I can’t remember not watching television. It’s just always been there. My earliest memories involve an old black and white set perched on a squeaky metal cart. Every day my dad would come home for lunch and my parents would turn the cart toward the kitchen, where the three of us would sit around the table watching Paul Harvey broadcast the noon news. And I’m not just talking about my earliest television memories – I mean earliest memories, period. I think this was before my sister was even around.
I remember days in the basement of our house in Aberdeen. I’d ride my red tricycle in circles on the gray tile floor while Sesame Street and The Electric Company called out to me from the carpeted end of the room. My dad built an entertainment center for the new, color TV out of some flat boards and a few cinder blocks. I found out later that the cable company had accidentally hooked us up instead of the neighbors. Pretty soon it was back to 3 channels.
When I was older, there was Captain Kangaroo in the morning, and Little House on the Prairie every day after school. I know that show so well I bet I’ve seen every episode three times. (Quiz me, I dare you.) I remember going to the KELO studio for birthday parties on Captain 11. “Wave one hand. Now wave both hands. Wave both hands and one foot. Now wave both hands and both feet!”
In elementary school I snuck out of bed to watch Cagney & Lacey and Hill Street Blues from the shadows of the hallway. My 8:00 bedtime seemed so unfair. I remember the night a small aircraft crashed and took out a power line near our home. I was in the family room watching Laverne and Shirley when the world went black. I’d never been so terrified.
When I was in junior high, I watched Thirtysomething, because it was the cool new show. I had no idea what it meant. I thought it was boring.
I did my homework in front of the TV. We ate supper in front of the TV. No one ever suggested it might be bad for me. At school, we talked about our favorite shows, or who was on Saturday Night Live. TV was our seventh-grade social life, our culture. You were such a geek if you didn’t watch the right shows or remember the funny lines. And I took it to heart.
When I got to college, with my long, bouncy curls and my mall bangs, I knew two people. It was so liberating to have a fresh start, a chance to forge a new identity. It didn’t take me long to meet the group of people I still call my best friends. And it wasn’t long after that, the night we sat down and reminisced about growing up. Talked about the lives we used to lead. The things we used to do. The shows we used to watch. We sat around on the floor of Jo and Amy’s room singing old theme songs. I only got a few words into “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…” and I was branded: Blair. At first I objected. I was not a rich-bitch daddy’s girl. And that wasn’t even one of my favorite shows. But I did have the Blair-hair. And when you’re sharing a bathroom with 24 other women, and five of them share your first name, it helps to have a moniker.