Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!Happy birthday, dear TV,
Happy birthday to you!
What's that? Television's 50th birthday was actually yesterday?
Hey - if you want to get picky, we could point out that the medium was being experimented with for at least 10 years before that first official telecast from the New York World's Fair on April 30, 1939. But we'll accept the World's Fair debut - which included the first televised speech by a U.S. president, President Franklin D. Roosevelt - if you'll accept our singing television column.
A day late.
Of course, television as an industry has come a long way since its fuzzy black-and-white beginnings 50 years ago. It has documented wars, changed the nature of political campaigning, provided a communal place of mourning for national tragedies and provided countless hours of diversion and entertainment - wholesome and otherwise.
Television has given us Uncle Miltie, Lucy, Ralph Kramden, Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Maxwell Smart, Carol Burnett, Archie Bunker, Mary Richards, the 4077th and Cliff Huxtable. And it has survived Mitch Miller, Gomer Pyle, Rowan & Martin, "Hee Haw," Mr. T, T & A, J.R. Ewing, Howard Cosell and Geraldo Rivera.
Television introduced us to the Beaver and the Beatles. It has taken us to "Peyton Place" and "Knots Landing." We have been treated by "Doctor Kildair," "Ben Casey," "Trapper John" and "Marcus Welby, M.D.," and cared for at "Medical Center," "General Hospital" and "St. Elsewhere." We have eaten at "Frank's Place," imbided at "Cheers," flirted with the girls at "Petticoat Junction," riden the range of "Bonanza," fought crooks with "The Mod Squad," romanced on "The Love Boat" and wrestled in the wilderness with "Gentle Ben."
You want history? We've got five decades worth:
Philo T. Farnsworth. Cathode ray tube. Music. Dancing. Radio with pictures. "Victory at Sea." "Henry? Henry Aldrich!" "Liiiights ouuut!" "I like Ike."
"You can trust your car to the man who wears the star." "Oh, Looocy!" "Waaaah!" "This is the city." Gracie. Spring Byington. "Yo, Rinnie." Lonesome George. "Really big shoe . . . " Matt Dillon. "Requiem for a Heavyweight." "Dream Along With Me." "Gud eve-ening." The Anderson family. "Baby, you're the greatest." "I can name that tune in three notes." Kookie. "Roll 'em, roll 'em, roll 'em."
Kennedy vs. Nixon. Opie. "Smile! You're on `Candid Camera!" The Ponderosa. Yabba-dabba-doo. Maynard. "Joey Joey Joey." "Black gold. Texas tea." "And awaaay we go!" Uncle Martin. Nov. 23, 1963. Samantha. "Goll-eee." The U.S.S. Minnow. Lurch. Huntley-Brinkley. The Batmobile. Arnold Ziffle. Champagne music. Buffy and Jody. Col. Klink. "What a boon, what a doer, what a dream come-a-truer was he." "I will not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party to run for another term as your president.' Color. "Sock it to me." Vietnam. "Beam me up, Scotty." "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." "Book 'im, Danno."
"The devil made me do it." Meathead. "Who can turn the world on with her smile?" "G'night, John-boy." Hawkeye Pierce. "Who loves ya, baby?" "I Got You, Babe." The Fonz. "Dyn-O-Mite!" "I am not a crook." Vinne Barbarino. The Bicentennial. Farrah. "Where the towels are marked hers and hers and his." Lenny and Squiggy. "Da plane! Da plane!" Kunta Kinte. "Nah-nu, nah-nu." Ponch. Dan Tanna. Bo and Luke Duke. America held hostage. Dr. Johnny Fever. Cable.
Southfork. Robin Masters. "Be careful out there." Alexis. Tootie. Syndication. "This is my brother Darrell and my other brother Darrell." Dan Rather. Stereo. Sonny Crockett. "Where's the beef?" Alex P. Keaton. "Nooorm!" Cliff and Clair. Blue Moon Detective Agency. "Can we talk?" The Challenger. Iran-Contra. McKenzie & Brackman. Fawn Hall, Jessica Hahn and Donna Rice. "I have sinned against God." Oprah. "Where was George?" "One thousand points of light."
And here we are at the present, with television having evolved from a World's Fair curiosity into the most powerful communications medium ever devised by man. It shapes our thoughts and molds our perceptions of the world around us. It is seen as a tool for good and the root of all evil. It has been blamed for everything from the fall of a president to the rise of immorality.
But the way I see it, television is only a technological collection of tubes and wires. It has no more or no less inherent power than we are inclined to give it. If it has become a source of aggravation in the world, it's only because we have allowed it to become such. For television is just as capable of providing positive influences now as it has ever been - maybe even moreso with its vast array of resources and options.
So if you find yourself longing for the good old days when television was just a toy and the world was alive with alternate information and entertainment possibilities, remember - it can still be that way. All it takes is a simple flick of the wrist and a flip of a switch.
Just like it did back in 1939.