Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuesday ramblings #3

If Tuesdays continue to come around so frequently, I may have to change these Tuesday ramblings to Every-other-Tuesday ramblings, because today I have very little on my mind. So let’s talk about television.

I grew up so long ago that we had only three channels in Dallas-Fort Worth (an area now called the Metroplex) -- WBAP-TV (NBC), WFAA-TV (ABC), and KRLD-TV (CBS). I know that seems impossibly primitive to you younger whipper-snappers. And even more unbelievable, the three channels came on the air about two in the afternoon and signed off about ten or ten-thirty at night; the rest of the time there were only “test patterns” that eventually gave way to a snowy nothingness. This may not be entirely accurate, but it’s the way I remember it.

Not that anybody cares, but I remember watching The Milton Berle Show on Tuesday nights (You can trust your car to the man who wears the star, the great big Texaco star!); and Mama starring Peggy Wood, Judson Laird, and a very young Dick Van Patten on Friday nights; and The Red Skelton Show; and, for some reason, Broadway Open House with Jerry Lester and a big, dumb, buxom blonde named Dagmar (maybe I was sitting up late with Dad). I remember Pinky Lee; and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie (Kukla and Ollie were puppets, but Fran was a real person); and Soupy Sales with his huge doggie friends, White Fang and Black Tooth; and Jimmy Nelson and Farfel singing (but only Farfel moved his mouth) “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle’s makes the very best...chaw-klit.” I remember Ding-Dong School with Miss Frances from Chicago; and Beanie and Cecil, the Seasick Sea Serpent. On Saturday nights there was Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, and, yes, even Marguerite Piazza; on Sunday nights there was What’s My Line?with Dorothy Kilgallen and Bennett Cerf and Arlene Francis and a weekly guest panelist, moderated by “your host,” the very properly attired John Charles Daly. Dorothy liked to ask unusual questions; one of her favorites was, “Is it bigger than a bread box?” A few years went by and eventually there was Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons (with which I identified completely -- wrong decade, right poverty level); and Dick Van Patten again on Eight Is Enough.

Nowadays there are hundreds of channels and most of the programs are not fit for human consumption. Let’s call them what they are: Trash. I will not watch lewd and lascivious programs or listen to four-letter words in my house. So we watch other stuff. TLC, the home of what was once must-see TV, Trading Spaces, has other programs: Little People, Big World and What Not To Wear and the 21st-century version of Eight Is Enough, a show that ought to be called Eight Is Way Too Many. Its real moniker is Jon and Kate Plus Eight, and I must confess to you at this point in the proceedings that I get very upset at the way Kate sometimes treats Jon. The Bravo people have given us ice princess Heidi Klum on Project Runway (it can get a little raunchy, but it’s mesmerizing). HGTV (Home and Garden Television) has My House Is Worth What? and If Walls Could Talk and House Hunters and Curb Appeal and Property Virgins and Color Splash with David Bromstad. My blogger friend Ruth in Illinois has advised me not to make so many long lists, but I get started and I just can’t seem to stop. HGTV has even more home fix-it and home decorating and home flipping shows, often starring people who used to work on Trading Spaces -- can you say Vern Yip and Carter Oosterhouse? The Food Network has Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray (or it had her until Oprah started producing her program) and Bobby Flay and lots of other up-and-coming gourmet chefs, if you like to watch food. The Animal Planet lets us keep up with more dog shows than the law should allow.

We don’t watch anything involving nannies or wrestlers or tattoo artists. We’re not interested in the private lives of pop-culture icons who are past their prime (Ozzie Ozbourne, Hulk Hogan, and Gene Simmons come to mind) or of pop-culture icons who are not, or people who work on cars and motorcycles, or people who can’t wait to tell us the latest rumors and gossip about celebrities and politicians. We used to watch Atlanta Braves baseball games a lot, but the team is not what it used to be.

So more and more lately we do the only logical thing. We turn off the TV set and play a game of Scrabble or Skip-bo or Phase 10, or take Jethro for a ride in the car.

Perhaps it’s because of television that I have so very little on my mind.

Thank God for blogging.


