A television set did not arrive at the house until I was five. This, observers suppose, explains a lot.

Ostensibly, it was purchased and installed to celebrate that grand occasion.

But, as quickly became clear, the half-decade marker of distinction had little to do with the appliance’s arrival. Very little.

Though almost immediately well-known to be a destroyer of morals and minds – as had radio and movies and comic books before TV – adults, apparently, were immune to such dysfunctional effects of the medium. Or maybe it was the sensitive fingertips that adults possessed and kids didn’t know enough to even yearn for.

The TV’s channel selector – a rotary dial device that made an audible “Clunk!” when moved clockwise or counterclockwise from station to station – was managed by grown-ups. (Funny expression.) And grown-ups selected such fare as Leonard Bernstein and another guy who goofed around on the piano, Victor Borge.

While child-appropriate, educational TV was available – from Little Rascals to Laurel and Hardy and other sophisticated comedians, plus drama in the Wild West, Hopalong Cassidy – children, including and maybe especially me, rarely had access. In fact, one had to go to the neighbor’s, where friendly, understanding and liberal parents lived, to enjoy these high-brow, black and white 30-minute operas.

All of this, of course, explains much about why Baby Boomers are the way they are. Neither rock ‘n roll nor suburbanization – and it wasn’t Beatniks who became Hippies, or wacko conservative third party politicians (or their opposite) no more than transistor radios – explain any of it.

Nor was it the medium – TV – per se.

Rather, the ruthless rule of the channel, the programmatic pummeling of force-fed classical music, all under the power of well intentioned but poorly administered parenting determined the fate of an entire generation.

This is true. You can look it up.

Take away Lash Larue and see what happens. Ban “Top Cat” at your peril! And try convincing your kids that Officer Joe Bolton is a real cop that they really might encounter on the street one day are sure-ways to dissemble adult credibility.

The one saving grace: “Million Dollar Movie.” Ushered in by a swelling orchestral rendition of the theme from Gone With the Wind, a picture everyone could agree on, and occupy a running time nearly equal to the real Civil War.

It was, after all, a million-dollar movie. Big money in 1957. Practically the cost of the New TV.


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