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Monday, May 2, 2016

From my Front Porch

Thursday, June 26, 2003

American idle

When I was growing up, the most the television industry had to offer was the very limited selection of four channels, PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC. And that was only if you happened to live close to town. As comedian Jeff Foxworthy once explained, in those days, if the president was giving a speech, your evening was pretty much shot. No Flipper, Gunsmoke, or I Dream of Jeannie.

The worst of the worst was the summer of 1973 when the televised Watergate hearings were featured for 319 summer daytime viewing hours. Talk about the purest form of televised torture for a 12-year-old kid.

Since my family didn't own a TV until I was about 8 or 9 years old, my first recollection of television is watching it at a friend's house when Sonny and Cher still had each other, babe. Eventually, a small remote-less black and white model was purchased and served our family well for many years. I'm not sure why, but I was grown and out of the house before my family finally upgraded to color television.

Nowadays, black and white television is a novelty that most folks too young to know who shot J.R. are clueless about. Twenty years ago, my husband and I bought a small black and white TV. Over the years we have considered getting rid of it, but so far, we have refused to garage sale it. We figure it is one of only a few links to the past, as we know it. A past that pretty much allowed unrestricted television watching by any family member because the available television networks at least tried to understand the true meaning of family values. Not only that, but there is nothing better than a quick show and tell demonstration when trying to explain about the white dot prayer. Those of us old enough to appreciate black and white television most certainly are familiar with this prayer.

The scenario is something like this. You and your family are watching television when your parents decide to step next door and visit with the neighbors. As they leave the house, they turn off the television and give you strict instructions to go straight to bed. You comply by putting on your pajamas and brushing your teeth, but then you foolishly decide that they will never know if you watch just a little bit more television. You turn on the set, while your brother stands next to the window serving as the lookout. Suddenly, he sees your parents leaving the neighbors and he whispers,

"They're coming." You jump up, switch off the TV and hightail it to your bedroom where you immediately begin praying that your parents fail to notice the slowly disappearing little white dot in the middle of the television screen. Otherwise, you are in deep weeds.

Today, most American households have access to hundreds of television channels, but unfortunately, more is not necessarily better. One click trip around with the remote generally reveals the truth of the matter.

We have three televisions in our home. Two are made usable via an antenna, while one has access to a dish receiver inconspicuously perched on the backside of our roof. Even though the dish costs more and gives us access to way too many channels, it's the virtually cost-free antenna television we enjoy most often. Go figure.

Lately, the trend has been toward so-called reality television. My question is, on whose reality are these programs based? Since when has any woman had dozens of gorgeous men to choose from and vice versa? Reality would be several women with only one or two men to choose from and no one involved would be particularly good looking.

And survivor? Well, it will be interesting to see just who does survive as more folks watch more television becoming more and more of an American idle.

Barbara is a freelance writer who lives in Willow Springs with her family and their big, black Labrador, Susie Belle. Barbara can be reached via her Website at http://www.barbaramadden.com.