So if someone told me tomorrow I had only a few days to live, my first thought would be, “But I would miss the finale of Lost!”
Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But I am very much invested in that serialized television program, I’m loving the unfolding of the story lines this season, and I can’t wait to see how it all wraps up. Will all our questions be answered? Will the writers remember to tie up all the lose threads from past seasons? (I fear that some will be forgotten.) Who will survive and who will be sacrificed to the mysterious island? And does Richard really wear guyliner? Perhaps we’ll never know the answer to that last question.
I’ve grown up in the television generation. I clearly remember watching the Beverly Hillbillies on our old black-and-white set when I was only 5 or 6 years old. I remember the first color program I ever saw (Flipper). I remember our first color set with its spindly antennae that had to be adjusted constantly. And the programs — lots of Westerns in the beginning. The Rifleman. Sugarfoot. Gunsmoke. Wagon Train. I remember watching Captain Kangaroo, and loving the stories he read in his soothing, cheery voice. The sitcoms — Dick Van Dyke, Andy Griffith, Leave it to Beaver, Danny Thomas and Patty Duke. The variety shows — Dean Martin, Perry Como, Andy Williams.
In my teens, I began to form my own tastes in programming. I remember falling desperately in love with Jeremy Bolt (actor Bobby Sherman) in Here Come the Brides. With Johnny Madrid (James Stacy) in Lancer. I loved Star Trek and Batman, Lost in Space and The Monkees. It Takes a Thief, Dark Shadows, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. I spent hours playing girl spy! (My chronology is probably hopelessly muddled – I remember the programs, but not the years they aired). The Wonderful World of Disney movies. Laugh-In and The Smothers Brothers. That Girl and Cagney and Lacey. The Mod Squad. All of those programs and others I’ve neglected to name from my youth have influenced my imagination and undoubtedly my writing career.
I married another television buff, and I confess we’ve logged many TV hours during our thirty-three years of marriage. We don’t always agree on shows we like. He likes his dramatic programming grittier and plot driven, I prefer fluffier, character-based shows with romantic potential. I loved Remington Steele (well, the early seasons), he hated it. I find Criminal Minds generally depressing, it’s his favorite program. Two and a Half Men sends me screaming out of the room, while he never misses it. I enjoy So You Think You Can Dance (not scripted, but fun to watch), which he doesn’t like at all. But it’s fun when we do follow the same programs. We generally view an hour of TV an evening together. It’s fun to watch a story unfold, to speculate together on what will happen next, or to see favorite characters develop and grow. During the years, we’ve enjoyed all the Star Trek series, dramas such as La Femme Nikita, L.A. Law, St. Elsewhere and The Pretender, classic sitcoms like Friends and Cheers and Frasier. We’ve watched Lost from the beginning. We like Fringe and Eureka and Castle and Burn Notice and House.
I will always be an avid reader, finding so many friends and adventures in books, but reading is pretty much a solitary activity. Yes, I can discuss the books with other readers, but fewer people read the same books than watch the same TV programs. There’s a bond in sharing those unfolding stories that can unite strangers at the water coolers, or spark discussions at on-line fan sites (such as Television Without Pity) that can lead to actual friendships. I have several good on-line friends I’ve “met” through those sites, a few of whom have enriched my life for several years now, making me feel as though I know them quite well. Our shared pleasure in the stories led us to discoveries of other things we have in common.
Just as earlier civilizations bonded with tales told around the campfire, television is the flickering light around which we now gather to have our imaginations captivated by clever storytellers. Yes, I have a “real life” — quite busy at times, though not as hectic now that I’m an empty-nester as it was when I had three kids in choir, drama, piano, church activities, drill team and school clubs. I admit cheerfully that TV is a part of that life. The kids bonded with us over quite a few shows in their childhoods. As it was for me, TV was part of their youth, though I kept a fairly close eye on the programs they were allowed to watch (the variety being so much greater than the 3 networks available when I was young). They’re too busy these days to watch much (not having yet reached the slower-paced life stage their dad and I have achieved). In addition to establishing their careers in science and medicine, they like to travel and socialize and hike and ski and play board games and video games and play music and many other activities, but they also enjoy a good story — whether in a book, on a stage, on a theater screen or on a monitor (TV or computer). I like to think I’ve nurtured the fanciful side of their personalities along with the practical.
I have a blessedly free evening ahead, so once I finish my work for today, I’ll relax with the book I’m reading from the top of my teetering to-be-read pile, and new episodes of House and Castle. I’m so grateful for all the gifted storytellers who have provided so much pleasure during my life — and I can’t wait for the next great virtual adventure!