The Biggest Small Crime
It wasn’t a crime my parents intended to commit. The whole situation started off fairly benign, as a way for them to keep me occupied while they lived their very busy lives. A form of babysitting, if you will. But what started off as seemingly harmless turned into an addiction for me.
A TV addiction, that is.
At first I didn’t need much. A little Mister Rogers here, a little Captain Kangaroo there. A little All My Children when I stayed with my Rhode Island babysitters. (Although it was probably a sign of my coming addiction that, when my family got a dog when I was 4, I gave him the middle name Greg after my very favorite AMC character.)
Soon, though, I was getting irritable for more. I loved swimming at the YMCA pool in the summer, but I would pester my mom in the late afternoon to drive me home so I could catch Three’s Company and The Newlywed Game with Bob Eubanks.
My addiction progressed more rapidly when cable came to town. I discovered more and more cartoons and game shows. The USA Cartoon Express knocked me on my ass, Grape Ape and Captain Caveman being the greatest offenders. Then there were The Smurfs, Snorks, Garfield (and his associate Wade Duck), The Flintstones, Woody Woodpecker and The Jetsons. And remember the crazy number of game shows kicking around at that time? Sale of the Century, Classic Concentration, Bumper Stumpers, Press Your Luck and The Price is Right, to name but a few.
I hesitate to even mention all the sitcoms I inhaled. At home it was The Cosby Show, Family Ties, The Facts of Life, Punky Brewster, Growing Pains, The Jeffersons, All in the Family, Alice, Married with Children, The Carol Burnett Show, It’s Your Move, Double Trouble, You Can’t Do That on Television, Who’s the Boss?, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Mama’s Family, Just the Ten of Us, Fish, Kate & Allie, Out of This World and plenty more I’m forgetting (blackouts, you know). I distinctly remember watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse on Saturday mornings, eating Apple Jacks straight from the box while screaming really loud every time someone said the secret word. I think perhaps my parents were never more aware of their crime than at those moments when they were jerked from their peaceful slumber.
I loaded up on older stuff at my Connecticut babysitters’ house with some Inspector Gadget for good measure. There I got hooked on episodes of Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Munsters, The Addams Family and Hazel. I also caught reruns of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. We watched Donahue when I stayed home sick from school, and Dynasty when I slept over.
At this point I was still young enough that, if someone wanted to, my addiction could have been squelched. But no. Instead, my parents committed the biggest of all small crimes — they put a TV in my room. Not only did I get cable, but premium movie channels (stolen, of course). I could now be all alone with my addiction. I could watch Heathers on HBO any time, day or night, and I did.
But I wasn’t really alone. I had Darlene from Roseanne, Will from The Fresh Prince, D.J. from Full House and Fran from The Nanny. And let’s not forget all the other addictive shows like The Wonder Years, Small Wonder, Doogie Howser, Murphy Brown and The Hogan Family (or Valerie, or Valerie’s Family, or however the hell it’s supposed to be referred to). When those weren’t around, I loaded up on talk shows — Richard Bey, Jenny Jones, Sally Jessy, Montel, Ricki Lake and Maury.
Then TV created a new strain. Sitcoms were still around, but now there were all these hourlong dramas. I tried them. I liked them. Beverly Hills, 90210 (the REAL thing, not this synthetic shit they’re pushing today). Dawson’s Creek. Party of Five. Felicity. Life Goes On. Baywatch. As the years went by I began to prefer them. I still watched hilarious 30-minute shows like That ’70s show and Friends, but I craved series like The O.C., Freaks and Geeks, Alias, Six Feet Under and Everwood.
My addiction is still going strong, but, interestingly enough, the development of the DVR served as a mild intervention, much more so than the VCR ever did. I no longer have to sit in front of the TV at an assigned time to get my fix — now I can record shows at will and watch them whenever. These days my tastes are split between more of those hourlong dramas — Gossip Girl, Ugly Betty (RIP), Fringe, Desperate Housewives, Medium, Damages, Lost, Greek, Justified (drool, Timothy Olyphant, DROOL), True Blood and Saving Grace — and plenty of reality TV. Think Survivor, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, No Reservations, Kendra, The Hills, The Millionaire Matchmaker, Jersey Shore, Top Chef and The Real Housewives. Well, except those Atlanta bitches — I might be an addict, but I’m not a total TV whore.