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A Valentine to Television…As It Was

by Christopher Gildemeister


It was only a box. A metal, wood and glass cube,

Inside, circuits and wires and a cathode ray tube,

A camera, some know-how, and mixed watt and ohm;

These subdued the seen image and harnessed the light,

With electrical surge sent it soaring in flight,

Through the ether and sky, ‘cross the earth it would roam

To the box that still then was brand-new to each home.


From such primitive tech our TV sets began.

Farnsworth and Zworykin and many a man

Sweated, labored and toiled to achieve that dream fair.

But as they endeavored to send pictures through space,

As all these men tinkered, did their minds embrace

The way that their work would our children ensnare

And how their great dream could become a nightmare?


Today it’s ubiquitous; that much is well-known

Over many past years, our TV sets have shown

To us various programs, but rarely the Truth.

TV always speaks with a number of voices;

Americans value their wide range of choices;

But it must be acknowledged, in the days of its youth

TV knew its place and was far less uncouth.


The first TV programs going onto the air

Served as stage play and radio and vaudeville’s heir,

Joy of the audience, if scorn of reviewers.

Sixty years now have passed since the first TV pearl

Burst onto the screen: Texaco’s star, Milton Berle.

His jokes were quite simple, but they served as the lures

That converted the TV-less into buyers and viewers.


From those earliest days TV now is estranged.

The experience then to today has been changed.

The programs we watched then were, every one, clean.

All kinds of performers gained nation’l renown

As Ed Sullivan’s guests on The Toast of the Town,

And Americans now can’t imagine their screen

Showing Tuesday night sermons by Archbishop Sheen.


Techniques then were basic. Yet during that time

The classics of comedy were still in their prime.

Kovacs, Caesar and Coca, and Lucille Ball

And Gleason and Carney; they all were still new

But as they performed, oh how little they knew

How far TV comedy was going to fall.

Once it sparked laughter; now it can only appall.


Live drama was king when TV’d just begun:

“Twelve Angry Men,” on Miner’s Studio One,

Playhouse 90 and Omnibus offered by name

“The Miracle Worker,” “Caine Mutiny,” “ Marty”

These didn’t need curse words to make drama arty.

Such programs back then cleanly earned their acclaim.

Sadly, but one remains: Hallmark’s Hall of Fame.


The Lone Ranger and Hopalong, many boys’ friend,

From them, shows of the Old West became the new trend.

Soon TV was glutted with Westerns galore.

Maverick, Rawhide, The Rebel, Cheyenne,

Bat Masterson, Wagon Train and The Rifleman,

Gunsmoke and Bonanza and so many more

Drama and action – all without any gore!


From Joe Friday on Dragnet to Dr. Kildare

To all the shows on then, TV was the place where

Family-friendly programming was being conceived.

The crime dramas then were not drowning in blood

The comedies spared us a sex-language flood.

Though these shows were not graphic, few viewers were grieved;

Programs for the whole family were what was achieved.


Today many complain that these programs weren’t true.

But their goal was to elevate, not make one blue.

Life need not be oppressive, these programs agreed.

You could Leave it to Beaver without any fear

Father always knew best, and all mothers were dear

Ozzie and Harriet, Lori, Dave and Ricky’d

Be the family one wished for – as was Donna Reed.


An uncle who’s Martian! A wife who’s Bewitched!

When Jeannie’s eyes blinked or Samantha’s nose twitched

It was pure entertainment. We didn’t ask why

Wilbur’s stallion could talk. We accepted the change.

The world TV showed us was fun-filled and strange –

Both Munsters and Addams with a Frankenstein guy,

A car for a mother and a nun who could fly!


Though it is a given such shows were unreal

They gave us a brighter and happier feel.

They weren’t “real,” true. No deep, dark dramas, these!

Unlike the shows we see, these didn’t cause fear

For programming then was designed to bring cheer

Never driven by gore or redolent of sleaze

Not dark and depressing, they sought rather to please.


As the Me Decade came, TV started to shift

Though drama improved, civility started to drift.

Sex talk and profanity were used – and they stayed.

From All in the Family through Maude and through Cheers

What’s acceptable changed, and over the years

Little we guessed at what price would be paid

As mores and manners on TV decayed.


From Flavor of Love to Real World and South Park

So much that is on now thinks crudeness a lark.

Fox’s Family Guy and American Dad

Recall the long-past words of Newton Minow

If “vast wasteland” then, what must TV be now?

Some call this change “progress.” But it makes a fan sad

That a once-family pastime has gotten so bad.


FX is another. Because of Nip/Tuck

Who knows how many souls are mired in muck?

FX claims of this foulness that It’s Always Sunny.

Betrayal and bloodshed dominate on The Shield

And to darkness and Damages all FX programs yield.

The effect of such programming’s easy to see.

From this Riches of Dirt won’t someone Rescue Me?


Entertainment denies its consumers a voice;

Get cable, you buy it; you haven’t a choice.

Broadcast prime-(crime)-time gives us little choice, too;

There ought to be something for us. But they scoff,

“Don’t like what we show? Then just turn your set off.”

They show incest and rapists, and killers -- a slew.

With our children watching, what’s a parent to do?


It makes one cry out ENOUGH! This onslaught must end!

As a guest in our homes, why must TV offend

And sicken and hurt us with programming dire?

That’s why the PTC was formed. This our quest:

To challenge the harmful, and encourage what’s best.

There’s simply no reason for sinking in mire

When at its most excellent TV can inspire.


Though one fondly looks back, one can’t dwell in the past.

Our time’s always changing, and such change comes so fast.

And though oft the wholesome’s discarded in haste

By our letters and emails we can hope and can pray

That TV’s executives and writers some day

Will choose to work with us, turn aside from such waste

Show something for families…and return to good taste.


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