100 TV Memories

When we did get the color TV, the thing I most wanted to watch was The Wizard of Oz that spring, which I had viewed every year for nearly a decade.

Jaquandor did 100 Movie Memories a couple of months ago, and followed up with 100 Teevee Memories, “a collection of memories about teevee watching, memories of teevee shows, thoughts on the teevee experience, and so on.”

I may do the movie thing eventually, but TV just appealed to me more immediately.

1. When I grew up in Binghamton, NY, there were two TV stations, WNBF, Channel 12, and WINR, Channel 40. We tended to watch Channel 12 more often, not because my grandfather worked there as a janitor, but because the reception on VHF (Channels 2-13) was better than the reception on UHF (Channels 14-83).

2. But maybe because Pop worked there, I appeared at least three times on various kids’ show, usually hosted by Bill Parker, who was some TV ranch club guy, and Officer Bill the policeman (though I may have been too old for the latter). A guy named Len Hathaway was the Admiral in Popeye and the Admiral. It was Popeye who got me to each spinach at an age I consumed very few veggies.

3. Our church choir also appeared on a telethon every year for a number of years on WNBF, but for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you for what cause.

4. Of course, I watched Captain Kangaroo. It was a whole world of Grandfather Clock, Bunny Rabbit, Mr. Moose and especially, Mr. Green Jeans. I got called that a lot in my early days of school. Then there was the bizarre animation of Clutch Cargo, which I think Conan O’Brien has emulated.

5. I did watch the Mickey Mouse Club. It was only later that I realized that they were repeats, that I really had NO chance with Annette. Tuesday is Guest Star Day. I learned how to spell encyclopedia from Jiminy Cricket.

6. But I have NO recollection of Howdy Doody or like kids shows.

7. Channel 12 in Binghamton was the CBS affiliate, and Channel 40 the NBC one. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that WNBF, and possibly WINR, were also carrying at least some of the ABC shows at the fringe hours around prime time. For instance, Lawrence Welk would be on at, as I recall, 6 pm on Saturday night. Maverick was on either Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

8. I have a specific recollection of sitting in front of the TV set at 6:55 a.m. on a Saturday morning in 1962(?), waiting for our ABC affiliate, WBJA, to come on the air. Sure enough, on Channel 34, there was TV programming where there was no TV programming.

9. My favorite cartoons early on were the Hanna-Barbera characters such as Quick Draw McGraw, Yogi Bear, and especially Huckleberry Hound. I remember being in the hospital with a severe nosebleed at the age of five and a half, watching them.

10. There were also H-B shows in prime time, namely, The Flintstones and The Jetsons, an experiment that seemingly ended until The Simpsons. The Flintstones used to sell Winston cigarettes, which were my father’s brand.

11. I’d go to my Grandma Williams’ house for lunch, and aunt Deana and I would watch JEOPARDY! with Art Fleming. I decided then I wanted to be on the show.

12. After school, my grandma and aunt would watch their soaps, Edge of Night and Secret Storm, which I’d catch occasionally but knew the storylines. In the summer, I’d also catch up on As the World Turns and Guiding Light.

13. I saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot on live TV by Jack Ruby.

14. Fairly early on, before I was 10, I remember watching the national news. Initially it was the Huntley-Brinkley Report. I know this because I remember the theme song, which was Beethoven’s 9th symphony, 2nd movement. Later, I switched to CBS and Cronkite.

15. The Beatles cartoons! Had to watch. Though that cutesy effect of the cartoon stopped working when the music got more sophisticated. I think the last cartoon I saw featured Strawberry Fields Forever, which got edited because it was too long, though apparently not too weird.

16. I watched a few other cartoons, such as Jonny Quest, but the standbys were Rocky & Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle, and whatever they were calling the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner/Daffy Duck package that season.

17. Most of the shows I watched for years: Lassie, in various incarnations, for one. Lots of primetime game shows, such as To Tell the Truth, I’ve Got a Secret, eventually, What’s My Line (which was on Sunday at 10:30 pm – what was I doing up?)

18. Yes, I did watch the country-based sitcoms such as the Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres. If you look at top 100 episodes in terms of ratings, ignoring the Super Bowls, miniseries, series finales, and other special events (Beatles on Sullivan, e.g.), the Beverly Hillbillies regular season shows RULED. I also watched iterations of Lucille Ball’s shows, Andy Griffith, Danny Thomas, Dick van Dyke, Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Ed…

19. I also managed to see most of the variety shows on CBS. In addition to Sullivan: Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, and eventually Carol Burnett.

