I keep looking for signs that I am becoming an old codger.
Lately I find myself muttering that television is a "vast wasteland" and I wonder if I have crossed the line.
But I've got to be honest. I can't find anything on the tube that keeps my interest.
I am old enough that I remember my brother and myself sprawled out in front of my grandmother's television set on a Saturday morning, waiting for the whine to go away and the Indian on the screen to disappear and then for Howdy Doody to come on. So I loved television from an early age and watched my share of it. I stayed with it through color and an explosion of channels.
If you tell any teen-ager now that there was a time when television actually signed on and signed off they would not believe it n just as they wouldn't believe that at one time stores didn't open on Sunday.
With three channels, my brother and sisters and I could have told you exactly what was on at any given time. Now if you gave me $25 for every program I could name and the exact time it airs I couldn't garner enough to have a cup of ice water at the Waffle House.
I am not even going to comment on the already over-commented on reality shows. They just keep growing and growing and getting sillier and goofier. We have all become peeping toms and eavesdroppers to lousy, not very interesting people trying to get a date, a facelift or more.
But now HBO is letting me down. Every time I turn on, it is some junk other than a movie. Bill Maher couldn't make it on ABC and he is now going on and on for what seems like hours with thin material and overbombed targets. Then there is the behind the scenes and the sports programs. And the making of movies segments. Even when there is a movie it is someone in a grubby city setting and guys with guns chasing around someone. Where are the wonderful little movies I missed at the theaters? Not on HBO.
And even channels like CNN have resorted to hours and hours of instant experts who sit in a television studio and pontificate on nothing. And the experts are so crappy like Babe Buchanan and George Stephanopoulos. Please shoot me.
I crawl to the Disney Channel in hopes of something. It is also junk. Disney ain't giving away anything good.
Now Roseanne is back. Help, dear Lord, please don't let me flip through that program even by mistake.
You can chart my television watching life in segments. There was the growing up with television phase in which we sat and watched it because that's all there was and because it was fun.
Then there was the everything is better on PBS than on regular television phase. And for the most part it was great. Alistair Cooke's little introductions on "Masterpiece Theater" made me love knowledge even more. And I first heard folk singer Odetta in a little between shows five-minute musical interlude and fell in love with her.
Then there was the combative '60s and '70s and wonderful programs like Dick Cavett and the old afternoon Merv Griffin talk shows in which they really talked and listened. Cavett had hours-long interviews with Alfred Hitchcock and Tennessee Williams. And I know people like comic Moms Mabley and ragtime pianist Eubie Blake that I never would have known.
And then there was the flipping through the channels phase in which nothing was too good but you didn't have to watch it long. I invented a phrase "excited disinterest" to describe this experience. You stop for a second and don't care about wrestling but a chicken is sitting on a ring post and some guy in a mask is pummeling a midget. You get "excited" for a minute and then lose interest.
Now no one talks on talk shows. News programs don't report much news. Reality shows suck and dramas like investigative ones that mirror reality are boring and copied endlessly. If I don't care about DNA-hair fiber-microscope Miami, I don't care about DNA-hair fiber Las Vegas or L.A. or anywhere else.
And in two or three years we have taken an archive of 50 years of television and shown it over and over and over until we have worn out my generation and your generation. What will they do in the next decade with no vault to pull from?
I'm not totally complaining because I don't rush home any more or turn down a cup of coffee offer from a friend in order to sit in front of the television. The addiction is gone. I have even learned to live in a quiet house without the unlistened-to noise quietly in the background.
So maybe I am becoming an old codger but I still don't wear my pants up to my navel like they do in Miami and I still enjoy a good touch football game over shuffleboard. And I would rather dance half the night instead of sitting in a rocking chair.
Hey, maybe I'm not an old codger. Maybe television just stinks.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald and can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.