I remember the first time I ever saw a television set. It might have been 1947, but I think it was 1948. State Street was a main artery in our town and it was one long block south of my house. The television set was in a radio repair shop on State Street. The shop wasn’t actually on State Street, but the building it was in fronted the street. The shop was in the back yard. The building was a large brick house on a sloping lot and you had to go down an inclined sidewalk along the side of the house and through a gate to get to the back yard. From the back yard a door opened to the shop in the basement of the house.

I don’t remember who told me it was there; or what excuse I used to enter the man’s shop to look at it; but I remember being there. I remember standing there before the marvelous thing, transfixed by the sight, my eyes incapable of breaking free of the flickering bluish light coming from the cathode ray tube. The set was home made, and its skeleton stood exposed on the repair shop workbench. A metal chassis was its base with vacuum tubes and a jumble of wires forming a nest in which the round picture tube seemed to rest. I had seen a picture of a television set in one of my schoolbooks. It accompanied a short article about the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It was one thing to read about a television set; it was quite another to actually see one in operation. I knew that television existed because I had read about it. It really had never occurred to me, though, that I might some day actually see one. Still, here it was – a television set. It was exciting!

It was not too long before we had a television set of our own. Ours was not naked; it had a wooden cover that kept people like myself from putting little fingers into lethal circuits. We set it up on the end of the dining room buffet (which is what we called our sideboard) and lined up chairs facing it from the adjoining living room. Neighbors came to marvel, and for a while we seemed to be in the theater business. It was still exciting! I watched the afternoon test pattern and the disappearing dot when the station signed off at the end of the evening, and I watched everything in between, and it was exciting! I watched hockey and basketball and all manner of junk because there wasn’t much in the way of programming available.

A few years later things were different. Shows were sent over telephone lines from New York and we had programming worthy of the attention it was getting. Milton Berle’s Texaco show led the way and it was soon followed by the likes of Your Show of Shows, Ed Sullivan, and most of America’s radio favorites. Time for Beanie, Crusader Rabbit, and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie were children’s shows that adults could enjoy. It was exciting! The late fifties brought the likes of Maverick and Gunsmoke, and the sitcoms. They were all good. Before too long, some twit made a speech saying that television had become a “vast wasteland.” That began the long road to today. Today, television is not exciting. It is mostly sticky brown smelly stuff!

Today we have children’s programs designed to indoctrinate rather than educate or entertain, soaps and sitcoms loudly proclaiming that getting laid is great - especially if by a member of your very own sex, thirty minute infomercials for the entertainment industry masquerading as news, and network prime time filled with “news magazine” shows. If you like exposés of things that really don’t need exposing, lectures on political correctness by people you might not want to trust with a grocery list, and reruns of stuff that wasn’t very interesting the first time around, these news magazines are for you. Who would have thought you could sell reruns of news? Well, that’s entertainment at the beginning of the twenty-first century.