Classic TV Shows from the Twentieth Century
Keep a few statistics in mind. Television in the United States first appeared in the 1940's but only a few dozen stations existed. Most of those broadcasted from the east and west coasts. The FCC began giving broadcast licenses to communities of all sizes in the 1950's. The boom began.
By 1955, over half of all households in America owned a television. Color was a premium feature back then, and most shows were spin-offs from radio shows. Television entered its own world with two genres, the talk show and the sitcom. Today, ninety-nine percent of households have at least one television with most having more than one. The United States boasts the largest and most syndicated television network in the world.
A Look Back at the Twentieth Century Shows
Considering early shows on up to current day, how much have things changed? Oh, surely the clothing, hairstyles, and cars zooming around the screen are different. Topics are a bit more liberal today than in the past. That said, ideals and an overall thought process of what the viewer wishes to see in a television show remain steady.
Importance of Children and Early Childhood Education
From the beginning, children learning and being entertained via the "tube" was important. Who can forget the lovable Captain Kangaroo and the sweater-clad Mr. Rogers in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Sesame Street spans the twentieth century on into current day. No matter the show or format, advertisers and network executives showed from day one a focus on children being entertained by and learning from programming. Government programs today focus millions of dollars in grant money for young learners as those formative years prove importance in childhood development. It is good to know that television began that focus early and stays with us on that one.
Concept of Family
Look at the listing of programs today. Life is all about the "modern" family in fact with a show named just that. The words modern family mean many things today, as shows spotlighting family configurations typically focus on the family not composed of simply a mother, father, and children. Today, the concept of a modern family includes same-sex parents, single parents, and extended families living together. The need met by these shows is to make everyone potentially feel good about their own family structure. Maybe, after all, the viewer's personal structure isn't so odd after all. Viewers tend to think of these situations as new age and modern. In reality, non-traditional mother and father structures existed in the twentieth century shows as well. Think of little Opie being raised by a single dad and grandmother in The Andy Griffith Show. The Brady Bunch amused its audience with the happenings of a blended family. The Partridge Family shined a light on a single mom running a household and a business at the same time. Granted, shows with same-sex marriages are newer and trending. Still, the theory of everyone needing to feel good about their family lives on.
The Need for Friends and Lovers
Few would argue the importance on one's friends and romantic interests and the need for them. The fun of watching friends and verification of their importance and having them lived in the twentieth century programming as it continues to do so today. Sure, handling of matters about romance or a hint of it continue to change. Anytime a "bedroom shot" aired in I Love Lucy or The Dick Van Dyke show, twin beds graced the decor of the married couples' abodes. Sure, Sex in the City in the new century takes a bit of a different twist on that. Romance received hints and a nod in the twentieth century though. A favorite one to think about comes from Gunsmoke. Remember Marshall Dillon and Ms Kitty? Little doubt existed in the viewers mind that those two were romantic interests, but not tied down, the good old Marshall rode off into the sunset on every episode without long-term committment to Ms Kitty. Perhaps the show's better placement might be the twenty-first century? Oh, the writer digresses. Think of the 1900's sitcoms that, as well as being just funny, pointed out the precious asset of friends. Three's Company, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Three's Company, and I Love Lucy all told that story well.
The Power of Dreams and Wishes
Everyone loves to dream the "what ifs." If only one could snap their fingers and make things happen. Twentieth century television took us there with I Dream of Jeanie and Bewitched. What person engaged in daily chores has not wished for just a moment to have that nose that, with a wiggle, could carry out oh so much? Every motivational speaker tells a tale of dreams and desires and their importance. Sitcoms reinforced the absurd but fun thoughts on such. Just to add one more, how much fun was Knight Rider and the talking car? That's not too far off today when one thinks of the talking GPS. Isn't life great?
Get Rich Quick
A quick look online or at spam email tells the story of how a population fantasizes on that one. Advertisements beg for dollars to give to the lottery. Chances of winning are slightly greater than if the person buying the ticket had never been born. People buy though. It is just so much fun to imagine! Television does that for us. Think back to The Beverly Hillbillies and their launch from the Texas hills to the Beverly Hills mansion with the finding of "black gold."
The Need for New Stars
Viewers love their stars. How we get them has changed a bit, but the need for them remains. Few can forget The Ed Sullivan Show and its ability to launch performers to fame in the United States. I remember like yesterday that Sunday evening in 1964 when an "outlandish" group of performers took the stage. Yes, who could forget the Beetles. In programming of the 21st century reality shows and shows such as America's Got Talent and American Idol more likely fill that need.
Going Back to Family
Earlier, the case for spotlighting families of different configurations took the stage. Lest we not forget though that a need exists to see families that work and fit an ideal. Those families, often too sweet to be true, graced television screens in the twentieth century. The viewer just sometimes needs a model that might be too good to be true. Consider June Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver. Sure, she vacuumed her home while wearing a pearl necklace and heels. Few would want to do that, but certainly keeping that house clean appeared effortless for dear old June, so it was fun to watch. The loving husband, Ward, showed up, always in a great mood to greet the hot, home-cooked meal awaiting him. Hey, one can dream. No one can forget the line "good night John John" from the closing each week of The Walton's. All those brothers and sisters getting along so well and lovingly saying good night at least set perhaps a goal for such? The need to be a part of a loving family showed through loudly and clearly in those shows. Today's shows do so too but perhaps in a more realistic way. One has to look past arguing as it happens in life to see it perhaps today in shows such as Everyone Loves Raymond, Suburbia, and Modern Family. The ideal is still the same though; to laugh at the challenges of families and verify importance of being a part of one.
Television is a part of our life and has been since the 1950's. It fills a need. The shows have changed but the importance of the shows giving us what we need has not. With creation of cable and subscription television services, the array of offerings grows daily. The viewer pushes a button on a remote and experiences shows to inform, entertain, and see themself as they are or wish to be.
As a last thought, when gift time comes around, consider looking back to a show, perhaps a sitcom, that started the year a person was born. Most shows offer DVD sets of the entire series. I have received a few of those as gifts, and they are just the best, pricelss in fact!