Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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May 24, 2014

I miss the days when there was a TV season

Athens — There are many ills affecting society today, and for most of them, I blame television.

No, I’m not talking about the poor writing, the obsession with sex or the graphic violence. It’s not the endless stream of reality shows or singing competitions. I’m upset that there’s no such thing as a TV season anymore.

There was a time when folks knew the TV seasons about as well as they knew spring, summer, winter and fall.

They could start watching new episodes of Bonanza about the time the kids went back to school in September.  A few shows would bite the dust around January, but for most, the season came to a halt in May.

That was OK with us.  We didn’t have air conditioning, and it was too hot to sit in front of the 21-inch black-and-white set anyway.

Back when the TV networks were born, they seemed to have an eye on the changing seasons in developing their programming.

In the early days of TV, a series would have 39 new shows a year, then a few summer re-runs. When the re-runs started, we knew it was safe to turn off the set and do other things, like listen to the ball game on the radio.

If we just had to watch TV, summer was a time to catch a re-run of one of the series that conflicted with our favorites, like the year the Wild Wild West was up against the Green Hornet.

Back in those days, we didn’t have a VCR, and there was only one TV in the house, so we had to pick a show to watch.

Sometimes, it was hard to come to agreement on whether to see Bewitched or That Girl. Bitter arguments would ensue. Dad would always lean to the westerns. That meant Daniel Boone won out over Batman.

We were church-goers, and it always seemed that the networks would put some of the best stuff on Sunday nights, just to try to lure folks to stay away from the Lord’s house. While we were listening to Brother Pruitt, we knew the Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. was on the tube heading the FBI, Walt Disney was showing Old Yeller and Ed Sullivan was introducing the Beatles.

If you went to the Wednesday-night service, you missed the Beverly Hillbillies, which remains one of the most popular shows of all time in audience share. In a way, the DVR has made it easier to gather with the rest of the congregation, and not be a backslider.

The DVR brings its own set of problems. We record so may shows, we can’t possibly watch them all. Finally, its memory starts to fill up, and we have to make deletions. We didn’t really want to watch the rest of the 2008 Olympics anyway.”

The show today that seems like a throwback to old time television is NCIS. The characters are all likeable, and the plots are easily forgetable.

Mark Harmon is great as Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. The women think he’s great looking, and the men wish they could get away with thumping people on the head.

I think the decline in television programming coincides with the increased size of the TV screens. A show that might not have looked so good on a 21-inch screen can be simply spellbinding an a 60-inch set. And the colors are so brilliant, it’s a wonder they don’t burn the retina, like looking into the sun.

I’ve meandered a bit from my original topic, which is the crazy state of today’s TV seasons. Instead of getting 39 episodes of your favorite show, you might get just 13. The Walking Dead, which is one of the most talked-about shows, has had four seasons and 51 episodes. At that rate, the zombies will have to lumber around until about 2050 to break Gunsmoke’s record.

With all of the channels these days, and all of the new series, I don’t know when the new seasons are going to start. 

One thing’s for certain. It’s never going to be the way it was in the old days. There are too many shows, and too many ways to watch them.

Still, I miss the days when the whole family would gather in front of one TV set to share an evening of viewing. You don’t see that much anymore, except at the beginning of the Simpsons.

Rich Flowers is news editor for the Athens Daily Review.

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