2007
12.27

Lost in Space

When I was a kid, we had like six channels at most. We had the three major networks (kids, not too long ago, NBC, ABC and CBS were it), PBS and a couple of local stations from New York. As a result of this, we had a sort of different relationship with TV than you kids have now.

For example, I would spend a good portion of my TV time adjusting the antenna. Oh, yeah, this was pre-cable. You kids today don’t know what you’re missing. We used to have to do all manner of crazy things to get good reception sometimes. For example, for WPIX in New York, I had to hold on to part of the back of the TV and lean at exactly the right angle. Otherwise, static.

And I wasn’t doing this for any great new show. No, I was doing this for reruns of 1960’s sitcoms, like Bewitched or Gilligan’s Island.

This is something that I wonder about. One thing that unites a culture is shared experience. There were so few channels and so many repeats back then, I think my generation is really linked by common knowledge of bad situation comedies. Instead of, say, biblical characters, most of us could tell you who Dr. Bombay was, who he was played by, what show he was on, and why you couldn’t always trust him.

I mean, for example.

Anyhow, TV back then was pretty lame. It was sort of pre-video game. On WPIX, they had an innovative videogame thing going on. You would call in the station and for like five minutes a day, they would do this thing where a single kid could try and score points on a Pong like video game. You had to say “PIX” into the phone to make the controller do anything. I never got to do this, but it seemed like the height of technology back then.

I also ended up watching a lot of Star Trek and Lost in Space. I think the fact that there was so little programming back in the 1970’s is part of what allowed Star Trek to develop into the phenomenon that it became. If it had flopped a few years later, like at the dawn of the cable era, it would have vanished into obscurity. Like Eartf 2.

But, no, it was broadcast again and again and again and you really couldn’t miss it because there was nothing else on except (ugh) news.

Oh, and Saturday Morning Cartoons. I don’t know if this phenomenon still exists today, but for the entire decade of the 1970’s, it was a big deal when the networks would roll our their new Saturday Morning Cartoon line-up. They would have a prime time special about their new shows. We would watch it obsessively, my brother and I, trying to figure out exactly what times we needed to change the channel so we could catch all the superheroes shows.

Except Isis. That one was for girls.

Anyhow, I think that since cartoons can pretty much be seen 24/7 now, that whole phenomenon is sort of dead. Alas.

As the number of cable channels multiply, our culture gets more diffuse. Forget about trying to make the country a single language – we should try to make the U.S.A. have to watch like two channels again. That would bring us together in no time.

I suggest “Sci Fi” and “Bravo.”

  1. But my kids require a daily dose of Spongebob or the world will explode, so we can’t get rid of Nickelodeon.

  2. We can replace Sci Fi with the Cartoon Network and ask them to broadcast spongebob when they aren’t showing adult swim cartoons.

  3. WHAT ABOUT THE YULE LOG, JOEY?!?

  4. Holy cats! The yule Log was WPIX’s masterpiece. I remember it well.