I’m old enough to remember the vast wasteland before it was memorialized as the “vast wasteland.” (For those of you too young to remember, the “vast wasteland” was the sobriquet pronounced upon the fledgling soporific medium called TV by Newton Minnow, the man President John Kennedy appointed Chairman of the Federal Communication Commission -FCC.)
I thought of the “vast wasteland” as our community of elders was gathered in front of the TV screen experiencing the “global village” – another, more uplifting phrase than Newton Minnow’s – with which the great TV Guru, Marshall McLuhan, knighted the still developing medium of eye candy – although to Marshall, it was more health bar than sugar.
And to us residents of the ALF (Assisted Living Facility), we were not part of a world-wide community, but a local group watching a football game of the neighboring college. “Go Team! Rah Rah!
We didn’t have football games to watch in the olden days, nor basketball, nor soccer, nor golf, nor tennis, bowling or the wide world of sports.
In those early days, the so-called Idiot Box, spewed forth live pictures of Professional Wrestling and Roller Derbies – both “knock’em/sock’em fun-filled events. The “waste land” was pretty narrow when the landfill began.
But channel capacity exploded, and despite the sourpuss, Bruce Springsteen – 57 Channels (And Nothin On) – everyone loved TV – and craved more.
Prayers were answered by the Cable Industry and the Satellite Industry. Soon 57 channels became microscopic. Channels greater than seven hundred slipped into the home by way of Fiber Optics or descended from the skies Valkyrie-like via satellites and were hospitably welcomed by Dishes.
I remember our first TV. How important watching TV was to our family. Like the ancient Neanderthals, we bonded as a tribe, gathered in a semicircle in our living room around the cool fire of the flickering black and white images flaring from our modern version of an indoor camp fire.
How tiny was the glassed-in screen! Just a bit bigger than today’s preferred mobile phone screens, which you can watch while waiting for a bus, sipping a latte in your favorite coffee shop, or while sitting in the stands watching a better football game than the one you’re attending – although if you prefer watching your TV in stationary mode, while in your home, you can peer at Samsung’s new humongous 110 inch screen.
Vast Wasteland or Garden of Eden, we the public are faced with Hamlet’s existential perplexity – TV or not (to) TV. But in the ALF, we gaze at the candy
Dick Weinman is an AARP Oregon Volunteer and ALF guru