Some kids dreaded September, as it marked the end of summer and the start of the new school year. September meant boring trips to the shopping mall to buy new school clothes and supplies. It meant no more sleeping late. No more staying up past a reasonable bedtime. And worst of all, it meant the dawn of another year of homework.
But to me, September was bliss. It was when TV networks rolled out their new shows. Every night for the first weeks of September, wonderful gifts of titles, stars and stories were presented to eager consumers like diamonds on trays of gold. It was a month filled with anxiety and hope: which of my favorite shows survived from last year? Which terrible shows mercifully got the axe?
The networks displayed P.T. Barnum swagger back then. They would create half-hour specials touting their latest shows, employing clever ad men to describe their latest offerings in the most alluring terms, as if they were announcing the Second Coming.
The razzle-dazzle provoked an adrenaline buzz that turned me into a boy with the rabid determination of a mountain climber. I would watch every minute of every new show, down to the closing credits. No one dare step in my way. This was a serious, personal mission driven by a maniacal obsession that my 2013 body and mind could never handle.
As each new program ended, I immediately absorbed its vibe and either allied myself to it with utter devotion, or it was rejected as an unworthy interloper. Batman starring Adam West? Oh hell yes. Daktari? Please. Get that jungle muck away from me.
Back then, the crisis would come when two favorite shows were on at the exact same time. Feverish channel-changing aside, there was no way to watch both. We only had one black and white television, and video recording was still a science fiction dream.
This dilemma required a Solomon-like judgement. I had to choose which show to watch now, and which one to wait nine whole months to watch during summer re-runs! How does one make a choice like that? Inevitably, it felt like I was missing something. A bittersweet childhood passage, learning how to give up something I loved.
Of course, the worst possible eventuality could arrive that following June when I might be forced to miss the re-run, due to a family vacation or worse, a network interruption by President Johnson, clouding up the TV screen with those somber eyes and hound dog ears, droning on about Vietnam.
Eventually the TV season settled into its routine, and so did I. Monday was Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie and The Lucy Show. Tuesday was The Invaders and Petticoat Junction, and so on. These shows were as much a part of my life and, now, my memories as were neighbors and teachers.
The shows got me excited about the process of telling stories, leading me to try writing short stories as early as age ten. Most of those efforts were imitative, of course. But they were my versions of those shows I loved. I wanted to make my own and become part of the process. I longed to spend hours on sound stages, watching actors utter my words. I imagined attending cocktail parties with network executives and gorgeous starlets, sipping martinis and throwing our heads back in knowing laughter.
I pictured myself standing onstage, accepting my Emmy Award for Best Script by a Grade School Boy. Oh, and I also won a Best Actor Emmy for starring in that show. And I wrote the theme song – a catchy ditty that also ran up the pop charts, sung by The Monkees.
Eventually this youthful mania subsided. Networks proliferated, and new shows were premiered in scatter-shot fashion, whenever it was deemed possible to attract new eyeballs. The Fall Fad was no more.
These days, I still love September, but it’s because my wife and I were married then. And now we tend to watch full seasons in one gulp – Breaking Bad, House of Cards, etc.
But there are still echoes of those golden days. I understand Low Winter Sun is quite good. And Sleepy Hollow looks promising…
- Next year’s Emmys to air in final week of August (nydailynews.com)
- EMMYS: Making Room For Genre Shows (deadline.com)
- TV: Preview: So… what’s good?: 26 current TV series worth binge-watching this weekend (avclub.com)