I grew up in the 1950s, a time when TV was only black and white and the channel selector was a dial that only went up to 13. There was only one set in the house, a big console with a smallish screen. There was no remote control and no program recording device. The TV was turned off during meal times. Every program was pretty much family friendly. News was not so editorial nor politically slanted. I don’t recall any infomercials.
As a kid I enjoyed programs like The Wonderful World of Disney and the Mickey Mouse Club, along with Saturday morning cartoons featuring Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny and others like that. Early mornings during the week had Captain Kangaroo and Ding Dong School. My parents loved watching Lawrence Welk and Mitch Miller, and we kids liked all the music and dance of those programs, too. The Twilight Zone was intriguing, although a little creepy at times.
My own children grew up with hours of Mister Rogers, Sesame Street and Electric Company, supported, not by federal government funding, but by station members who cared about the programming choices. Star Trek, both the original and Next Generation, became must-watch programs on a weekly basis. The best sitcom was the Bill Cosby Show. We loved that TV family for years. The VCR came into our home, and eventually even satellite TV when we moved to an area where there was no rooftop antenna reception of anything. That brought more movies to watch via The Movie Channel, Showtime and HBO (for a premium).
With my first two grandchildren, I discovered Noggin TV, which eventually became Nick Jr., and that had some great programs for children. This ole grandma fell in love with Backyardigans, I think because of the music and fun with the imaginary play of the characters. Believe it or not, I have a little toy Tyrone sitting on my TV stand. I didn’t much care for Dora the Explorer because she yelled all the time, but I saw the value of the program and the grandkids liked it until they outgrew it.
And now, we have a big flat-screen, high definition, plasma TV, a huge number of TV channels to choose from for which we probably pay too much every month, TV programming fed through our telephone line and movies on DVDs that come in the mail and streamed via the internet. There are a lot more educational programs geared towards adults, with such as Discovery, History, and National Geographic,, and still we have PBS, Nick Jr. and cable channel movies. News broadcasts have expanded from NBC, CBS, and ABC to such as CNN, MSNBC and The Weather Channel. We've never been TV sports fans, but there are a lot of choices for those who are. You can even watch fishing and hunting on TV if you want.
Yet, we use the “universal remote” to flip through the on-screen TV guide and hear ourselves saying “There’s nothing good to watch.” Viewer choices have been overrun with weirdness, stupidity, bad taste, mind-boggling reality shows, vicious competition shows, and news broadcasts with political leanings (yes, even PBS is opinionated in the programming choices). When good movies are shown, it is hard to sit long enough to watch, because each one is constantly interrupted with strings of annoying commercials. In fact, nearly all TV broadcasts bombard the viewer with ads for disease and ailment treating drugs, how to lose weight or exercise conveniently at home, how to fix your computer or find a date, how to get a wide variety of innovative products for only $19.95 (“but wait, you can double your order for the same price if you call now and just pay extra shipping and handling”), how to get compensation for accident or bad medical treatment or avoid debt collectors and IRS penalties by contacting a specialize law office, and for ways to get loans and refinance your home if you have bad credit or how to check your credit score, and how to sell your unwanted gold jewelry and get around in a motorized chair. Gah! It is exhausting.
So, even if I can find a program that seems appealing and not morally offensive, the last straw now, is the extra blurbs that cable channels are putting on the screen. First those appeared as a single tiny channel logo in the bottom right corner of the screen. Then it became an animated scroll or video running intermittently across the bottom of the screen in addition to the logo in the corner. Now the logos are getting bigger. They are showing up at the top of the screen along with the inserted scroll or promotional video which is not so intermittent. It’s somewhat like the ads that are shown at the bottom of a YouTube video that blocks full view of the video itself or popups that scroll along over a web page you are trying to read. At least in the internet browser, you can usually close that annoying overlay. I don't know of any way to do it on a TV program.
Although there are still ads, at least now there is a channel, Antenna TV, that brings back some of the good old programs, like Burns and Allen. I may go back to watching Nick Jr. even though there are no little grandchildren in the house. On further thought, considering what’s on TV, I think I’m much better off enjoying a good book.