I’m not sure why this thought crossed my mind, but the other day I was thinking about television when I was kid. Growing up in the 80s television was still this thing that would eventually end at the end of the day. You could stay up late and watch Carson, Letterman, then after that there was usually one more news broadcast followed by a half hour of maybe some episode of M.A.S.H., then nothing. Yes, I know a lot of you out there are probably a little younger than me so that concept of TV at 1am going to static is about the same as the world ending, but it’s true.
You see, way back before the first Iraq war there were still television stations that were self-owned in whichever town they resided in. They had their own local news team that reported both national and local news. These stations also had their own local entertainment shows. For me, it was Happy’s Place on WFFT Channel 55. That was the station that I enjoyed most of my local programming. In the mornings it was Froggie’s Pad in the mornings and then Happy’s Place in the afternoon. If you’re at all familiar The Bozo Show, or Krusty The Clown on The Simpsons, you get the gist of Happy’s Place. It was hosted by a guy dressed up as a Hobo, Happy The Hobo. There was a studio audience of kids that would come on and watch cartoons, get to talk to Happy, and play games to win prizes. Froggy was a frog puppet that sounded like Froggy from The Little Rascals. I have nothing but the fondest of memories of those shows. Much like my Flintstones chewables provided me with my daily dose of vitamins, those shows provided me with my daily dose of GI Joe, Transformers, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe; as well as Thundercats and Go-Bots. The 80s were a magical time to be a 9 year old boy. Not only did Channel 55 have my mornings and afternoons figured out for me, but on Friday nights they had Nightmare Theater. I guy dressed as an executioner and showed b-horror movies. It’s where I got my fill of Hammer horror films and a slew of 70s horror fare like Pigs, Motel Hell, and Humanoids From The Deep. A two-liter of Mountain Dew and a Totino’s Frozen Pizza was all I needed to keep me sustained till 2am when the movies usually ended.
I’m getting off point. So like I said, television stations used to go off the air. After that last newscast or syndicated episode of Alice or Three’s Company, you’d get “The National Anthem” being played over some well-aged film clips of American flags billowing in the wind along with beautiful shots of the countryside, then nothing. You’d get static or you’d get the color bars. That was your cue to get your ass in bed. The day, for all intents and purposes, was done. It’s as if the entire world shut down. Back then you were truly alone in those wee hours of the morning. Before the 24-hour news channel there was a time when there was indeed a nationwide snore. Even the local network stations were the same. I can remember Channel 22 WSBT out of South Bend, after their late-night broadcast would have their late, late show. They’d play some mildly awful film that was at least ten years old before shutting down the lights. It was nice for those nights when as a kid you were sick and couldn’t sleep. You and your mom or dad had something to watch to try and lull you to sleep. I can remember many a nights as a kid being sick and staying up till 1 or 2am watching some old movie from the 60s or 70s till my feverish self finally passed out on the couch.
You see, the world had a curfew.
It’s not like that anymore. Once Fox Broadcasting bought Channel 55 back in the mid-80s those “curfews” were lifted. There was something to watch 24/7. Network tv went the same route. Shows were on later and later till eventually there was never a break in programming. Late night tv went from old sitcoms to trashy talk shows. Nazis, freaks of natures, and nymphomaniacs sat in chairs and screamed as the host sat by counting his lucky stars for the freaks watching at home.
I feel at this point in broadcast history is when the world began to go to Hell in a handbasket.
There was nothing to tell the idiots to go to bed. There was no comforting and patriotic ending to the day. Once one show ended another began. Before you knew it the sun was coming up. A new day was bleeding into an old one. A constant barrage of entertainment. Fast food in the form of pictures on the television screen. This trend has only gotten worse. The constant need for contact. The internet, cable and satellite, cell phones, smart phones, GPS, wifi hot spots, 3G, 4G,….we are in constant contact with the world 24/7. You don’t have to be alone in the bathroom anymore. Just take that smartphone with you and relieve yourself with the universe in your hands. Hey, head down to your local coffee shop and enjoy a nice, private cup of joe. Take your laptop, as that java joint is wifi, baby. Share that cup of Columbian blend with the world.
All this connectivity, on the surface, may seem like a good thing. But I think it’s only hindering us as humans. There’s nothing wrong with this communication technology and being connected to our fellow humans. I’ve gotten to know(relatively speaking) some great people thanks to my adventures in the blogging world. People I’d have never had the chance to communicate with otherwise. But there’s truly no other way to connect with someone on a visceral level than being face to face. I think we tend to become something(or someone) different when we are hiding behind a laptop or smartphone. And because of this constant connectivity we’ve forgotten the true beauty of being alone with one’s own thoughts. It’s like we need a constant digital presence or we’re going to fall into some mental void.
I think unplugging and seeing what would happen wouldn’t be a bad thing. “But what do I do at the doctor’s office in the waiting room while I wait? What if I can’t check my Facebook page, or watch Youtube, or check my email?” Pick up a magazine and read. How about that? Or just sit there and think. You don’t need to check in with the universe every 15 minutes. And just because there’s 24/7 of crappy TV shows on a million channels doesn’t mean you have to watch it. Besides, 90% of it is ads for crap you don’t want or need anyways. And if you can’…….
Whoa. Sorry about that. I lost my internet signal. Jesus, that was scary. What do they expect me to do without the internet? Damn. Anyways, what was I talking about?