In 1972, my favorite television show was Scooby Doo.
My main concern in life was learning all of the sounds that the inflatable letter people were teaching us in Mrs. White’s kindergarten class.
I wanted to learn them, because Joey Harrison already knew how to read. He was shorter than I, and I thought taller people should be able to do as much or more than shorter ones.
Our school day was three hours long and we had snack time and recess. Besides learning to tie my shoe and get my picture on the “shoe shoe train,” much of my daily stresses included whether or not I would like the snack and if I could actually master the new monkey bars that had been installed on the playground.
My life revolved around being entertained. When I turned on the TV, I couldn’t understand why shows like “60 Minutes” or years later, “Sunday Morning” would take up space on the airwaves. I was always happy when there were extra cartoons or reruns of the sitcoms I liked.
I have a faint recollection of repeating the word “Vietnam” over and over, since it was on the news my parents watched quite a bit. I have a vivid recollection of a Peanuts cartoon, only broadcast once a year, being pre-empted by a special news report of some kind.
I think it may have had something to do with astronauts and the moon, but that could be an exaggerated story I once made up to entertain an audience of some kind.
As the 1970s unfolded, my taste in TV shows fluctuated between westerns and police shows. I rode my bicycle up and down Epworth Street every day, pretending my bike was either Matt Dillon’s horse or a souped-up car from “The Mod Squad” or “Starsky and Hutch.” I created dramatic adventures, hiding from imaginary bad guys and shooting at them while I sped away on whatever mode of transport my imagination provided.
On foot, I ran in slow motion and pretended to jump from tree limbs with my bionic super powers, just like The Six Million Dollar Man.
My fantasy life made up for my lack of athletic ability and my hesitation to try very hard at such things. My stresses at that time were getting my bell bottom pant legs caught in my bicycle chain, being able to stay up past my bedtime, and whether or not “the kissing girl,” Julie Davis, would catch me as she chased a group of boys around the playground.
Just for the record, I ran slowly on purpose.
And she caught me more than once.
In the 1980s, I was working very hard to be as cool as possible. Therefore, I watched “Friday Night Videos” and didn’t admit to watching nighttime soap operas like “Dallas” and “Knots Landing.” A guilty pleasure back then was watching the “Dukes of Hazzard” and I’m not sure whether the attraction to that show was the General Lee or cousin Daisy.
By the mid-80s, our town’s cable system had enabled us to get MTV, and much of my time was spent trying to gel my hair like John Waite or even A Flock of Seagulls.
A stress back then was planning the nightly cruising routine, up Main Street and back down Delaware, through the park, and back down Main to Dairy Queen. Stop for cheese fries, look for out-of-town girls in the parking lot and head back up Delaware.
We still made it home to watch music videos, and World Premiere Videos were appointment TV, as was “The Cosby Show.” Oh, and for sure “Saturday Night Live.”
I still watched cartoons at times, avoided the news, and still wanted to be entertained constantly. As the decade came to an end, I eventually rediscovered my love of old movies, something I once watched on rainy or cold weekends on the fuzzy KPLR television from the big city two hours west of us.
I took education classes in college, but minored in fine arts, and took a cinema class in which all of us thought we were cool talking about old movies. “Silver Screen Cinema” was a local favorite in my college town of Charleston, and friends would gather regularly late at night to watch the old classics, eating Ramen noodles and chipping in for pizza. Stress revolved around studying and working part time, and getting enough sleep to function and still find the energy to head to Marty’s or Krackers, two local hangouts.
I jumped on the new idea called “reality TV” in the 1990s, loving to watch “The Real World” on MTV, but by the time Michelle and I were married in the mid-90s, we began to find the constant discussion of “hook-ups” on such shows as boring and stupid.
Our taste in television turned to “couples” shows like “Mad About You” and “Roseanne” re-runs. Stress included managing our life on a budget, which would be a concern, well, even today.
At that same time, we found ourselves watching shows like “Dateline” and other evening news shows, wondering if this was our gateway into actual, responsible adulthood.
Entertainment in the first decade of the 21st century revolved around keeping the peace in our home, so we suffered through multiple showings of Disney videos, “Barney” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”
A rare evening usually found us falling asleep in front of the TV, not even turning it on, or treating ourselves to a rented movie from a video store. The stress of not having enough money remained, but we began to think about things like homework, braces and paying for sport participation or music lessons.
Each phase of my life involved a lot of joy. It wasn’t all about stress, but I was just thinking the other day about how life has evolved, along with my interests and how big a role television and entertainment played in life.
In present time, right now, I am going through phases of TV watching. Michelle and I watch shows our kids can watch along with us. I still go to cop shows like “Longmire” and “Criminal Minds,” and was excited when re-runs of “All in the Family” showed up on the Firestick menu.
My stress today involved looking at dollar stores for those days of the week pill containers for the entire family, so we could stay on top of allergy pills, vitamins and other medication.
I had to smile a little, even though the thought of being excited about having my pills organized and handy is a little on the alarming, horrific side for me.
And you may have guessed, because I’ve written about it before: one of my big pleasures on the weekend is to sit down after church and watch Jane Pauley on “Sunday Morning” – the same show I detested as a 10-year-old.
Now I’m not saying Jane Pauley has the same allure as Daisy Duke or the Bionic Woman (or I almost forgot, Lynda Carter, aka “Wonder Woman”) once had for me, but I look forward to that show.
What’s next for me? Reruns of “Matlock”?
Nothing against Andy, of course.