Is there a devil in your house?

Country Roads

When I was a youngster in the early 1950s many families did not yet have a television set in their homes.

For some families ̶ including my own ̶ it was an economic issue as TV sets were still quite expensive. For some families ̶ including my own ̶ it was a religious issue. There was a concern that the programming television brought into the home was contrary to the family’s moral values.

One elderly lady I knew maintained that “if there’s a TV antenna on the roof there’s a devil in the house.”

Television sets ultimately became less expensive and within the economic reach of most families. Many of those who were initially opposed to television on religious or moral grounds eventually gave in and purchased a TV set anyway. They discovered there was good stuff to watch, too.

My brothers and I were delighted when our father yielded in early 1957 and bought a used TV set from his brother-in-law. We boys were entertained by The Mickey Mouse Club, educated (and occasionally titillated) by National Geographic programs and spiritually edified by Billy Graham Crusade telecasts which we watched out of grateful obligation. In the late ’50s there wasn’t much on the tube to truly corrupt us.

Sure, there were shoot ’em-up cowboy shows, but we were playing cowboys and Indians long before we had a television set. Besides, good guys Marshall Dillon and Wyatt Earp always won and the bad guys always lost! Ricky and Lucy Ricardo slept in separate beds and Ward and June Cleaver apparently didn’t sleep at all.

Things have changed. What we can see and hear on network television programs today would have made our grandfathers blush. Grandma might have fainted.

Imagine what an extra-terrestrial somewhere out there in the universe might think if he/she/it tuned in prime-time network television programming today. ET might be led to believe most Americans are 30-something sex addicts.

I exaggerate to make a point. There are still some good (even excellent) programs on network TV but we obviously don’t live with the Ricardos or the Cleavers anymore.

Iowa PBS offers viewers some excellent alternatives to mayhem and mattresses ̶ four channels of great programming. We are proud (but modest) supporters of Friends of Iowa PBS. Since the advent of digital broadcasting most on-air channels offer additional programming on sub-channels, many of which offer television shows from the past. When I watch broadcast television it is usually one of these sub-channels.

Cable television and satellite dishes offer alternatives, of course. My family was connected to cable for many years and later to satellite services. For several years I got fed up with rapidly increasing bills and just watched broadcast channels with an antenna in the attic. We watched less TV in those years.

We are able to receive all of the Des Moines market television stations with indoor antennas. We access additional programming from Sling (via the internet) for less than half the price of cable or satellite dish.

This arrangement offers more channels than we care to watch. Julie enjoys the Hallmark channels and I’m hooked on the You Tube channel. Now in my 70s I am still a nerd boy and enjoy the eclectic programming available on the You Tube channel.

In recent days I have been learning about the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic. The Faroe Islands is a self-governing group of islands that is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. If airplane seats were larger a visit would be on my bucket list.

The now-deceased acquaintance who subscribed to the “devil in the house” theory would be surprised by what’s on television these days, not only in content but in program selection.

Since the beginning of television, viewers have had a choice of whether they let a devil or an angel into the house. Ultimately, we each make that decision by pushing one of two little buttons ̶ the channel selector and the on-off switch.


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