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Friday, February 04, 2011

It's About Rythm and Structure.

I'm willing to bet I might be a bit older than many people who read this blog.  Some by not so much, and I know I am junior in age to a few.

It's probably to those few that this will make the most sense.

I grew up watching television in the late 50's and early 60's.  It was back when there were two knobs on huge TV consoles that dominated a relatively small screen.

A black and white screen up until sometime around 1968.

Those two round knobs controlled the channels.  The top one usually controlled the VHF channels, which fed the 3 major networks and the bottom button was the magic, smoothly-turning knob that introduced you to UHF.

Clunk, clunk, clunk...

That's the sound the top knob made when you turned the stations.

To complicate matters, if you changed channels frequently, the plastic nub that the knob fit onto would eventually get rounded off. You had to use a pair of needle nose pliers to change the channel.  I remember that stripped-out knob sitting on top of our TV for years...

Along side that set of needle nose pliers.

As far as gaining reception and signal?  It was done by a set of "rabbit ears" that generally sat on top of the TV.  People with money had roof antennas.

And for you folks that wonder how we got by without remote controls?

We had them...

"Turn the TV to Lawrence Welk boy and get me another beer..."

Kids were the first remote controls invented.

But TV wasn't really that bad back then...but then again, if you don't know what you are missing....well, you don't miss it.

I remember memorizing when my TV shows were on.

Captain Kangaroo

Howdy Doody

Rescue 8

Rin Tin Tin

Sky King...

Many shows aired live, with all their bloopers and imperfections and baseball players could be seen smoking cigarettes in the dugout.

I knew when they were on, what channel they were on and I checked my cheap little watch as we kids played outside, making sure I didn't miss anything.  Serial shows ran for 22 episodes and they all ran at once, usually beginning in September and ending in late spring.

Then there was "rerun summer".

There was a pattern, a rhythm and structure to it all.

Today not so much.

I still watch TV.  Howdy Doody has been replaced with Fringe, Sky King with Human Target...

But the types of TV shows isn't the only thing that's changed.

Seasons of a particular program might run 13 episodes, maybe 10 if it's just a seasonal replacement for something else.  Many shows switch the day they air like most of us change shirts.  TV shows don't run in parallel anymore.  One show might start a new season in January, others in April.  Most of them have adopted the infuriating practice of taking a "mid-season break", lasting as long as 90 days.  Even award-winning programs like "Breaking Bad" make their viewers wait almost a year for a new season.  You have to create a database just to keep track of what's going on.

Yeah, cable has changed things.  The advertising dollar rules most decisions.  Technology has prevailed and given us choices we couldn't imagine when we were kids.  Hell, some of us even remember what a record is.  Do you realize that most of the people I deal with don't understand the context of the saying...

"You sound like a broken record"?

So now I understand.

Some of us have rode the tech wave into the present.  In place of the promised flying cars and video phones we have the PT Cruiser and The Internet.

Many of us have taken a keen interest in technology, we choose to.  But as I mentioned in a less than gentle way recently...

Some people don't want to.

Sky King and Rin Tin Tin are fine for them.  It's what they know, it's within their comfort zone and even if Burn Notice is a better show, they don't care.

They don't feel a need or a want to immerse themselves into it.

Timmy will fall down another well, The Captain will get another bucket of ping pong balls dropped on his head and Sky King will catch the bad guy every time.

It's comfortable, it's predictable and it's what they know.

Even though they know the channel will fuzz out or fail from time to time, they are willing to deal with it. Walter Cronkite will set things straight.

No amount of telling them how good something else is will sway them.

Maybe they like hearing clunk, clunk, clunk when they turn the TV channel.

And I guess that's ok.  Sometimes I wish Lassie would come home too.

All-Righty Then.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me just how old I am.

Poetically done Ken.

Gavin said...

Great, now I have the Howdy Doody theme song stuck in my head...

