Tales of the Tube

An all-American childhood consists of hours of television watching, not healthy exercise. If only they showed Roy Rogers in HD…

My wife cannot understand my lack of interest in acquiring a high-definition flat-screen television. I, on the other hand, cannot understand my wife’s interest in purchasing something that would intensify my almost Rainman-like fixation on the tube.

There is the logistical fear of what to do with our current 35-inch diagonal monstrosity, which would appear to reflect the cutting-edge technology of Albania. But I believe there might also be the vague fear that HD television would provide the final reason for never leaving the house.
As a kid, I preferred to spend my early Saturday mornings in front of the “vast wasteland,” a bowl of Rice Krispies in hand, then commence my viewing day with a half-hour of watching the network test pattern. I’d turn the sound down so the piercing blare of the audio signal wouldn’t wake up everyone else in the house.
I think there may have been some network preliminaries like the National Anthem and a squadron of jets flying in the air, but the programming began at 6 a.m. with “Captain Midnight,” a cowboy dressed in a space suit. He was sponsored by Ovaltine, so I became a preferred customer. The Captain was followed by “The Roy Rogers Show,” which featured a cowboy dressed as one of the Village People. I always took my first bathroom break of the day whenever Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers would break into song.
Roy was followed by a couple of cartoon shows, which included a pair of malevolent crows named Heckle and Jeckle. The broadcast day continued with “Sky King” (I had a pre-adolescent crush on Penny), then “Fury,” the story of a boy and his horse. That was followed by “Rin Tin Tin,” a story about a boy and his dog. Somewhere in there, if my memory is still intact, was “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon,” the story about a Canadian Mountie and his sled.
I spent most of the afternoon and early evening in my room hiding from my parents, who wanted me to go outside into the humidity and swarms of mosquitoes. Finally, after dinner, I returned to the TV.
That was the era of the one-hour variety show, so it was Jackie Gleason’s “American Scene Magazine,” which was later followed by a host of others—Perry Como, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, Sonny and Cher. Then came “Saturday Night at the Movies,” followed at long last by the jewel of local programming, “Morgus the Magnificent,” a mad doctor aided by his assistant Chopsley, who conducted bizarre scientific experiments during the station breaks of old Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney horror flicks.
After Morgus, I stayed up for the formal end of the broadcast day, which consisted of a prayer, followed by the National Anthem, then the jets again, then the return of the test pattern, which brought me back to square one more or less literally, considering that pattern’s design. Now that’s what I call an All-American childhood.
Oh, and before school during the week, I managed a bit of test pattern followed by “Ding Dong School” and the first half-hour of “Captain Kangaroo” before being forced out of the house. After school, while schoolmates played sports of all kinds in the sunshine, I rushed home to watch “The Three Stooges” (Curleys only, thank you) and “Popeye and Pals” (where I broke into live television when my Cub Scout troop was a guest of the show).
Yeah, an HDTV would be a dangerous thing for me.
I wonder what CB Joe has on sale this month.
Reid Champagne is living proof that a mind is a terrible thing to waste.


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