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Column: Is TV a Wasteland?

Dear readers,

Newton N. Minow, the FCC chief during the Kennedy administration, famously proclaimed television programming to be “a vast wasteland.”

So, what made up that vast wasteland of my youth? According to Mr. Minow the wasteland included, “A procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, Western bad men, Western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons.” 

In other words, the good stuff.

Mr. Minow died last week. He was 97. I don’t know the cause of his death, but it probably wasn’t from sitting too close to the TV. Back in the day when every other commercial on TV was advertising cigarettes, it was common knowledge that cancer was caused from sitting too close to the TV.

I enjoyed the TV shows of my youth, then and now. We are living in a wonderful time. It is easier to watch those shows now than it was at the time of Mr. Minow’s complaints. 



In the 1960s there was no way to record a TV show. You had to be sitting in front of the TV at the time the show was being broadcast over the ether. If you needed a bathroom break you had to wait for a commercial. If you couldn’t wait, you risked missing Eliot Ness gun down that week’s gangster guest star. Returning from the bathroom break, the question asked of others watching the show was always the same, “Hey, what did I miss?” 

Today you can watch almost any old or new TV show or movie anytime you want. I like to take a trip down memory lane from time to time and watch some of my old favorites.

I recently discovered that the complete season of “Yancy Derringer” is on YouTube. It is a western starring Jock Mahoney, X Brands, and Kevin Hagen. The action takes place in New Orleans after the Civil War. X Brands plays “Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah,” Yancy’s Indian companion similar to Tonto’s role in The Lone Ranger. 

Trigger warning! The show is full of outdated cultural depictions, misogyny, violence, and smoking. In other words, put it on your watch list. You will be glad you did. Better wait until the weekend to watch that first episode. You won’t be able to stop. You will find yourself binge watching the complete season. If you need a bathroom break, you can just hit pause. No chance of missing Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah once again coming to Yancy’s rescue.

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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