  1. I saw my first television program, Liberace, when I was 17 years old, at my older brother's home. I was married and had two children -- and no TV -- before my parents finally caved in and bought a television set. My father had raled against the mindlessness of television for years, but eventually admitted that the 'news programs' were fit to watch. It was downhill from there. Nowadays, not even the news programs are fit to watch!

    Enjoyed your post.

  2. I remember about half the old-time programs you name. But TV was an all-day affair by the time I came along and it didn't go off the air until 1 or 2 in the morning. We had the three big networks, WGN, and WFLD (both local Chicago stations). Does anyone besides me remember the afternoon movie? CBS always ran a movie from 3:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon.

    Sometimes I watch HGTV when I use the treadmill, but I find too much of it makes me want material things. So I watch a lot of sports. I don't know if that's much better. :-) Oh, we watch Turner Classic Movies a lot too.

  3. Since we're now in election season, I have to add to this "oldies but goodies" post that one of the first political things I remember seeing on television was a reporter asking Illinois Governor Adlai E. Stevenson on the day after he lost the election to Dwight D. Eisenhower how he felt. Stevenson replied, "Well, I'm to old to cry, and it hurts too much to laugh." I believe the year was 1952 and I was 11.

  4. I remember most of the shows you mentioned,but I was a bit too young to pay much attention to many. I remember, Howdy Doody, My Friend Flicka, Mickey Mouse Club and tons of cartoons.

    I'm surprised you don't find more to watch on tv. What about the History channel, Public TV, Jon Stewart, The Cobert Report, Eureka, Survivor, wow, the list is quite long actually as well as lots of turner classic movies, AMC does a lot of good stuff too. Though I understand that if you don't allow any "swearing" that might severely limit what is you could watch.

    We watch a couple cooking shows but that's about all from HGTV- I agree with Ruth, it definitely makes you want thinks, and that isn't my cup o tea as they say. Thanks for the trip down memory lane though with the old stuff.

  5. You have a superb memory to be able to ramble off all those show names and the actors and characters in them! (I'm assuming you didn't have to do any Googling to refresh your memory.)

    TV coming on the air in the afternoon was before my time, but I recall the sign-offs at midnight with the national anthem, and then the test pattern took over.

    I'm trying to pinpoint my earliest recollections of TV shows. My mom would watch the "Secret Storm" daytime serial, and when visiting my grandma, we'd watch "Concentration", "Queen for a Day", "To Tell the Truth". I remember watching Lawrence Welk, Ed Sullivan, Lassie, Walt Disney, My Three Sons, Leave It To Beaver, Andy Griffith, I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and other westerns.

    Nowadays, TV holds little interest for me, except shows on PBS, occasionally. Yes, thank goodness for reading and blogging! I dislike just sitting there staring at the TV and not putting forth some thoughts or whatever. Not good for the brain to just sit and be a spectator, in my opinion.

    Your post was most enjoyable......ramble any day of the week!

  6. We have undergone the same transformation in England sadly. One channel when I was a very young kid; two by the time I was about 10; three by about 12 or so and now, I am told I have about 500.
    We were promised so much by the opening of the TV airwaves. I remember the debates in the early 80's about how more channels would give me more choice and exciting new opportunities. What nobody said, of course, is that more channels would just bring with them a crassness and mind-numbing dumbing down to the point of being unwatchable. These days our TV goes on a couple of times a day for me to catch the news (BBC); the odd documentary; the odd film and that's it. I no longer even bother to look at the listings.

    On top of that, as a big fan of good comedy - I can't remember the last situation comedy or sketch show that actually raised a laugh. New and young comedians seem to have lost the art of subtlety! Or am I realy jsut getting old and grumpy!

    (By the way - you missed out some American shows that I used to love when I was a kid - especially George Burns and Gracie - and Jack Benny. I have some of their shows on DVD and they are still fun!)

  7. Thanks to all -- pat, ruth, sherry, jeannelle, and andy aka yellow swordfish -- for commenting. We all remember different programs (make that programmes for swordfish) but we all have the same fondness for the early days of television. At least the fare was cleaner and more family-oriented back then, not to mention downright hilarious.

    P. S. to yellow swordfish: I read your comment on a later post first and welcomed you to my blog there. But I'll welcome you again.