I Never Watch TV

Courtesy of TV Land

Courtesy of TV Land

Remember when people who claimed that they NEVER watched television would be branded as snobs… un-American… or even Communists? Well, maybe not Communists, but you know what I mean. It’s so out of the loop to claim to not watch television that anyone claiming to do so is immediately suspect. I remember, for example, being aghast at the fact that a dear friend of mine didn’t know who Lucy was. Lucy! Everyone loved Lucy!

Well, the years have passed, and I have become one of those people who never watch television. I can’t remember the last time I actually turned on a program. I’ll admit to having been a fan of Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty, and Desperate Housewives, but that was way last year. And they annoyed me after a while because they became something that I had to force myself to remember to watch, even when I wasn’t in the mood. And when they decide to change nights and times, well, that really drove me crazy. Who could keep up?

And you know how this has affected me? It seems that I am out of the cultural loop. I’ve spent considerable time in group conversations not knowing who everyone was talking about so intensely. American Idol? Dancing with the Stars? Lost? The names of the characters and stars were bandied about as if the speakers lived next door to them; I don’t even know my own Mother that well.

Reality shows really drive me up a wall; the whole voyeuristic concept seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel of entertainment. I mean, who really cares what these people are doing? Bachelor, bachelorette… who cares? And didn’t that Paris Hilton and friend have to deal with farm animals on one reality show, acting as if only the lower classes should be destined to such drudgery? Honestly!

There was a time when I could always be found in front of the TV. Bozo the Clown, Romper Room, Chuck McCann, Sonny Foxx… Spunky and Tadpole, Davey and Goliath… Super Car… I loved them all. The Little Rascals, the Three Strooges… Donna Reed, Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver, Patty Duke… there I was, following their antics day after day into teenhood, when I graduated to Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Phyllis, Maude, and the like. At least these were good, but I also grew up in an era of televised talking cars, horses, and tiny lady genii living in bottles. The Brady Bunch? How did we ever sit through that show when it was first run! And how come there was never an episode that featured the entire family inside their burning house, a crazed Alice laughing maniacally on the front lawn? And the Munsters were entertaining, if only to see cinema beauty Yvonne De Carlo presiding over her dusty mansion.

Now you can watch all the reruns you want on You Tube. Have you looked at what’s on there? You can re-live your whole TV-watching past– and all at the risk of missing out on the present day!

We went to see Kathy Griffin at Bob Carr Auditorium here in Orlando recently. (Sorry, the sound system bites, so it’s an auditorium– hardly a theatre.) I’m surprised that I caught all her references to the pathetic characters currently mucking up popular culture, but I don’t have television to thank for that– I get all my information from staring at the covers of the tabloids while sweating in the express lane at Publix supermarket.

While I do have a television in the house, it was inherited, and it’s not hooked up to cable because… well, let’s just say that I couldn’t imagine searching through dozens of channels for something to watch. It would make me very anxious. Not only would I feel that I was missing something, but I would probably sense that there might be something better  on. So the television basically acts as a monitor for new and unseen (by me) movies that I rent from Netflix, or that I play from my vast collection of Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Bette Davis staples.

So yes; I guess I’m officially one of those un-American snobs. I won’t be tasting the offerings of the new television season, nor will I be wondering what’s happening to Bree, Susan, Gaby, and Lynette. I’ve got too much else to do around the house, and there are books to be read and magazines to catch up with. I don’t judge anyone their choices, however; I am the last person to judge. And I’m human, so don’t be surprised if, sometime next April, I phone you in the night to ask if Drs. Mc Dreamy and Dr. Grey are on again or off again. Just remind me of this column– and then hang up.

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14 responses

  1. The Spalding MFA killed any television for me; I was too busy writing. And now I’m working on a novel. I don’t miss TV, but you’re right – it makes you seriously socially backward not to watch anything. Oh, well. Everyone needs someone to look down on, right?

  2. Man, I can’t believe I missed Kathy Griffin at Bob Carr – I love her! I must admit that one good thing about cable is watching her reality (gasp!) show on Bravo….

  3. Here’s a new one for ya. A new reality show called “MORE TO LOVE”…Basically a “BACHELOR” type show for plus size women!! Guess they ran out of ideas for good TV over the summer.

    • It’s not enough that these women already have low self esteem because of their weight, but when they get rejected by the Bachelor,who is also overweight… it really sends them over the edge! Oh the drama!

  4. Jimmy — I’m with you — but for different reasons — I usually find one of my teen age boys watching some inane show on the TV so it is easier to go read a book than try to dislodge them.

  5. I am facinated at the power of TV when you consider some absolutely amazing facts: TV Actors like William Shatner and June Lockhart have, in interviews, said that when they have gone to NASA as either guests or spokesmen, the Secretaries, the technicians and even the Astonauts have all come out of their offices to tell them that they knew what they wanted to do in life because of ‘Star Trek’, or because of ‘Lost In Space’. That is so remarkable that these people achieved such ambitions due to a TV show. I have also heard similar stories from Doctors and those working in the medical industry. They knew what they wanted to be in life because of ‘Dr. Kildair’ or ‘Ben Casey’.
    Furthermore, a great many Make-Up artists are working in TV and Movies because of Universal Studios classic horror films. I have somewhat followed these events and found a common denominator. Somewhere between the ages of 5 and 7 these people were exposed to these TV shows and were affected somehow for life. I find it not too dissimilar from Roy Neary’s character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, inexplicably driven and drawn to Devil’s Mountain. I am one of those people. I work in the Entertainment Industry as a Production Designer/Art Director. In my case, as you know, my inspiration was ‘Lost In Space’. It’s visual impact inspired me into a life long career. I believe TV’s power is not to be underestimated. And when you add in a TV show that, just a few years earlier, was on the edge in depicting a Black man as President of the United States, well you have to marvel at its potential power.
    Rich West

    • Hi all ! A friend responded regarding his being influenced positively by a show called Lost In Space, which starred the incandescent June Lockhart, among many others. I’d include that show among the ones I watched religiously as a kid, but Rich’s response triggered a memory.

