Figure 1: ““Console Television Receiver”” by ellenm1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Figure 1: ““Console Television Receiver”” by ellenm1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When I got married I made the decision not to have a TV because I knew my personal tendency to let it suck up my attention and I did not want that as an additional distraction from the hard work of building and maintaining important relationships. My (now 23 year old) son and I are currently working through the first 3 seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation (TNG) on DVD.

Growing up (this will date me) I watched some of the (then) current kids shows. I remember how much my grandfather loved watching Lawrence Welk. The annual airing of The Wizard of Oz ad A Charlie Brown Christmas were anchors of the TV-watching year. My best friend would not miss the Jerry Lewis telethon. All In the Family, The Waltons and MASH where staples. In the 70s there were cult-like re-runs of Star Trek TOS and this wacky British show called Monty Python’s Flying Circus late at night on the PBS station. And there were major events like the moon landing (I was 8, vague memories) and the celebration of the American bicentennial and less happy things like the nightly body count on the evening news during the Vietnam war.

We often watched together as a family (or part of a family). Most families at the time had “the TV”, one TV (Mr. Green of the Monkeys “Pleasant Valley Sunday” not withstanding). There were in our case only 4 stations to choose from, the CBS, ABC, NBC and PBS affiliates. We argued over who got “the good chair”, who had to get up and change the channel (yes, no remotes) and if you got your place when you came back. With so few selections, it was highly likely that some of your friends had watched the same show the night before. There were no VCRs, DVDs or YouTube. You watched what the local stations put on, when they chose to air it (yes, air) or you didn’t watch anything. This lack of choice contributed to a shared culture, shared experiences. I wonder if the ancient Athenians had more than one play by Aeschylus or Euripides at the same time?

“Back in the day” (40s to early 80s) there were local and regional TV shows. Cincinnati had the Paul Dixon Show and Midwestern Hayride, Dayton had Phil Donahue (who later went national). Columbus had Lucy’s Toy Shop (live kids show) and Flippo the Clown..afternoon B-Movies with commentary … and a recording of Flippo (Bob Marvin) playing the Beatles Norwegian Wood on sax with his Jazz Combo for the theme song. Any “kid” of a certain age (OK, we’re all now approaching 60) from central Ohio can still sing theme from Lucy’s Toy Shop by heart. TV of the day created a shared culture. Those a few years older than me seemed to all have watched they American debut of a British group on the Ed Sullivan show playing a style of music copied from American artists such as Elvis Presley who in turned copied it from the current black artists of the day. There’s a lot to be said for shared culture.