In Defense of TV… Old TV

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Jon Hall (left) starred as “Ramar of the Jungle”

Some of you, like me, don’t watch television anymore, largely because it’s gone so crappy. You don’t even have a television set. And you reacted strongly to “Beauty Beyond Bones” watching–and blaming herself for watching–the unbelievably cheap and sleazy denouement of a popular “reality” show.

Like you, I don’t watch such bilge. But I was part of the first generation of Americans that grew up with television, and TV was a big part of my childhood. I thank God that the kind of TV we have today wasn’t! And thanks to the Internet, I can no revisit a lot of those great old shows, commercial-free.

I have fond memories of many of those shows. Even more, I learned a lot from them about the art of storytelling, which now I have the honor to perform in the service of the Lord.

Man, when I was eight years old, nothing turned me on like Ramar of the Jungle! Later on in my childhood I moved on to Wagon Train, Rawhide, Route 66, etc. But it was Ramar that set my mind on fire and introduced me to techniques of storytelling which I use today. They had only half an hour, minus time lost to commercials, to tell the story of an adventure, with beginning, middle, and end, create coherent characters and put them through their paces in a way that made sense, and still devote some time to immersing the viewer in the exotic African setting. It was a big job, but week after week, they did it.

OK, even old TV had its share of (shall we put it kindly?) faults. Grandma’s soap operas, for instance. Twilight Zone sneakily pushing atheism. Queen for a Day. I remember when the first kid in our third-grade class got color TV and invited the whole class to his house to watch Howdy Doody one Saturday morning. We were treated to an unearthly mixture of greens and reds in seldom-seen tones: color TV still had a ways to go.

So I grew up with television before it entered its current Gold Age of Sleaze. It helped teach me the kind of work I do today. And when I play an old Columbo episode from 40 years ago, I like it!

6 comments on “In Defense of TV… Old TV

  1. Wow, Lee – you’ve done it again! I’d forgotten all about Ramar 🙂

    Television in its infancy was much different than it is today. Much of it was wholesome with a few exceptions, like soap operas.

    Funny, isn’t it? Although I always realized my grandparents and even my mother didn’t have television growing up, and even though we didn’t have one in my early years, your reminder of ours being the first generation with television never occurred to me in that way.

  2. I agree. There were some great shows in the early days of television; positive values, good storytelling, an innocent charm and lots of harmless humor.

    Television came and went from my life. As a very young child there was a television in our home. At some point, roughly about the time I started Kindergarten, we didn’t have TV anymore. I don’t know if that was a matter of economic necessity or a decision to limit our familiy’s exposure to the violence that was only nascent at the time. A few years later we got another television, and I know that we had one by the time Kennedy was assassinated, because I was watching in real time when Ruby shot Oswald. (You don’t forget a thing like that.) For the rest of my developing years, we had a series of TV sets and I watched, although I spent a lot of time doing other things. I always found TV a bit unreal and annoying.

    When I got out on my own I had a cheap B&W portable which broke down. Two weeks later, I found that I hated to be in the presence of broadcast television and still do. This happened in the era of Three’s Company and Dallas. Those shows seem relatively innocuous by today’s standards, but they were somewhat controversial at the time.

    One thing that struck me, after I quit watching broadcast television is how willing many people are to watch whatever is presented. To many people, it seemed that if it was broadcast over the networks it must be worthwhile. Cable increased the number of offerings, both for good and for bad, but the same thing applied, if it was offered there seemed to be plenty of people willing to watch, even if the programming was contrary to their values. Sadly, values have eroded accordingly.

    1. Some of us rented a house on the bay once, and we were out on the deck, admiring the sunset–all except one, who stayed indoors watching “Soul Train” on TV. When I asked her, “Why in the world are you watching that???” she answered, “It’s the only thing that’s on.” Sheesh.

  3. What a great reminder of early TV shows. There were many I used to like,
    and when I find one now on Netflix, it is really fun to re live the good old days of decent entertainment.

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