Tuesday, January 12, 2016

TVLandia

I loved TV as a kid  - contrary to the often "I never" statements many of my contemporaries make I watched TV as a kid.

The notion of TV actually is quite weaved into different stages of my life.   

In Romania we had a black and white TV, it only had 2 channels in Romania and I do not remember the exact time but it went off pretty early.   As I was 8 when I left I know it was not on past the point where I was in bed.   My memories are scattered about that time, fragments of a small one bedroom apartment where my crib was next to my parents bed in a very small and long bedroom, my paternal grandparents living in the living room (irony), a big bathroom with black and white tiles that we shared with this really obese man, who also shared the kitchen space.   I remember being a bit afraid of him - mainly I think because there would be fights with him, he was not respectful of the living situation or the people who had to share it with him.   I remember pieces of lilac crystals and a narrow, marble winding staircase.  I do not remember a TV.   These living arrangements were given to my parents and grandparents by the government, nothing as horrid as a communist government coming and taking away your right to live where you want, not because they paid your rent or because you had to live in subsidized housing, but because the officials often stole the better places for themselves and then had the power to control that along with every aspect of your life.   I do not remember a TV. 

My next memory is of the apartment my parents finally got approval and bought from the government to live on our own.   There were was a lot of under the table necessary payments made - nothing makes for true capitalism (the Ayn Rand kind  - pure supply and demand) as communism.   I remember bigger rooms, no sharing, our building, our kitchen, my room but I do not remember the TV though I remember my parents saying they had one.   I spent more time hiding from the nurses who came to give me shots for my inflamed tonsils and running around what was now a more bare apartment after my parents announced they were not coming back to Romania, sadly much was taken by relatives who would not take care of me.   

My great aunt who took me in, lived in a really small section of a house, the bathroom was tarred over and dark and scary - ok to a 6 year old it was scary - and was right outside our front door, indoor plumbing but not quite in the house that really was not supposed to be a full time living place when designed.   The living room where my great grandmother lived with us, sleeping on the bed that doubled as a couch, the big dining table and this huge bedroom (was the entrance way once upon a time) where I slept with my aunt in a big bed.   We watched TV together though my great grandmother was deaf, she was one of the kindest people I ever met, where her daughter (my great aunt) would argue with her about what they said, kind of comical.  I loved the old US and British shows, they were not current often in the States with a few exceptions, they were black and white but they were where my parents were living without me, where I hoped to be going soon and I loved English as a language always.  TV was a bit of a portal for me then - I had a massive crush on Manix. 

In America land of many channels, where I came home at 8 to an empty apartment much like most kids around me, I watched more TV than I was allotted before my parents came home.   It was background noise even when I did my homework and I loved the 4 o'clock movie, no channels dedicated to cartoons then.  It was Elvis week that was among my favorites.   I learned English watching the Electric Company and Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman will always be part of my bilingual education.   I loved the color tv and I did all those things people condemn today, I turned it the minute I got home and watched while doing homework and could have watched it for hours.   

As I got older I remember a General Hospital obsession, shared with my classmates (ok my girl classmates), we all watched Luke and Laura and Blackie and swoon at Rick Springfield as Dr Noah.  I ran those blocks between school and home to make the 3 o'clock start and Luke and Laura's wedding - I still can recall it.   I watched shows with my mother, my father worked late by this time, weekly.  We watched after we ate dinner, or sometimes before she got home from work, but she would enjoy Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Charlie's Angels (yes I was always the Farah/Cheryl Ladd character when we played this with friends), Quincy - go to Me TV or TV Land if you need some info on these.   They were entertaining without being uncomfortable for a parent to watch due to subject matter and they were not mind numbing poor quality like many of the shows on the Disney channel today.   Then they got "racier" just as I hit my hormonal teens, not racy by today's standards, when Dallas and Dynasty came along.  We shared these shows with one another in schools and we shared this in families.  There was limited programming and I remember not thinking that it was radical to have shows like Good Times, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, Chico and the Man or What's Happening.   I remember Roots - which I cried for days over.    These were a big deal but as a kid to me they just were - after all my friends were watching all of the same things I was - my friends and New York were more like these shows than Mayberry county.   I loved mini-series Rich Man Poor Man, Winds of War, Holocaust - they may seem ridiculous now but they were pretty much it then.   

When "they" came along and decided how to tell us not to parent and what we were doing wrong if we differed then how "they" parent often with a piety that is slight nauseating TV became demonized. I watched less TV the older I got because I had more interests and things to do but I rocked school and did pretty well with it in the background.  I have not believed that a commercial was ever anything other than an information spot for someone trying to sell me something, some of it I needed some of it let's just say Pet Rocks -- why did we actually buy them?  I love commercials that are well done and clever - I never buy anything just because I saw it on TV.  I also used to love the old TV Guides, whatever if you are going to judge I figured you already have at my I loved Elvis week comment.  

There is nothing wrong with screen time, in whatever form, kids today probably watch less and less TV than I did because it is not the only viewing option anymore.   I am not going to tell you how much screen time a kid should have or what they should watch because you should know your kids well enough to determine those rules.   I think while we have more choices on tv in terms of programming and channels we lost a little bit of that connection to having to wait to see the next episode and having to watch much of the same things we only had in limited menus together.   We don't have to wait we can watch it on our terms these days - we find common ground in shows we all like or love to hate - we can make fun of reality tv but that means we at least stopped for a few minutes on the channel to know what it is. News has become more prolific but less reporting and more opinion pages, you can watch the various networks to get somewhat of a better picture of what might have actually happened but we lost Cronkite, Rather, Koppel quality.  

TV you were there for me to share scary movies with my dad with, as an ice breaker socially as I was growing up, to bring me music and now sometimes merely as a screen to binge watch things.   I do not miss the big giant tvs that were furniture because the new screens are far better, or programming that was exclusionary but there was something kind of special of having to wait to find out who shot JR and watching it all together.  We watch certain horrors and are still horrified, which is good since we should not become immune to suffering.  We still share shows we love and characters we love to hate but with more variety we have less of a collective discussion as we did in the past.  Much like anything else it is a thing - what we choose to use it for is on us - you are not a better person if you never watch it nor are you a lesser one, you are just a person.   I wonder what will become of TV in the future as it has so radically changed in my lifetime - in any case for now I use it to watch some shows with my kids (sometimes I am baffled by their choices) and sometimes I use it to escape for a few hours of alone time (as a mom that is preciously guarded) and then many a time I use it as I always have, background noise as I go about multitasking in my house.  

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