JAIMIE VERNON – THE EVOLUTION WILL NO LONGER BE TELEVISED

Broadcasts_hirezThis week the Rock Goddess and I made the decision to dump our TV cable subscription. Since work on my Encyclopedias began in earnest in the summer of 2011 I’ve spent less time in front of the Boob Tube and almost all kill-your-tvmy time online – Facebook, YouTube, etc. It’s an issue of time, really. Following the release of my books I’ve been (mostly) employed and fully engaged in putting food on the table and falling asleep – often while waiting for the food to come to the table. Similarly, the Rock Goddess. 


ContinuumOnly five shows currently engage us – the Michael Shanks/Erica Durance Toronto-made hospital drama ‘Saving Hope’, the Vancouver-made sci-fi show ‘Continuum’ (featuring Shanks’ wife Lexa Doig and starring moviedom’s Rachel Nichols), crime procedural ‘Castle’ featuring Wunderkind Nathan Fillion (‘Firefly’, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’) and Hamilton, Ontario’s Stana Katic, geek comedy ‘The Big Bang Theory’, and the greatest talk show since Carson, BBC’s ‘The Graham Norton Show’. As none of these shows are ever on network TV when it’s convenient, we frequently time-shift our viewing and do it online.
rogered
Factor in Rogers’ recent gutting of their basic cable package of former analog broadcasts that has left us with less choices of crap reality TV, infomercials and re-runs to choose from at double the cost and you can see how TV really isn’t part of our personal entertainment anymore.

But what about ‘Mad Men’, ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘The Walking Dead’, and the inevitable re-syndication of ‘The Sopranos’ now that James Gandolfini has passed away? Well that’s what Netflix-Sopranoslike downloading and marathon viewing consumption was invented for. The numbers are in and the major networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) are in serious trouble. The on-demand TV experience is stealing all the viewers…probably forever.

It’s impossible to explain to our children just how much the world has truly changed since you or I were kids. They experience movies and radio with only the most peripheral of differences than we did – most of which involve cosmetic improvements and frequency of access. Television, however, has made phenomenal leaps and bounds. It’s as if we were driving horse and buggies while they’ve been handed flying cars.

TVDuring its prime, the television – feared to be the device that would put an end to the need for radio – was a financial investment tantamount to buying a house, a vehicle, or kitchen appliance. It wasn’t just an LCD or plasma screen propped up on a bookshelf like a photograph in a frame. It was a massive piece of furniture. Called a television ‘set’, it contained elements borrowed from radio systems for audio, a small electric motor, a spinning disc, a group of glass tubes to convert power, a gelatin-based vacuum tube to project an image, and a wooden cabinet to house it in. Over time record players and actual radios were added to the cabinet which constituted the first self-contained entertainment ‘unit’.

old_tvIt was lo-fi mono audio, the pictures were in black and white, and you required an antenna to ‘catch’ broadcast signals from the local network carriers – up to 12 of them (the #1 on the television’s manual ‘dial’ was for emergency broadcasts only). There was no remote control. That dial had to be cranked by hand and a list of TV shows was printed in a book you bought at the supermarket every week called a ‘TV Guide’. The networks would start broadcasting at 6 AM and ‘sign-off’ at midnight following the evening news. They’d go dark after the performance of a canned version of the national anthem before being replaced by a test pattern – featuring the feathered head of a politically incorrect drawing of a Native North American. Though television now can still be a major financial consideration, it’s because the TV is the size of a sheet of GypRoc and is mounted on your wall like artwork. It’s a precision device projecting thousands of pixels per square inch in 4,000,000 colours with up to 7.1 surround sound audio and high definition visuals streamed into your house through a cable no thicker than a piece of licorice. No more antennas. No more manual dialing through 500 channels instead of 12. Television networks rarely ever go off the air – it costs them too much money to be dark from midnight to 6AM. Television is now 24 hours/365 days of the year.

playingBecause there was less airtime in Olden Times – most certainly for children who attended school – we were limited to an hour or so before heading out in the morning and after school it was broken up between home-work, playing outside until dinner, and playing outside until dark. We really only watched TV for less than three hours on a weekday. When you include the time spent doing same on weekends between the times Mom and Dad had other plans for us cleaning our rooms, playing board games, shopping, visiting family, we may have only caught TV a few more hours Saturday or Sunday. And according to the good folks at ‘Morals R Us’ these hours were eating our brains.

