It’s 1978 and my parents, both about 13 at the time, sit eagerly in front of their whiz-bang, brand new colour television. Their living rooms are similar – the only television in the house perched in front of a couple of couches and a coffee table. Mum, completely enthralled by the moving colour pixels on the screen, presses her nose against the monitor – to which her mother exclaims “don’t do that, you’ll get square eyes!”, an expression which I myself as a child would hear on countless occasions.
I ask my parents what their earliest memory of television is in their home. Dad recalls the excitement of watching the first man landing on the moon, followed by vivid memories of the first televised conflict, the Vietnam War. According to Pach, the Vietnam War was “the first time TV coverage had a critical effect on public understanding of a war effort on a president’s ability to sell war” (2010, p.172). Dad agrees with its significance, he remembers the ABC broadcasting footage of the war, generating a fear of “just how close they were coming”.
Mum, on the other hand, lights up at the thought of her youth. “6 O’Clock Sunday”, she says, “One word. Countdown!”. At the mention of this, my Dad chimes in with an excited sense of reminiscence, to which they both explode on a nostalgic digression – recalling their favourite shows; Skippy, The Sullivans, The Kenny Everett Video Show and Benny Hill amongst many others. During Countdown, Mum recalls silencing her family whilst eagerly holding a cassette tape to the television to try and record a song. Interestingly, I remember doing exactly the same thirty years later, this time recording songs from Rage as voice memos on my iPod touch.
“Watching countdown in colour was incredible”
What I found most curious about this interview, were the stark similarities between my experience with television as a child, with those of my parents. In the case of my parents, watching television before school was forbidden – and for my sister and I this was the same. Like them, it was an uncommon occasion that the television was on during dinner time, and even rarer for us to be sitting in front of it during a meal. When I ask Mum what shows she remembers watching as a child, she says “It’s actually easier to remember the ones I wasn’t allowed to watch”, to which I exclaim my supressed criticism of her never allowing us to watch “Home and Away”.
The similarities between my parents’ viewing habits when they were children, compared with those of my sister and I are clearly evident at the conclusion of this interview. As such, I believe that upbringing plays an imperative role in an individual’s experience with television. Perhaps one day my future children will too be hearing my squawking affirmation: “Don’t sit so close, you’ll get square eyes!”.
Pach, C 2010, ‘We Need to get a Better Story to the American People’ (ed.), Selling War in a Media Age : The Presidency and Public Opinion in the American Century, University Press of Florida, p.172.