Back when I was a kid, we didn’t have handheld devices like phones or tablets. We had a television and a radio and if you were lucky, maybe an Atari. (River Raid was LIFE) Most homes only had one TV back then and the parents decided when and what you would be watching. You certainly didn’t have a television set in your bedroom. (Yes, I said television set.)
I spent a lot of my free time in my bedroom sitting next to my inexpensive stereo system, listening to whatever mixed tape my friend had most recently made for me. Either that or I listened to the entire four hours of the Casey Kasem Top 40 Countdown.
Certain nights a week my brothers and I would wander downstairs to watch a sitcom or two with the adults in charge. Back then you had to watch an episode of your favorite show as it was aired by the network. Either that or you had to set the VCR to record the show in advance. But in my household the VCR was usually reserved for recording my mother’s soaps.
Back then as a kid you couldn’t even be guaranteed a piece of furniture to sit on as you watched your shows. Sometimes I watched from the floor. Which actually worked out okay because that way I was closer to the TV in case the channel needed changing. Pliers in hand.
Wait. Let me backup. TVs used to have actual knobs for channel surfing and eventually those knobs would get broken from being flipped round and round. Once the knob fell off you had to use pliers to grab the metal post that was sticking out where the knob had once been.
I am sure had smart phones existed back in the 80s there would be lots of cute picks of me working those pliers. But the wall phone mounted on the kitchen wall beside the fridge wasn’t Instagram friendly. So there is no photographic evidence of my plight.
As a kid you were also responsible for moving the antenna and/or aluminum foil that sat on top of the TV in the event of a lost signal. Your parents had worked all day. They were not about to get off of the couch. You might steal their seat.
It is no wonder that when I moved out on my own I went to a big box retailer and bought a huge Zenith brand wood swivel television complete with a remote control. It took me months to pay that baby off. It was worth every penny.
Maybe because I have witnessed televisions evolve into the smart devices that now hang on walls, I am still a huge TV fan. And more specifically I love this time of year. Fall, when all of the networks premier new promising series. Which ones will we be talking about for years to come?
Back in the day you had to buy a weekly TV Guide to see when your favorite show would be aired. Now you can pull up the guide on the TV and see every single show that is coming on for the next two weeks. Maybe because I was around when your viewing options were so very meager, now I feel compelled to give every new series a chance. Like, each one.
My how times have changed. Now, not only can I record shows with ease, I have the ability to record five shows AT ONE TIME. Going down the channel list hitting the orange record button on each show is kind of like what I imagine a contact high to be.
The problem comes when I actually attempt to watch all of the newly recorded shows. I come into the TV room filled with such anticipation. I normally only watch television after 8 PM at night. I get up before the chickens on school days so there are only so many hours that I can remain upright on the couch, with my eyes mostly open. But for like an hour and a half, I am wide awake.
I pull up my DVR’ed list. There are comedies, dramas and reality shows. All fresh and new and waiting for me to give them a chance. I look the list up and down trying to decide what to watch first. I read about each series, google reviews and try to narrow it down.
This is where it gets to be too much. I develop television possibilities overload. My eyes become crossed. Before I realize it, I am playing Candy Crush on my phone. I wind up deleting most of the recordings. I opt instead to wait and see what shows everyone is buzzing about in a couple of weeks. Then I will give those shows a whirl. Probably.
That is how I discovered This Is Us after all. Mega win.
I am worried about this generation of kids. They don’t know what life was like before everything was at their fingertips. While trying to find the answer to a social studies vocabulary homework question, my son took to Google. His father told him not to Google the answer. That he was supposed to look through his textbook for the answer. My son responded: What textbook? Everything is online now.
My how things have changed. I knew I should have kept those Encyclopedia Britannica.
Now not only can you ask Google instead of flipping through a social studies textbook for answers, but you can also find any show that you want to watch on demand instantly, and watch the entire series from the very start.
What will be this generations struggle? What stories will they tell their children about what it was like when they were a kid? I can’t say for sure. But I look back on my childhood with mostly fondness. I had such anticipation each week when it was time for Roseanne. Now there are so many options that I usually get overwhelmed and find myself back on Bravo watching a Real Housewives of Anywhere.
Hopefully, tonight I won’t have to send one of my kids to get two double A batteries for the dead remote. At least some things in life never change. We have children so that we don’t have to get up off of the couch after a long day.