I have always been grateful that I grew up during the era that preceded television. Not because there’s anything wrong with television, but because there was something so right about radio.
Radio was ... is simple. Not just simple to use, simple to enjoy. Not only that, radio offers something for everyone. You can twist a dial and in seconds be listening to something different.
And I mean different.
You can change stations on television until you turn blue in the face, but by and large you are going to find the same old programs, station after station.
“What?” you may be saying. “How can you say that? I have 220 stations on my satellite dish.”
Yeah, right. Me too. But take a close look at what you’ve got. You’ve got lots of stations, but they come in sets. Sets of clones. And if you look closely you’ll find that a lot of things people would like to watch just aren’t aired on television.
The major networks? Same programs. Same themes. Same plots. Different titles of course. And different faces. But as alike as a thirty-dozen case of cold storage eggs — and as watery. Trouble is, you see, the minute someone comes up with a new idea, here come the clones. Right now, for example, we get to watch over-hyped talent shows on four channels instead of one.
I tell you, if the Gong Show were still on, and it was rating television programs, they’d be hammering that gong into a chunk of trash and yelling, “Enough already! Enough already! Quit!”
And as for reality shows ...
That’s reality? A group of neurotic wannabe actors and actresses trying to upstage each other? Man I hope not!
On the other hand, maybe it is. Maybe I need to get out of the house more often — well armed and wearing a flack jacket.
My question is why can’t the networks spend some time doing what radio used to do? And still does. Radio has something for everyone. No matter how small the audience may be for something, you can still find it on the radio.
Don’t believe it? Think it’s the same as television?
How many times have you seen a TV station put on an entire, four-hour, one-fat-lady-after-another Wagnerian opera?
Come on. Name one.
Because every %$#@! television station on the planet has to try to be numero uno. Every single one. It may be stupid. It may be nonsensical. It may be impossible. It may be the screwiest thing Corporate America has ever done.
But that’s the way it is.
Remember when the A&E Channel started? Remember its name back then? “Art and Entertainment.” Remember what they used to air?
People who wanted to watch operas, and ballets, and musicals, and so on could flip to A&E. It gave a small but measurable segment of the population a place to go, a place where they could watch what they wanted to watch. Grand opera may not be my cup of tea, or yours, but why shouldn’t it be on the air?
It used to be. Why not now? With 200-plus channels, why not?
Look at it this way: There may not be a very large percentage of our population which wants to watch Wagnerian opera — personally I’d rather be shot — but there are some people who like it. Go to any large city and you’ll find an opera house, right? So why isn’t there anyone providing that kind of entertainment on television?
A&E has renamed itself. How? “The art of entertainment.” Art of entertainment? Hah! Art of clones, copies and counterfeits!
I might also ask what channel you click on for rodeo, square dancing, and the “Grand Old Opry?”
As for “new age” radio, forget it! I have Sirius on my dish. I get a lot of stations on Sirius. How many? I don’t even know. A lot of them, I can tell you that.
And on top of the Sirius stations there are something like another 30 or 40 other music stations on my dish.
“Good Lord!” you might say, “Must be one for everything.”
But is there?
Show me the satellite equivalent of KAHM. You can’t.
Show me the satellite equivalent of KTAR. You can’t.
Show me the satellite equivalent of KMOG. You can’t.
I could repeat that sentence, using different call signs, until I used up this whole edition of the Roundup.
You know that classic emcee phrase we hear so often as music blares and a talent program begins? “Good evening, everybody!”
There used to be a quiet-spoken comedian named Frank Morgan who came on nightly on radio and said, “Good evening, anybody.”
Says a lot, doesn’t it?
Another thing I like about standard radio is the fact that I don’t have to sit with a remote in my hand all the time, ready to turn down the volume on the commercials.
For a long time, before it went out a few summers back — a fatal illness, remove your hat please — I had an old radio set with an analog volume meter. I used to sit and listen, leaning back, enjoying myself, and watching the needle on the dial. Music came and went. The news came and went. Commercials came and went. The needle stayed in the same small, comfortable, listening range.
But television? They actually hire guys to yell at you.
“HEY! HEY! LOOK! THIS GOOP WILL GET ANY STAIN OUT! WATCH! WATCH! SEE? I’M PUTTING THIS PHONY DYE IN THIS WATER AND I’M PUTTING IN SOME OF THIS GOOP. SEE? THE PHONY DYE IS CHANGING COLOR! SEE! SEE! GET OUT OF THAT CHAIR! GRAB YOUR PHONE AND ...”
One of those guys died the other day. They put it on the evening news.
First obit I’ve actually enjoyed hearing. My hope is he took a couple of television executives with him.
Of course, like anything else, radio was never perfect. In fact, radio was, and still can be, downright screwed up at times.
As we’ll see next week, of course. :-)