      When my grandmother floated to Italy on the SS Constitution in the mid-1960s one Summer, I had the run of her upstairs apartment. Every evening at twilight– yes, with the sun going down and the noises of all my friends still able to be heard out in the street below– I would watch Twilight Zone. GLUED to the set, I wallowed in that show, and I have to say that it really transported me. I wanted to believe in a reality that existed just out of sight, right past my peripheral vision. To me, Twilight Zone was real life, and my kid’s life was plain. I think it’s why I so enjoy short stories by Shirley Jackson and John Cheever, because so many of them seem to be set in a place just past the point where we are able to understand.

      Read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” collection, and “The Stories of John Cheever.”

      Rich– thanks for the memories !

  6. What does TV, your Blog and your Grandmother have in common?

    The SS Constitution appeared in an episode of I LOVE LUCY titled “Bob Voyage” where the Ricardos and Mertzes were sailing to Europe. Of course, Lucy missed the boat and had to be lowered by helicopter onto the ship which was at sea.

    Sadly, the ship sank in 1995 somewhere near Hawaii while on it’s way to being scrapped.

  7. I guess I’m one of those “snobs” … ah, well.

    One other thing to point out about television (today) – aside from its lack of quality programming. The commercials. Back in “Lucy” days, networks allocated about 3 minutes of air time for commercials. In “Mary” days, the ad time was 5 minutes, while in “Golden Girls” days, the ad time increased to 8 minutes – on average. Today, ad time is a whopping 11 minutes! That means programming is only 19 minutes – even then, most programs fill their time with “teasers” about what’s coming up after the commercial or with “recaps” about what you might have missed if you just tuned in. The goal, from what I hear, is to have an even 15 minutes of ad time and 15 minutes of programming. Why would anyone want to spend their time being inundated with nonsensical commercials?

    As Rich pointed out in his response (above), TV is powerful! Thanks to TV and [mainly] it’s commercials, I now know everything there is to know about getting a hard-on and maintaining it. Yet, I don’t see any public service announcements on contraception? Television isn’t just slightly tipped to one side – it’s like the Andrea Doria just before it sank to the bottom of the ocean.

  8. The future for entertainment still looks bright.

    As commercial laden, unrealistic-reality shows dominate the television airways hope seems to be germinating in the future — for the past. I’ve recently entertained a number of generation X and millennium youth who have not only noticed my collection of 60s TV memorabilia, but they have been captivated by it. They recall, fondly, viewing these shows in their own youth on Nick-at-Nite and other cable outlets. The wholesome simple messages have not been overlooked, and neither have the more subtle calls against bigotry and prejudice underlying the themes of, say, ‘Bewitched’ and ‘The Munsters’.

    These are the people who will shape the future of television — if there is to be one — or more likely the Internet. While today’s television providers struggle to create the least expensive shows with the greatest number of commercials; the next generation has been ingrained with values from the past. They have a hunger and fondness for deeper meaning within the framework of entertainment. That may explain why, even as the American population is expanding, the television audience is shrinking.

    The Internet provides access to vintage television shows on demand and with fewer interruptions. You Tube allows creative youth to try their own hand at content with meaning and social awareness. Quality continues to improve in this new medium — without commercials and without censorship. The future of entertainment won’t look like the model of the 50s and 60s. The entire country won’t be watching at the same time to see Lucy have her baby. But millions are tuning into viral videos everyday.

    The commercial television producers are aware of the problem but they have no solution (as those of us that have already tuned out no longer need to witness). If television is to be rescued it will be from this future generation that has built a foundation of the values from past. Otherwise the new world of entertainment will move to the new medium of the Internet and television shows , as we once knew them, will go the way of radio plays.

    But just as television — or ‘radio with pictures’ — improved entertainment, so will the Internet and other communication outlets that have yet to be invented. Yes, the future of entertainment still looks bright — even if ‘the tube’ has gone dim.

    • PS: DID YOU KNOW that YouTube now layers advertising over videos wherein the viewer has to click to remove the ad in order to watch the video. During the video, ads pop up again and again. This is very annoying. Let’s not forget their banner ads along the top or sides of the screen. YouTube is also known for some of the worst censorship policies on the Internet, which hardly ever makes sense.

  9. I didn’t have a tv for most of my college years. It actually made some people defensive when they found out about it, like I would look down on them for watching ER at the end of the day! Today I, like you, tend to use my TV to play DVDs. It’s much less complicated and I have more quality control. Loved the post, it’s nice to know someone else feels the same way I do!

  10. I love TV. There I said it. I don’t like the reality shows, but there are wonderful shows on The Discovery Channel, The History Channel, The Science Channel….

    And I love LOST. I live for LOST.

    But most of all, I know how to change the channel and I also know where the power button is so I can turn the damn thing off.

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