watching; (2) I never, but never, turned it on before dark; and (3) I only turned it on to watch a specific show, about which I was often obsessional. These were few in number; usually one or two shows a season grabbed me and I couldn’t miss a single episode—and we had no copying apparatus then. (I remember being freaked out lest I go into labor with my daughter during the anxiously awaited final episode of The Fugitive.)
Since I love to make lists, I’m always looking for new topics. Herewith is one of the tv shows I’ve been insanely attached to over the years. If they seem like a lot, remember, we’re talking about a time period of fifty years. Half a century. Good Grief!
Father Knows Best (I was ten-plus and wanted to be “Kitten.”)
All in the Family
Mary Tyler Moore (#1)
Kate & Allie
Roseanne (in reruns only)
The Lou Grant Show
Hill Street Blues
Cagney & Lacey (#1)
Law & Order (still!)
Knots Landing (guilty pleasure)
L.A. Law (in reruns–it ran opposite Knots)
House (getting ready to retire this one soon; it’s going downhill)
Lately I find myself much more interested in reality shows – though some are truly unbearable – than in fictional tv. I’m just more curious about what real-ish people are doing these days (as much as they can be real on tv).
Wife Swap (actually I can no longer bear this, it’s vile; I used to like it until it devolved into real slime, and I needed to take a shower afterwards)
Kate and her 8 Kids, in whatever format
Millionaire Matchmaker with the crazed Patty Stanger
Animal Planet (lots of shows that keep changing. Some favorites are Animal Cops, It’s Me or The Dog, Parolees and Pit Bulls, and #1, Pit Boss)
Then There’s Radio…
I’ve got NPR on 99% of the time, and occasionally KFOG. Now, Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m., I’ll be switching on KPFA for Robbie Osmon’s Across the Great Divide. Robbie chooses a topic from the past week and puts together two fantastic hours that express the theme. He knows every genre of music; he plays corny country, old rock n’ roll, and obscure artists with cult followings. GREAT stuff!) (Except that he began today with four, yes, 4! versions of We Shall Overcome, which he has been playing every single week lately! I suppose it’s appropriate, given the times.