Jul 22, 2018

Watching TV in 1978 and 2018: Plus ça change...

July 20, 1978: a Thursday.  I am 17 years old, a new high school graduate looking forward to starting college next month, living in a small town in the Midwest with my parents, brother Kenny (age 15), and sister Tammy (age 9).

We gather around the big color tv set in the living room.  A tv program comes on at a specific time, so if you are late, you miss it.  There are three channels, so three programs to choose from:

7:00 pm:  The Waltons, Welcome Back Kotter, or CHIPS?  

Mom and Dad and Tammy vote for The Waltons, a treacly concoction about a rural family sticking together in Depression-era North Carolina:  In this episode, Ben (Eric Scott) and Jim-Bob (David W. Harper) date each other's girlfriends.   They're both cute, but...

Kenny and I retreat to our upstairs bedroom to watch our small black and white tv.  We're also reading books.

I want to see CHIPS.  What could be better than Erik Estrada in a bulging motorcycle cop uniform? But it's Kenny's turn to decide, so Welcome Back Kotter: wisecracking Gabe Kaplan as the teacher of the Sweathogs.  Horshack (Ron Palillo) gets a crush on Gabe's wife.  Gross.

7:30 pm:  What's Happening!  or the last half of CHIPS?

It's my turn.  I hate watching the last half of tv shows, so we go with the comedy about black teenagers. Raj (Ernest Thompson) cozies up to Luther (Erin Blunt), the boy Dee is dating.  Could he be interested Luther?  No -- he wants to get with the boy's sister.  Gross.  

8:00 pm: Barney Miller, Hawaii Five-O, or James at 15?

I want to see James at 15.  Sure, it's a "problem of the week" drama about an angst-ridden high school boy, but Lance Kerwin is mega-cute.  But it's Kenny's turn to choose: the cop show Hawaii Five-O.  Book 'em, Dano.

I go downstairs, where the rest of the family is watching Barney Miller, a hip sitcom about a run-down New York police precinct.  A man causes trouble at a sperm bank when his deposit is allowed to "go bad."

It's a little embarrassing watching this with my parents and baby sister, so I excuse myself, go into the kitchen and call a friend to chat (there's only one telephone in the house, hanging on the kitchen wall).

8:30 pm:  The last half of Hawaii Five-0, the last half of James at 15, or Carter Country?

Kenny joins us, except for about ten minutes when he's on the phone in the kitchen, and we watch the hijinks of police officers in a rural county in Georgia, President Carter's home state.  Dumb, but there are some cute guys on it.  I like Guich Koock (have you ever heard of such a great name?)

9:00 pm:  Baretta, Barnaby Jones, or What Really Happened to the Class of '65?

It's Tammy's bedtime.  Mom and Dad want to watch Barnaby Jones, about an oldster detective. Kenny and I head back upstairs.  He wants to watch Baretta.  I don't really care -- I'm not interested in any of them.  So Baretta...

Don't go to bed with a price on your head -- don't do it.
Keep your eye on the sparrow, when the going gets narrow

I lie on my bed and hide a teen magazine behind a book so I can look at a shirtless pinup of Erik Estrada while Kenny watches tv. 

July 19th, 2018, a Thursday night.  I'm 57 years old, a college professor in a small town in the Midwest, living with my boyfriend Bob and our housemate, and sometimes his dates and hookups.

Bob gets off work at 7:00 and picks up a Thai chicken salad from Panera for dinner.

Wrecked on Hulu or Luke Cage on Netflix?

It's Bob's turn to choose, so Luke Cage.  I'm not sure what's going on; what's the point of a superhero who can't fly or use x-ray vision?  All he can do is stop bullets.  But at least Mike Colter is hot.

I get on my cell phone and text some friends.

Flashback to me talking on the telephone during a boring episode of Barney Miller.

Next, it's too much trouble to switch from Netflix to Hulu, so Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Bob's working on his laptop.  I look over his shoulder:

Gay porn.

Flashback to me looking at a shirtless Erik Estrada while my brother was watching Baretta.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même

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