Living Out Loud

Me and the Box


My first memory of television is from July of 1969 - Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 and the moon landing. I remember the adults in the house being awed and excited but not much more beyond that. Most of my early TV memories are of stuff the grownups watched, not kid shows. Walter Cronkite used to give the Vietnam box score at the end of every evening's broadcast, listing how many Americans were killed, captured and wounded each day. We didn't watch the news at home but at my grandparent's house it was always on.

I think I always considered myself too old for Sesame Street but the shows that followed it on PBS, the Electric Company and Zoom were OK. There were Saturday morning cartoons to watch when I was a kid. They were a big deal. I come from a family of sports fans, so my Super Bowl memories date back as far as the Dolphins undefeated season. Then there is more news, the 1973 Israeli-Arab War, Watergate hearings (those things were on a lot one summer) and the fall of Saigon. The only nightime kid shows I remember are the Wonderful World of Disney, usually watched at my grandparents immediately after the Brady Bunch.

Most of my TV time was not in prime time, so I saw lots of Andy Griffith, Gomer Pyle and the Beverly Hillbillies. I do remember watching Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley on Tuesday nights and a whole year of Bicentennial Minutes. The Bicentennial was a big deal on the day of too. They had tall ships from all over the world sailing into New York Harbor. Oh, and there was Roots, the first mini-series I remember and a huge cultural event at the time. A big baseball fan for a good portion of my life, I watched the game of the week when Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin of the New York Yankee almost came to blows in the dugout one Saturday afternoon.

I couldn't really be bothered with TV in high school. I didn't care who shot JR, although my folks watched it. The biggest TV event of those years was the last episode of Mash, which I watched with my girlfriend's family in their overly bright living room. I was lucky enough to be watching Monday night Football when Tony Dorsett of the Dallas Cowboy's set the record for the longest run from scrimmage though.

I had a brief period as a young, married adult where my wife and I enjoyed NBC's great Thursday night lineup with Cosby, Family Ties, Night Court, Cheers and Hill Street Blues. That was class TV. I got run out of the house during Live AID for drinking too much and missed most of it, a regret I will always carry with me.

Then for a long, long stretch, from about 1986 - 2006, I didn't watch TV, other than movies rented from the video store, usually cheap ones at five movies, five nights, five dollars. There was one year, 1991 when I watched Atlanta Braves baseball every night while eating watermelon, which was awesome because they went to the World Series but that was it, one bright spot in twenty years. My kids all grew up without television. I was a cheap bastard for one and secondly, I wanted them to read and they did. I felt kind of superior about it at the time, but not any more.

By the time we finally got cable, reality television was on the scene and Thursday night's were for Survivor and frozen pizza at our house. In those days I might have been one of the people who used Bit Torrent and we caught up on prestige TV, watching bootlegged copies of The Sopranos and the best TV show ever, The Wire.

These days, Wonder Woman and I watch one hour of TV together every day. We subscribe to all the major streaming services, and I have an app on my phone to track stuff in. I can have a TV conversation with anyone and when the grandkids are here, we have a set just for them. I think the last time I watched TV news was when Obama got elected - the first time. It's just not for me. I like British TV the best and luckily Amazon has two entire channels just for that Brit Box and Acorn. If you're looking for me, I'm probably watching the last few episodes of Vera.