Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Believe It or Not, Who's Walking on Air?

I found myself humming this tune this afternoon

Believe it or not, I'm walking on air, I never thought I could
be so freeeee! Flying away on a wing and prayer, who could it be? Believe it or not, it's just me!

It brought to mind visions of some guy in red tights and a funny cape trying to fly. That song was reaching back into the dark archival hallways of my memory and pulling forth a song I haven't thought about in years. I couldn't even remember the name of the show it came from! So, a Wikipedia search later and I found the show was The Greatest American Hero about some dorky guy who is endowed with supernatural powers from aliens and he has to learn how to fly.

This memory seemed to bring on the nostalgia with a dump truck, so I did a quick listing of all the shows I remember watching as a kid (before 12 years old) and the impressions they left on me. I can't say for certain that this list is entirely ccomplete but these are the shows that came to me. I didn't watch any of them with consistency other than Little House on the Prairie and the Donny and Marie show, mostly because of the rules surrounding TV in my childhood home and the limited access we had to very many channels. Some of you will not remember some of these shows (too young!). Well, I will just tell you that these were the true glory days of television--simply because they occurred during my childhood. Isn't that the way it is for everyone?

Happy Days (the Fonz--he was ultra cool; I liked their house too--especially the pass-through window from the kitchen to the dining room.)

Little House on the Prairie (half-pint, Mary, Ma and Pa, Nellie Olsen--a true classic)

Donny and Marie (Saturday night after baths with my hair wrapped in a towel I would sit and watch this show with my mom as she put curlers in my hair for the next day)

Wonder Woman (the twirling she did as she changed into her crime fighting suit)

The Incredible Hulk (green, scary monster; very frightening)

The Love Boat (the captain, the theme song "The Looooove Boat", and the bartender with the long mustache; also Julie, the cruise director--she was so pretty)

Diff'rent Strokes (whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis? and wishing I could be as rich as the Drummonds)

Fantasy Island (de plane! de plane! that is my ONLY memory of this show)

Buck Rogers (cool white suit on Buck; the imagining of space)

The Facts of Life (Tootie and roller skates, Jo and Blair fighting)

The Fall Guy (In the show's opening credits some guy is hanging from a freeway sign, I thought that was amazing!)

The Greatest American Hero (the theme song and the red flying suit)

Family Ties (Alex P. Keaton and Mallory and Skippy, the dorky neighbor)

Silver Spoons (Ricky Schroder---need I say more? And there was a toy train in the living room of the mansion that they got to ride in all the time)

The A-Team (Mr. T didn't like to fly in planes and his mohawk and heavy chains were amazing; they all rode around in a cool black van)

What a memory trip! The early eighties are when I first remember TV. We had one downstairs in our house in Burley, Idaho. I don't remember a TV before that time. I remember my parents finishing the basement and adding this family room. It seems like it had red, fuzzy carpet and a wood-burning stove in the corner. It was a nice, new room. I don't remember a stick of furniture in the room though. Just an old green bean bag and the TV. We had only three or four channels because we lived "out in the country" about a mile out of town. I guess the "in-town" homes had access to two or three more channels than we did. Oh, the riches we would have experienced if we had only lived in town!

After this room was finished, I remember coming home after school and throwing off my backpack and racing down the stairs to watch Little House on the Prairie. I loved all the drama and varied storylines that Laura and her family experienced. I was confused though once I started reading the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder because the books were so different from the TV show.

My parents decided shortly after this that we spent far too much time watching our three channels of TV so they started placing restrictions on our TV time. We each were allowed to pick one show during the school week that we wanted to watch. That was the one and only show we could watch Sunday night through Thursday night. Between the five or six kids in the family at the time, we seemed to each want to watch different shows, so that meant most evenings somebody was downstairs watching his or her "one show." The upstairs would become mysteriously quiet at this time as each of us would slip down the stairs and in to the family room as inconspicuously as possible. If we could stay hidden (behind what? the non-existent furniture?) we might be able to watch a sibling's show and still watch our own show later that week. Well, that gig didn't last very long as the night's privileged TV watcher would start calling out "Mom and Dad, so-and-so is in here watching my show! It's not fair! I didn't get to see his or her show! I should get to watch another show now!" Waaaaaaah!

So, that rule quickly gave way to no TV on school nights. Which meant Monday through Thursday night we had to act like the 13-inch electronic gizmo in the basement held no attraction for us. But watch out Friday afternoon! We would peel off the bus in a pack of legs and flying school books when the bus driver let us off at our gravel driveway. The rule was whoever got to the TV first controlled which channel and which shows we watched. Bloody murder would ensue. We would bypass snacks and drinks and the bathroom to get to the TV. For whoever flipped it on held the ultimate control: he or she could control which channel and which show we watched. If you decided to go to the bathroom or go upstairs any time after turning on the TV, you relinquished control, so I learned early the benefits of long-lasting bladder control.

We would spend the rest of the weekend gorging ourselves on TV.

Now, I say "gorging" with a grain of salt because it felt like gorging after a week of watching nothing. But we could only watch it for a couple of hours on Friday night until dinner. Then Dad usually got first dibs on any choice of TV show for the evening. Saturday morning the TV channels didn't even run programming until 6 am. (You know, the screen just buzzed as it showed you a multi-striped page with the channel logo on it) At 5:59 am, one of the channels had a plane that would take off to show that it was beginning its programming. I watched alot of planes take off in the bleary-eyed dawn of that Saturday morning basement.

Once again the rule reigned: whoever turned on the TV got to control the channels and shows that we watched. So, as a little eight and nine year old I was waking up multiple times on Friday night to check the time, just so I could be the first one in the family room that Saturday morning. My fiercest competitors were the brother just older than me (by 20 months) and the brother just younger than me (by 21 months). Some weeks I won, and some I didn't. I don't remember what horrors of channel watching I was subjected to when either of them controlled the TV, but I do remember the only show I was ever truly interested in watching: The Smurfs.

Those little blue people, to this day, are the only cartoon I remember from my childhood. I loved watching them. Papa Smurf, Smurfette and all the others seemed so exciting and fascinating to me. I hated the orange cat and the wicked sorcerer (what were their names? Something like Gargumel and Azriel? Help, anyone?), but they certainly provided lots of excitement for the Smurfs.

Saturday morning TV only lasted until 8:00 or 9:00 am when we had to turn off the TV to do our morning chores. Our mom was so mean. Other kids got to watch cartoons until 10:00 am or 11:00 am but we had to work.

The TV went back on after our Saturday night baths when we watched Donny and Marie. And of course, we couldn't watch TV on Sunday except for occasionally a Walt Disney special movie. So, that was the gorging we did as kid TV watchers.

Those were the days of my innocence. When I was 12 years old we moved to Utah and lived "in town" with access to more than three channels. The "no-TV-on-a-school-night" rule reigned supreme for the rest of my growing up years. We still had limited channels though because my parents didn't get cable until I was in college it seems. Now with things like TiVo and DVRs we can watch whatever we want whenever we want. I even saw an episode of The Diff'rent Strokes the other day. And I love HGTV. Best cable network, ever.

Despite all this nostalgia, I did read an article recently that really got me thinking. It was about a gentleman that gave up TV ten years ago. He describes well the hazards and benefits of such a choice here.

Believe it or not, I might just follow his advice. Then, I might be freeeeee!


Anonymous said...

Shouldn't that be "Believe it or not, who's walking on air?"

Eden said...

Yes, Anonymous, yes. You are so right. Thanks for the catch.


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