Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sleeping With the Television On

I was raised on television. Well, not actually on the television. Not literally. That would be pretty difficult. (Although some of those old consoles were pretty big.)(And sturdy.)

I was raised by the television. Wait...that's not right, either. It makes it sound like it was the televison that raised me. What I mean is I was raised in the proximity of the television. Near it. Close to it. Too close to it. ("Don't sit so close to the television, it'll ruin your eyes!") (Ha! I guess I get the last laugh there. My eyes are just fine.) (Well, except that I do need to go in and get a new subscription prescription for my glasses. Maybe I'll save that "last laugh" for later.)

What I'm trying to say is I watched a lot of television as I was growing up. If I wasn't sleeping or working on the farm or hanging out with friends I was probably watching television. If I said I watched, on average, four hours of television a day, my guess is that would be a pretty low estimate.

We'd watch some news in the morning. Usually Good Morning America, featuring Joan Lunden, although occasionally the Today Show would be on. (I was always intrigued by movie critic Gene Shalit. Was he a man, a Muppet, or some kind of wacky werewolf?)

If it was summer and we happened to not be out farming in the fields, we would watch a two-hour block of soap operas. (One Life To Live and General Hospital.)(My brother used to call it "Venereal Hospital." He probably still does. He's special that way.) Dad wouldn't admit he liked the shows, but we would rarely go back out to work until the shows were over. And the thing is, it really didn't matter if we missed a couple of weeks, because the "plots" on the shows moved so slowly that we could always pick the storyline back up. (I wouldn't be surprised if I tuned in Venereal General Hospital today and they would still be running a love triangle plot involving Scorpio, Luke, and Holly that started in 1984.)

The best time for us kids to watch television, though, was after school. That's when they would air reruns of the shows from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Shows like The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, Get Smart, The Beverly Hillbillies, Hogan's Heroes, and, of course Star Trek. We got to where we knew these shows backwards and forwards.

And then, in the evening, we would watch the network "prime time" shows. We mostly watched the cheesy action-detective shows of the day, like Simon & Simon, Magnum, P.I., Charlie's Angels, Matt Houston, Vega$, The A-Team, and, of course, The Dukes of Hazard. On Saturday nights we'd catch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. And, we would always tune in for special events like The Battle of the Network Stars. (I can't even imagine a show like that airing today. There is no way the PR agents of working actors would allow them to be humiliated in the 100 yard dash.) (That kind of embarrassment is left for the non-working actors and "celebrities" on the reality shows.) (Although I have to admit that it would be pretty entertaining to see David Boreanaz taking on Jim Parsons in the obstacle course.)

And then we'd watch the late local news, followed by Johnny Carson's monologue before trailing off to bed.

That's a lot of television.

Meanwhile, when The Wife was growing up, she watched only a fraction of the television I did. Wait, let me clarify that. Because 7/8 is a fraction. So is 13/6. So, let me say that she watched a small fraction of the television that I did. (I'm going to guess 1/7, even though I have no way of knowing this.) And, she grew up in a different era than I did. (There is a pretty big age difference between us.) When she was a kid she watched shows like Full House, Family Matters, and Boy Meets World.

So, we entered our marriage with vastly different television viewing experiences. And vastly different taste in television programs. The Wife likes to watch reality-ish shows like Jon and Kate Plus 8; That One Family With 23 Kids; Little People In a Tall People World; I Had No Idea I Was Pregnant; and Those Doctors Can't Figure Out What's Wrong With Me. (Some of those show titles might not be completely accurate, but they cover the gist of what the shows are about.) I'm not a big fan of any of these shows.

However, before I got married, I knew that there was a thing called the "Food Network," but I had never watched. The Wife got me started on it. And now, I watch it more than she does. I especially like the cooking competition show Chopped. There's just something very entertaining in seeing what kind of dessert someone will come up with when forced to use lamb's brain, arugula, cottage cheese, and cranberries.

Meanwhile, aside from my dalliance with the Food Network, I still prefer cheesy action-detective shows. The truly cheesy shows are harder to find these days, so I'm usually left settling for "procedural" dectective shows. (I can watch reruns of Law & Order until the cows come home.) (And it doesn't really matter where the cows have been.)