20. But I did watch a lot of the dramas as well, even though they seem to have been on at an hour I should have been in bed: Gunsmoke, even a show called East Side/West Side with George C. Scott. And of course, The Twilight Zone. Later, my father and I were great fans of Mission: Impossible.

21. And I always had a soft spot for lawyer shows: from Perry Mason (which has one of the best TV themes as a piece of music that can stand alone), to The Defenders (E.G. Marshall/Robert Reed), Judd for the Defense, the lawyer (and senator) segments of The Bold Ones, to LA Law.

22. My mother had a great crush on David Janssen, which explained why she watched The Fugitive, 10 pm on Tuesday night. The Fugitive was the first show I remember with an Important Series Finale, a two-parter in August 1967.

23. When they made the Hulk TV show some years later, I swear they stole old Fugitive plots.

24. I watched virtually every show the late Bill Bixby was in: My Favorite Martian, The Incredible Hulk, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, The Magician, even Goodnight, Beantown, which was not very good. I just liked him and was sad that he died so young.

25. I didn’t understand it at the time, but there were a lot of syndicated shows I watched, such as Sea Hunt (Lloyd Bridges) and Death Valley Days (host Ronald Reagan). But there were also programs that had been on the air, but now in second-run, such as December Bride.

26. I LOVED The Millionaire, which I saw in reruns. These people who’d get an anonymous check and, as often as not, end up miserable.

27. I found something peculiar about how Get Smart moved from NBC to CBS. Wasn’t the first or last time this happened – I blogged about it in 2006 – but was unsettling at the time.

28. When I used to go visit my grandfather upstairs, we’d play gin rummy. He’d be watching Wide World of Sports, or a sporting event, or Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins.

29. As noted, I remember when the bulk of ABC and CBS shows went to color c. 1966, though I did not have a color TV to truly appreciate it.

30. I saw Robert Kennedy get shot after the California primary in 1968, which was REALLY late at night.

31. We didn’t have a color TV until Christmas of 1969, or possibly Christmas of 1970. Occasionally, though, we’d see color TV at the home of my grandmother’s next-door neighbors. One of the girls was my sister Leslie’s best friend, and they had one of those massive pieces of furniture. I recall watching Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (in color!) and, in the summer, Bonanza, both Sunday night shows.

32. When we did get the color TV, the thing I most wanted to watch was The Wizard of Oz that spring, which I had viewed every year for nearly a decade. I never GOT the movie until then. The “horse of a different color” used to be varying shades of gray.

33. I was a big fan of the talk show with Dick Cavett. He often came off as though he were the smartest guy in the room, but sometimes he was.

34. When I went to college at New Paltz in 1971, suddenly, I had a wealth of channels: the network affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC for both New York City AND Albany, plus the independent stations 5, 9, and 11 in NYC, plus the PBS station from NYC. If Binghamton had a PBS station – it did since 1968 – I never watched it. But now that I was in college, I became a real fan of Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Zoom.

35. In the 1970s, though, I was also watching the great shows from Norman Lear (All in the Family) and MTM (Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, and later, WKRP in Cincinnati).

36. I watched MASH from the beginning to its overlong conclusion. I wish it had ended when Radar left.

37. I also watched the MTM dramas: the usually pedantic Lou Grant, the White Shadow, and especially Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere.

38. You DO know most of TV is a figment of Tommy Westphal’s mind, don’t you?

39. I was also a sucker for those shows that were Quinn Martin productions; besides The Fugitive, I watched The F.B.I., The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, and Barnaby Jones. I also watched Mannix and The Rockford Files a lot.

40. There was an umbrella title called the NBC Sunday (or Tuesday or Wednesday) Mystery Movie. It included Columbo, McMillan and Wife, McCloud, The Snoop Sisters, Tenafly, and some others. I definitely watched the first three for quite a while.

41. I tended to watch WABC local news in New York. One of the reporters was Geraldo Rivera, back when he was good.

42. But for the weekend news, I tended to watch this guy Ed Dague out of Albany/Schenectady, who later became the most-respected anchor in that market.

43. I became fascinated with the Albany-Schenectady TV market, even before I moved here. It has a lot of TV history. But more immediately, it went through two network affiliation switches in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which just confounded me.

