Family Television

Years ago, it was unheard of for homes to have televisions in every room. Most homes had one, if any, and it was usually placed in something called the family room, or den. And while I grew up with more than one television in my house, the large set was in the den.
I remember the sitcoms; I remember shows like All in the Family, M.A.S.H, and Three’s Company. I remember Too Close for Comfort, and One Day at a Time. I even remember the shows, which aired briefly like V, and The Greatest American Hero.

Born in the early 70’s, I was aware of entertainment in the 80’s. I learned about the different shows—even the black and white ones like The Honeymooners, and I love Lucy.

There was also, Love American Style, Eight Is Enough. Then there was The Brady Bunch, where lessons were taught and troubles were solved in less than 30 minutes.
The lessons came in catch-lines like, “Mom always said, don’t play ball in the house.”
And in that, an entire episode spun around a basketball bouncing down the stairs and knocking over, “Mom’s favorite vase.”
I can recall almost every Gilligan’s Island episode, or Different Strokes, and The Facts of Life. I remember Webster, and Punky Brewster.
I remember Leave it to Beaver, The Odd Couple, and a little bit of Barney Miller.

My mother would tell me, “Don’t watch so much television. It’ll rot your brain.”
But I never listened.
I watched Knight Rider, and of course, I watched The A-Team.

When The Old Man signed up for cable, he chose Cablevision, which came with a flood of different channels and different shows.
We had movie channels, kid’s channels, sports and news channels……and there were also the adult stations.
We never actually had the adult channels; however, I did used to strain myself when no one was home. I tried watching the restricted channels and the mixed-colored bars distorted the large, soundless, television screen. But sometimes, I was able to catch the site of a boob, or a miscolored version of a woman’s backside.
Now, I agree that might not sound like much—but to a little kid looking to for some tit; it meant everything.

At the time, Cablevision had a competitor called, W.H.T. which stood for Wometco Home Theater.
We never had W.H.T. in our house, but I heard the adult channels were much better, and if I remember correctly, the title Sex-capades stands out in my memory.
And again, this might not sound like much, but to a young kid bursting into the awareness that boobs grow on girls, and the girls I knew would never show me theirs….it meant everything.

The den in my house was modest. The walls were paneled with wood. The couches matched the style of the times, and the large television set was the only set with cable channels.
The set, itself, was cased in a stained wooden box. It was clunky and heavy. There was no remote control, except for the old cable box, which was connected to the back of the television set with a long brown cord
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These days, most families have televisions in every room. The size of the television screens have grown and the necessary hardware has become smaller. Some homes have televisions sets in the kitchen. I know some that have that even have one in the bathroom.

The family room has lost its name, and while my generation sat together as a family and laughed at The Carol Burnett Show, or wept at the episodes of Little House on the Prairie, this generation has televisions in each room, separating families in different sections of the house.
Half of today’s children are playing X-box, or some other mind-deforming game. Wives are in one room and husbands are in another.

My house, like many others had its share of problems, but I do remember watching All in the Family with my mother and father.
I remember the episode when Edith Bunker died and Archie Bunker walked into the bedroom, which he shared with his wife. Her closet was empty and the room seemed oddly vacant.
He sat down on the neatly made bed, which was something Edith always did for him. Then he found one of her slippers on the floor beneath the bedframe.
Archie picked up the pink slipper with its pink, flowery bow on the top, and he looked at it, as if it were the last remaining piece of the woman he loved.

“I was supposed to be the first one to go,” he said.
Archie went on in an apology to his wife. “And on that morning when I saw you laying there. I was shaking you, yelling at you to go make my breakfast…..I didn’t know.”
Then Archie Bunker, a man of hilarious ignorance and bigotry, broke down as he cried, “You had no right to leave me like that, Edith. Not without giving me just one more chance to say I love you.”
Even The Old Man was teary-eyed on that one…

But our society has changed since then.
They don’t make shows like this anymore. Now, all we have is scripted reality shows, which in itself, is a contradiction of terms.

My little girl and I used to watch a children’s show together. I remember the final episode, and when the show ended, I looked at my child and wondered if she would remember this the way I will….together, the two of us, sitting in a family room and doing something that families do.

My mother used to tell me, “All that television is going to rot your brain.”
“Read a book,” she would say.”
Maybe she was right. I think every kid from my generation heard this from their parents.

That and, “Don’t sit so close to the TV!” But like kids, we rebelled.
Maybe that’s why houses today have televisions in every room.
Maybe this is why no one reads books anymore  ……and that’s not a good thing for someone like me

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