One of my earliest memories involves television. It's a winter's day, already dark as afternoon slides into evening. As I wait for my father to get home from work, I sit in front of the TV, eyes glued to Howdy Doody. I’m wearing my black-patent leather Sunday School shoes, because I'm welcoming company into our living room--Howdy, Buffalo Bob, Dilly Dally, Phineas T. Bluster, Clarabell the Clown, Princess Summerfall Winterspring, Flub-a-Dub, and the rest of the cast. I figure that if I could see them, they must be able to see me too, and I want to look nice for my guests.
Howdy Doody was my favorite show, and I longed to be in the Peanut Gallery, among the fortunate kids who made up the live studio audience. I never achieved that honor, but I did get to be a Lucky Ranger on Western-themed local program with a similar format, The Pick Temple Giant Ranch. I also appeared on a Romper Room clone called Miss Ruth Ann's Kindergarten.
I loved watching TV, but it was even more exciting to appear before the camera. I loved the bright lights and, even more, the chance to peek behind the curtain and see how the magic worked. Twice in my early teens I was on The Milt Grant Show, a rock-and-roll dance party similar to American Bandstand. Then came the capstone of my TV career. I was chosen to be on my high school's team on the acclaimed quiz show It’s Academic, which is still on the air. (Random fact: Hillary Clinton was on her school’s team too.) My school won.
Once I got to college I stopped appearing on TV. In fact, I stopped watching it. My dorm had only one TV set, never tuned to a show I found interesting. After graduating I didn’t get around to buying a TV for about 25 years, so I missed out on a lot of important aspects of pop culture. I never saw an episode of Friends or Dallas or Hill Street Blues. Want to know a surefire way to stop a conversation dead in its tracks? When you're asked, “Did you see _(fill in the name of a hot show)_ last night?”, answer by saying, "No. I don’t have a TV." No one knows how to respond to that; you’ll leave the person speechless.
Eventually my mother-in-law starting spending winters with us, and although she read a book a day, she still missed watching TV. So my husband brought home an ancient set he'd been using in his business to show training videos. It brought in three snowy channels, all from distant towns. Because of the configuration of hills around our house, even the best antenna got limited reception, and we weren’t about to spring for cable.
Even so, we gradually we started watching. We got hooked on a few shows. When analog signals disappeared and we were faced with having to buy a converter box for our old clunker, we decided to make the leap. We got ourselves a flat-screen, a small one, yet the screen was huge compared to what we were used to. And clear! Who knew people on TV could have freckles?
Now we're as addicted as anyone. Our TV rarely gets turned on before 9 pm, but 9 pm almost never arrives without one of us picking up the remote. Our list of don’t-miss shows is similar to the one Camille posted on The LadyKillers a couple of days ago. Scripted dramas, please; none of those un-reality shows for me.Excuse me, I have to go now. It’s time for Revenge.