Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Television and the Young Mind

In my youth, I watched a fair amount of television. Back in those days there were three big networks: ABC, CBS, NBC. In the St. Louis environs we also had PBS, channel 11 (local station) and channel 30 (a precursor to Fox, if memory serves.) My viewing habits were governed by two facts: I was a night owl by nature and my mother was a stay-at-home mom.

Back in those days I lived and died by Sesame Street and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. I remember counting with the pinball-machine cartoon (1-2-3-4-5 ... 6-7-8-9-10 ... 11-12!) and going away to the Land of Make Believe. Once, during a public television tele-a-thon, I called the 1-800 number to see if the people on the phones in TV were real. (Yeah, I got in big trouble for that one. I wonder how many kids those PBS fundraisers talk to?) The Electric Company aired later in the morning, and as I got a little older I watched that, too. One science lesson illustrated the concept of optical illusions using a level floor tiled to appear sloped. It seems like I watched Kids, Incorporated around this time, too. As I watched the kids sing and dance I wanted to be just like them, all graceful and beautiful and talented.

During the afternoons, my mother commandeered the television to watch soaps. I can still remember the order they aired: Ryan's Hope at 11, All My Children at 12, One Life to Live at 1, General Hospital at 2, and The Young and the Restless at 3. I learned all I needed to learn about boys and cooties before I started school.

Once Dad got home from work and did whatever yard work needed done, he or mom would cook dinner as we watched the news (usually KSDK, the NBC affiliate). During the evening we watched TV as a family: Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, The Muppet Show, The Wonderful World of Disney. Later, my mom would go to bed early, and then it was just dad and me. We'd watch Joker's Wild, a game show that came on at 9, and then we'd watch the news again before catching The Twilight Zone, Dr. Who, and The Benny Hill Show. For a while we watched a women-in-prison show called Cell Block H; I don't remember it very clearly, though, so I bet it was only on for one season. I usually fell asleep during these shows; I'd wake up in time to watch The Lone Ranger with dad at 6:30 before mom woke up.

On the weekends, dad would go fishing or hunting. Sometimes he'd take me with him, but when he didn't, mom would take a break from cleaning the house to watch American Bandstand and dance with me. She taught me the Mashed Potato and the Twist. This was, of course, after the Saturday morning cartoons: Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner/Wile Coyote, Smurfs, Scooby Doo.

During my tween years I watched Doogie Howser, The Wonder Years, Quantum Leap, and the occasional Mystery Science Theater 3000 with dad. And of course I discovered MTV. And all during my childhood mom and I watched all the awards shows; Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, Daytime Emmys. If there was a statue to be had, you can bet me and mom were on the couch with a pan of Rice Krispie treats watching who won it.

What's this all say about me? I get my sci-fi/fantasy geekiness from my dad; I get my pop culture awareness from my mom. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


Innuendo said...

I still sing the pinball machine counting song! I watched all those PBS shows too.

I remember watching tv with my dad at night when I was little. My mom would go to bed and read. We'd lay on the floor to watch tv and we'd take turns scratching each others backs! I remember watching The Incredible Hulk and Real People and Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Then....we got cable and I became a child raised on MTV. :)
I still remember many of the old videos.

Patrick M. Tracy said...


That pinball counting song brought back a vivid memory! Many of the shows you mentioned brought back my childhood. Also, I remember how much I enjoyed watching The Incredible Hulk, Greatest American Hero, and Cosmos when I was a wee lad.

Like you, we only had local channels (NBC was always fuzzy, too!). I didn't get access to cable until I was in college.

It's funny how thinking back on things will bring up a memory so strongly. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

How about 3-2-1 Contact! ?

Oh, wow, Patrick does that bring back memories. Believe it or not, I'm walking on air...

Kelly Swails said...

K8: Oh, yeah! Ripley's! I forgot about that one ...

Patrick: Great American Hero! Yeah!

Sean: 3-2-1 Contact! Yeah!

You guys are giving me some serious flashbacks.