What’s On Tonight?

Back in the days of real television — the kind that was broadcast through the air to TVs outfitted with antennas — our choices about what to watch were limited to what the networks opted to show that night. As television watchers, which most of us were, we knew that on Saturday night we were likely to see a movie, but on Monday night (and Tuesday and Wednesday) it would be sitcoms. On Thursday, they might hit us with some drama. Friday night could be another movie or a variety show. And Sunday afternoon was usually movie time again, if it wasn’t sports.

Not to leave anyone out, from 10 until 4 on weekdays, there were the soap operas, which ruled daytime TV. In the morning, you got a lot of game shows — my grandmother used to watch those while she ironed. And finally, at 6 PM, there was The News.

Looking back, there was a lot of boring television especially during some time slots, but overall, it wasn’t terrible. We certainly watched enough of it and the tv page in the newspaper made it easy plan ahead. On most nights, millions of Americans would be tuned in to the same three shows.

Today, our choices are nothing short of staggering. There is so much on at any given moment that we couldn’t begin to watch it all. The advent of unlimited, on demand, streaming media has given us the gift of choice, but how to choose?

This brings us back to limitations. Taking my cue from Igor Stravinsky, limitations can be helpful in cases like these because they help you narrow down your choices. So I made up a bunch. Here are the limitations we’ve been playing with lately:

Sunday – Drama. A dramatic television series, usually two episodes.  We’re watching Better Call Saul at the moment. It’s not my usual thing but it’s good.

Monday – Documentary. Any documentary on any topic. We’ve been watching a lot of art documentaries about famous painters.

Tuesday – Easy Night. Something relaxing and untaxing, currently The Gilmore Girls. I’m still waiting for it to get good, but I haven’t given up yet.

Wednesday – Classic Television. We have DVDs of the complete Avengers series with Emma Peel which we’re watching one a week. Sadly, we’re almost done.

Thursday – Wild Card Night. It can be anything as long as it’s good.

Friday – The Friday Night Movie. Something light, maybe a comedy, sci fi, or musical.

Saturday – The Movie of the Week. A big movie, any genre.


We’ve only been doing this for two weeks, but the OCD part of me loves it because it makes it so much easier to decide while at the same time making sure I cover all the bases. I realize this kind of thing isn’t for everyone. Some people like to binge a whole series in a weekend, but that isn’t me. Having been raised in the era of television, I like to take a more measured approach.

In short, by being compulsive about television, I know that our dinnertime viewing will be worthwhile which allows me to justify all this TV watching!


Comments | 2

  • Some additions

    Ah, yes. The TV schedule, set by networks and affiliates. What a great old thing.

    Daytime watchers would begin the day with children’s programming before school – Captain Kangaroo or something local. There were also the morning news shows such as The Today Show.

    After the kids went to school, game shows and reruns! Is was always a treat to be sick at home and be able to see what the grownups could watch while we were at school. Price is Right was a hot show. There were old sitcoms like Hazel, Denis the Menace, and the In-Laws. Love American Style.

    Around noon there would be a local news show, and possibly some local game show – Dialing for Dollars, perhaps.

    Afternoons would drift into the soap operas, and that’s where I’d lose interest and do other things. Sometimes there were afternoon movies. Sometimes some westerns.

    After school, things would switch for kids again. Cartoons would come on. Reruns of Batman, Gilligan’s Island, Brady Bunch. Anything for kids until dinner.

    Dinnertime would be local and national news, or reruns of sitcoms for families. I Love Lucy, or Hogan’s Heroes often fit in here, or a western.

    Lise is right about the evenings…

    Weekends were another weird block of programming. Saturday mornings were all for kids. Cartoons galore, kid sitcoms and dramas, clown hosts, Wonderama…. and this would gradually shift to old black and white movies as the day wore on.

    Saturdays had the Wild World of Sports – which could be anything from ice skating, motorcycle jumping, to the Olympics. And skiers crashing, of course. The agony of defeat. Baseball games were on Saturday afternoons.

    Somewhere in all of this we all saw: Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, the Lawrence Welk Show, Mary Tyler Moore, MASH, Carol Burnett…

    I would like to make one addition to the list of limitations above for Sunday evenings: The Wonderful World of Disney. Sunday nights are good for a Disney dose.

  • The million dollar movie

    I don’t know if this is meant to be a nostalgic hour and I guess I’m dating myself here, but one thing I do recall is that the Flintstones were primetime television once a week!
    We would all gather around once a week to watch the first prime time half hour cartoon show.
    I also remember looking forward every year to certain movies. Wizard of Oz, Moby Dick, March of the wooden soldiers, Gone with The wind, the Ten Commandments.
    Those were all special as you could only watch them once a year! Not to mention other half hour specials, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Charlie Brown. They came up every year without fail. I also remember only having 13 channels to pick from and the original Mickey Mouse club.
    I wonder, if I could pick my channels ala carte’ if I could get it down to thirteen channels?

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