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earlyTVThe Contrarian and I are TV watchers. Most of you, who read regularly, know that. From 7pm until 10:30 we are watching something.

I say that with a certain mixture of guilt and defiance. I neither condemn nor congratulate those who watch none. There are good reasons for rejecting it in part at least, and good reasons for embracing it, in part at least.

The devil is always in the “in part at least.”

I grew up in the era of when “TV was new.” The earliest shows I recall are Howdy Doody, and Milton Berle. People really did get together to watch these shows, marveling at the technology, although the TV owner spent an overwhelming time fiddling with the aerial, or twisting the dials to bring in the picture and get rid of the snow.

I remember fondly going to my uncles where we saw our first “color” TV, though that was stretching things a bit. Trying to get anything remotely resembling a good blend of red, green and yellow or blue or whatever,  proved interesting especially as to faces, and it seems that no two people were ever satisfied that the tuner had gotten it right.

At some point, concerns started to be heard about the “dangers” of TV. This probably came about about the time that children’s programing (cartoons and such) started to be the norm for Saturdays and then ad agencies realized that there was a dollar to be made in enticing young minds to Kix and Cocoa Puffs as well as toys galore. Then parents began to sit up and take notice a bit.

watching-tv-23Still, TV grew into the great “babysitter” of the 60’s and beyond, allowing mom and pop a few extra minutes of sleep on the weekend, as the kids were glued to the sets of America.

Today, we worry about the influence of computers on young minds in much the same way, and in worse ways. Yet, adults feel no guilt by and large about spending vast hours surfing and blogging, Facebooking and twittering, downloading and uploading, photoshoping and of course shopping.

No, we adults are handling the entire thing quite well, thank you.

But this is not about computer time, but about TV. And I merely want to make the point, that while I appreciate and in many ways look up to my friends who don’t watch “it,” I find even the most entertaining of shows worthy of a certain applause from time to time.

I frankly am glad that we are past the days of inane shows about family life in the US. They in no way reflected real life, as we all now know. Bud and Betty and Princess had childish problems and their parents frankly never had a problem worth mentioning. Everybody worked hard, happily, for great bosses, and no body had catastrophic illness or accident to contend with. Nobody had alcohol or drug problems, nobody divorced. It was all happy, and we thought that was how it was supposed to be. But we need only look around the living room, our living rooms to see that we were dysfunctional by comparison. We of course would change all that when we “grew up” and set up our own lives.

So I like the more real lives of the characters around today. One of my favorites is Mad Men. Life in the 50’s in a bigger type ad agency in NYC. Men in charge, women mostly being what they are supposed to be, mothers and supporters of men. Everyone smokes, and a lot. A hint of a gay man, but closeted, still nearly to himself, trying frantically to be “normal.”

The sets and clothing and accoutrements are exquisitely done. I have not found a single error. But of more import are the ways of thinking, the assumptions about life that our characters speak and think out loud. These do provide us with moments of real reflection on where we have come from and what we have learned.

Case in point: last show the  British owners are visiting the agency. An afternoon party is in swing with plenty of champagne. This gives the usual license for secretaries and ad men to drink too much and flirt. A secretary climbs about a John Deere lawn tractor (signifying a new account landed) and begins running down the aisle when she loses control, somehow engages the blades, and runs over the feet of a Brit ad man.

Fast forward to the hospital, where a vigil is in place. The doctors have notified that the injured man will require amputation of one foot. He will live however. The ensuing conversation is insane:

“Well, he was the best ad mad in all of England. I don’t know as how we’ll replace him.”

“Too bad, the poor guy will never walk again.”

“He’ll never be able to play golf again.”

“Such a wonderful career now over.”

I begin to frown and then it erupts. “What????” They are acting like he’s going to be confined to a nursing home for life now. Why does this end his career? Ever heard of prosthetics? I mean they had those even in the 50’s for God’s sake!”

But you see the real idea behind this? In the 50’s we did indeed tie physical defect with mental defect. A broken body cannot do the mental work of a solid healthy body.  People in wheel chairs don’t contribute to society, they are it’s beneficiaries. We take care of those poor unfortunates.

How far we have come. How far must we still go? We would no more think that an accident would end a career of an ad man that think that the moon is really made of cheese today. Perhaps this bodes well for some of the social issues we contend with today. Will we look as silly to our grand kids as we think of those that thought that a physical disability meant the end of a productive life in the 50’s?  I don’t know but I hope it does.

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