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Whatever Happened to My TV?

How I Saw the Big Changes in Television

Photo by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash

Times are a changing, folks. What once was no longer is. Go to your closet. Put on that shirt, if it has not been thrown away, from 10 years ago. If it is loose, you’re very lucky. If not, I understand. Look around you. What has NOT been changed in the last ten years that does not require a fitting of some sort? In my case, I am scared to look into a full-length mirror. 

I already know what I will see. I am no longer the svelte, nearly athletic guy in my early twenties. I nearly look like a guy who could be the next black Santa Claus, not that Santa is a bad guy. He isn’t, but he has certainly packed on the pounds up there in the North Pole. Face it. We are all surprised that Santa hasn’t had a coronary incident over the summer due to all of the pounds and packages he totes around the world at Christmastime.

Even our cars, for example, have changed. When I was a youth (Has it been THAT long ago?), Dad would warm up his humongous 1958 Oldsmobile 88 Sedan and take Mom and me wherever we had to go. 

Now, this car really wasn’t a car. It was more of a tank. First of all, it was spacious. I could easily fit in a family of 15. If you needed more room, you would buy the station wagon instead. This sucker was made of that Detroit iron which meant that you could run into a concrete building and all you had to do is go to a body shop later to get a scratch buffed out. The building? It was totaled, completely demolished. 

It also had NO other safety features except for brakes. When Dad had to hit the brakes, you instantly discovered flight. Yes. You went airborne for a few seconds. That is okay. 

If you were sitting in the front seat, the dashboard or windshield would stop your short flight. I distinctly remember kissing the dashboard radio on at least two occasions. 

Now, cars — wimp mobiles, by comparison — are outfitted with safety stuff like seatbelts, GPS computers, power steering, power brakes and all other stuff. They are lightweight and get great gas mileage. Some cars can get like 30+ miles per gallon. Daddy’s Olds usually got 30 gallons per month. Ah, the good OLD(smobile) days!

Yes. Everything (and everyone) has changed. Even entertainment has changed.

Television has gone through the most changes if you ask me. What was back then is now no more. What we saw then, we no longer see now. There were times that I would look back and ask myself, “I saw this episode so many times before. Why did I laugh at it when I first saw it? It isn’t funny at all.” Other times, I would watch the news and sadly recall an actor, singer or someone else who had passed away. Sandy Becker and Soupy Sales were two child entertainers who I truly miss. Those guys were so talented. Soupy was still sharp in his later years and just as funny. There are times that I wish Hollywood would wake up, look at the facial similarities between him and Gerard Butler and just do a biopic about Mr. Sales whose real name was Milton Supman. Back then, Bozo was an actual clown who had a weekly TV show. He was great, too. I honestly don’t remember who played him or even what color he was since he always had the face covered in white paint. He also could have been any nationality, too. It really did not matter because he made us laugh. That’s all. Now, when someone does something stupid, you might call him a bozo and no one around you would have an idea of what you mean. I am getting OLD.

Even the physical TV set itself has changed. For example, in my day, here in New York City, we had Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 11 VHF stations. The big dogs in that group were 2, 4 and 7. If you went to UHF, you also had 13 and 21. That’s all. Everything else was snow. And we had to manually touch the set in order to turn it on and change the channels. That meant getting up off our behinds and actually doing what needed to be done. So, each TV came with a built-in exercise routine. If you were married, however, you had a better TV device-your kids. All you had to do was sit down and give your child the instructions.

Turn the set on, boy. Now, turn to Channel 7. I want to see what’s on.”

And that poor child had to stay there until the parent found a program they liked, too. The poor child had a crisis on his or her hands if the parent was into channel surfing that night.

Even the actual set has changed. Back then, it looked like a plastic (or wooden) box with some antennas sticking out of it. It had DIALS, something not seen on today’s models. If your family were able to upgrade, you could have bought a console. It looked like a long box with the TV in the front, a large speaker on either side and-get this-a record player when you lifted a lid on top. The whole console was even made of wood. It was considered to be the Cadillac of all TV sets back then.

They also came in two types. You had a black & white TV and you had a color set, which started being fazed in during the 1960’s. The B&W called for you to use some imagination and common sense. Face it. When a cowboy got shot, you know, based on your experience, that he did not bleed gray blood. Duh!

TV’s are now a marvel of science. They are now digital, flat screens, and remotely controlled. That poor child who had to stand by the family set some 40, 50 or 60 years ago was now sitting on a couch and using a device called a remote control. His kids are sleeping in bed while he can safely channel surf from the safety of his La-Z-Boy couch. And you can program it to see when your favorite show comes on or record a show that you don’t wasn't to miss either.

My gripe in this article is not about the physical TV set. It is about what is ON the TV set-the shows. When I was young, shortly after the dinosaurs left the planet, we had family shows. In fact, EVERY show was a family show because you and your family could look at any show at any time as long as the kids did not have to get up early for school the next day. Two of my favorite shows to this very day are “The Honeymooners” and “The Odd Couple.” I thoroughly enjoyed both ORIGINAL shows. They were also family shows. Both had nice, long runs and both were very funny.

After thousands and thousands of shows, Hollywood needed a winning show, something which had a proven track record for success. So, both shows were brought back with no success. They brought back both shows with an all-black cast. “The Honeymooners” went to the big screen with no luck. It was a flop. “The Odd Couple” had the same fate on the TV, too. It also had an all-black cast. It also died an early death as well. Such a shame since I am an avid Neil Simon fan, and it was such a waste of the talent who starred in both productions. but the resurrection if the show did not appeal to me at all.

The problem with television became quite clear while I was watching the third resurrection of “The Odd Couple.” Without getting into too much, you really need a summary of the show. You have two guys-divorced guys-who were sharing a New York City apartment together. Oscar Madison (played on TV by Jack Klugman in a role that was originated in the movie by Walter Matthau) and Felix Unger (played by Tony Randall, a role originated in the same movie by Jack Lemon) went through a lot together. Oscar was a slob and Felix was a neat freak. Oscar loved the ladies and while Felix joined him on double dates, he always wanted to remarry his wife, Gloria. That was the active premise for the TOC first TV show. Without spoiling the ending too much, Felix and Gloria ended up remarrying and that is how the 1967-1974 series ended-a very happy ending indeed.

Now, we cut to 2016-2017. We got a new version of the same show. This time, Oscar was Matthew Perry’s character while Felix was Tom Lennon’s character. Even though the scripts and plots were so so, it was quite evident where it was going. At some point in one episode, Oscar ended up in bed with some woman and Felix, the man who wanted to get back together with his wife, also ended up in bed with another woman. That was it. They completely destroyed the premise.

I soon realized why TV has been giving us bad shows. It is because TV is not as pure to us as it had been before. It is now giving us garbage instead of nice, classics like it did before. Where is “Batman” or “The Rifleman"? Where is “The Incredible Hulk” or dare I say it, “Superman"? I know where. Thank goodness, through the magic of cable, our TV’s have the potential of having 5,000 channels to choose from. We can get channels dedicated to such topics as cooking, dance, sewing and a whole host of things. I like to look at channels that show nostalgic TV shows. Yes, I found “Batman,” The Rifleman, “The Incredible Hulk” and yes…..”Superman.”

I used to laugh when I heard people using the phrase “the good old days.” I miss family TV. I miss having the family around when we used to watch those classic shows. I hope that we can get back to those times. Yes indeed.

I sure do miss the good old days.

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