God, The Crap We Used To Watch On TV
Sure, YouTube personalities seem bad — but have you revisted The Price Is Right lately?
Chances are you’ve spent time worrying about the amount of screen time your kids get. Perhaps you’ve fretted over the video games they play, the silly television shows they watch, and the YouTube videos that seem like pure torture to us but are, of course, pure entertainment to them.
But stop and think about all the incredibly brain-cell-killing things we (Gen Xers/Xennials/elder millennials) used to watch as children. These are some truly dumb things! In an effort to make my kid’s choice of entertainment seem a bit less fear-inducing, I took it upon myself to take a walk down memory lane to revisit the shows of my youth and came up with an incomplete but no less slightly scary list of the many idiotic things many of us watched while growing up. My hope is that maybe after remembering these, we’ll see our kids’ viewing habits in a new (more favorable) light and feel slightly better about our parenting.
Oh my god, the hours I used to spend watching MTV. I would just park myself in front of the television and watch video after video. But what other option was there — the radio?! Going somewhere and purchasing cassette tapes?! That would have required allowance money and a ride from Mom, who was still, frankly, at work while I latchkey-kidded myself into music video oblivion. I wanted my MTV! I probably could have been a neurosurgeon if I had not watched approximately 9,000 hours of music videos (actually, I would have fainted on day one of medical school, so I was never going to have a career in medicine).
In case you need a refresher, the premise of Three’s Company is that a single man, Jack — a chef with a horndog best friend who was always chasing after stewardesses, as they were referred to back then — lived with two women as roommates. But because their landlord would never allow such an arrangement, they had to pretend he was gay. Hilarity (and many stereotypes) would then ensue. John Ritter did some truly great slapstick comedy in this show, though, so that’s something!
The Brady Bunch
Carol and Mike Brady had six kids, one income, and a full-time housekeeper, and no problems that couldn’t be resolved in 30 minutes, hahahahahaha.
Dukes of Hazzard
Dukes of Hazzard followed the adventures of cousins Bo and Luke Duke, their uncle Jesse, and their cousin Daisy. They were always trying to outsmart (and that’s using the term generously) the dim-witted county commissioner and sheriff. Their car sported a Confederate flag. The show was racist and sexist, but it did invent the phrase and clothing item Daisy Dukes. Whether those short-shorts are good or bad is still up for debate, but this show would definitely be canceled by today’s standards.
Every single episode had the same plot. They tried and failed to get off the island where they had been marooned. This show was not Shakespeare. However, there was a very catchy theme song.
The Price is Right
When my son wasn’t feeling well one day and stayed home from school, I explained to him that when I was a kid, when you stayed home sick and watched TV, the daytime options were slim. You had the morning news shows, followed by The Price is Right. Then you had a bunch of soap operas that you had no interest in, and maybe some talk shows. The entire concept of The Price is Right is people trying to guess what things cost. He watched two minutes of it, said “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen,” and put on Netflix.
A wisecracking alien life form from the planet Melmac named Gordon Shumway crash lands on earth and takes up residence with a family. He wants to eat their cat. This show ran for four seasons.
The titular smurfs often used the word “smurf” as a noun and verb. Smurfette was the only female around. And once again, there was a dimwitted nemesis (Gargamel) and a patriarchal society (in this case, ruled by Papa Smurf). We never really found out exactly what a smurf was, did we? Well, smurf me.
Whatever movie wasn’t taken already at the video store or was airing on television (cable, if you were really lucky)
I shudder to think of the sheer number of bad movies we watched because there were slim pickings left at the local Blockbuster on a Friday night. There’s a reason why no one wanted to rent Ernest Goes to Camp. Kids today just don’t understand the pain of finally convincing Mom and Dad to buy a VCR, get a video store membership, and take you to the video store. After you watched your disappointing movie, you had to remember to rewind it. And heaven help you if you returned the VHS tape late. If you couldn’t get to the video store, you had to watch whatever was on TV. What else were you going to do, play Trivial Pursuit again?
So whenever you think about all the stuff that’s surely rotting our kids’ brains today, remember all the time you spent watching some truly ridiculous television shows, movies, and music videos (and we didn’t even get into video games like Pong and Space Invaders). The worst part of it was you probably didn’t even watch them once — you watched them again and again, because reruns. Try explaining reruns to your kids and watch their eyes glaze over before they run back to watching a YouTube video of a guy playing Minecraft.
Janine Annett is the author of the humor book I Am "Why Do I Need Venmo?" Years Old. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Real Simple, Parents, and many other places. She lives in New York with her husband, son, and dog.