Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Watching Television Together As a Family (Then and Now)

I watched a lot of television growing up. The whole family would sit together in the living room, watching whatever Dad or Mom decided to watch. (Sometimes Dad would be reading the newspaper, not paying much attention to the tube, so occasionally us kids even got to choose!)

Television: then.
We watched a wide variety of shows, including variety shows (Carol Burnett, Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie, Flip Wilson, etc.); situational comedies (M*A*S*H*, Happy Days, The Jeffersons, Barney Miller, etc.); detective/cop shows (Barnaby Jones, Columbo, Charlie's Angels, McMillan & Wife, etc.); adventure shows (Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman, Six Million Dollar Man, Dukes of Hazzard, etc.); and even the "reality" shows of the day (Real People, Battle of the Network Stars, Monday Night Football, 60 Minutes, etc.)

Yes, we watched too much television, but we would sit as a family--the entire family!!!--and watch these shows together. Does anybody do that anymore? We don't.

The state of television is much different today than it was back then. We had three (maybe four) channels, and if we wanted to watch something different, one of the kids (usually me) would be sent to change the channel via a knob on the front of the television set. (We called it a "set" then; it wasn't just a screen, it was a piece of furniture.) Today, we don't even get the broadcast channels in our home. We watch shows using Hulu and Amazon Prime. (Unlike most folks, we haven't yet succumbed to Netflix.) So, even if we wanted to watch what the networks are putting on the air, the viewing experience would be completely different.

Television: now.
But, we don't want to watch what the networks put out. The shows either don't interest us, or they aren't appropriate for our children. And a show is almost guaranteed to be full of adult language and/or situations unless it's on one of the broadcast networks. (And that might not last for long. Here's an article where a writer for Entertainment Weekly advocates the use of the f-word on the broadcast networks.) There just isn't anything that we can all sit around and watch together as a family anymore.

Well, there is one show we watch together as a family. For some reason, our kids love the show Full House. They think it's the greatest thing ever. So, we'll occasionally pile onto the couch as a family and watch Full House. My ten, eight, and three year-olds love it. It mostly holds my two year-old's attention. My wife likes it because it reminds her of her childhood. I tolerate it because everyone else likes it so much.

This is a show that first aired in September of 1987; that's over 31 years ago. And that's what we found as a show that we can all watch together. To put that in perspective, in 1976, when I was the same age as our oldest child, it would be the equivalent of watching a show from 1945! (Which would be very difficult to do.)

Yes, I know: times change; nothing is ever going to be the way it used to be; I'm just a grumpy old dude. All true. But, I'd like to hope that there's a chance that someday I might be able to sit on the couch and actually watch a show with my grandkids.

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