In 1947, the year I was born, television had been invented and was being used in some U.S. households that could be measured in the thousands. However, by the late 90’s, 98% of U.S. homes had at least one television that was one for more than 7 hours per day.
Early television was primitive compared to what we experience today. Typical offerings of the day include programs such as The Texaco Star Theatre with Milton Berle (1948), the Howdy Doody Show (1947), 15-minute news programs with folks such as John Cameron Swayze (who was required by his tobacco company sponsor to keep a burning cigarette always visible when he was on camera), and The Jack Benny Show (1950).
By 1955, half of all U.S. homes owned a television. Half.
Between 1953 and 1955 television began to move away from radio-type program to what was described as spectacular, such as the beginning of the Today show (1952) with Dave Garroway and the Micky Mouse Show (1955).
Following later was I Love Lucy, the Honeymooners, the $64,000 Question. and a host of other programs. In 1952 Walter Cronkite was a household name and a trusted figure in evening news. In that year CBS played a central role in covering the nominating conventions of the two major political parties.
By 1964 television began broadcasting in color. The three major networks, CBS, NBC, and ABC, ramped up their respective races for ratings and advertising dollars. Television became more and more interesting.
Competing cable networks also began to arise: ESPN, Ted Turner’s super station WTBS, C-Span, Nikelodeon, et al. Now there are 100’s of independent stations, each with a different twist on entertainment: the puppy channel, a host of sports channels, not to mention the dark side of entertainment.
Now we can carry television and other electronic entertainment mediums around on our phones. We can “stream” favorite shows such as The West Wing and Stranger Things.
There are pages and books more information that can be offered about the growth of television, however one thing is clear – the hold that TV has on us is great. Like a glowing Mesmer we have given our attentions and our curiosity to the thing (TV) that delivers content to us.
Under the sway of TV, there is no longer any need for curiosity and initiative. “What’s under that rock?” “What can you see from the top of that hill.” “What will happen if those two wires are connected?”
You get the idea.
“Mom, I’m bored,” comes from the mind of a child or adult who has lost the ability to ask questions. Who does not enjoy the endless possibilities of a blank sheet and a palette full of colors. “Mom, I’m bored” is what a child says when lobotomized by television’s dancing colors.
In the 70’s, a Minneapolis television paid a group of families to allow them to disable their respective televisions and then chronicle the results. Some used the freed time to read books. One family built a boat. And others used the time for camping and hiking.
What was interesting, and also gave the documentary its name, was what one of the participants said about the experience. “It feels like there has been a death in the family.”
Want to know what kind of hold television and electronic entertainment has on you and your children? Take it away for a week or two and find out what happens. Maybe it will feel like a death in the family.
Will it cause discovery or cries of boredom?