Monday, October 1, 2012

The idiot box

Today we start on a journey through the things and people that have influenced my life to make me the fine upstanding citizen I am today. Seriously don't laugh when I say that. I thought I would start off with something a little light and move into the more sentimental aspects later on. So today I am going to talk about TV.

It shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone that someone of my generation was greatly influenced by the television. I wasn't exactly one of those children who grew up with the TV as a baby sitter. I in fact spent a great deal of time outside playing with friends and getting in trouble. My mother was a firm believer in us not living in front of a television.

That being said, I still spent a lot of time in front of that glowing box of escapism. I was a kid in the 80's and 90's it was bound to happen. I reveled in the joy of Saturday morning cartoons. As I got older I was an avid SNICK (Saturday Night Nick) kid seeing as how Nickelodeon was my TV channel of choice. I never missed TGIF and for years could tell you what the line up had been. When I was a teenager I fell into the WB (Now the CW) as it emerged as a channel full of shows built just for my age group.

The fact that to this day I am still devoted to and highly invested in my TV viewing is not the influence I am thinking about. That habit is one thing, but I am more thinking about how certain shows influenced my likes in every realm of my life.

As I said I watched all of the standard things kids watch. I watched Saturday morning cartoons, all of the popular Nick shows, mainstream sitcoms, and lots of older syndicated shows of times gone by. It was pretty much your standard fare. Almost.

You see I had this habit of finding weird things to watch on TV. Being an insomniac sort of lent itself to finding shows most people miss. At 3am the programming selections were limited to say the least. The number of channels actually showing anything was incredibly limited when I was a child, even with cable at my disposal. Cable back then paled in comparison to cable now.

I remember the first time I saw Doctor Who was on PBS at probably 3am. It was followed by episodes of Star Trek TNG and then episodes of Sailor Moon. All of these were shows I had never heard of and could never find on my own during daylight hours. All of these were shows I was immediately engrossed in, especially the first two.

The simple idea of Doctor Who and Star Trek were thrilling to me. Space travel, time travel, great adventures, companionship, the unknown, fantastical creatures. All of it was just amazing to me. From that strange man with the long scarf in the blue box to Klingons and Captain Picard's shiny head it was all amazing.

Watching these shows sparked a creative fire inside of me. They let me imagine things far greater than myself and my small world. They let my dreams travel further than I ever thought possible. They opened my eyes to the greatest of possibilities.

These were not the only shows though. There was one show, The Oddysey, that was about a boy who fell into a coma and went to this weird world where no one aged beyond 16 and it was run by gangs. Eventually he comes out of the coma but you discover the other kids in his dream world are really other kids in comas. I have no idea where I saw it, and I remember always having trouble finding it, but I was thrilled every time I did.*

Also I remember when I was in 6th grade we used to watch a show in my reading class to teach us about libraries. It was called Tomes and Talismans and was set in the future with aliens and a out of her time librarian was helping kids try and save the human race by finding a lost book. It was campy and poorly made but still I loved it. That was my favorite part of that class.

Each of these shows and so many more like The Secret World of Alex Mack, Animorphs, Space Cases, Ghostwritter, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Eerie Indiana, and probably a dozen more that I am forgetting, all helped to shape me. I mean beyond the fact that I still love all things sci fi, fantasy, and paranormal. Beyond the fact that my reading preferences lean in those directions. Besides the fact that my TV preferences lean in that direction. Those are sort of obvious.

These shows opened me to loving RPGs, comics, theater, improv, ren faires, and circus freaks. These shows were like gateway drugs into a geeky world of endless possibilities. They let me see beyond myself, beyond reality, beyond normal convention. They let me think that there was so much more.

I am thankful for all of these shows for helping shape me. I am thankful that they showed me that I am only limited by my own imagination, and my imagination is limited by nothing.

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