Because there was less airtime – most certainly for children who attended school – we were limited to an hour or so before heading out in the morning and after school was broken up between home-work, playing outside until dinner, and playing outside until dark. We really only watched TV for less than three hours on a weekday. When you include the time spent doing same on weekends between the times Mom and Dad had other plans for us cleaning our rooms, playing board games, shopping, visiting family, we may have only caught TV a few more hours Saturday or Sunday. And according to the good folks at ‘Morals R Us’ these hours were eating our brains.
They may have been right. When I add up the activate crunchyroll hours of television available to me they seem disproportionate to the unending number of things I remember watching. School days started with a kids’ variety program called ‘Rocket Ship 7’ hosted by Dave Thomas out of WKBW-TV in Buffalo (interesting trivia note: he is the father of ‘Angel’/’Bones’ TV actor David Boreanaz). Like similar shows being broadcast in that era on stations all across North America, the show featured skits, birthday greetings, puppets, a talking robot, and the latest, cheaply licensed kids fair. We watched the Christian-based ‘Davy & Goliath’ and ‘Gumby’ stop motion animation shows, Looney Tunes, Merry Melodies, ‘Popeye’, ‘The World of Oz’ and occasionally ‘The Three Stooges’ and ‘Little Rascals’ shorts.
When we came home for lunch it was a revolving world on either CHCH (out of Hamilton) or CTV (out of Toronto). I recall catching ‘The Flintstones’, ‘Rocket Robin Hood’ and any number of Canadian made game shows starring host Jim Perry – most notably ‘Eye Bet’ and ‘Definition’ – as well as a Canadian children’s variety show called ‘The Uncle Bobby Show’ featuring a cardigan wearing old Brit. After school there was a juggling act of homework, outdoor activities or watching another children’s variety show called ‘Commander Tom’ which was the afternoon version of ‘Rocket Ship 7’ featuring most of the same shows though they also included longer programming with ‘The Addams Family’, ‘The Munsters’ and ‘Batman’.
Saturdays were a barnstorm of Hanna-Barbara cartoons and live-action children’s shows like ‘Scooby-Doo’, ‘Hilarious House of Frightenstein’, ‘H.R. Puffenstuff’, ‘Liddyville’, ‘Get Smart’, ‘The Hudson Brothers’ Razzle Dazzle Show’, ‘The Powder Puff Derby’, ‘The Monkees’, ‘Gidget’, ‘The Brady Bunch’, ‘Gilligan’s Island’, ‘The Wacky Races’, and more Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies than we could ingest.
Evenings brought us sitcoms and dramas: ‘Party Game’, ‘Mary Tyler Moore’, ‘The Carol Burnett Show’, ‘The Trouble With Tracy’, ‘Starsky & Hutch’, ‘Love Boat’, ‘Sanford & Sons’, ‘All In The Family’, ‘Love American Style’, ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’, ‘Bewitched’, ‘The Dean Martin Roast’, ‘Streets of San Francisco’, and, of course the national standard – ‘Hockey Night In Canada’ on Saturday nights. Sunday was a bit of a drag with mornings filled with religious programming but we usually caught the weekly ‘Movie For A Sunday Afternoon’, ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’, and ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom’.
Today, TV’s need to fill 24 hours worth of programming – paid or created – means an assembly line of reality based shows, repeats of expensive dramas and syndicated shows from our near past (rather than our distant past… something we have to pay extra for on another set of cable channels). I love having more choices now, but I hunger for the shows that defined my childhood – even if some of them were cheesy as hell and barely hold up to repeat viewings.