I Am Of the TV Generation

Good vs. Evil canstockphoto10608304

I came to a sort of shocking realization a couple days ago – I am of the TV generation.

I realized this as I was watching a show where one guy said to a buddy, “I think I’m going to get rid of my TV.”  The buddy was flabbergasted, unbelieving, until the first guy said, “Nah, just kidding, I’m getting one of those 60-inch screens man, are you kidding?!”

I thought about that and realized that if I didn’t have a TV – and mine is nowhere near 60 inches mind you – I’d probably really miss it.

Is that a good thing or not?  I don’t know.  Maybe some of you Week-Enders can help me with this one.

I grew up at a time when having a TV in the house was not a common thing.  In fact, we got the first TV in our bucolic Wisconsin farming area and I can remember how popular we suddenly were on Saturday nights.

This was a black and white TV with a screen about the size of a notepad screen today.  Reception was sort of fuzzy and there were only a couple of stations we could pick up with the rabbit ears and the bulky antennae outside.  But the neighbors didn’t seem to mind.  They’d come over to watch wrestling or westerns and eat popcorn.

I think I was one of the first generation to sometimes be baby-sat by the TV.  I dimly remember that when my mother needed to make the routine country breakfast of eggs, ham or bacon, oatmeal, real butter and real milk, she often set me down to watch Elmer Fudd chasing that Waskally Wabbit or the Roadrunner making a fool out of Wile E. Coyote.

My parents weren’t real progressive people and we didn’t have a lot of money, so I’m not sure what drove them to actually buy the TV.  Maybe my older siblings encouraged them; I was the youngest of four, so I just went with the flow.

TV was simply a part of life for me, just as computers are second nature to today’s toddlers. A lady told me the other day that her 9-year old son said to her, “Mom, your computer is broken, do you want me to fix it?” and he did!

Of course, I couldn’t fix the TV back then, but I did get pretty good at adjusting the rabbit ears so we got the very best reception when Matt Dillon ambled down the street of Dodge City in my dad’s favorite show, “Gunsmoke.”

So, anyway, back to my original point:  I like having a TV in the house.  I would truly miss it if it wasn’t there.  The jury is still out on whether or not that is good, bad or indifferent.

Of course, these days we have one in practically every room so everybody can watch whatever their particular favorite show is.  We used to have one in the family room but everybody always wanted something different so now the family room is where we get together to get away from the TVs and – well – be a family.

The thing is, when TV first came out there were virtually no choices.  You watched what came on at 8 p.m. on one network or the other, period, and mom or dad usually made that decision for us.  Bedtime was 9:30 and the stations went off at midnight playing the National Anthem.

Now, there are like ten zillion channels, networks, movies, etc., etc., etc. so the choices are virtually unlimited.  Oh, and channel surfing, that wasn’t even a concept!  Split screen wasn’t even science fiction.

Now you can multi-TV-task; watch the news, keep track of the weather, get your stock quotes, learn how to fish, do Yoga and plan your vacation all in a five-minute window…in Hi-Definition, surround-sound, 3-D.

You can get your signal via cable, satellite, computer or, I don’t know, mental telepathy.

How far we have come in a relatively short period of time; but is it good or is it bad or is it simply progress?

You tell me.  Is TV advancement in human evolution, or is it a vehicle that dumbs-down society and limits physical activity to a point where it becomes hazardous to our health as a species?

I think, perhaps, it is like any other tool that has been devised by man, albeit a more complicate one.

When man first discovered the stick to be a good means of obtaining game to feed the family, it wasn’t long before it was discovered it could also be used to dominate other humans.

When fire was found to be useful to keep warm and cook food, it was also discovered to be useful to burn down villages.

When the wheel was identified as a great way to haul commodities or people, it was also attached to vehicles that carried warriors and weapons.

And on and on – gun powder, aircraft, nuclear power; each time one group of humans finds a useful application for something, another group finds a non-productive or even destructive use.

So, back once again to the central topic and why this is important to parks and recreation Week-Enders, who have committed their lives to creating opportunities for people to get away from their TVs.

TV, even for a guy like me brought up on it, should not replace life.  Everything that happens on TV is fabrication, production, exaggeration, acting, lights, cameras and action.  I think sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that; yeah, those “reality” shows are produced too!

Parks and recreation professionals, when you think about it, you are one of the last bastions of reality, providing real-life opportunities to young (and not-so-young) men and women to experience the real world.

Whether its dance or sports, rock climbing or tree climbing, macramé or painting, fishing or white water rafting…whatever the endeavor…you guys are out there providing the opportunities to reconnect to reality.

This doesn’t make TV a bad thing, right?  To me it just makes it another distraction in an already distracting world.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Beaufort, S.C.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email cwo4usmc@comcast.net.