44. I’m so obsessed with network affiliations, I wrote about it the very first month of blogging.

45. When ABC put Roots on for eight straight nights, I was peeved: America’s not going to watch eight straight nights of that kind of programming. I was living in Charlotte at the time and watched all but a half-hour (on Saturday) of it with my family. Oh, and I was wrong about America. And the people who did the costuming were wrong about Ed Asner’s wig.

46. Started watching CBS Sunday Morning, then with the late Charles Kuralt in 1979. Still watching, with Charles Osgood; a great magazine on the air. Thank goodness for the VCR and the DVR, because it clashes with choir rehearsal.

47. At some point during the Iran hostage crisis, I began watching ABC News’ show covering it. It evolved into Nightline, and I watched it regularly until Ted Koppel left.

48. There was a news analysis show called Agronsky & Company in the early 1980s. I know this for sure because the late Raoul Vezina drew me a card with me, as the duck, asking if that show were on yet.

49. I only watched two episodes of Dallas, the episode when he got shot and the reveal. Before the latter aired, I guessed correctly who shot JR. Never watched, except in passing, Falcon Crest, Dynasty, The Colbys.

50. Speaking of which: there are certain shows that I’ve never, ever seen that were on long enough for me to have at least tripped over. Probably #1 in longevity: Little House on the Prairie.

51. I also never saw the Brady Bunch during its original run, though I saw it occasionally in reruns.

52. Saturday Night Live: watched it fairly regularly for 25 seasons, though the good and the bad, and the bad that wasn’t as bad as the critics said. Since then, only targeted shows. The last one: Betty White hosted.

53. I came home for lunch in 1981 and watched some raw, graphic footage from ABC News of the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981, footage I never saw again.

54. I watched many, though not all of the Thursday night NBC comedy lineup in the 1980s: Cosby, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court, and Taxi, which bounced around nights and networks. Cosby was fine, until they brought in the Raven-Symone character; always liked the ever-changing theme song. Cheers I liked, though it took me a LONG time to warm up to Rebecca.

55. I really liked Frasier, except for one arc when Niles was poor, which seemed particularly snippy.

56. One show I enjoyed, although it was not great, was The Powers That Be, with John Forsythe as a US Senator, Holland Taylor as his wife, Valerie Mahaffey as their married daughter, a pre-Frasier David Hyde Pierce as her philandering husband/Congressman, and Elizabeth Berridge as the maid he was philandering with.

57. I’d almost watch 2.5 Men for Holland Taylor. Almost.

58. MTV wasn’t available the first year in this market. By the time it was, I watched it a LOT. But as music became less important to MTV, MTV became less important to me.

59. I was a big fan of Barney Miller, though more so after Fish left.

60. This is how much Cagney & Lacey got in my brain. I’d go to sleep and dream about the continuation of the plot I had seen. I remember listening to the show during the October 1987 power outage due to the freak snowstorm; does not work as radio.

61. I was never a fan of the original Star Trek series, though my father was. Didn’t get into it until syndication. But I watched The Next Generation religiously. May have missed one episode during its entire run. But never really warmed up to the other iterations.

62. The only episode of Magnum PI I ever saw was a crossover with Murder, She Wrote, a show I watched even though it was the same plot every week.

63. I watched The Simpsons every week, from their intro on the Tracy Ullman Show to about 1999, when I lost interest. It doesn’t help that my wife really seems to dislike it.

64. Never watched Beverly Hills 90210 or Melrose Place, except once, when I was at a laundromat and one of them was on. My greatest fears were confirmed.

65. When I was an enumerator for the 1990 Census, I watched a couple of soap operas on NBC. But the one that stuck the longest was Another World, which I watched until just before it went off the air in 1999, and realized there was no way to record the show for a week and go on my honeymoon in Barbados.

66.The Newhart finale was the best last episode I ever saw. And our local affiliate screwed it up.

67. I watched NYPD Blue for its entire run. Underrated show. Jaquandor used this video, which was a great choice.

68. I liked Seinfeld early on, but there became a point where it just got too mean-spirited for me, some point after the death of Susan.

69. I watched ER until a doctor got his arm severed by a helicopter. Then I found my way back, only to leave for good – except the last couple episodes – when that same doctor died via helicopter.

70. I was a fan of thirtysomething, a bigger fan of My So-Called Life, and a huge fan of Once and Again, all shows by creators Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick.

71. My favorite show of the 1990s: Homicide: Life on the Street. But I’ve never seen The Wire, another David Chase product.

72. I quit watching Friends about six times. Eventually, I came back for a while. BTW, I couldn’t tell Chandler and Joey apart the first season. Really.

