The best way to describe that tradition is entertainment as a family.
The tradition probably dates back to the invention of language when storytellers passed on history, ala “Roots.”
I’ve heard stories of families gathering around a radio listing to “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy,” or the “CBS Radio Workshop.”
On the farm, we only listened to the radio when milking Ada and Elsie, our two cows. The Mamas and the Papas’ “Monday, Monday” and Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon” could be heard from a small transistor radio on the wall while milking. It supposedly calmed the animals.
Do you think cows give sour milk listening to Eminem?
My family’s together time was Sunday night watching “The Ed Sullivan Show,” followed by “Red Skelton.”
My parents’ reaction to Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones appearing on Ed Sullivan was probably similar to my reaction to a half-naked Nicki Minaj singing on “American Idol” last month.
TV dinners were a regular staple back then. Swanson TV dinners had four-compartments loaded with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, a vegetable and a dessert like apple cobbler. We even had stands properly called TV Trays to eat the prefab meals on.
There were other family shows during that time. Clint Eastwood starred in “Rawhide.” Linda Evans was a hit on “The Big Valley.” Michael Landon played Little Joe in “Bonanza” and later played Charles Ingalls in another family show “Little House on the Prairie.”
As my kids came along and grew up, Sunday nights were spent with Bart Simpson and Michael J. Fox. Other families gathered to watch shows like “The Waltons,” or “Gunsmoke,” which lasted from 1955 to 1975.
“Goodnight, John Boy,” as a big catch phrase then.
Today, with the entertainment world ranging from widescreen flat screens to android phones, I don’t think families are watching shows together like they once did.
Of course, I wouldn’t want to gather around the tube for Monday nights with “Two and a Half Men!”
Even shows targeted for teenagers, like “Glee,” contain subjects of sex, drugs and rock and roll. I guess not much has changed in behavior since the 1960s, even though it was not portrayed on TV back then. Where my generation had Alice Cooper, today we have Lady Gaga.
I figure network producers know that Mom is in her room watching “Desperate Housewives,” while Dad is in the shop watching “Sons of Anarchy,” and the grandkids are in their rooms watching “Nick at Night,” or at our house the grandkids are turned to the Speed Network.
We record most TV shows as there seems to be no rhyme or reason for programming. A show might be on Thursday for three weeks, not on for four, and return for a Sunday night engagement.
I asked my family if they sit down one night a week and watch TV, take in a movie or play a game.
“Not really,” they said. “We do watch sports together.”
Well, at least they have that.