When I was a kid, my family got cable TV. Thinking back, it’s kind of hard to believe. We weren’t poor, but we sure weren’t rich, and it seems like the kind of frivolous expense my parents wouldn’t have allowed. It seems odd that we would watch cable TV on a black and white TV, but that’s just what we did.
Cable back then was not what it is now. Living in Oshkosh we gained the Milwaukee channels, WGN out of Chicago and a few other channels. No Weather Channel or CNN or C-Span were available then.
One channel I watched a lot was channel 18 from Milwaukee. They played a lot of old situation comedies like “I Love Lucy,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and “Dragnet.” Even better, they played really old sitcoms like “Our Miss Brooks” with Eve Arden and the teen-aged Richard Crenna, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” and “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.”
Those old programs were great, partly because most of them originated on radio, where writing and character development were essential qualities of a good show. “Our Miss Brooks” was very funny, very dry, and sometimes very sexy, in a subtle way. Miss Brooks was an underpaid high school teacher who tried very hard to become romantic with a fellow teacher named Mr. Boynton, who was too thick-headed to comprehend her desires. Along with them, the squeaky-voiced student played by Richard Crenna, Walter, and principal Gale Gordon, who later starred with Lucille Ball, were also thorns in her side.
Many of those old programs had this in common: a person could really relax and enjoy the travails of the characters, knowing that nothing offensive would happen, including overt references to genitals, and that at the end of each show, everything would turn out okay. Whatever impending disaster the episode had in store was averted, and life went on.
Another odd thing about those programs is that many of them had traditional nuclear families. While there’s surely nothing wrong with non-traditional families, the mother/father/son/daughter families have been an endangered species on television for many years.
We don’t have cable at our house, or satellite. Thanks to digital TV, we have more channels than before, including a few that play old programs. Many evenings I choose to watch “M.A.S.H.,” or “Bob Newhart,” or “Taxi” instead of “Dancing With The Surviving Idol Losers,” or “Miami CSI, NCIS, SVU.” That way, I don’t have to watch anybody get killed or autopsied, and the only people who get humiliated are actors playing characters.
I don’t think modern television is bad. Some of it is pretty well written, and many of the characters portrayed are very entertaining. I guess there’s enough worrisome and offensive news these days that I like to enjoy some shows that are neither worrisome nor offensive.
I guess my process of turning into an old geezer is well under way.