As those of you who've been around for a while will know, I love television. I mean, I REALLY love television. Pretty much my favourite thing to do is watch my stories, and I am always chuffed when Noodles likes something that I do and wants to watch with me. There's a general belief that the quality of television has massively declined in recent years, and to an extent that is true. Both free to air and Pay TV (cable to you foreigners) are chock full of trashy reality shows with attention-seeking wannabes trying to out-bully each other in the quest for some prize, or just generally wandering around in front of a camera being pointless and making the rest of us look at it. On the other hand, cable channels like HBO, Showtime and AMC have been churning out some superb television and have proven that it can indeed be a form of art rather than just idiots watching other idiots on the idiot box.(Not that I'm averse to being the idiot watching idiots on occasion - I love me some Come Dine With Me.)
As far back as I can remember, television has been pretty much my favourite thing, and a lot of my fondest memories involve that box. When I was 8 or 9, Little House on the Prairie was on at 7:30 on Thursday nights. Thursday was my mum's grocery shopping day; she would get a box of Cheezels and we would all watch Little House together, munching away on garish yellow circles of delicious fake cheeseness. We were not a particularly close family, and I especially tended to go my own way, not really having anything in common with my parents or either of my brothers, so that's one of the few memories I have of us doing anything both family-oriented and enjoyable (as opposed to the torturous 'family drives' my dad subjected us to every so often).
On Sundays at 6:30 it was The Wonderful World of Disney. My dad usually made dinner on Sunday nights - something easy like hamburgers or hotdogs, and my brothers and I would all be freshly bathed with dressing gowns on and hair slicked down, ready to go as soon as the credits rolled and that sparkly castle appeared. It was usually some cheesy but enjoyable second-rate movie with Kurt Russell or Dean Jones or Fred McMurray, but occasionally there would be one of the 'special' Disney films like The Jungle Book or Snow White, and that was always a big event.
When I was a little older, probably 13 or 14, television dominated my evenings (remember kiddies, this was pre-internet) - Monday night was Tales of the Gold Monkey, Tuesday was BJ and the Bear, Wednesday was CHiPs and Thursday was Dukes of Hazzard.
On Friday nights there was always a classic family movie on - something like The Wizard of Oz or The Sound of Music* or a Gene Kelly extravaganza. Saturday nights were a triple bill of the Golden Years of Hollywood hosted by Bill Collins, and on Sunday afternoons I watched old black and white weepies like Miracle In the Rain or Mr Skeffington, or jolly colourful Doris Day singalongs with my mum while she (and later I) did the week's ironing.
From the age of about 17-30 I rarely watched TV with any regularity. I was too busy out having a life. I did spend Tuesday nights with the gang at Melrose Place of course (who didn't), and there was the obsession with Twin Peaks in the early 90s. But for the most part, I wasn't really up to date with most of it, and there are a lot of beloved 90s shows that I only caught up with many years later, when I had a kid and subsequently no life to speak of (poor Noodles - hope she isn't reading this!). That was also my 'film buff' period, when I spent several nights a week at the movies, watching a lot of artsy independent small budget films where everyone talked a lot but nothing much happened.
What I remember most about TV is what an event it was back in the day. There were not many VCRs around in Australia until the mid-80s, and we certainly didn't have one until about 1986 or so, so if you missed an episode of your favourite show, you wouldn't have a chance to see it again until it was repeated several years later. There were no 'encore performances' or cable channels playing the same episode of a show 17 times in a week. There were no video box sets - the local video shops had slasher films and a couple of worn out copies of Caddyshack and that was pretty much it. It's taken for granted now that you have a ton of options when it comes to watching something - I have no aerial and no cable, so essentially no immediate television. I just download anything I want to see. We can watch one episode a week as it airs, or we can bank them up and have mini marathons on the weekend when we're more in the mood to sit and watch something. We can wait for the DVD box sets and watch all the little extras that go along with them if we're so inclined.
And best of all, once we've watched our shows, we can get online and find someone to talk to about it. Instant communication has enhanced the viewing experience tenfold. The only thing better than watching something you really enjoy is debriefing about it with someone else who also really enjoys it (though having said that, there is little more frustrating than trying to discuss a show with someone who is into it but just doesn't get it, and continually argues ridiculously meaningless or blatantly incorrect points). There is so much more enjoyment to be had from a TV show than just watching that 22 minutes or 42 minutes once a week.
It's interesting that sometimes favourites don't stand the test of time. I adored Quantum Leap back in the day and once spent a feverish 3 day weekend when I had a flu-like illness marathoning a friend's entire collection of taped episodes, but I tried rewatching a couple of years ago when it was on Foxtel and I couldn't bear it. The same with 21 Jump Street. And even Melrose Place. Yet there are others that I came back to again after years and enjoyed just as much, if not more. The Office is as wonderful now as it was 10 years ago. Twin Peaks has held up in a way that other quirky shows like Northern Exposure and Picket Fences haven't, and even though there's a long period where it's pretty shit, as my ex says, it's only shit by its own standards. I have more appreciation for The X Files now than I did when it was airing. And of course, there will never be a soapie I love and watch as much as Prisoner. Not even Eastenders.
You know how people always say they don't trust people who don't like animals? I don't warm to people who say they don't like television, or that they never watch it. There are few things more irksome to me than someone who sniffily announces, "I don't watch television" in that tone that suggests you're a lesser person if you do. Enjoying television shows is a hobby, just like scrapbooking, horse-riding, crossword puzzles, or any other number of relatively useless things that people enjoy doing in their spare time. I have worked with people who will get huffy at having to listen to the briefest discussion of whatever water cooler show was on the night before while we're waiting for the stragglers to turn up to a meeting, but are happy to hold court (with photos!) about their own obscure, boring interests week after week. I have lost count of the number of mothers I know who snootily announce that they don't allow their children to watch TV (implication - I am a bad parent because for most of her toddler years, Noodles' favourite song was the theme from Home and Away), only to finally crack under the pressure of, you know, PARENTING, and plonk the little dears in front of something on the ABC and make excuses about how it's okay because it's 'educational'. I'm on to you ladies. The only thing they're learning from The Wiggles is the hilarity of grown men in brightly coloured skivvies.
So that's my (not so) little ramble about one of my absolute favourite things. Do you like TV? Do you have fond TV memories? Are you excited that there's going to be a new season of Arrested Development?
*I've never seen The Sound of Music, and it's kind of a point of pride for me. No, I don't know why.