They may have been right. When I add up the hours of television available to me they seem disproportionate to the unending number of things I rocketship7remember watching. School days started with a kids’ variety program called Rocket Ship 7‘ hosted by Dave Thomas out of WKBW-TV in Buffalo (interesting trivia note: he is the father of ‘Angel‘/’Bones‘ TV actor David Boreanaz). Like similar shows being broadcast in that era on stations all across North America, the show featured skits, birthday greetings, puppets, a talking robot, and the latest, cheaply licensed kids fare. We watched the Christian-based ‘Davy & Goliath‘ and ‘Gumby‘ stop motion animation shows, Looney Tunes, Merry Melodies, ‘Popeye’, ‘The World of Oz’ and occasionally ‘The Three Stooges‘ and ‘Little Rascals‘ shorts.

RocketRobinHoodWhen we came home for lunch it was a revolving world on either CHCH (out of Hamilton) or CTV (out of Toronto). I recall catching ‘The Flintstones’, ‘Rocket Robin Hood’ and any number of Canadian made game shows starring host Jim Perry – most notably ‘Eye Bet‘ and ‘Definition‘ – as well as a Canadian children’s variety show called ‘The Uncle Bobby Show‘ featuring a cardigan wearing old Brit. After school there was a juggling act of homework, outdoor activities or watching another children’s variety show called ‘Commander Tom‘ which was the afternoon version of ‘Rocket Ship 7’ featuring most of the same shows though they also included longer programming with ‘The Addams Family’, ‘The Munsters’ and ‘Batman’.

RazzleDazzleSaturdays were a barnstorm of Hanna-Barbara cartoons and live-action children’s shows like ‘Scooby-Doo’, ‘Hilarious House of Frightenstein’, ‘H.R. Puffenstuff’, ‘Liddyville’, ‘Get Smart’, ‘The Hudson Brothers’ Razzle Dazzle Show’, ‘The Powder Puff Derby’, ‘The Monkees’, ‘Gidget’, ‘The Brady Bunch’, ‘Gilligan’s Island’, ‘The Wacky Races’, and even more Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies than we could ingest.

troublewithtracyEvenings brought us sitcoms and dramas: ‘Party Game’, ‘Mary Tyler Moore’, ‘The Carol Burnett Show’, ‘The Trouble With Tracy’, ‘Starsky & Hutch’, ‘Love Boat’, ‘Sanford & Sons’, ‘All In The Family’, ‘Love American Style’, ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’, ‘Bewitched’, ‘The Dean Martin Roast’, ‘Streets of San Francisco’, and, of course the national standard – ‘Hockey Night In Canada’ on Saturday nights. Sunday was a bit of a drag with mornings filled with religious programming but we usually caught the weekly ‘Movie For A Sunday Afternoon’, ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’, and ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom‘.

Today, TV’s need to fill space with programming – paid or created – means an assembly line of reality based shows, repeats of expensive dramas and syndicated shows from our near past (rather than our distant past…something we have to pay extra for on another set of cable channels).

watchingtvAnd, yet, there’s less on TV now than when I was growing up. Certainly less quality entertainment at any rate. Like the music community, TV has found a home elsewhere with its audience split into millions of private, time-shifting home theatres. Fewer are the shows that can still inspire water cooler chat. Just one more 20th Century invention that no longer brings families or communities together. Oh, there are fanbases…for the rare shows that bridge the cultural and technological gap. But the TV experience has now evolved into a transitional form. I fully expect that the geniuses behind Google Glass, through its broadcasting platform YouTube, will commit the next act of superhighway robbery by repackaging what used to be free and fun.

Can’t wait to see the distraction death rates for people trying to mainline five episodes of ‘Dexter’ during rush hour traffic.

Send your CDs to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=                                                

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

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