Better Living Through Television

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Like many of my generation, I was a TV kid. I grew up an only child in one of the first regions of the country to offer cable TV, eastern Pennsylvania, sandwiched roughly evenly between Philadelphia and New York City.

Our local cable company delivered the three major network affiliates from both cities, as well as iconic regional channels such as New York’s WPIX (channel 11) WWOR (channel 9) and WNYW (channel 5) in addition to Philadelphia’s WPHL (channel 17) and WTFX (channel 29).

At the time, it was an embarrassment of riches: Yankees, Mets and Phillies games; “The Odd Couple,” “The Munsters” and “Get Smart” reruns; “Creature Double Feature” on Friday nights; not to mention locally produced original children’s programming like Bob McAllister’s “Wonderama,” “Captain Noah And His Magical Ark,” “Chief Halftown” and “The Magic Garden.”

I was schooled in pop music by “American Bandstand,” “The Steel Pier Show” and “Soul Train” on Saturday afternoons, and “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” on Saturday nights. And I give as much credit for my excellent early education to Mr. Rogers, Mr. Hooper and the gang from “The Electric Company,” as I do to my elementary school teachers.

TV in the ’70s was my escape from the boring steel town that I lived in. It kept me company as a latchkey kid whose parents both worked. It made Saturday mornings the best few hours of my week, as an endless string of cartoons washed over me in between commercials for sugary cereals and artificially flavored fruit drinks.

My relationship with TV was on my mind this week for a number of reasons, but there is one in particular.

Last week I attended the annual Anti-Defamation League’s National Consumer Technology Industry dinner where Sony’s Mike Fasulo, Murray Huppin of Huppin’s/OneCall and BrandSource’s John T. White were honored for their philanthropic efforts (see the highlights). The first part of the evening was a silent auction of merchandise donated by some very generous industry companies and individuals, and the item that stopped me in my tracks was an absolutely gorgeous 65-inch curved 4K Ultra HD smart TV with matching curved soundbar from Samsung.

Now, I’m pretty happy with the five-year-old 46-inch Sharp LED in my family room but, for a brief instant, the ’70s TV-loving kid took over the brain raised on sugary cereals and fruit drinks and I put in a bid. “It’s for a good cause,” I told myself, and besides, “there’s no way I’ll win,” I thought.

Sure enough, I was the winning bidder, much to my — and particularly my lovely wife’s — surprise. But after the shock wore off, I realized how excited I was to take delivery, and I am now waiting as impatiently as I used to wait for Saturday mornings to arrive so I could gorge myself on cartoons for hours.

Technology has changed the breadth and depth of today’s TV programming. It’s a long way from the innocence of those shows I grew up on, but one thing hasn’t changed: I’m still a TV kid at heart.


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