No Don Knotts in Maybury? (Ever seen The Incredible Mr. Limpet?) What about the Dick Van Dyke show? The old black & white Dennis The Menace? The Rat Pack? (Ever seen the original The Manchurian Candidate?) I still think those old Duck and Cover PSA's are hilarious! ;)

People have had difficulty changing since the human race first learned to make fire. Radio to TV, horse and carriage to car, and the Industrial Revolution was no cake-walk! The printing press stirred up some trouble, the telescope had prominent skeptics for decades, and being a 7th century Western European peasant must have been slightly disorienting to say the least! :P Rome was not built in a day, and neither did it fall in a day. And Socrates was sentenced to death by poison by his own people for telling the truth.

Change is not something that humans handle gracefully, but it always happens nevertheless. Even so, it is not always the case that individuals change, but rather the next individuals. In the words of Gustav Mahler, "The young are always right".

Fred and Wilma said...

You took me back to my child hood and I do miss it in a way. With all the channels Cable and Satellite furnish you would think they could at least furnish all those "old" favorite shows on a channel or two for us folks. Plus it would be great to show our Grandkids what we used to watch. Might be a great time to share a few laughs with them.
Great blog today.

Anonymous said...

"Turn the TV to Lawrence Welk boy and get me another beer..."

Are we brothers?

Dennis Kittinger said...

"Then there was "rerun summer".

Yeah, that's when kids actually went outside and played. Today, it's all I can do to get my kids to get up from their playstation to come eat. I think they think of sunlight as a deadly force, to be shunned at all costs.

Liz and I were talking about things in our childhood during dinner one night and I mentioned something about me climbing a tree when I was 10. My 12 year boy looked at me with a raised eyebrow and asked'

"Why would you do that?"

I told him, "because I could".

crb3 said...

I think you missed a beat, there, Ken. Those folks didn't trust Walter after awhile, instead they yelled and changed the channel when the body-bag reports starting playing. They fought to keep on trusting what they were told.

I'm old enough to remember watching the original airing of the Superman, and American Bandstand, but I also remember "don't trust anyone over thirty". The lines were never really that clear-cut, but the message was and is true: stop believing what you're told just because you're told to. Find out for yourself. To me, that's what the Sixties was about, and, guess what: it still is.

But then, I'm sitting in the choir rows here. I think everybody who watches this blog of yours is all about go-find-out.

I can offer some encouragement, however. My father is in his mid-80's. He never forgave Cronkite either. For a decade, he'd listen when I told him to never reply to spam, to ignore MSIE and use Mozilla, to ignore Exchange and use Pegasus... but only in the context of Windows. Linux was freaky stuff (used by his freaky son, QED). Now he's using Ubuntu for the family's web-cruiser, and looking to hook his (still-preferred) XP systems up to the Net strictly through the Ubuntu box's firewall. He's budging, and he's as stubborn as I am. There's hope.

piquant00 said...

"A black and white screen up until sometime around 1968."

Luxury. My parents waited to get a color TV until 1979.

Great article, thanks for posting it.

Anonymous said...

Many of us have taken a keen interest in technology, we choose to. But as I mentioned in a less than gentle way recently...

Some people don't want to.

OK, I'll give you that, but those people should realize that this is their choice and when that channel does "go fuzzy", they cannot expect friends or family to come at the drop of a hat and come fix it.

Especially when we have to come fix the same stupid problems time after time.

I gave my family notice 2 years ago. I will no longer fix virus or spyware problems on their computer any more. Some have let me put Linux on their computers and every one of them are happy enough. The rest still do the same dumb things. The only difference is that they now pay the geek squad about 200 dollars every 6 months or so.

Their is a price to pay for staying in one's comfort level. It tends to make those around them uncomfortable.

Colonel Panik said...

All the problems of the world, everyone
of them can be blamed on Lawrence Welk
and Perry Coma.

You kids should know that there was a time
when there was no TV. Good times.

Thanks Ken.

Tom said...

I remember most of it as well, but they could have done much worse than the PT Cruiser :)
Oh, wait, they did... Pontiac Aztek :)