Okay, I won’t lie, I watch television. I’m not terribly particular about the type of shows I’ll watch, but lean toward broadcast news and documentaries. My reason for watching is pretty simple. I like the background noise. I don’t watch for cultural enhancement or to broaden my horizons or for any cachet factor. My tastes are pretty simple. Don’t get me wrong, I do watch sitcoms and, as far as sitcoms go, it’s all situational comedy to me.
Television came into my life in 1954. Our family was the first on our street to get a television. Dad went to a place called Trader Hancocks one Saturday morning and by Saturday evening, we were hooked-up and hooked. A rooftop aerial, eventually, replaced the “rabbit ears” that had been included in the deal. The television was given a place of honour in front of the big window, dead centre in the room. I remember our living room being the place to be at four in the afternoon. Ramar of the Jungle was the show to watch. Actually, it was on one of the two channels we received once the massive aerial was installed. WBEN and CBC were it. By eleven in the evening, the best you could hope for was a test pattern and white noise. Early in the morning, Dad and I watched Captain Kangaroo. At that time it was a 15-minute show. Dad loved that bit of television before he headed off to work. The moment he walked out the door, my mom turned the television off and the day began in earnest. Ah, television. Even in those early days, pauses for commercial breaks were a thing. Cigarettes, beer, cars, breakfast cereals, gasoline, toothpaste, appliances and coffee dominated the slots. We were a captive audience. I remember asking my Mom for Maypo cereal. Her response was that it was crap —which it was— and wondered why weren’t happy with real oatmeal and real maple syrup? Smart woman. Disappointed children.
Fast forward to the time when, and a place where, I continue with my 60-plus year obsession with the idiot-box. Cigarette commercials have disappeared, thank goodness. They were banned in 1971 in the USA. Canadian legislation to ban promotion of cigarette and tobacco products didn’t get passed until 1988. Nothing like a “spot of lung cancer” to send the tobacco industry up in a puff of smoke. And, coincidently, Mom was right about Maypo. Real oatmeal and with real maple syrup is a happy combination. Maypo has disappeared from the market.
Television commercials continue to be about cars, breakfast cereals, toothpaste and appliances. Additionally, we now have the joy of highly processed foods being hawked as healthy alternatives to the real deal. Who needs Maypo when we have Froot Loops.
As healthy goes, the big push is for consumers to pester their doctor (if you’re lucky enough to have one) about prescription medications. In my opinion, ads for prescription medications have simply replaced the cigarette commercials. The promise of a better life abounds, even with the warning of their deadly side effects. Yeah, yeah, cigarette commercials never revealed the deadly side of lighting-up. Not once did any cowboy ever light-up and cough up a lung. Not once did a beautiful woman take an ugly pull on a Newport Slim and spit blood. Nope. But now we’ve got prescription medications.
From what I can glean, we can just about bypass a degree in medicine because in 60 seconds, or less, every one of us will know enough about prescription medications to tell our doctor what we want. And we can want just about anything from Ambien to Lyrica or from Paxil to Zoloft. Who needs a cigarette when we can take Chantix, which promised to cure the urge to light-up. And, if Chantix gives us a touch of nausea, stomach pain, indigestion, constipation, gas, vomiting, headaches, muscle weakness, fatigue, sleep disturbances or an unpleasant taste in our mouth, we just have to wait for the next commercial for Ativan, unless we happen to be pregnant. Now, that’s a whole other stick to piddle on.