Fall brings a wave of nostalgia and anticipation; all of it centered around the television.
For it is in the fall when football returns to Sunday afternoon and when the networks roll out their new series. That covers the anticipation. The nostalgia comes from the knowledge that the new television season doesn’t quite have the excitement it used to.
I harken back to those halcyon days when there were only three networks — four if you count PBS, which no one really did — and cable television was in its infancy. There was no Netflix, no DVR, no satellite dishes on every roof. Shoot, I didn’t even have a VCR until well into adulthood. Television was simpler then, and seemingly, more entertaining.
I don’t watch much television now — no cable, no dish and very little interest. But as a kid, I loved television. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I used to memorize the broadcast schedule of the major networks. The week started on Sunday with “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” followed, of course, by the “Wonderful World of Disney.” Tuesday was appointment viewing with “Happy Days” and “Laverne and Shirley.” Saturday, naturally, was Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett. Then throw in all the other great shows like “Welcome Back, Kotter,” “M*A*S*H,” “Barney Miller,” “WKRP in Cincinnati” and the “Six Million Dollar Man,” to name just a few.
There’s a saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. To some, these shows are pure trash, but to me they were treasure, an escape into 30-minute storytelling with a laugh track. Our choices were so limited, and the networks all started their seasons in the fall — saving summer for repeats in case you missed your show the first time around. We all were talking about the same shows the next day.
Now, there seems to be too much; and new seasons of shows start just about any time during the year. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of and you have to rely on friends with similar tastes to lead you to a good show. And the format of many of these shows require regular viewing or you become completely lost. (Which was the reason I could never get into watching “Lost.”)
And because the market is so diluted, the only way to find people who watch the same shows is to go online. For instance, the favorite show in our house now is “Chuck.” Haven’t seen it? Neither has anybody else, or at least anyone I know. So it’s difficult to stand around the watercooler and talk about last night’s episode. Instead, when you bring up your favorite show, the response you get is usually along the line of, “I’ll have to check that out online.”
There’s a part of me that loves the idea of being able to watch what I want when I want online. But there is a sadder part of me that misses the communal experience, even if it is just a television show. Some people get that, I guess, from shows like “American Idol,” but for me, it’s not even close.
One thing will never fail though, and that is the comfort in knowing that a lot of people still remember the Fonz, Steve Austin and George Constanza.