Boob Tube

Today’s post comes to us from Steve Grooms.

Can we talk about television? Since I live under conditions I call “house arrest,” almost never setting foot outside my apartment, I get to watch a lot of TV.

It wasn’t always like that. When broadcast television first entered my family’s home, programming was limited and boring. By “limited” I mean we had one channel at first, and it ran programs only up until midnight. By “boring” I mean amateurish. Most of those early programs were forgettable. We had better things to do than sitting around looking at that stuff.

In the 70s it was fashionable to call that appliance the “boob tube.” People pretended they never watched it, but if you mentioned a particular show, they suddenly could describe plot developments with loving detail. They obviously watched more than they cared to admit.

Even so, I watched very little in the 60s and 70s except newscasts and a handful of weekly shows. When we bought our first home, the TV sat in the basement. It wasn’t important enough to occupy space upstairs.

Now, between the limits imposed by old age and the new limits imposed by COVID-19, I watch a lot. Some critics claim we are living in a golden age of wonderful programming. Maybe they have access to channels I can’t afford to watch. I’m a Netflix subscriber. They sure have many offerings, but I have to start a dozen Netflix shows before finding one I can commit to. Cable television seems a wasteland of so-called “reality shows.” PBS has some good programs (when it isn’t running pledge drives).

How about you? Watching much these days? Any shows you want to recommend? Any shows that are so disgusting you want to call them out? There are commercials, quite a few, actually, that send me rushing to push the Mute button. Are there any commercials you hope to never see again?

57 thoughts on “Boob Tube”

        1. The My Pillow man is Mike Lindell, former alcoholic, former crack cocaine addict, current friend of DT. He has settled about a dozen lawsuits for fraudulent claims in those commercials.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. The owner is a heavy duty supporter of the orange menace currently occupying the White House, I wouldn’t buy a pillow from him if it was the last damn pillow on earth.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. I’ll admit, we bought several my pillows when they first came out. And unfortunately we really like them. And I hate that fact now for who he is.

          Liked by 2 people

      2. I have a friend who used to work for the post office. She said they handled many, many packages from people returning things to My Pillow. Apparently there are a lot of people who are not impressed with them.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. So far, I’ve not actually thrown anything at my TV, but if I do it will probably be because some show decided to run three Limu Emu Liberty Mutual commercials in half an hour.

    I have almost as much trouble with a stupendously stupid series of ads for Gorilla Glue. Most start with a couple that is experiencing an adhesive crisis. Suddenly a gorilla appears. The woman screams in terror and throws her smart phone 40 feet. Then suddenly all is sweet, and this couple seems to be friendly with this gorilla . . . like he’s a great friend, but they somehow forgot that moments ago in their panic. The gorilla offers an adhesive that turns out to be named after him. All is good.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You just mentioned two of the commercials that also make my skin crawl. That points up the reason I don’t watch much television and am regularly annoyed when I do. The commercials aren’t trying to be “good entertainment, enlightening, enriching, etc. Their purpose is to force you to remember the product! It’s all brainwashing. If an ad drives you to the brink of madness, you tend to remember it much longer than an ad where your reaction is either “Meh,” or, “Ah, wasn’t that informative/pleasant/interesting/unobtrusive?”

      As I constantly remind my wife, the purpose of television is not to entertain you, it’s to hold your interest long enough so you’ll watch more commercials.

      To Steve’s comment about not being able to find much to watch that’s decent in this supposed Golden Age of television: I’m in the camp that believes it’s actually a comparative battle between movies, TV, and to a lesser extent, theater. TV may be of relatively higher quality than movies today, but that doesn’t mean it’s of high quality in and of itself.

      I also think that 24-hour programming and the explosion of cable channels, YouTube, and all the subscription services dramatically increased the competition for talent to write, produce, and star in those shows. Unfortunately, there’s a reason why the true stars in any field are few and far between–it’s damn hard to be talented! When you’re watching the best of the best–the programs back in the day when there were only three networks and a few other outlets, the competition was probably fierce for acting, writing, and directing jobs. The cream rose to the top. Nowadays, any yahoo who’s willing to make a fool of himself on cable can have a show just by shocking, surprising, outraging, or disgusting viewers. Comedies are lame, trite, and more and more dependent on “wacky” characters to stand out. Dramas are formulaic, depressing, and more and more ghoulish/gory in order to keep the viewers watching. For goodness sake, how many variations on a cop/fire department/hospital/forensics shows do we need??

