Growing up, my family had a black and white console television that only got two channels.
I remember the TV being on from early morning until late at night when the test pattern screen came on as the network went off the air. It was Mom who used the TV for background noise to keep her company.
Dad wasn't into the TV all that much. "Horns of the Devil," he would say in a light-hearted manner, referring to the TV antenna. But as a farmer, he was interested in the news, especially the weather report and the "U.S. Farm Report" with Orion Samuelson.
Sunday nights, Mom, my brothers and I would watch "The Wonderful World of Disney". It was routine that I would take my shower and get in my pajamas in a hurry so I wouldn't miss our family movie night.
Mom loved the "Lawrence Welk Show". She would sing along and tell us all about Bobby and Sissy and the other talent of Lawrence's musical family. It always baffled me how she knew so much about them. She surely didn't subscribe to any Lawrence Welk Digest magazine to find out the details.
Another family favorite was "Little House on the Prairie". I loved Michael Landon as Pa and the wholesome values he taught in each episode. Many shows touched my heart, brought tears to my eyes and taught me life-long lessons.
We would pick on one of my brothers and tell him that he "fell into the television." He really got into the programs and tuned out the rest of the world. This would drive my parents crazy to the point of yelling "Sonny!" to snap him out of it.
When I went off to college, I would rather hang out with my friends than sit in front of the TV. Even though I had cable TV in my dorm room, I didn't take advantage of it. Instead, I bought a small black and white TV from a friend, and when I needed background noise, I would turn on old black and white sitcoms like "I Dream of Jeannie" "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Beverly Hillbillies".
I am not against television, but I refuse to pay for cable or dish to bring a bunch of trash into my home. I don't have the discipline to research and choose the proper programming, and then have the will power to turn it off. I guess I am afraid of getting sucked in like my brother.
Raising my daughter, I had a TV but no network channels for us. I bought kid-appropriate movies for her. Over the years, we acquired the entire "Little House on the Prairie" collection on DVD. I was hoping she would learn life lessons from the show as I did as a kid.
When my husband and I got married, he tried to live without television. He tried to watch his "MASH 4077" DVDs and he also acquired an "Andy Griffith Show" DVD collection. But he missed not having network TV.
Speaking of Andy Griffith, many years ago, I attended a church Bible study where they used episodes from the "Andy Griffith Show" to teach biblical lessons. We were to learn to be more like Andy Taylor. But I asked, "What if I was born with a personality more like Barney Fife?"
Now that I have been away from network TV for so long, I am appalled when we visit my parents by some of the themes and language on prime time. Even the commercials are far from the good old family values days. I am guessing most people will think I am off my rocker. But it has become normal and society has become desensitized by what we and our children are watching. Garbage in and garbage out, I was once told.
Sure I am out of the loop when my friends and co-workers talk about the recent episodes of their favorite shows. And I am asked if I miss the current news. I work at a newspaper so I get the local news, and I watch CNN.com for the world news.
My husband and I have found a compromise on our television desires. Our family now has Netflix streamed off the Internet through our Wii gaming system. We choose what programs, without commercials, when we want to watch them. It also tells us the recent shows watched so we know what my daughter is watching too.
The three of us sit on the couch together eating popcorn and apples, watching "The Biggest Loser" series, as Jillian the personal trainer tells at-home viewers to get off the couch and move.
Currently, I am hooked on the "Take Home
Chef" reality show, where Chef Curtis Stone goes into a supermarket and chooses a person to go home with and make a gourmet meal to surprise their family.
It was quite the coincidence the other night when my daughter and I were watching "Biggest Loser" and they previewed to a guest chef. Hope said, "That's your guy." I said, "No, it was the regular guest chef." Sure enough, Curtis Stone was the special guest. And I got a two for one.
For me, television programming is not black and white, good or bad. It is about choosing your choices and not just getting sucked into what society says is OK. There are good programs that can teach the family and touch the heart. And even though I feel more like Barney Fife, I want to learn to be more like Andy Taylor because in the end people will remember you not by the deeds you have done but the way you have made them feel.