Television from Its Beginnings Through Its Golden Age
I am 60. I recall early television. Frankly, a lot of it wasn’t very praiseworthy. It was a new medium, and it was acceptable at the time, but much of it belongs in Dinosaur-Land now. Sentiment not withstanding, gone are those days, and good riddance.
After a while, though, some television shows were simply marvelous. Today’s audiences might have a hard time watching them, but they were truly grand. A lot of them were Kinescope. A show that could be shown on a TV tube was filmed by focusing a camera on that tube. That’s very roughly what it was. It was quality programming!
It was not the technology that made these shows good, although to be frank – they have atmosphere. Black and white, many even today will acknowledge, did and does have atmosphere. What made them so good, then? There were really a number of things, any one of which had the potential to make them great. One thing in particular was the live performance. The actor couldn’t make a lot of mistakes. To make even a few would have upset him or her. There often were tiny, tiny mistakes, but nothing of great relevance. Since the actors could not afford to make any serious mistakes, they poured their heart and soul and total focus into these performances. This then was the Golden Age of Television.
Scripting was very creative, the product of truly skilled writers. Quality was built-in to these shows. Since this was the beginning of television, most of the public were still readers, and these shows assumed a level of intelligence far superior to today’s viewers. The best shows were the dramatic shows. Shows of emotion and turmoil, danger and death. Shows of gladness and rejoicing, sorrow and tragedy. These were not situation comedies, reality broadcasts, soap operas, or game shows. These shows required skill and sobriety. They demanded talent and involvement.
Technology Emerges From Its Cocoon Phase with Some Ramifications
Then technology began – insidiously – to take charge. First appeared quality Black-and-White. Nothing wrong with that! Then color burst out like a woman coming of age. Stereo boosted appeal. Special effects reached crescendo proportions. Enter the computer and computer graphics.
But what happened to quality acting and material? Oh, yes, there still remained the occasional good picture. And now and then, introduced to the public, a new fine actor who really worked at his profession. But the days of a multitude of actors reaching the pinnacle of quality, and the vast majority of writer’s ascending the mountain of creativity have fallen by the wayside. Mediocrity has become, not merely acceptable, but the norm. Crudity and lasciviousness can be found on nearly every channel. The proper proportion of foul language and gratuitous violence have replaced talent and art.
How Entertainment Media Peak Out
Don’t think for one moment that I am exaggerating. You see, these same things have happened to all developing media. They start out rough but stimulating; they go through a period of increasing quality and integrity; they degenerate and become commonplace; they become total trash and everlasting. Recall motion pictures? Almost every film in the past was suitable for parents and children alike. Is that true today?
Too bad. Too bad. But then, that is the way of this world, and neither you nor I can personally change it. We are in, I believe, the ever-degenerating phase or possibly the total trash phase, of television. I suggest that one demonstration of this is the appearance of so-called “Family Channels.” These are not TV meant for families, but TV channels meant to teach us how to procreate.
And so I bid a fond farewell to the Golden Age of Television.
Lest you think I present a fatalistic view, please see my articles devoted to Theocratic matters.