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April 4, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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32 Inches of Pain: How Television Kicked Our Childhood In The Mansack 

Television, you überskank. I used to be on your side. 

I was part of the generation that had three parents, one of whom was Mum’s new boyfriend Samsung—a rather large, colourful character, but always there for a good laugh.
He was a friend, dude. And we had some good times, right? Re-runs of old shows that we watched as kids make us nostalgic and gushy just thinking about them. I’m sure you could list five old school shows off the top of your head that you’d sell a kidney to watch. And another kidney to get the DVD box set.  

But where did television actually go? Did it just get its kicks and leave like a psychopath at a Bangkok strip joint? Or is it still maliciously watching us in the shadows, poking its head out when we think all hope is gone to offer up another season of Family Guy or SpongeBob? 

Even though we did all right, in retrospect, as kids, we were dumb little gremlins. We bought into all the crap they were spitting out. Beyblades, Pokémon, Captain Planet. Jesus, I remember one time I actually owned one of the power rings from that show—until I ate it, of course. But that’s only because I saw Yogi Bear do it once. It seemed a first-rate idea at the time. 

The Bugs Bunny reference does pose an interesting proposition, though: how much of our childhood experience was influenced from what we saw on the box? With the exception of say, Wile E. Coyote, who was probably the greatest work safety spokesperson of our generation. Let’s assume that we go watch an old episode of Pingu, an old sweetheart of mine. I remember one episode where he attempts to get his ball back from a small cave, and once inside, he can’t get his stupid beak out of there. If you were nine and saw this, where everyone was happy families at the end of the day, wouldn’t you just love to try that? 

Exactly. It doesn’t even have to be something that elaborate. Batman. I know one of my nutso friends used to run around throwing paper bats at people pretending they were Batarangs. Don’t even get me started on some of those other crazy shows. Like The Wild Thornberries? If you saw that and didn’t try and strike up a conversation with your parakeet, I’m buying you a beer. If we weren’t watching television, would we have gotten all those embarrassing juvenile polaroids of us in a Superman costume in mid-jump off a flight of stairs? 

Probably not. But, Christ, we’d be boring people. I mean, think about it. We were the generation that might as well have the emergency broadcast colour chart tattooed across our forehead. Media had us from the womb—even our dummies had My Little Pony on them. If Mummy needed some alone time, she’d plonk you in from of Blue’s Clues and away you go. And that’s just in the first three years or so. If Mum was tired of you then, she’d flick on Malcolm in the Middle. Or The Simpsons. It never really mattered. All it did was distract you from your sugar-hyped self so she could have a ciggie.  

In the television’s defense, this influx of creative work kept us receptive. It made us see the world through a pair of sunglasses shaped like stars. We got it easy as kids. So much television actually made the world seem so much more grandiose than it really was for us. We were a creative bunch. We got lucky. We were the generation that got the twin worlds of seizure fit-inducing cartoons and parents that wouldn’t take shit from this faux father and booted our baby asses outside to play real games with real people. 
But that’s where the problems arise. Television shouldn’t have been a kind figure that abandoned us mid-way through the jungle to hunt on our own. It should have been a drill sergeant, screaming at you day in day out to straighten up and get that homework assignment in. It should have given us that shotgun blast of reality straight to the temples where it would stick properly. But, unfortunately, it did fail in that respect. 

And it’s just getting worse and worse. We’re coming to a time in television history where the programming needs to pull its pants up and stop wanking in the bathroom between sets. Yes, the programming that has carried us through to our freshman years is, for the most part, okay. But look what the new generation has to endure, and tell me you’re not essentially watching a severe dental operation. And it’s all been done before, but ten times better. The next generation of children have to sit through the leftovers of what we’ve had, and they’ll be as useless as Helen Keller’s drum kit for it. 

We got it good as kids with television. But dude, what happened to you? You were so full of life back in the day, now it’s like you’re running on old dreams and feathers. Where’s the imagination gone, man? As kids, we were watching the greatest cartoons ever to air, and, now we’re all grown up, we give so much more value to what we had. Plus we can bless ourselves lucky never to have to sit through fucking Jonas LA. Christ, they can burn in pits of tar for eternity for that one. 

And yes, I do bitch about the state of affairs nowadays, what happened to us, what those little tuckers are doing now, etc. But every time we conjure up these memories of the TV set that was bigger than a brick mansion on steroids, they are always loaded to the eyeballs with good times. Even that Superman leap of faith was a happy, if short-lived moment. It was in that moment where it was perfect: “I’m flying, man.” And it didn’t get much better than that.  

Consider this an intervention, man Give them what we had. Trust me, they’ll be better off. And so will the A&E.

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