When I was young, you didn’t have all these paid programming infomercials. This, of course, was also before cable TV became big. You had to have an antenna to watch. You had to have one for VHF, which consisted of stations between 2 and 13. And most people use to get 3,6,10 the “big three.” But if you were a kid, the shows that were gold were on UHF, and you needed the round antenna. In the Philadelphia area, the UHF channels were 17,29 and 48.
For a kid thought TV heaven was the “Saturday Morning Cartoon Marathon.”
Now on a Saturday you could spend a whole day just watching TV. You have to remember that there was no Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. Saturday Morning was the only time that you got the big three to put on cartoons.
A typical Saturday consisted of cartoons from 7 am till noon on the big three, but when you saw Kukla, Fran, and Ollie starting the CBS Children’s Film Festival, you knew it was time to go outside play for about 2 hours, then come back in and move on to UHF. Then the real fun would start. From 2 till five, you had Dr. Shock and Mad Theatre & Horror Theater on channel 17 showing “B” horror movies. They ranged from the “Incredible shrinking man” to any of the Vincent Price movies. Kung-Fu movies followed this. But as I grew up, the cartoons were replaced by sleep, and the networks started to stop hosting their own shows, and syndication took over. But then I found channel 52, the NJ public television station. On Saturday afternoon, they would run Dr. Who in movie format. That was a typical Saturday afternoon.
Weekdays were mostly taken up with school, so no TV then, but it was back to UHF before homework time when I got home. And channel 48 was the station to be on because you could see the first US/Japan cartoon “Marine Boy,” followed by “Speed Racer” and then followed by the live-action shows “Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot” followed by “Ultra Man.” I wasn’t allowed to watch much TV on weeknights, so not much I remember… then the end came, and the TV broke, and mom and dad decided I watched a little too much.
Now before you say, William didn’t you ever go out. Yes, I did; when summer hit, I was hardly in front of the TV unless it rained out playing and having fun.
So my question is what has happened to TV, as we knew it. I try to explain to my daughter about TV from the 70’s early ’80s and how much it has changed. In the early days of television, the stations used to produce their own shows. Shows that were interesting, fun and that got a following. The Dr. Shock Chiller Theater was an excellent example of a show done by a small UHF station that had a considerable following. And it wasn’t just in Philadelphia; other major cities had their own version of Mad Theater & Horror Theater with their own hosts. Now there are fewer and less family-owned television stations. The stations all show formula/cookie cutter shows during the week and infomercials and the same tired movies on the weekends. I understand it costs a lot to run a television station, but what about the viewers who want to see something different. I know we could go out and rent a DVD, but it’s just not the same. I mean, you use to get a guy who would come out dressed up like a mad scientist and give you a few unknown facts about the movie and keep you entertained, and you would have fun.
I also understand why the Saturday morning cartoon fest isn’t happening anymore; there is a good article explaining why the networks did it and why they don’t do it now.
I guess I am at the first stage of confronting my addiction by admitting I have a problem.
Hello, my name is William, and I am a Television junky