Tag Archives: choices

Back when we had to choose

Last Tuesday evening I updated my Facebook status: Glee or Lost

I was debating which program to watch that night, if any, knowing that I could watch both the next day on Hulu or ABC or whatever station Glee is on.

One of the responses, from Sandy — a mutual friend of Frances Lide, was DVR.

That got me thinking. There were times, in my life when I actually had to choose what program to watch because there was no DVR or Hulu or Tivo or VCR or On Demand programming. If you missed an episode of a program you could only hope a friend could explain the entire show to you or else you’d have to wait for reruns.

Of course, back when I was a kid growing up outside Chicago, we only had a few stations to choose from: 2  (CBS), 5 (NBC), 7 (ABC), 9 (WGN),  and 11 (WTTW — Public TV). It was not often that there were two programs I wanted to watch on at the same time. The only time I can think of where there were two programs on television that I wanted to watch was when I was in the third grade and Lost in Space and Batman were on at the same time. I probably would have watched both, had they been on at different times (or if we could have taped it), but I chose Lost in Space*.

We only had one television when I was a kid and my brother was far enough behind me in age that we rarely clashed over what to watch on television. I only recall one time that I wanted to watch a television program (Woody Woodpecker) when my parents wanted to watch something else which ended with me in tears and quite possibly a throwing a temper tantrum**. When my cousin, Bob, lived with us, we argued, once — that I recall anyway, about the TV. It was a Sunday night and I wanted to watch Masterpiece Theatre and he wanted to watch something else***. That too, probably ended with me in tears and throwing a temper tantrum.

I wonder if we all watched television together peacefully, or if we found other things to do when others were watching what they wanted to watch. I wonder how it was for larger families. Who got to choose what to watch? Did television stations compete like they do now? Did they pit family members against each other over what to watch? Were people less obsessive about television programs? Were the programs less addictive?

What do you remember about the days before the ability to record television programs? Who chose what to watch in your family? How did you choose?

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*My third-grade class was divided into the Lost in Spacers and the Batmanites. We Lost in Spacers made up a rhyme about Batman that we thought was hilarious at the time, but I can only remember the not hilarious part of it now:

“Batman and Robin
Batman and Robin
Something something something something
That’s what Batman and Robin are!

**It turned out that Woody Woodpecker was not on that night and my temper tantrum was wasted.
***I think I won because 1. The only television I watched at the time was on Sunday evenings when I watched Masterpiece Theatre and Monty Python & 2. Bob didn’t want to be in the same room with a crazy cousin who threw temper tantrums at age 19.