Old Things That Are Tough to Explain: You Could Only Watch It Once
“It won’t fast forward!” my youngest daughter complained as she waved the remote control at the television and dvr box.
“That’s because the show is live,” my oldest daughter said.
My youngest looked exasperated. She has been accustomed to watching recorded programs or videos uploaded on sites like YouTube. The concept of a television show being broadcast sometimes doesn’t make sense to her. She understands it, but she forgets every once in a while, and then she gets mad. I don’t know if she gets mad because she can’t fast-forward or because she forgot she can’t fast-forward.
“That’s stupid,” she said and flung the remote onto the couch.
When I was a kid, I told her, we didn’t even have remotes. You had to get up and change the channel. And that wasn’t even the worst of it. There was no vcr or dvr. If you really enjoyed a scene on TV, all you had was the memory of it. You couldn’t go back and rewatch it.
If somebody at home interrupted the show, or stood in front of the television, you couldn’t go back to see what you missed. If you disagreed with another viewer about something that happened or what a character said, you couldn’t go back and replay it to prove who was right. All you could do was argue.
I would have stopped there, but my youngest had lost interest and was staring at her phone. It rubbed me the wrong way, so I kept on lecturing.
Once a television show was broadcast, that was it, I kept explaining. You weren’t ever going to see it again, unless it was on syndication years later or you caught in during a rare rerun. I once missed the second part of a two-parter of Welcome Back Kotter, and I never saw it. At the time, I was probably eight, I really wanted to see it. It’s going to haunt me until I… not really. I don’t care now.
You had the same problem with movies too. Once the movie left the theater, it was done. You might never see it again. It was frustrating hearing about great movies that I’d never see. I was certain I’d never see The Godfather. I’d never see Animal House. Nobody knew that cable television was just a few years away. When we finally got cable, the first thing everybody watched was Animal House. It was great, but the nudity had been exaggerated.
At the time, theaters had only one screen, and a movie might stay for one or two weekends, and that was it. When the multi-cinemas started getting built, that was a big deal. Our multi-theater (when our area finally got one) had four screens. We could select from FOUR movies on any given night!! That was awesome!
The first movie I saw more than once was the original Star Wars in the late 1970s. A lot of people saw that movie twice. That might have been the first movie that lots of people saw more than once. Now I can watch it on my phone whenever I want.
While I was speaking to my daughter, I thought of a movie my older brother used to describe scenes from, a 1970s classic called Flesh Gordon. I didn’t mention this one to my daughter. The title Flesh Gordon tells you most of what you need to know. My brother’s descriptions of the movie were hilarious. I’m sure I could watch Flesh Gordon now if I wanted to, but I won’t. It won’t live up to the expectations that my brother built up in me.
I explained to my daughter that the television networks would run movies during prime time, but those had lots of commercials. I think I saw my first James Bond movies on network television. They always went to commercial when the movie was getting interesting. Late night, you could watch old black-and-white movies, but I wasn’t interested, and it was past my bedtime.
I was going to explain that back then we honed our story-telling abilities by retelling what we’d seen on television and the movies. We used our imagination to picture what our friends and siblings had seen and what we had missed.
My daughter hadn’t looked at me the entire time I was lecturing her. I knew I had overdone it, but I was making a point. My daughter was holding her phone up in my direction so that it blocked her face, but then she’d peek up at me and then stare at her screen again, and I finally realized what she was doing.
“Why are you recording me?” I said.
She tapped the phone and set it aside. “So you can watch yourself talk about how when you were a kid you couldn’t watch anything more than once. I’ll send it to you, and you can watch this whenever you want.”
My oldest daughter laughed (I’d forgotten she was in the room) and said, “That’s very meta.”
I haven’t watched my video, and I’m not sure I ever will. My lecture probably wasn’t as good as my memory of it.
What do you think? What movie or television show did you miss out on watching when you were a kid? Has anybody seen Flesh Gordon?
Back when I was a kid, I couldn’t write my own ebooks, so I waited until now to write them.
Here’s one of them. If you enjoyed this post, you’ll probably like this ebook too.