“Hello, my name is Doug and I’m a tv-aholic.”
“Hi Doug.” (responds the coffee-slurping crowd through clouds of cigarette smoke.) There, it feels good to finally get that off my chest and fess up to a condition I’ve had since childhood…when dad brought home our very first television set a Caphart, (black and white, of course) in 1954.
That was the opening paragraph to a blog I wrote 8 years ago. It went on to explore some of the programs I found wonderful in 2008 and those that, to me, were disgusting.
If anything, my TV addiction has gotten worse..but my assessment of programming remains the same.
A few examples.
Horrid: “Two Broke Girls.” All reality shows except “The Little Couple.”
Good: “Big Bang Theory,” “The Good Wife,” “Madam Secretary,” “Modern Family” and “Downton Abbey.”
Ah, Downton Abbey. I confess to having got caught up in the enormously popular PBS series about British aristocracy in the early part of the 20th century; one family in particular..the Grantham’s and how they and their staff of servants faced the challenges of social and industrial change during that era. It was brilliantly written, produced and acted. But last Sunday night, after six seasons, the show came to an end much to the dismay of millions of viewers around the world who got caught up in the continuing drama. It’s not our first look at lives of British elite who, for centuries, have lived like royalty on the upper floors of their huge mansions while downstairs, dozens of servants from scullery maids and cooks to tuxedo-clad footmen and butlers catered to their Lords’ and Ladies’ every whim.
In the 70’s PBS presented a very similar production called “Upstairs/Downstairs” which I thoroughly enjoyed and then in 1993, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson starred as a butler and housekeeper in the critically acclaimed, “The Remains of the Day.” I just watched it again the other night and found it both fascinating and frustrating because Hopkins’ stoic butler character just refused to allow his feelings of affection for Thompson’s character be known until it was too late. But nothing can compare to “Downton” and I’m going to really miss everyone at the manor.
But, getting back to my addiction. I can tell you it began in 1953 when KELO TV first went on the air. We didn’t yet have a television set at our house but could see them on display and running in the front windows of Volga’s two hardware stores; Dahl’s and Leite’s. I’d stand there fascinated by the appearance of a test pattern. Then, at 4pm, KELO would begin programming with stuff like “Industry on Parade” and whatever else the station could come up with to fill time before the news.
A year later, dad..who I’ve since discovered didn’t make a whole lot of money in the carpentry business..shelled out a sizeable sum (nearly 300 bucks) for our first TV..a Capehart that looked just like this.
It was like handing me crack cocaine. I was hooked on watching everything on the air..especially locally produced stuff where I became an instant fan of the news and weather presenters like Dave Dedrick, Murry Stewart, Jim Burt, Bill Wigginton, Gene Piatt and all of the talented guys. I’d sit mesmerized by every show until mom would send me outside to play for heaven’s sake.
That old Capehart was part of our living room décor until I left home at age 18. In the meantime, my brothers and I had been pestering dad to trade it for a new COLOR set. But the old man, who also loved watching TV from the comfort of his rocking chair, wasn’t about to spring for one ..at least not until there were more programs presented in color besides Bonanza and the annual showing of “Wizard of Oz.”
The whole family started taking meals in the living room served on newly purchased metal TV trays. Weekends were my folks’ favorite time with Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights. Then on Sundays Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, Lassie and Ed Sullivan were must-see TV.
I’m ashamed to say that watching dad sometimes proved as entertaining as what was on the tube. Long days swinging a hammer usually caught up with him around 8 O’clock. He’d drift off sending his head backwards which caused his false teeth to slip down from the roof of his open mouth. Eventually…due to the discomfort and probably our giggling..he’d wake himself up with a snort and look around the room to see if anybody noticed.
As long as I’m confessing dubious behavior from the time; my brother and I found a way to watch Color TV without having a set of our own. Art Leite..who owned one of the hardware stores in town..lived just across the street. His was one of the first families to have color..and the set was clearly visible to us through their front window ..especially with the aid of dad’s hunting binoculars.
Eventually, though, Mrs. Leite apparently got wise to the young voyeurs on the other side of Marvin Avenue and started pulling the drapes during prime time.
Today, Linda and I have three flat screen high def Vizios and two smaller TVs scattered around the rooms of our little house with hundreds of channels at our disposal.
Still, I wouldn’t mind traveling back in time and rejoin my folks and brothers all gathered around that old Capehart to enjoy together an episode or two of Paladin, Highway Patrol or Boston Blackie in glorious black and white.
I wouldn’t snicker at my pop’s inability to stay awake, though.
I’d like to think I’d get him a pillow.