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Watching TV uphill in the snow both ways

Family watching television, c. 1958

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I watched my child try to swipe a TV screen with his finger because he didn’t like what was on, I realized that kids’ television viewing habits have changed so much since I was a kid. Well, I realized it before that, but I realized I wanted to write a blog post about it then.

When was I a kid? Well, I’m in my late thirties now – NO – I’m in my mid-thirties. What’s a few years diff to you? Who are you, the KGB or something? The fact that I even know to fear them should tell you I am talking about late Cold War kids TV viewing. You know, like that episode of Head of the Class where they go to the U.S.S.R. and argue with Soviet teens about capitalism. Did you know that the “Mission to Moscow” episode in 1988 was the first American sitcom to be filmed in the Soviet Union? Yeah, I did. I wonder how?

So here are a few viewing habits, then and now:

THEN: The first TV I remember in our household had no remote (not even a clicky two-button clicker like my grandparents had), but a keypad. So I became a human remote: my father made me sit in front of the set and channel-surf for him. Fortunately there were only a few channels. The Yankees were on Channel 11. This repetition so engrained the TV station numbers in my head that though I have lived in the Boston area for 11 years, I still put on New York’s channel 2 when I look for CBS, instead of channel 4. 4 is always going to be NBC to me. Etc.

NOW: My little one is real proud of himself when he gets the remote in his hands (even though he doesn’t know what to do with it), such is the power of this device.

THEN: If you missed a show – sorry! That was it. The Sound of Music came on at Easter. If you didn’t tape it on your VCR (bonus points for pausing to skip the commercials), well, thanks, Easter Bunny. See you next year. Until VHS rentals – this allowed repeat movie viewing, but that episode of Square Pegs? Once missed, lost forever. Also: if you wanted to know who was that guy in that show, and is he the same guy from the other show? Sorry. Can’t help you. No internet. And that was OK.

NOW: My son doesn’t understand that even with a DVR, Netflix streaming, Apple TV, Hulu, etc. I cannot conjure up any show at any time. Which is why, when the new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon premiered a few weeks ago on a Sunday morning, I made a little thing out of it and let him watch it live, giving him the sense that TV could be an event, with other people in their homes watching with the same sense of anticipation as yourself. But that meant he had to watch the commercials, and I have to say: this practice of FF-ing the F-ing commercials I have been doing – that’s some good parenting! Because every commercial was for a toy that it is scientifically proven that he would want. No wonder my mother was so stone-cold – THEN: I watched commercial after unskippable commercial as a child. Did I get a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine? NO. Did I get Hungry-Hungry Hippos? NO. Easy-Bake Oven? HELL NO. But I did convince her to get Shake n Bake – once.

THEN: At my elementary school, we watched cartoons in the auditorium instead of playing outside on rainy days. The cartoons we watched were relics from the dawn of the television age. I was telling my Dad this the other day, saying I remember a clown coming out on an ink bottle, for one. “Koko the Clown!” He knew it right away. We also watched Betty Boop. These cartoons weren’t even from my Dad’s generation – they were from the twenties and thirties: HIS father’s generation! They were short films, they weren’t even TV shows! Can you imagine elementary schoolers today sitting in a damp, dark auditorium, watching Howdy Doody, or Roy Rogers? Or watching cartoons at school at all? Or knowing what an inkwell is? What do they do with kids on rainy days now anyway? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

It seems things – media, technology – are so much more ephemeral now. The connection to a generation before, even with the wealth of information available to us online, seems much more tenuous. THEN: I used cassette tapes to listen to and record music for pretty much all of my childhood and teenage years. I still knew how to operate a record player, and even owned one. NOW: when my older son wants to listen to music (he loves the Beatles, so there’s proof that some things can last. The little one? Ted Nugent. 4eva.), he asks me to turn on the MUSIC XBOX. I have no further comment.

Anyone have any TV memories from childhood they’d like to share? HEAVEN FORBID a few of my dear friends and relations comment on this blog!

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lauren #

    I love this. I love YOU. I want to come to Boston with my kid and make all three of them watch American Idol with us. And the Koo.

    April 10, 2012
    • Jeanna LC #

      I wholeheartedly agree with the contents of this comment. Except can we make it America’s Next Top Model?

      April 10, 2012
      • The Koo #

        Thanks for including me Lauren!!! I love both you and Je. My vote is for Deadliest Catch, So You Think You Can Dance, or … (wait for it) opening ceremonies of the London Olympics. I defer to the three boys though.

        April 10, 2012
  2. LLZ #

    Well the good news is that 30 years later we finally got the snoopy sno cone machine and easy bake oven!

    April 10, 2012
    • Jeanna LC #

      That’s true! Then we wondered, “is that all there is?”

      April 10, 2012
  3. jeremyofnyc #

    So many fond memories of the old days of television. The pop-up betamax player. The dial cable box and the joy that was finding channel J. I do not miss adjusting rabbit ears. Probably the worst pain to inflict upon the human race

    April 10, 2012
  4. Jeanna LC #

    I remember standing and holding the rabbit ears in place while I watched The Young Ones on UHF. But it was worth it in that case, that show is awesome.

    This could be my boys in a few years…and I already know who’s Rik and who’s Vyvyan

    April 10, 2012
  5. clr0513 #

    Flashback: Remember the “super cool” TV we had that had a remote control holder built into it? ahh innovation.

    p.s. i am inviting our crew to an opening ceremony party at J’s house. We will bring the scones and the crumpets. thanks 🙂

    April 12, 2012

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