Tracy Lee Curtis

What TV streamers get NOW, we used to have to work for

This week my friend Joanne posted to Facebook, “If anyone tries to spoil the final episode of “Mad Men,” I will come at you on white roller skates to organ music.”

Yep. It’s a problem. Our ability to record and stream has us all watching our shows at different times, thus making reveals a hazard. My 12-year-old is watching “Lost” on his phone. I get such a kick saying things like, “This is the one where Jack dies.”

But kids don’t know how easy they have it. Lost is exactly what my son would be if he had to watch television the way we did. We didn’t control our TV, it controlled us. It required research and manual labor and we were at its mercy.

Because when I was 12, you had to pray your Mom bought a TV Guide at the grocery. Without it, there was no way to know what was on TV. Then you had to scour the Guide for your show and memorize the time and the channel before somebody snatched it out of your hands.

I’d run downstairs repeating “’Happy Days,’ 8 o’clock, channel 4” over and over until I got to the den – only to find Dad in a recliner watching channel 2. Then I had to sit on the floor next to the TV and wait until he said I could change it.

And by change it, I mean physically turn the metal dial, sometimes using a dish towel to keep my fingers from bleeding. Then twist the volume knob, squeeze the foil on the antenna, then jump out of the way once the picture came clear.

My sisters and I drew straws each night to see who would have to be the channel changer. The loser would get a pillow and a blanket and make a little bed in front of the TV. So when a commercial came on, she could pop up and change it before that manicurist could tell us that Palmolive softens your hands while you do the dishes.

TV also dictated that you be present for your show as it aired. You got one shot to see that episode. That’s what made grounding so effective. You didn’t want to miss Fonzie jumping his motorcycle over 14 garbage cans in the parking lot of Arnold’s Drive-In. The night we watched who shot JR on “Dallas,” Nielson reported a record- breaking highest number of viewers and lowest number of groundings.

But today we have total control. If I miss an episode of “Nashville,” I can get it On Demand. I missed two seasons of “Entourage,” but thanks to HBO NOW, I can have it NOW.

But while we can finally control television, we can’t control people. And so I comment on Joanne’s post, “This is the one where Don dies.” It’s not true. I just really want to see her on roller skates.

Curtis: tcurtis@charlotteobserver.com

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