As a baby-boomer, I'm a true blue, card-carrying product of television. As a child in the 50's and 60's, the TV set was a focal point in a family's development.
On Saturday mornings, the children watched cartoons. This was the only time they could be seen. This was decades before there was a Cartoon Network.
Another popular genre of programming was Westerns. These cowboy heroes included Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger. In my pre-teen years, I also came to know other cowpokes such as Cheyenne, Sugarfoot and The Rifleman.
I still remember getting a Rifleman toy rifle for Christmas. I could fire the caps so quickly that enough smoke would billow from the barrel to fill up a backyard patio. Better yet, I was doing it lefthanded, just like Chuck Connors.
I have vivid recall of Saturday afternoons watching Tarzan. As far as I was concerned, Johnny Weissmuller was the only real Tarzan. After all, he wrestled alligators and lions with his bare hands.
The television set, with the rabbit ears to tune in better reception and the vast variety of three network channel options brought entertainment to our living rooms. But that box was not constantly turned on.
All TV stations signed-off the air sometime around midnight, every night, by playing the national anthem.
Don't tell me you never fell asleep on the couch only to wake-up to a picture of a test pattern and a monotone audio signal that could make a dog turn his head sideways?
Don't touch that dial
It was during an interview with Atlanta Braves owner, Ted Turner, here in Charleston in 1980 or so, that he told me he was about to launch a 24-hour, cable news channel. He told me it would be headquartered in Atlanta and would be called CNN.
I remember asking why he thought people would watch news around the clock. He replied that the signal would be carried via satellite around the world and that somebody, somewhere would be watching it.
People definitely will watch TV at all hours. Sometimes, the show doesn't really have to be good — just available. Maybe that's why I find myself now watching Moonshiners, Naked and Afraid, and Finding Bigfoot.
Spanning the globe
There's no telling what will draw people to watch a program these days. In the early days of ESPN, as they sought to find content, I remember watching muscular guys race carrying refrigerators on their backs. Maybe there was a sponsorship tie-in with BenGay?
Before you think our programming today is so much more sophisticated, I just recently watched the annual wife carrying championship. It's true, that's what it's called, though the two participants don't have to be married.
This competition originated in Finland and requires that a woman wrap her legs around a man's neck and shoulders while hanging upside down on his back with her arms wrapped around his waist. They then race through an obstacle course.
Now that I think about it, it's probably best that the participants aren't husband and wife. Most marriages wouldn't survive the training runs.
The stuff that gets televised these days amazes me. But we watch it. Recently, even corn hole competitions are receiving TV time.
There are more stations and more options than ever before, but I'm not sure the shows are better. Now if Bigfoot was playing corn hole and The Rifleman could just shoot those bean bags out of the air before they hit the ground — then we might have something.