One of the first shows The Wife and I were able to compromise and agree on was when we started watching the DVDs of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. The Wife liked it because she thought Dean Cain was "super" cute; I liked Teri Hatcher. It was a show we could both enjoy. (At least until the plots got a bit too outlandish. A Lois clone that has to eat frogs to survive? Really???)

Still, that show set the stage for two of the shows that we watch together now: Bones and Castle. Both of these shows have an attractive leading man and leading lady, so that there can be enjoyment for both The Wife and myself. (And, I'm not too sad that both of these shows fall into my "cheesy action-detective show" wheelhouse.)

Still, I watch much less than I did when I was single. We don't have a television in the living room. (The Wife did that on purpose.) So, if we want to watch television we have to go downstairs to the family room, or to our bedroom. We don't watch much television downstairs unless the kids are in bed, because so much on television these days is not safe for children. Therefore, the majority of the television watching we do now is in bed.

This is another area where The Wife and I differ in our television viewing. She easily and often falls asleep while watching shows. I, on the other hand, have a hard time nodding off if I am interested in watching something. This is where the DVR has come in handy. If I'm in bed watching a show, but I need to rest, I am more likely to fall asleep if I record the show. Somehow, this eases my mind because I think that if I do happen to fall asleep, I can always go back later and watch the show. Usually I don't go back and watch, but knowing that I can helps me get some sleep.

One of the reasons I don't watch as much television anymore is because of the kids. I don't want them to watch as much television as I did. Especially because there is so much sex and violence on television these days. Because there wasn't any when I was a kid. (Or was there? Violence? Well, a lot of people got conked over the head with coconuts on Gilligan's Island. And there was that football to the nose on The Brady Bunch. Sex? What exactly did I think was going on between Captain Kirk and all those hot alien chicks in the tin-foil bikinis? And I don't think Miss Jane wanted Jethro for his brains. Maybe my shows weren't as wholesome as I thought.)

Still, I try to keep the kids on wholesome-ish shows, and on shows that don't show commercials. We usually stick to PBS or the Disney channel. Of course, commercials sometimes take different forms. Just because no advertisements air during Jake and the NeverLand Pirates doesn't mean we haven't been sold a thing or two by the show. (Just look at the toys on the top of Roni's birthday cake from last week's column to see what I mean.)

And I know that despite my best intentions I will not be able to control the viewing habits of my children for their whole lives (or even their whole childhood.)

In fact, no sooner had I typed the previous paragraph when The Wife called us to the dinner table. She made a tasty stir-fry lunch. Roni looked at it and exclaimed, "It's a family feast! Like it was made by Rachel Ray!"

Have I ever let Roni watch the Rachel Ray Show? No. Will I be able to keep her away from horrible, nasty shows like Rachel Ray for her entire life? Obviously, no. I'll just have to trust that she'll know what's right and what's wrong, and she'll choose to not conk anyone over the head with a coconut or ever wear a tin-foil bikini. (Especially in the proximity of Captain Kirk.)

[NOTE: You may (or may not have) noticed that for this entire column I frequently used the word "television," but never used its common two-letter abbreviation. That's because I'm not sure how best to put it in print. There are several different choices:

1. "TV" --This is probably the most common way to abbreviate television, but I don't particularly like it. Why should I capitalize "TV" when I don't capitalize television? It makes it seem more important than it should be. (Plus, this usage could be confused with the abbreviation for transvestite.)

2. "tv" --I probably prefer this usage, but it still doesn't look quite right in a sentence. ("I had the tv on, but the sound all the way down.") It seems like it's missing something.

3. "T.V." --This definitely doesn't look right. The abbreviation periods accentuate the over-importance of the capitalization.

4. "t.v." --This still doesn't look right. The periods behind the letters are especially awkward if you try to follow them with a comma. ("When we watch t.v., we usually watch sports.)

5. "TeeVee" --This looks way too cartoony.

6. "teevee" --No!

So, you can see why I write out the word "television." It just looks better than the abbreviated alternatives.

(Of course, I guess I could always refer to it as the "boob tube.")]

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