73. The West Wing is a show I should have loved. The first two or three seasons, I did, but somewhere along the line, it began to bore me, and I quit it. I did see about the last half of the last season, which was a suitable ending.

74. David E. Kelley has some good ideas, but he and his team stretch them too thin. That was true with Picket Fences, Ally McBeal, The Practice/Boston Legal, and Boston Public, all of which I watched for a considerable amount of time before I said to the TV set, “Oh, come ON now!” Never watched Chicago Hope, which, initially, was up against ER.

75. Regular watcher of Law & Order, the original, from season 2 through what ever season Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) left.

76. Other L&O shows I tend to watch only when I’m on the road. They are ALWAYS on.

77. I also watch ESPN Sportscenter when I’m away, but hardly ever when I’m in town.

78. When I travel, I like to watch the local news. I’m a big supporter of “must-carry” rules that mandate that the cable company carry the local stations. Otherwise, when you’re watching TV, you could be in Detroit or Des Moines or Denver; cable has created a homogenizing effect.

79. The Super Bowl leadout show has been a mixed bag. Was there a more successful pilot in that slot than The Wonder Years?

80. Reality TV: watched the Loud family on PBS in the 1970s, the first four seasons of The Real World in the 1990s. A couple of seasons of Survivor, but got bored. A couple of seasons of the Apprentice, ditto. The problem with reality TV, even the shows that don’t offend me (I’ve seen Extreme Makeover: Home Edition once or twice), is that they ALL create a sense of faux drama. The idea of bringing back people (Boston Rob) to these shows makes it even MORE absurd.

81. Should mention, I suppose, my appearance on JEOPARDY!

82. I discovered the Chuck Lorre placards at the end of Dharma and Greg. Really.

83. My specific recollection of watching the 9/11 coverage is that there was a shot from a church, looking up as plane #2 hit. I watched for hours that day, then less as the week passed. But ABC News’ Peter Jennings did a segment for kids over the weekend which I thought was rather good.

84. I’m convinced that watching shows such as Cops and America’s Most Wanted warp people’s perception of other human beings.

85. Started watching American Idol at the very end of the first season. Watched it until Taylor Hicks won. Haven’t watched it since. But I did learn, before I abandoned it, not to even begin watching until they pared the list down to a few dozen. I long ago stopped watching the audition shows.

86. I watched the first season of 24. The first 13 shows were great, but the rest meandered until the depressing climax. The second season I got turned off with the first show and pretty much weaned myself off it because of its fascistic approach, which, terrifyingly, seemed to resonate with the general public.

87. Discovered Gilmore Girls in repeats after the first season, watched it all the way through good shows, and some more than bad ones.

88. I don’t watch Dancing with the Stars, but my wife does. But she’s weeks behind, as usual, yet has found a way NOT to know who won this season – I know – so DON’T TELL HER! [Ah, she just watched it!]

89. Stuck at the Urgent Care place, I managed to be subjected to America’s Funniest Home Videos, which were, universally not funny. I suspect a guy getting hit in the crotch was once humorous, but repeatedly, not so much.

90. I watch Grey’s Anatomy, which also has its good and bad storylines. But its spinoff, Private Practice, seems to have gotten more of the bad ones.

91. I tend to watch quirky dramedies based in Alaska, such as Northern Exposure and Men in Trees.

92. I generally watch Presidential inaugurations. But I was so depressed after the reelection that I passed on the 2005 event.

93. I always watch the State of the Union, though usually taped. One gets through the applause MUCH faster that way.

94. There are some perfectly good shows I just never got into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files (though I did see three episodes) immediately come to mind.

95. Conversely, there are shows such as Jersey Shore that I don’t need to watch to dismiss out of hand.

96. I used to watch shows with The Daughter. Little Bear was slow but pleasant. I actually liked The Wonder Pets. Some of the others were irritating. But now, if it’s a show I’ve seen, she’s on her own for that 30 minutes.

97. I may never have a TV in the bedroom. I wouldn’t mind, actually, but the wife thinks it’s just not a good thing.

98. I don’t watch TV in real-time anymore. Haven’t for years. First, it was the VCR, then the DVR. So those few times I DO watch live TV, usually, at someone else’s house, I get very impatient.

99. Fast-forwarding through the commercials means I miss some cultural references. I’ll be at a party and someone will say, “Did you see the ad where…”, and my answer, almost invariably, is no, except for the Super Bowl.

100. My favorite current sitcom: Modern Family
My favorite current drama: The Good Wife.