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Remember when TV programming was special?

By Walter Geiger I’m not much of a TV watcher. I got into ‘˜Desperate Housewives’ but they cancelled it. That was the first show I had watched regularly since ‘˜Mork and Mindy’. I’ve seen not one episode of ‘˜Seinfeld’. My male friends tell me that I missed a lot there. So be it. All the weekend hoopla over the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, got me thinking about how television programming has evolved. My earliest memories of scheduled programming are of my maternal grandparents listening to the Grand Ole Opry on a cabinet style radio that was festooned with a fascinating array of dials and push buttons. I was forbidden to touch it and still haven’t. Soon, black and white TV sets arrived in our homes. In Savannah, we got two channels: 3 and 11. From a young age, I read the Savannah and Atlanta newspapers each morning. At night, I watched the local and national news. My parents were plugged into current events and I was, too. Walter Cronkite on one channel and Huntley and Brinkley on the other delivered the news professionally. I’m sure their writers had their biases but these newsmen came off as honest and trustworthy. They had a bully pulpit but did not seem to abuse it. Todays ‘˜news’ programs have devolved to five or six hosts and guests trying to scream over each other while debating government issued talking points. I tune out. Back in the day, there were programs my brothers and I watched all the time. I can’t remember exactly what my much younger sister favored but we didn’t miss ‘˜Ripcord’, ‘˜Rat Patrol’, ‘˜Bonanza’, The Wild, Wild West,’ ‘˜Man from UNCLE’, ‘˜Lost in Space’ and, well, those of you who were around back then get the picture. My parents and grandparents made us sit through ‘˜The Lawrence Welk Show’ and I have hated the sound of an accordion since. My grandfather loved ‘˜Sanford & Son’. He cackled aloud to it and took to calling us all Dummy as Fred Sanford referred to Lamont. We did watch Ed Sullivan’s ‘˜really big shoe’, as he pronounced it. In addition to John, Paul, George and Ringo, he introduced us to Elvis, The Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones and other British Invasion acts. Soon, color televisions became available. I remember watching in awe as The Wizard of Oz transformed into a world of color once Dorothy and Toto crash landed their flying house near the Yellow Brick Road, crushing the wicked witch upon touchdown. TV was special then. I sat transfixed as the grainy images came through of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon. These days, TV is anything but special unless you like watching the idiot Miley Cyrus twerking. I stick to sports, news and weather when something is breaking and the occasional movie. None of the other broadcast drivel holds much interest for me. The audience is out there though. How else could one explain Honey Boo Boo? Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of the Herald Gazette.

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