Confessions of a television addict


Now at the age when many parents deny they watch TV, Dave and I can look down our noses at TV fans who set their personal lives’ agenda to correspond with a favorite show. We watch very little TV, we repeat, smugly.

We were married so long ago that television had not yet scrambled high enough to throw a clear signal across the Pennsylvania hills and valleys in which we lived. If you could just make out that the shadow on the screen was the hero and the one on the left the villain, and as long as you could hear the dialogue, why, that was enough to follow the plot and marvel.

By the time television finally got beyond the Blue Ridge mountains that rimmed our parents’ homes, we were married and living near Philadelphia. We had no television yet, but that was more like an early snobbism to salve the sting of a cost factor.

When we finally decided to join the rest of the world, we bought one with a black and white display. “Wait ’til they improve the system,” Dave rationalized. “It may be just a matter of time ’til they drop the color idea and just make black and white better. Besides, color is ’way too expensive.”

Early color, if you’re old enough to remember, was painful anyhow. Ghosts, double-vision, white lines – there wasn’t much to appeal to us. We wanted our children to read and play outside, so I can say, in truth, that we kept it off except for something really special that we watched together. We’ve always favored special “magazine” programs like Dateline and 20/20, still do.

It frustrates me that Jean’s family does not own a functioning television, because I love to point out a program that I know she’ll enjoy. But she does rather frequently buy movies for the boys, classics like “Cars.” Simply plopping the babies in front of any screen that entertains was not my style, nor is it hers.

The more I dip into my parched memory, the more TV programs I find to reminisce over, and the hour is late. What started out to explore the realm of advancing technology has become a discussion of television shows, which was not my intent. In conversation, I’m as guilty as the next person who sniffs, “I really don’t watch much television.” Truth to tell, I watch a good bit of TV. The fact that I’m doing something else at the time does not lessen the time a bit. We watch one local and two national news reports every evening, then “Jeopardy” and “NCIS” after which I retreat to my work space and try to do something profitable for the rest of the evening.

Our can’t-miss favorite show is “NCIS,” no doubt about it. I had the same commitment to “West Wing” several years ago, but that ran a single episode a week. On some days I can find as many as five hours of the good writing and casting of “NCIS,” and can usually find some mindless task like fixing dinner or folding laundry at the same time – but for five hours? No, not even I have been so debauched.

Then there are the BritComs, my favorite being “As Time Goes By.” Anything with “Masterpiece” in the title is going to exert a strong attraction. Our compunction not to waste time has been good discipline for multi-tasking.

I ran across some Web sites for television as I wandered back into the Internet history of that medium and discovered that whole episodes of programs with minimal advertising may be watched at no cost. I watched a complete episode of “Emergency!” on the desktop computer while plodding along at the keyboard of the laptop.

I was really impressed. All too often reruns this old (1972-1979) look incredibly dated, with language and emotion to match. “Emergency!” surprised me. Depictions of emergency techniques – extrication, tracking down a toxic substance, resuscitation – are remarkably accurate and not terribly dated at all.

More important to Fayette County in 2011 is the fact that most of the county’s paramedics and firefighters of 1974 watched the series faithfully and designed their own rescue service very much like that of the Los Angeles County fire department. The service was in its infancy and we first responders believed EMS should work as part of the fire department rather than develop separately. It worked then and it works today, and I really credit the L.A. model.

Enough of this palavering. When I started, I was aiming to tackle the subject of Mark Harmon, a.k.a. Leroy Jethro Gibbs, but it’s too late now.


What’s your favorite TV addiction?