Do you recognize this box?
Long ago, the television was an incarnation of the future, a slight possibility in the brain of some scientific geniuses. The first television broadcast occurred in 1927, it was a simple straight line. Twenty years and some 50 million dollars later, full scale commercial broadcasting began, it was 1947.
Early television consisted of news casts, children's shows and early variety series such as Jack Benny and The Tonight Show. Most of these early shows were incantations of their radio predecessors. Nonetheless, they were loved and watched!
The early years of T.V. saw such a dramatic rise in the sale of television sets that by 1955, nearly fifty percent of American households contained a set. This is where television truly begins to shine down on the world, where it becomes synonymous with apple pie, baseball and the idea of an All-American lifestyle.
Today's All-American life is far different than that of what our grandparents and parents knew. Today we, have more than one television set in our house, maybe more than 2! We have digital recorders, cable, satellite, web broadcasting, perhaps we even have a 'home theater' in which to enjoy our nightly fix of drama, comedy, mystery, news, politics, music, cartoons, kids shows... or whatever else strikes our fancy.
I was born in 1973, right in the heyday of major network television, the end of my childhood saw the advent of cable television series and my early adult years were infused with ads for Tivo and Satellite for even more viewing options.
My childhood was spent watching television, to my pure enjoyment. I did plenty of outside activities as well but the bulk of my evenings were spent laughing out loud to the outrageous antics of 1970 re-runs and 1980's family comedies. I derived great pleasure in my television time, so much in fact that much of my fall and winter evenings afternoons were spent getting homework done so I could watch my nightly shows. My parents purchased our first VCR when I was about 7 years old and from that moment on, there was nothing that I couldn't watch!
My childhood was an exciting time for me, I went places no other child could go. I traveled around the United States, laughing with the Keaton's, learning from the Cosby's, growing with the Seavers... I can remember Saturday nights spent "Down on Fraggle Rock" and Tuesday nights in suburban New York City, wondering where the heck Brooklyn was and why moving from Brooklyn to the suburbs was such a life changing event for Samantha Micelli.
The list of shows I watched as a kid is endless and they each hold a special place in my heart. Whether they were shows relating to being a kid or just pure gold comedies, I loved them. Taxi, Cheers, Golden Girls, The Bob Newhart Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show were some of my absolute favorites. During the summer I was allowed to stay up late and I could watch these shows to my heart's content. It didn't matter if Taxi was about a group of struggling adults trying to make in it big, scary New York City, it made sense to me! It filled my heart with inspiration to get to New York City and ride a cab along the Brooklyn Bridge in the wee hours of the morning. It was an exhilerating concept!
My childhood was fraught with difficulty. I suffered a serious illness, I was tortured by my classmates in school, we had five children in my family and many times we survived on little more than faith and love. Television was not only an escape but it was also a place to go, a way to see the world without ever leaving my home, I learned about life without ever spending a dime. I had friends and it sparked my creativity. Television inspired me to try my hand at acting out plays and writing stories. I loved television because it defined my childhood and it kept me from becoming depressed at everything I lacked in terms of true friends.
As an adult, I still love television, I can still flip through the channels and hear the familiar refrain of "Thank you for Being a Friend" and stop mid stride to watch just a few moments of those wonderful Golden Girls, whopping it up in Miami!
In recent years, television comedies have given way to reality series, cable extravaganza's like Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy or Walking Dead. These shows take cinematography and writing to new levels, they create story arcs in places where network television became stuck. They set new standards in television viewing and garner loads of response and advertising dollars.
Shows such as Friends, and Everybody Loves Raymond navigated the waters between the wholesome comedies of yore while teetering on the edge of staying single longer, and women as more than just passive housewives. As we pass into an age cell phones and the Internet infiltrate every aspect of life, comedy still burns bright. The Big Bang Theory, Community, 30 Rock and The Office prove that situation comedies can still make us laugh whole heartily. Comedy greats like Bob Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore, Christopher Lloyd and John Ritter still exist the comedy hero's of today; Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Jim Parsons, Josh McHale and Steve Carrel to name but a few.
I still have deep devotion to my favorite show of all time "Friends" and I am hard pressed to find a show that speaks to me in that vein, I know that Hollywood keeps spinning out comedy greatness, where Cheers, Taxi, Different Strokes, Three's Company, Growing Pains, Who's the Boss, left off, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld, and Boy Meets World picked up. As those shows drifted off into the land of Re-Run, Big Bang Theory, Community and 30 Rock were able to keep the humor alive...
Now those shows are nearing their end or have already ended. The list of good comedies grows less with each year and I am once again on the lookout for that magic; that old-fashioned comedic genius that began with Lucy and Jackie, developed into Archie, Bob, Arnold, George, Alex, Heathcliffe, Sam and Tony traveled down the subway to Kramer, Frasier, Raymond, Fran, Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Joey & Phoebe and stopped at TGS, Greendale Community College, finally resting in Pasadena, California...
For me television is a fascinating distortion of the senses, a place to go when there's no where else to go, a chance to live other lives and for but a moment feel as if you can do anything, be anyone... in the great words of Jim Ignatowski "You know the really great thing about television? If something important happens, anywhere in the world, night or day... you can always change the channel."