We don’t realize how much time and effort it takes to watch TV. The magic box that is turned on at the beginning of the day with the lame excuse to find out what the weather will be or update our sleepiness with world events. It is the background noise of our lives.
Remembering the big wooden box in our house with fuzzy black and white images and terrible sound became a hypnotic attraction. The radio continued to play in the kitchen with Paul Harvey and George Goble, but the fleeting moments of television drew us in with its mysterious spell.
So the need to continue viewing this glass window on the world around us grew with more programs and longer hours. What was a brief family gathering became a daily necessary with continuous news, sports, weather, and a variety of entertainment. Polls were kept to judge the viewing audience and adjust programming and advertising to fill all desires. Celebrities were formed and fans began to follow weekly series of westerns, comedies, and live performances with varied results. Soap operas filled the housewife’s afternoon then the family would gather around the glowing screen while eating dinner under Walter Cronkite’s wisdom then become enthralled in whatever appeared before sign off.
Networks started to assimilate programs and families picked their favorite of the three because they didn’t want to have to get up and switch the tuning knob. Yes, there were no remote controls to surf with.
Ingrained into our culture, this box told us what to buy, how to look, and what was important to our daily lives and conversations with one another. It presented us with examples of the wealthy to aspire to or the poor bumbling fools we could mock or heroic examples of our past to emulate.
The small wooden box became the entertainment center with surround sound, wide high definition screens, recording and playback devices constantly changing requiring families to purchase additional units with the latest new and improved features to enhance our viewing pleasure.
The television is the first appliance turned on in the morning and the last to be shut down at night. We can not function until we know what the latest weather forecast is and how the traffic flow will effect our attempt to arrive at work on time, all brought to us by pleasant looking people smiling and creating a comfortable atmosphere to give us a positive start of the day. Talk shows and soap operas fill the afternoons for the sick, retired, or unemployed leading into a bank of flashing news programs combining entertainment with celebrating sightings or social media events.
Police shows, or at least authoritarian good over evil shows, have taken over from too graphic medical shows as a cast interaction with recent events and predicable outcomes. Reality shows of every size and description are the new comedy and mystery showing the struggles of good looking people surviving in the wild or losing weight or competing for a gazillion dollars hoping to make the viewers life seems a little better or at least tolerable.
Yet as we surf through the infomercials and repeated enticements to eat and drink and lust after the latest gadget, hours of our lives are wasted staring at the light. Multitasking with preparing food, checking emails, surfing the social media, downloading music, watching online movies, talking on the phone, texting a neighbor; the television is still on as a background drone, always ready to announce something we must be aware of.
Perhaps this is the “light” we are to walk toward?
As for me, I just turn it off and watch the glow fade to black. I got better things to do.