I was born in 1953. Eisenhower. Black and White. Rock ‘n’ Roll was in its infancy. My sister was born in 1952, and my other sister wasn’t even on the way yet. I hadn’t been in any plays, I hadn’t written anything, nor bowled, nor played my trombone. But I liked TV.
But by the time I hit the age of ten, TV was a big part of it all. At first, out of Duluth, we had KDAL (CBS – channel 3) and WDSM (NBC – channel 6) which later became KBJR, WDIO (ABC – channel 10, with a sister station out of Hibbing on channel 13) and even a public station, WDSE (channel 8).
Our Primetime Schedule – at least in part
Sunday – Ed Sullivan, Bonanza, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color
Monday – Lucile Ball shows, Gunsmoke, Laugh-In, which was the precursor to political satire that eventually gave us Saturday Night Live
Tuesday – Red Skelton – the first show where I saw the comedians crack up on stage, later perfected by Tim Conway and Harvey Korman on Carol Burnett.
Wednesday – The Virginian, Batman – but only after the ABC network appeared on our airwaves via the new station, WDIO, out of Duluth.
Thursday – Dragnet, Dean Martin
Friday – Flintstones
Saturday – Andy Williams and, for my folks and grandma, Lawrence Welk
At first, it was just black and white. Color came along in the early 60s, when NBC came up with their big fancy peacock logo with the colorful tail. That’s also when THE WIZARD OF OZ came on and we got to see that color explode onto the tv screens.
And in the mid-60s, when I was a pre-teen, the ‘old’ shows were The Honeymooners, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, I Love Lucy, Perry Mason . . . and none of those . . . yes, NONE of those, were more than 15 years old themselves, if even that.
To keep it short, I don’t even want to get into game shows and soap operas. Let’s skip over Saturday morning cartoon and live action shows started in the 50s and lasted into the 60s/70s. News, as well, was certainly a different matter back then. Late night? Also, let’s pass on that for now, too. In fact, such things would make a whole article of its own, so let’s leave it there. Let’s stick to prime time.
Summarizing: I had 3 commercial channels and one public channel until I left home for college in 1972 – and I knew it well, and loved the trivia books I had. In all, maybe a total of 20 years of broadcast TV.
So let’s jump to today. It’s 2016, fifty years further along the line than back then. TV is six times older now than when I first started watching. No more getting up from the chair to change channels. Remotes rule the living room. Then we had the BIG satellite dishes, then the little ones, and of course cable.
We could all zip off big classic shows over the entire body of TV history … cop shows, doctor shows, comedies, mini-series . . . and even shows that were so bizarre that they are good for nothing but TV trivia contests – shows that lasted only a season or two but had some important cast member who ended up famous or had some unusual feature about them.
I thought I had it beat when I realized I could do some serious TV trivia when I started teaching in 1976. Well, fool that I was! That was forty years ago – I can do quite well on shows of the 80s and 90s, but with the arrival of cable, there is so much more to know.
And what’s fifteen years old these days? For Heaven’s to Betsy, shows of that age now started in THIS century . . . sure makes The Honeymooners and those like it seem so much further back.
So I bow with awe at the feet of those who have the whole range of TV catalogued in their heads and can rattle off TV trivia from that much larger universe of what is now TV. May your TV trivia be as much a joy to you as my few decades’ worth of TV information is to me.