TV Or Not TV?

In the 1950s, TV was in its childhood while I was in mine. We grew up together. Being overly impressionable, I had become so enthralled that before my parents and sister would wake up each new day… even prior to our local TV stations, themselves, “waking up”, there I’d be (“glued” to the B&W screen) “watching” test patterns… similar to the one above.

However, once the programming finally began, the kiddie shows, cartoons and adventures would abound. Check out this small sampling…

Day in / day out the wild times in TV-Land would virtually pour out from the screen into our real life living room… with emphasis on “wild”. I recall an incident where my sister and I, overly under the influence of TV and/or a sugar buzz and/or simply being giddy with regular childhood exuberance were joyously raising such a ruckus that our mother had to practically don a vertically striped referee shirt, tweet a whistle and drop a penalty flag to restore household order.

But… somehow… I did manage to “time out”… long enough for the following verbal exchange to ensue…

Mom: “What in the world’s going on?”

Tom: “If you read the news you’ll know.”

Now, to clarify matters, here’s the backstory to that Mom/Tom repartee. You see… I had been totally programmed by a TV commercial, which told viewers to subscribe to one of our local newspapers. The adman’s catchy little tune featured the merrily sung lyrics… you guessed it…

“What in the world’s going on? If you read the news you’ll know.”

Well, TV, just like its viewers, had little choice but to “time out” / grow up over the decades to follow.

Those who’ve been around in our troubled world long enough have been eyewitness to the somber, sobering images of the Kennedy and King assassinations… the racist, blood splattered Deep South… war torn Vietnam and countless other battlefields… antiwar street demonstrations… chronic economic upheaval… Watergate… 9/11 and subsequent terrorist attacks… war criminal W “murdering” Lady Liberty and torturing the enemy… mass shootings inclusive of elementary school children… rightwing legislators mollycoddling the too big to fail, unrepentant, CEO screw-ups… and the wretched discrimination against women, racial / ethnic minorities and the LGBT community.

True, there have been rare moments where TV’s cameras have focused on more positive events, e.g. when We proudly whipped our center digits at our nation’s racist past by electing/reelecting President Barack Obama.

As for other fleeting glimpses of success stories… we’ve borne witness to astronauts walking on the Moon and countless other technological advancements… inclusive of TV technology, itself… the conversion to digital.

It was after U.S. analog transmitters had signed off for the very last time in 2009, that TV and I had begun to part company. Fortunately, my living along the northern U.S. border, Canada’s analog broadcasts were still available up till the fall of 2011… but once they, too, went digital, from that moment forward, and for the next five years, this was all my TV could receive…

Well… all that changed about three weeks ago. Due to recent upgrades in my sibling’s life, she opted to recycle her no longer needed digital TV converter and rabbit ears… by shipping these devices to me.

The easy part was connecting to my 20 year old, 13-inch Sony Trinitron. The hard part was finding signals from the 40-mile distant broadcast towers. The disappointing part was discovering that the two stations I did manage to snag were airing programs that I wouldn’t normally watch… the Jerry Springer Show and a PBS kiddie program.

In spite of my finding out that Public Broadcasting is still programming towards the betterment of society, my first day back in TV-Land had left me feeling underwhelmed / turned off. So, I turned off my TV… but not for long.

Two Fridays ago, I purchased a relatively inexpensive, indoor/outdoor antenna equipped with a signal amplifier. By midmorning, the next day, I had assembled everything to transform my metal microphone stand into a makeshift, five-foot tall, indoor antenna mast (actually, eight feet in height once set atop a sturdy end table… true… not the best décor-wise… but… after all… I was primarily going for functionality).

After locating the optimal antenna position in my living room, the converter’s automatic station scan managed to find 7 multicasting stations (PBS, CBS, NBC and ABC plus a few lesser networks) and since there are 2 to 3 subchannels per station, I now have a grand total of 19 separate program streams to wade through.

So, after my five-year absence from TV, what’s my reaction? Well, I find myself gravitating towards reruns of programs from my much younger days… e.g., I spent the better part of my first weekend back binge watching countless half-hour long episodes of “The Adventures of Superman”.

Then, several nights ago, I stayed up a bit past my usual bedtime to watch Stephen Colbert’s incarnation of the CBS Late Show… for the very first time. How odd it felt not to see David Letterman seated at his familiar, Ed Sullivan Theater, talk show desk.

As for new TV programs? It’s going to take awhile for me to get acclimated but, so far, I’ve not had much desire to explore what’s “out there”. I’m beginning to think this quotation, i.e., dialogue written by author Thomas Wolfe, aptly describes my, at present, state of mind.

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

 

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