      And don’t even get me started on reality TV! Perhaps the least real of all TV genres.

      Chris in Owatonna

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Liberty Mutual was my first choice also of commercials that I would never like to see again. Especially the ones with the emu in them. And as if it isn’t enough, I detest their new jingle. I hope they didn’t pay anybody good money for that piece of stupidness. As in the my pillow comments, I will never buy insurance from Liberty Mutual even if they were the last insurance company on the planet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve written before about ad agencies with the courage to run ads with mixed race couples, especially risky when the couple is a black man and his spouse is white. Sadly, that remains a risky thing. I’ve noticed only one such ad in the past several years.

    Earlier this year I saw the first commercial in which a man kisses a man. That seems pretty daring, but the product being sold was a drug to combat AIDS, so the advertiser probably didn’t offend any of the intended audience.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I guess it is obvious that I don’t watch enough commercial TV to have seen a My Pillow ad. Apparently they are irritating!

    I don’t watch a lot of TV, especially TV broadcast on the the old network system. When we are in AZ, I watch some cable, but that is mostly HGTV which makes me roll my eyes because it is such “House Porn” and because it is so addicting and I love it until I get tired of it.

    I watch a few Netflix and Hulu shows that I really like. The latest is “Mrs. America” on Hulu starring Kate Blanchett (or Winslet—I get them confused) about the ERA. Kate played Phyllis Schlafly who I abhorred back in the day. I enjoyed this show a lot—fine actors are featured: Rose Byrne, Tracy Ullman, “Crazy Eyes” from Orange is the New Black.. Now on Netflix I am watching Steve Carrell in Space Force which is a giggle. On Hulu I started “Great” about Catherine the Great of Russia, which started well. Hulu features ads about Limu Emu, which I agree, get old fast.

    Hulu is good value—about $6.95 per month with watchable programming.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. It is a mix of Hulu Originals (Hand Maids Tale, Mrs. America), TV from all over the cable world—my favorite being American Pickers, movies of many ages and TV shows from over the years.

        They have a “live” service too. I bought that for 2 months while I recovered from knee surgery because they carry the Twins’ games, Normally that would be a waste of money because I don’t sit still long enough to watch much most of the time. It was great entertainment for an opioid fog, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Morning-

    We’ve always watched a fair amount of TV. Daughter watches DVD/Blu-rays on the TV so she doesn’t get the commercials.
    We’re not watching TV during the day. It’s some Prime time shows, then late night TV.
    We like ‘The Goldbergs’ and ‘Modern Family’. And I channel surf all the PBS stations. (We get three different PBS stations which each has 4 channels) but they’re all the same you know.
    Lately I’ve really enjoyed ‘Escape to the Chateau’. A couple bought a 19th century castle and they’re fixing it up as a wedding venue and also their home. No idea where they got all their money. But they’re a quirky couple (of course; can’t be on TV if you’re not) and it’s typical British humor in their own way.

    When we got better internet back in April, we started streaming more. We had an AppleTV but rarely used it. Now we use it all the time.
    A few weeks ago we told our son how much we were enjoying this streaming! How fun that is! He laughed and said ‘Welcome to 10 years ago’
    He put us on their HULU account, I was a member of PBS so got that, We added Netflix streaming, and it looks like I can get Disney+ through my cell phone for a year free, which means HAMILTON on July 3!!
    And daughter is running out of movies on DVD on Netflix; we tried to add some yesterday and they’re either unavailable or Long Wait.

    I hate hate hate commercials. There was some Subway ones a few years ago I hated. The burger King king I hated. It’s dumb how the music from some random thing will creep into my brain and be stuck there all day. I’m out in the tractor singing ‘Oh Oh Oh Zantex’ –or whatever that was.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks for completing it. Commercials don’t work on me; I know the jingle, don’t know what it was for… 🙂


        1. Well, don’t give me too much credit because I don’t know what it actually does. I just know that it’s got that jingle with the O, O, O

          Liked by 1 person

  5. The most enjoyable TV I’ve experienced in years was a Netflix series from Korea: Crash Landing on You. I think part of the thrill was seeing new actors (actually veteran Korean actors, but new to me) in a show where I couldn’t see the obvious direction the story would take. I hated getting to the end of that series. I probably should say it is a Rom-Com, and a darn good one.

