Saturday, November 5, 2016

Of Sesame Street and Peyton Place

Can I tell you how to get to Sesame Street? Oh, you bet I can. I am more familiar with Oscar, Elmo and Big Bird’s turf than my own town. Mr. Rogers? But of course. The sweater and sneaks, the soft, soothing voice, the Neighborhood of Make Believe…all staples of my kids’ childhood. My brood was, thank heavens, mostly reared in the pre-Barney the Totally Obnoxious Dinosaur era. But I certainly watched more than my fair share of children’s television, some shows of much better quality than others. 

We Seyfrieds were a strictly PBS family—except for Saturday mornings, when all bets were off. Saturday mornings I called my mom, who was still living in Atlanta, because—I’m dating myself here—the telephone rates were down. The only way I could get an uninterrupted hour to gab was to let the gang watch Saturday morning cartoons, which they anticipated as avidly as gamblers on their way to Vegas. The cartoons had zero merit, intellectually, but once a week I thought they were fine…kind of like the leftover bags of Mounds bars I binge-ate the day after Halloween every year and no other time.

The Cunningham girls, ready to watch "The Edge of Night"

When I was little, we had fewer programming choices for sure. There was Captain Kangaroo. Romper Room. The Soupy Sales Show, which even then I knew was pretty bizarre. I was, as a mere tot, allowed to be in the room while Mom watched her regular boatload of soaps and talk shows. While lots of the content went over my head, I did manage to get a better sex education from As the World Turns and Peyton Place than anything my parents attempted to convey. By the way, Joanie’s idea of teaching us about the birds and bees was purchasing an LP (featuring a Catholic priest giving us what was not anywhere near the lowdown), and then leaving the room after putting it on the record player.

As a grandma I am rapidly getting up to speed on television for little ones, 2016 version. Curious George is delightful. Good old Sesame Street abides. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a so-so updating of Fred Rogers’ show, so gentle as to be snooze-inducing. One of Aiden’s favorites, Super Why, is actually teaching him early reading skills. For a time, we were all about Thomas the Tank Engine, but I found the show annoying and at times incomprehensible (why did all the trains have different names and personalities, yet to me looked exactly alike?)—glad we seem to have cooled off on that one. 

The old model!

With cable and the internet, there are zillions more home entertainment choices ahead for my grandchildren. So far Sheridan and Ya-Jhu are doing a super job of balancing TV with more outdoor activities, playing with blocks and Playdoh, drawing, etc. and I feel confident they will raise very well-rounded kids. I’m not worried a bit.

After all, I watched a ton of junk back in the day, and I turned out just fine! Didn’t I? Didn’t I?

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