For those of the Baby-boom generation and those born just before the Baby-boom period and shortly there after can recall what television was like before High Definition, digital and even cable TV services and networks.
Television was not 24-hours a day, seven days a week. It was limited and before the popularity of cable service, most people were only able to get at most five to seven channel broadcasts.
All programs were geared toward family viewing. And, even the late hour shows did not have any of the restricted content material that viewers today see on a regular basis during prime time.
This is why for this reporter seeing vintage shows on syndicated networks like "Retro TV" and now Memorable Television or as it is referred to "Me TV" is such a delight.
As an outreach of the Weigel Broadcasting Company, since 2008 Me TV has been broadcasting vintage television shows from the 1950s, '60's and '70's. Originally offered in the Chicago and Milwaukee area, the programing format was so popular that in 2010, Weigel decided to bring Me TV to national viewing audience.
The programing keeps expanding as more old shows (or rather vintage programs) are added. For the San Francisco Bay Area, Me TV will be including several new programs like "The Mother's In-Law" starring Kay Ballard and Eve Arden as part of its "Summer of Me" programing line up.
Some of these shows have not been on the air since they first appeared more than 40 years ago. And, while for contemporary viewers these shows might seem "ancient" they offer a glimpse into a time gone by. In some ways they are like a time capsule containing bits and pieces of the past that provides remnants of how life was back then.
For those of us Baby-boomers, seeing some of these shows is like meeting up with an old friend not seen in years. When I see programs like "Family Affair," "My Three Sons," "Daniel Boon," and "The Lucy Show" it is like taking a short visit to childhood.
Charming, sweet and at times poignant, these shows are simple, clean and heart-warming. Yet, I have to admit it is hard to fathom that the consciousness of an entire nation, generation, whatever was that innocent and gentle, when compared with the media programing of today.
Without stepping up to a pulpit, it is clear to observe that times have changed in 40 years. From styles and fashion to themes and ideas, it is obvious that change has been dramatic.
One element that stands out is the fact that shows back then, even when attempting to show something realistic, always tried to convey what should be or what people "hope to be."
I think that is why family shows were so important to the baby-boomers. Yeah, "The Brady Bunch" was always up-beat, yet the producer was trying to feature a life that might be or could be between the lines of what was.
A widow or widower actually meant "divorce" in the subtle code of the TV situation comedy for the day. (at least that is what I heard said from a documentary on the subject of sit-coms). And, for standards of the time, a single parent raising a family was "different" with its own challenges.
Yet for younger viewers it still highlighted the importance of a happy family life. And, that is why, I think, so many of us watched it. The sets and fashion, even with all that paisley, polka dotted array were aimed at making audiences feel happy.
For this reporter as a kid, most of the shows of the 1960's were magic. Even those shows that did not have actual magic, gadgets or animals (such as "Bewitched" "Star Trek" or "Lassie" for example), they had something special that seemed like magic.
One show that comes to mind, which is now is part of the regular program line-up is "That Girl." As a little kid I would often get bored with the story lines because it had to do with something that would be a few years off in my childhood existence - that of coming of age, leaving home and finding a career.
But the upbeat demeanor of the show and the intro with that snappy theme song seemed like magic. So, I would stay in front of the TV and would not change the channel until the theme song was played. Show after show in those days had something that was catchy, upbeat or significant to get a viewer's attention.
Looking back at those shows, I have to ask, were we really that innocent or wholesome? Or was it that people back then hoped humanity could be?
With today's problems and issues, shows of that time seem tame and mundane. And, one might ponder with shows like "Family Affair" with basically two men in a house-hold raising children, was there something "different" happening in the shifting social conventions of the time?
It is interesting to note, that while everyone loved Lucy, after she and Desi broke up, her subsequent show's The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy featured a single mom raising two kids. And, what would contemporary audiences today think of "Viv and Lucy" living together, sharing expenses while raising their kids? Maybe producers, directors and script-writers even then were perhaps getting a notion of what was coming in the years to follow, who knows?
Yet, I have to say, unlike the sit-coms of today, each one of the sit-coms tried to present a family situation that was able to pull-together despite its setbacks of a single or "widowed" parent. Few shows today aim to present that, which says to me how much the social attitudes and points of reference have changed.
I think, perhaps it is something like a rubber band that has been stretched beyond its initially capacity, it is not able to retain its original shape and elasticity. As much as I enjoy visiting these shows, it is hard to "go back" to that time. But then again, as the world keeps changing regardless of time and space, maybe that era was a short-lived time filled with an optimism and enthusiasm that will never be like it again.
Me TV is a syndicated programing broadcast, in some areas Me TV is offered via multiple cable systems. Fortunately for viewers here in the San Francisco Bay Area Me TV is free, offered by a local television station affiliate KOFY TV 20.