    A nurse just clued me into a miniseries I’ve been avoiding for years. I like it a lot. Peaky Blinders is a criminal gang in England after WWI. Great acting, writing and cinematography. I see it as a strange derivative of the Godfather series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had more trouble getting into another one: Never Have I Ever. The teen characters seemed so superficial and amoral, but they didn’t behave as badly as they talked. And after hanging in with the story, I came to like it. It did make me feel old . . . but, dammit, I AM old.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Based on your input, Steve, I’ve watched four of the Crash Landing. I think four, maybe five. I like it but because it is subtitled, I have to actually watch the TV carefully. So I can’t have it on as semi background which is how I almost always have the TV on.

      I am constantly amazed that I have cable and I have Netflix and of I also have Prime (although I didn’t get it because of the video) and the number of times I feel like there is nothing to watch is ridiculous.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think some of my problem is that there are so many things that I don’t like on television. I don’t like reality TV. I won’t watch any cooking show where people get thrown off. I don’t like mini series of historical time periods that were clearly shot with today’s morals and ethics and values in mind. I don’t like things that are really dark. And I certainly don’t like things with a lot of gore and violence. And then there’s the list of actors and actresses that I’m not interested in watching. OK now I’m ranting. Sorry.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve mentioned before that I have a special issue when it comes to watching dramas. I hate it when writers create totally unrealistic situations where characters do dumb things just because the writer feels the need to jack up tension. In one series I actually liked a lot, the writer was forever getting her female characters drunk so they could go to bed with people they NEVER would go to bed with . . . but she had to stir the pot of plot. As a writer, I can see the stupidity of some writing, and it makes me persnickety about which shows I can tolerate. I tried to watch Poldark, but the writers kept creating incredibly dangerous situations and then sending likable characters into those settings. I couldn’t take it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We only watch television in the early evening, although Robin semi-watches it while she does handwork in her upstairs studio. Until this week, we hadn’t watched any network shows or local stations for years, but with this week’s protests and destruction we’ve been checking out the local news. I’ve been amazed at how many commercial interruptions there are.

    All of our TV watching for the last few years has been streaming. There are occasional commercials, but no pillow commercials or emus. I’ve never seen either of those, so I can’t really comment on them. Also, we don’t tend to get any political advertising.

    While we subscribe to Netflix and Hulu and we have an Amazon Prime account, most of our viewing has been British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand shows. These come to us by way of streaming channels Acorn and Britbox. Acorn right now has a six part mystery called “Dead Still” about a Victorian mortuarial photographer in Ireland. Earlier this year we watched a memorable multi-part series called “Dickensian” on Prime. Once again, it’s a detective story but it uses various Dickens characters and reweaves them into it plot.

    I get really sick of detective series and police procedurals, as if the most interesting and compelling event the writers and producers can imagine is that someone gets murdered. I’d be willing to bet that half the programming on television is a variation on that theme. The worst of these are the humorless ones where the characters aren’t even interesting.

    There are other things to watch. Last fall Robin and I watched a series called “A Stitch in Time”, where fashion historian Amber Butchart takes an historical image—usually a painting—and singles out a garment that a team of historical costumers recreate using authentic tools and methods. Amber herself is very watchable.

    When left to my own devices, i.e. when Robin is away for the evening, I usually turn to “Time Team”, where a group of British archaeologists are given three days to investigate a site that has some evidence of archaeological significance. There are at least ten seasons of that. Time Team was originally on Acorn, I think, but now is accessible on Amazon Prime, unless that’s changed.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. We also watched both seasons of “Midnight Diner” on Netflix. It’s a Japanese series (with subtitles) about a little diner that is only open from midnight to 7:00 AM and the characters who frequent the place. Each episode is centered around a particular Japanese dish and some little human drama. It’s very low key and quirky in an unselfconscious way. The acting has a peculiarly Japanese flavor in that it seems to borrow from Kabuki. Facial expressions are exaggerated and held for longer than naturalism would dictate.

      Also on Netflix is “Repair Shop”, where a group of craftsmen have items— some furniture, some mechanical, some ceramic, etc.—brought to them by ordinary individuals and the craftsmen fix them. Since everything brought in gets fixed, the tension, as you can imagine, is seat-gripping.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. My daughter has been terrified and fascinated by the riots. Her family’s apartment has a view of the Ford Bridge, where there has been heavy traffic by rioters, including those notorious cars without license plates.

    The Highland Village FB page has been filled with messages about cleaning up after fires, neighbors guarding businesses, people finding stashed incendiary stuff, etc.

