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Television just isn't the same anymore!

By guest columnist R. Shaw Furlow

Just in case you didn’t know, you can watch Co-Lin sports events on television from the comfort of your home or at work by opening a link on your computer or cellular device. Co-Lin on television! When I was a student, we were proud when a group of students got a little, low watt radio station up and running.

Co-Lin exemplifies how television has changed over the years, and the local colleges has been on the cutting edge of streaming their sporting events. If you can’t make it to the stadium or the gym, you can watch every play or turn-over on Co-Lin’s live stream.

To say television has changed is an understatement? When I was a kid, we had three networks, which provided news, entertainment and sports, much like they do today. On Saturday afternoon, the family sat around the TV and watched the Baseball Game of the Week. Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reece did the play-by-play and set the example for many sports announcers who followed. The game of the week. One game and occasionally, a double header. Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley brought us the news each evening. One of the dreadful reports brought to us each day was the body count from the war in Vietnam. But we trusted Cronkite and the others to keep us informed.

Public Broadcasting was one of the first changes, bringing new types of television. Educational programs like "Sesame Street," orchestral concerts and operas from Lincoln Center in New York City and, of course, Julia Child and Justin Wilson. All different from the three commercial broadcast networks.

I remember the conversations we all had about “pay tv.” Why would we pay for what we can have for free? Little did we know. Cable tv came along, and with it FOX. It started with limited content and was not available in every home. But cable grew, becoming available in every neighborhood, subdivisions and apartment complexes. On their signs, hotels advertised they had free HBO to entice visitors to stop.

With cable came relaxed standards. After all, you subscribed. No one made you do it. Family television rapidly gave way to series like the "Sopranos," which opened our eyes to the dark side of the mafia. The scripts were violent, the dialogue was full of profanity, and there was nudity.

Everything changed with satellites and the internet.

What you could watch proliferated. No more were there standard shows everyone watched. Program content narrowed for specific demographics. Even the television set itself changed. Today, we watch our "television" shows on our telephones.

I remember asking my Co-Lin Music Appreciation classes if they saw last night's episode of "24" or the Grammy Awards show, and no one was watching them, or even a television set for that matter. I repeated that question each semester and got the same response. I was flabbergasted at first, but then came to expect it. They were playing video games -- another new kind of "television program" on a television-like device or a television modified for interactive play -- when they should have been watching REAL tv.

“Remember when late night tv was funny?” I hear that all the time from victims of demographic-focused programming. My mother said: “I just don’t get Conan O’Brien.” Now, mom was well into her 70s and way out of Conan’s demographic. I explained that his humor was not intended for her, but rather "thirty-something’s." “Well, that explains a lot,” she said.

"Saturday Night Live" was funny to me during my mid 20s to mid 40s. Today, I find some of it slightly amusing and I rarely know the musical guest. I’m not in the demographic. To attract younger viewers, venerable morning news shows, like "Today" and "Good Morning America," have introduced us to many new younger reporters. The awards shows are geared toward younger viewers. It doesn’t bother me. I had my time. Not only can you watch tv on your cellular device, but you can produce your own show and stream it to all your friends and followers, and if you are really lucky, you can become an internet influencer, whatever that is. My friend and sometime music partner Charlie Hewitt streams many live music shows in our area. With his phone and Facebook, he brings performances to your computer or phone. Charlie and I, in fact, have delved into the streaming world ourselves with a Facebook show, "Two Old Men on the Shadyside Porch" totally streamed from our IPhones. My show, "Music from the Shadyside," was recorded with very professional equipment, but streamed on both Facebook and YouTube. I highly recommend both shows

"YouTube." The name reflects how far television has come. Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ed Sheehan and Charlie Puth all started on YouTube. You don’t know these names? Demographics. There’s that word again.

Now there is Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, and a dozen others. What’s next? Maybe cable goes the way of Blockbuster?

That’s it for now friends. You have to look for it, but there is tv worth watching. Until next time, support the arts.


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