I can remember watching television on the 3 stations we received. We were lucky. We lived outside of town and had a tall light pole in the back yard with a huge antennae on it. At that time it looked like the most sophisticated device one could imagine. With wires of different lengths going in all those directions, I was sure that we could surely pick up an alien space craft should any try to invade. (I was a big fan of "The Twilight Zone"). Anyway, my father always prided himself for being technically advanced. In those days, in our part of the south, that meant having a color TV and an outside antennae, so we qualified.
TV shows in the afternoon I can remember included Hazel, Leave it to Beaver, and My Three Sons. Of course there were the soap operas, but my family never watched those. We never discussed them. It was like they did not exist - except when I would visit my grandmother each summer. Then we had to stop each afternoon and "rest" conveniently around 1:30 when "As the World Turns" happened to be on. Now mind you, she was a good Christian woman and would never waste her time on such trash, but she could tell you what was going on with each character and always predict what was about to happen. I just gave her credit for being pretty smart and took advantage of the chance to watch "the show." I digress.
To me reality TV was watching Harriet Nelson vacuum her house in high heels and pearls. I was always interested to see how the Beaver was going to work his way out of his weekly predicament. And, I did not need running commentary. Also, the Beaver was able to get himself into and out of trouble in 30 minutes. It did not drag on for a season. There was plenty of trouble waiting for him next week. The "reality" problems that Steven Douglas faced raising three sons as a widower in a house with only his uncle (a crotchety but lovable old Navy guy) to help were a little more complex. Television was an escape. It was a look into someone else's life - a life that was good and fun. It was always a little more adventuresome than ours but we could always relate.
Maybe it is my age, but I fail to see the entertainment in today's reality TV. When I walk through the den and catch my daughter watching one of the shows, all I see is 20 something year olds whining about something or someone. No one ever seems to be happy or satisfied. And the competition, whether it is 5 girls vying for a rose from a guy (I think I would do the math and cut my losses if I was on that show), or 5 guys trying to convince a girl to pick them (like she is not going to make them beg - please!!) or 15 whining 20 something year olds trying to live together (without someone to cook and clean for them). Do these kids work? Did they finish high school and in their yearbook under Life's Ambition it said "To be on Reality TV". Check - Successful. Of course the best one yet is however many adults (who supposedly know what they are getting into - at least after the first season - and I bet they watched the show) give up all their freedoms to the whims of a TV producer, are thrown into some Hell-hole place (ie hot jungle, remote desert island, etc) and forced to fend for themselves. All while their entire existence is being filmed. Hello - did they have to fail a mental exam to qualify. Then at least one is seen crying each week, "He turned against me. I really felt we had made an alliance. I should have known not trust him, ever since he ate all the bugs we foraged for."
It reminded me of sorority rush, late at night after you have smiled and chatted with 300 cute girls, are dead tired (and really want to go to that fraternity party). You are gathered around on the floor of the sorority house trying to endure the final round of selection, when some girl stands up and says "I can't take her as a sister, she broke up me and my boy friend." Well, maybe we did live through realty TV, we just never let the cameras in. And most of all, we were never seen smoking in public or dancing on the bar, after all we all came from "good families."