Category Archives: siblings

What It Was Like to Watch TV in the Dark Ages

This post was brought to you by this old photo I recently came across, of the family room in the house where I grew up.

When I was growing up, the Twin Brothers Rama and I were allowed to watch one hour of TV on school nights. Ours was not a household where the TV was always running in the background; you had to ask permission to turn it on and you had to have a program in mind that you were going to watch, be it the Cosby Show, Knight Ryder, Dukes of Hazzard, or Family Ties.

The way you knew if there was a program you wanted to watch was by consulting the TV Guide, which came with the Sunday paper and had programs listed in it on rudimentary charts where times and dates intersected to tell you what was going to be on.

When it was time for the program to start, you would sit down on the couch like a human being and direct your full attention at the screen for the duration. Which is to say you would watch one show straight through from start to finish, commercials and all. If you were lucky, you got some hot buttered popcorn straight from the wok and if not, you just ate nuts which you cracked open yourself. If you wanted to change the channel, you had to stand up, walk over to the TV set, and turn the knob like a monkey in the zoo.

Every couple of minutes, your dad would run over to the TV set and start fiddling with the rabbit ears and your mom would tell him to sit down.

“Just leave it alone! You’re making it worse.”

But your Dad would never leave it alone. Not right away, anyway.

“As long as someone stands here with one finger on the antenna and one foot on the floor, we’re good,” is what he would say.

When he was done fiddling, the reception would be perfect for the three seconds it took him to run back to his spot on the couch.

If you wanted to watch a movie, you would go down to the Video Store with your entire family on Saturday afternoon to rent one plus a VCR, which weighed forty pounds and took up half of the space in the trunk of your Buick Regal.

As the hour drew nearer for movie night to start, you would start angling for a good seat on the couch, on the edge by the end table. You would do anything to avoid getting stuck in the middle between the Twin Brothers Rama – mouth breathers both – even if that meant staking out the spot three hours ahead of time and acting surprised when you looked up from your book to find that it was time for movie night already.

God help you if a love scene came on once the movie started, because guess what – your parents were watching, too. You’d have to sit perfectly still and act completely disinterested while in fact you were taking copious mental notes.

Your mother would say to your father, “Why does Hollywood have to ruin every perfectly good movie with gratuitous sex? It’s disgusting!” And you would be simultaneously embarrassed and irritated because you felt that your parents should not be allowed to watch – or comment – on that sort of thing.

The next morning your Dad would pack the VCR up and take it back to the Video Store before the stroke of noon.

And you know something? Those were good times.

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