Roxanne Tellier: Television, The Baby Boomers, and Me

Ladies and Gentlemen may I introduce the latest addition to the DBAWIS family. Please give a warm Don’t Believe a Word I Say welcome to a dear friend, writer, singer and songwriter, Ms. Roxanne Tellier. With Roxanne entertaining you on Sundays, I will now only be late on Mondays. And now…Roxy’s first column.

RoxanneTelevision and I grew up together. In Alberta in the 1950’s, there were just two channels, and everything was in black and white. But TV always had a little something for me; a “Wide World of Disney” here, an “Ed Sullivan” night there.

Kids didn’t have much to choose from, nor were they considered part of the television viewing schedule discussion. But we were the Baby Boomers, and we were about to become a major force in shaping the way television grew and how it reflected our environment.

By the 1960’s, more channels appeared on the dial, colour TV’s became available, and suddenly cartoons were an after school option, along with dance shows like “Hullabaloo,” “American Bandstand,” and “Shindig.” Canada produced “Music Hop” with Dave Mickie (later known as David Marsden,) while Robbie Lane and the Disciples hosted “It’s Happening

and “A Go Go 66” in Toronto.

Like Young” was taped right down the street from my new home in Montreal.

Mum and dad had their music as well. Who could resist “The Pig and Whistle”? or “Singalong Jubilee”? I could. And I did.

And then it was the 70’s. Building upon the large Boomer audience that demanded more and more of their world view and music on TV, “Saturday Night Live” became THE show to watch. Other shows jumped on the bandwagon, “Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert” and “Midnight Special.” But the action was in the clubs, where disco ruled, following the success of Saturday Night Fever. Like John Travolta, you had to dance. You could learn the right moves by watching “Soul Train,”

or how not to dance by watching SCTV’s “Mel’s Rock Pile.”

Television of the 80’s exploded when MTV debuted, August 1, 1981.

We would never hear music the same way again. Putting a face and body to a song had as devastating an effect on popular music as ‘the talkies’ had had on film. Careers exploded or imploded based on image over substance. After owning the airwaves with his hit “The Stroke,” Billy Squier released a tragic video for “Rock Me Tonite” – and was never heard from again.

But other artists exploited the possibilities. This compilation shows some of the best artists and video direction of the decade. A new art form had emerged, and television was where it laid its head. This was the Boomers finest moment; finally, we ruled the airwaves, and our taste in fashion, music and style reigned supreme.

As the 90’s dawned, the Boomers’ focus changed from partying to parenting. Now our children would become the demographic advertisers courted. We were out in the business world, bringing home the bacon. For the most part, we came home tired, and uninterested in the tube, with the exception of cutting edge programs like “In Living Color.”

The Wayans and Jim Carrey brought street cred to rappers and dancers, incorporating hip hop and freestyle. Paula Abdul and Carla Earle were the go-to choreographers, and young women like Jennifer Lopez flocked to be considered as Fly Girls. Live music performances were added in Season 2, beginning with Queen Latifah, and later spotlighting Public Enemy, En Vogue, Tupac Shakur and Mary J. Blige, amongst others. We were getting older, but we still wanted to be hip.

Television in the 2000’s just didn’t know what to do with itself. The 500 channel universe couldn’t find enough talent to fill all that dead air, so MTV split like an amoeba into reality series, award shows, VH1 and Unplugged. Country rushed in with Austin City Limits and CMT. Disney capitalized on tweens and teens, producing ‘stars’ like Miley Cyrus, Zack and Cody, and Hilary Duff.

YouTube provided new ways to distribute media of all kinds. The music and television industry reeled with horror, and tried draconian methods to curb the sharing of songs, shows and films, but had little success.

podcastPodcasting, first attempted in the 90’s, erupted in 2000. Anyone with access to an iPod and an idea could get themselves on the internet air, with some shows attaining spectacular success. Geek squads and techies championed the idea, soon picked up by Internet radio and comedy shows. Today there are more than 115,000 English language podcasts available, and that number grows daily.

So many choices! And unless you had a grandchild who could steer you through the shoals of this new ocean of content, A Boomer could find his or herself stranded and clueless.

I think that the television industry is in the same place that the music industry was in, back when the major labels began to realize that they were in trouble. If every viewer also has the potential to become a content creator, and has the ability to purchase their viewing online through NetFlix, Hulu or iTunes, executives controlling the distribution of network television entertainment will see their huge salaries in jeopardy. Cable costs, based on the subscriber’s wish to have access to multiple channels, are shockingly high. The question then becomes, is it worth it?

I may have a television in every room, but the screens are barely visible through the dust. The content I follow is available on my computer, where I 1952_TV_dinnercan view it at my leisure, and I can pause the show when needed. The thought of decorating a ‘family room’ with an enormous screen as a focal point appalls me.  The last of the TV trays is rusting in the back yard, and I haven’t any interest in the TV dinners that now bill themselves as lite and deliteful.

What I want from television is precisely what television will never give me; the ability to watch only the series and shows I choose to watch, when I choose to watch them. Without commercials would be nice as well; after all, I’m not the advertiser’s demographic, and I haven’t the time or money to pretend to be younger or trendier.

tvI’m still one of those Baby Boomers, shaping how my world is reflected, but now my grandchildren are the coveted demographic. Television runs after younger audiences, while my tastes have matured and I prefer a dish with continental flair.  Like an old married couple, television and I have grown older and wiser, and prefer to sleep in separate beds. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

Contact us at

DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king – and that was just yesterday’s to do list. Tomorrow she starts on the letter Q.  

3 Responses to “Roxanne Tellier: Television, The Baby Boomers, and Me”

  1. Good stuff, Roxie.

    You mean I have to wait a week for the next?

  2. I used to feel that the “boy-banding” of popular music would undermine the legacy of amazing rock/pop/blues standards built up during the Boomers era. But, we had our “teen idols” too, and I’m hearing some great new stuff from the current generation . . so, it seems that our influence will be felt for some time to come.

  3. Excellent blog, Roxanne!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: