Let's take a moment to reflect. I was about six years old before my parents bought a television set (the automobile had successfully replaced covered wagons by then). It was the happiest moment of my life when my parents guided me into the living room where I saw this beautiful brand new black & white, 15-inch RCA console television set just sitting there. It had three knobs (the on-off knob, the volume control knob and the knob you rapidly turned left to right when the picture scrambled around for no reason at all). I literally ran up to the brown box with the olive colored TV screen and gave it a big bear hug while jumping up and down like a human pogo stick -- accompanied by loud screams of joy.
I'll never forget sitting in front of the TV watching the test pattern in anticipation of the greatest children's program of all time to appear on that sweet small screen, hearing Buffalo Bob Smith say: "Hey, kids, what time is it?" Thousands of children all over North America -- like me -- would scream along with the peanut gallery: "IT'S HOWDY DOODY TIME!"
I still get goose bumps when I think about it.
I don't know how kids today get excited about watching television without the adrenalin high of waiting for the test pattern to disappear. Today, children wake up and "poof" there are over 300 channels to choose from but, quite often, there is "nothing" to watch. Channel surfing these days somehow gives us less choices than back in the day when you really only had three channels but there was almost always something on you wanted to see.
And what has happened to the concept of "family shows" -- the shows that kids used to watch with their siblings and parents? Like: Leave It to Beaver or The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet or Sky King or Hopalong Cassidy or The Roy Rogers Show or I Love Lucy or The Pinky Lee Show or Make Room for Daddy or The Andy Griffith Show or The Red Skelton Show or The Milton Berle Show or The Real McCoys or Mr. Wizard or Industry on Parade or Your Hit Parade (where the only Snooki I ever cared about came on every week)... and did I mention all those great Westerns on Saturday night (Bonanza, Gunsmoke, etc.) and Ed Sullivan on Sunday night? Pure euphoria!
Fast forward a few decades, and imagine how hard it is for boomer families (who used to watch Father Knows Best with our entire family and later The Brady Bunch with our children) to cozy up to some of the reality shows out there -- and actually watch them together. Who wants to watch The Real Housewives... of any city with their kids or grandkids where rich, moody, selfish, manipulative housewives fight, cuss and blow up their lips three times their size? When I was a kid, housewives spoke softly and looked like June Cleaver and Harriet Nelson (although my mom didn't wear pearls except to church), and we all wanted to one day grow up and marry someone like Ward Cleaver and Ozzie Nelson (but hoped they looked like Tony Dow and Ricky Nelson). June and Harriet didn't have breast augmentations or botox injections.
Can you just hear Harriet say to Ozzie: "Dear, my breasts are the size of grape seeds. I don't fill out my shirt-waist dress. Men just stare at the pearls around my neck. I'm really self-conscious. And I want full lips so they'll look sexy and pouty so how about some silicone injections for my birthday? What do you think?" Ozzie (shaking his head and smiling): "Well, dear, I personally think your small breasts and pencil thin lips are just the right size. I'm not complaining but if it's what you really want, go ahead and do it. I just hope this won't embarrass Ricky and David."
Can we picture an eight-month pregnant Lucy Ricardo walking into Ricky's night club wearing tight pants and a halter top showing off her naked baby bump? Or, even worse, Ethel and Fred making love on their sofa?
Here's a family show we can all relate to: Two and a Half Men. How can families today (mom, pop, kids, pets) sit down together in their family room to watch a show where two men spend their time chasing women for the purpose of having meaningless sex, projecting the assumption that it is shallow but acceptable behavior? Pass the popcorn.
And, what happened to romance? Does it even exist anymore? How about that family show The Bachelor: where one single guy courts 25 women for the purpose of having spontaneous sexual encounters with as many women as possible trying to find his one and only true love. Lassie had higher standards.
The "good ol' days" of television may be relative to each generation so perhaps I'm speaking out of turn... but I don't think so. If Lucy came home to Ricky, out of the blue, with big lips and boobs the size of bowling balls, what do we think he would say?
"Lucy! You got some 'splainin' to do!"