The Evolution Will Be Televised: 60 Years Later And We’re Still Watching TV
It’s impossible to explain to our children just how much the world has truly changed since you or I were kids. They experience movies and radio with only the most peripheral of differences than we did – most of which involve cosmetic improvements and frequency of access. Television, however, has made phenomenal leaps and bounds. It’s as if we were driving horse and buggies while they’ve been handed flying cars.
During its prime, the television – feared by many as the device that would put an end to the need for radio – was a financial investment tantamount to buying a house, a vehicle, or kitchen appliance. It wasn’t just an LCD or plasma screen propped up on a bookshelf like a photograph in a frame. It was a massive piece of furniture. Called a television ‘set’, it contained elements borrowed from radio systems for audio, a small electric motor, a spinning disc, a group of glass tubes to convert power, a gelatin-based vacuum tube to project an image, and a wooden cabinet to house it in. Over time record players and actual radios were added to the cabinet which constituted the first self-contained entertainment ‘unit’.
It was Lo-Fi mono audio, the pictures were in black and white, and you required an antenna to ‘catch’ broadcast signals from the local network carriers – up to 12 of them (the #1 on the television’s manual ‘dial’ was for emergency broadcasts only). There was no remote control. That dial had to be cranked by hand and a list of TV shows was printed in a book you bought at the supermarket every week called a ‘TV Guide’. The networks would start broadcasting at 6 AM and ‘sign-off’ at midnight following the evening news. They’d go dark after the performance of a canned version of the national anthem before being replaced by a test pattern – featuring the feathered head of a politically incorrect drawing of a Native North American. Though television now can still be a major financial consideration, it’s because the TV is the size of a sheet of GypRoc and is mounted on your wall like artwork. movies anywhere com activate It’s a precision device projecting thousands of pixels per square inch in 4,000,000 colours with up to 7.1 surround sound audio and high definition visuals streamed into your house through a cable no thicker than a piece of licorice. No more antennas. No more manual dialing through 500 channels instead of 12. Television networks rarely ever go off the air – it cost them too much money to be dark from midnight to 6AM. Television is now 24 hours/365 days of the year. And, yet, there’s less on TV now than when I was growing up. Certainly less quality entertainment at any rate.
Because there was less airtime – most certainly for children who attended school – we were limited to an hour or so before heading out in the morning and after school was broken up between home-work, playing outside until dinner, and playing outside until dark. We really only watched TV for less than three hours on a weekday. When you include the time spent doing same on weekends between the times Mom and Dad had other plans for us cleaning our rooms, playing board games, shopping, visiting family, we may have only caught TV a few more hours Saturday or Sunday. And according to the good folks at ‘Morals R Us’ these hours were eating our brains.
They may have been right. When I add up the hours of television available to me they seem disproportionate to the unending number of things I remember watching. School days started with a kids’ variety program called ‘Rocket Ship 7’ hosted by Dave Thomas out of WKBW-TV in Buffalo (interesting trivia note: he is the father of ‘Angel’/’Bones’ TV actor David Boreanaz). Like similar shows being broadcast in that era on stations all across North America, the show featured skits, birthday greetings, puppets, a talking robot, and the latest, cheaply licensed kids fair. We watched the Christian-based ‘Davy & Goliath’ and ‘Gumby’ stop motion animation shows, Looney Tunes, Merry Melodies, ‘Popeye’, ‘The World of Oz’ and occasionally ‘The Three Stooges’ and ‘Little Rascals’ shorts.
When we came home for lunch it was a revolving world on either CHCH (out of Hamilton) or CTV (out of Toronto). I recall catching ‘The Flintstones’, ‘Rocket Robin Hood’ and any number of Canadian made game shows starring host Jim Perry – most notably ‘Eye Bet’ and ‘Definition’ – as well as a Canadian children’s variety show called ‘The Uncle Bobby Show’ featuring a cardigan wearing old Brit. After school there was a juggling act of homework, outdoor activities or watching another children’s variety show called ‘Commander Tom’ which was the afternoon version of ‘Rocket Ship 7’ featuring most of the same shows though they also included longer programming with ‘The Addams Family’, ‘The Munsters’ and ‘Batman’.