In the 60s and 70s our television was our hearth. My family gathered around the RCA black-and-white to watch together, and the next day most friends and neighbors would have watched the same shows.
Today we make a big deal about how music was the key cultural touchstone of that era, but I’m not so sure. TV generally followed where music led, but its reach was farther and its experiences were more widely felt. I was a huge Beatles fan in the 60s, but I have probably been shaped more by Star Trek than the Beatles. Television programs are more direct, more detailed, and can cover a lot more territory than love and rebellion. They’re far longer than what fits on a 45 rpm single, and they incorporate imagery, dialog, music, characters, and more. It’s not surprising, then, that they carried the most influence of any medium of the era.
We did not regularly attend a house of worship, so to some extent I received my moral grounding from TV. I learned about justice from The Rifleman, forgiveness from The Honeymooners, persistence from Gilligan’s Island, and many things from Star Trek, including racial harmony, loyalty, logical thinking, and teamwork. I even acquired a healthy sense of skepticism from Laugh In. Could I have learned any of that from Hendrix, Dylan, Lennon or McCartney? It’s a stretch.
DVR maker TiVo used to print employees’ favorite television programs on the backs of their business cards. Nine shows were listed: three from each of three life stages, which were something like “Growing Up,” “On My Own,” and “Today.” I sometimes wonder what would go on my card. Here’s what I’d put today:
- The Bullwinkle Show
- Star Trek
- Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In
On My Own
- Monday Night Football
- ABC News Nightline
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
- Major League Baseball
- The Big Bang Theory
What programs would you list, and how have they made you the person you are?