    There was an announcement last night: “10:53 PM, coyote seen loping along Niles Ave. NO PLATES!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There’s a group of unemployed Twin Cities theater people called “University Rebuild” (on Facebook) that has come together to go out and help rebuild, repair, clean up- or whatever is needed. They make it a big point of saying they are not providing CHARITY, they are providing SOLIDARITY to help businesses owned by black, Indigenous, and people of color.
      Pretty cool.
      Theater people, they know how to get stuff done.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Today on 169 South I saw an orange mid-80s pick up (like a Ford 45) with no bumpers, no plates, and gasoline cans bungee corded to the back. He had no hair and was a 30-ish white guy. I thought, “HMM, done with your mischief, huh” We kept hearing about these vehicles and suddenly, there one was and I could scarcely believe my eyes.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We gave up TV for the most part because in Winona you need at least basic cable because of all the bluffs, and they keep raising the prices. We have the cheapest Netflix available ($5/month for two discs by mail). We are able to stream CBS Sunday Morning after the fact, and that’s where we see commercials. The most loathsome are for the new drugs whose side effects (which they race through while showing smiling people) sound like a horror movie. And it seems they always have one sponsor whose ads show 7 or 8 times… for a while it was Toyota.

    We used to watch plenty of PBS, my favorite of which was The Durrells of Corfu – I’m able to get it after the fact at the library. Beyond that, I’d love to see Mrs. Maisel.. and the Mrs. America one. We may end up expanding our reach if the isolation goes on long enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am enjoying ‘Space Force’; it’s so cynical especially about this administration and the orange one and how you imagine the entire thing is being run. But John Malkovich! He is so sarcastic and dry and it makes me laugh out loud. I know that doesn’t work for everyone; had a friend tell me they thought it was boring.
    We’re also watching ‘Grace and Frankie’ and ‘Parks and Rec’. ‘Dead like me’ we watched on DVD a long time ago but fun to see again. And when Kelly falls asleep on the couch and I just want mindless, ‘Malcolm in the Middle’.
    What I need is an old movie channel, like TCM or something.

    On HULU there’s a remake of ‘Catch 22’ that was pretty good.
    And a remake or sequel or prequel or I don’t know what of ‘Das Boot’ that was OK.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Not much of a TV watcher. I do like my daily half hour of Jeopardy! and watch that M through F. It’s followed by local and national news, and I usually stay tuned for that as well.

    PBS airs the occasional documentary on American Experience that I’ll watch if I remember, but oftentimes I can stream them on my laptop. If the documentary doesn’t happen to be of interest to husband, I prefer watching it alone.

    We don’t have cable, have no idea what we’re missing.

    OT – Just finished reading a tome of a memoir written by Garnet Rogers entitled “Nightdrive – Travels with My Brother.” It’s 735 pages, and could use some serious editing, it’s at least 200 pages too long. But Garnet is actually a pretty decent writer, and a great story teller. I found it revealing and entertaining; a pretty good read that doesn’t sugar coat anything.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. I gat cable when I first moved in here over 30 years ago because antenna reception was poor despite living not far from the Shoreview TV tower antennas. The one channel I really enjoyed was TCM. Over the years Comcast has kept moving it to more and more expensive packages. I finally said “enough” and didn’t upgrade this most recent time. The vast majority of cable TV doesn’t interest me – especially reality, cooking, house improvement, and comedy shows. I do still watch some of the sports channels (at least until C-19 shut down sporting activities). Much of my watching is PBS Masterpiece, Mystery, American Experience, and some Great Performances. I get DVDs from Netflix and do now stream Prime Video and CBS All Access. I am seriously considering dropping Comcast down to a basic package (for reception) and adding more streaming – Disney + and perhaps Britbox. I have the entire DVD collections of “Morse”, “Inspector Lewis”, “Endeavour”, “Foyle’s War”, and “Downton Abbey”. Never tire of watching those over and over. As to commercials, nearly all of them can go as far as I’m concerned. Especially the Liberty Mutual and the Mayhem ones.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Three more. Amazon Prime’s show Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a treasure, and I think each year of the show gets better.

    The two shows I try to plan my days around are the CBS Sunday Morning Show (created by the wonderful Charles Kuralt) and 60 Minutes. I sometimes find myself lazy and not up to the challenges of 60 Minutes, but I’m never sorry I’ve watched it.

    Liked by 3 people

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