“…But I’d like to thank the streets that drove me crazy and all the televisions out there that raised me” – Lupe Fiasco (DAYDREAM)
“TV raised me. It became my addiction, influenced my language and impacted my diction. I see myself standing out there in the lights, Grammy, Oscar, Pulitzer or whatever award or statuette in hand, and then I give props to God, my father, my mother, and television. So I’m neither an artist, actor nor writer. Call me a dreamer if you like, but blame television because it played a part” – Kpatakpata, the Blogger
TV, that box with endless contents – some of it entertaining, some shocking, some stimulating, some sinful, and some downright evil. TV, that ‘container’ that always got us into trouble at home. I’d argue with my brothers endlessly on the particular channel to watch at a particular time of the day. The arguments would lead to pushing and shoving. Then to punches here and there. And ultimately, it would end with us getting caned and punishments dished out from our parents. We wouldn’t watch TV in the next couple of weeks.
TV can serve up feast. I remember sitting in my classroom and just thinking of all the programs I’d watch when I got back home. TV was the motivation for me to finish my assignments and lunch! Every errand pulling me away from the TV was an absolute annoyance. We were banned from eating in front of the TV so meals sometimes would be a source of distraction.
Long before satellite television and 24hr local channels, 4pm was H-hour for me. My brothers and I would wait in front of the TV from about 3pm. We’d sit there watching those color bars. We memorized their respective positions. I guess they were 8. Or 9? Then we’d stand at attention for the national anthem. My mother would be very amused. We would listen intently to the program schedule and then settle down. Wrestling was a big hit with us. Loved Hulk Hogan, hated Andre the Giant. Loved Hitman, hated The Undertaker. My brother practiced a lot of wrestling moves on his willing volunteers – the younger ones, including me. Thank God my spine is still in one piece.
Back then, TV signals were very weak, or perhaps our antennae were not very receptive. Either way, there was a lot of pole turning going on. One of us would go out and turn the pole on which the external antenna sat, desperate to achieve a clearer picture. He’d be outside turning, we’d be inside directing.
Is it clear?
Is it clear?
How about now?
It’s even worse than before?
Blank, nothing…oh wait stop!
Go back, turn it back, it showed that time!
Ok. Stop. Ooh ooh. Move a little bit.
How can I forget such small screen delights as Tales By Moonlight, the courtroom comedy set in colonial times, Ichoku, the ever-hilarious Jagua or that classic gem of Nigerian television The Village Headmaster. There was this particularly scary program on at that time. If you grew up in the East, you know Willy-Willy. I utterly hated it. Everyone hated it. I still do. As a matter of fact I don’t know anyone who has fond memories of that show even though it was a hit. Just the haunting melody of the theme music was enough to send me scurrying to my room. I’d be in tears begging that they turn the TV off.
Cable TV was a blessing. I remember watching The Three Stooges on weekends. Coming back home from school to catch Captain Planet. Seinfeld, The Commish, Quantum Leap, Popeye the Sailor, I was getting sensory overload. I was having so much fun that I began to rebel against my 10pm bedtime rule. My father was adamant, after the 9pm Network News (yes, I used to watch it as a child, and yes, I had no option) I was banished to bed. I remember the guilt I’d feel whenever I was watching any movie that wasn’t rated for general viewing. There was a time one of my darkest secrets was the number of R18 movies I’d seen!
Whenever I was at home, I’d be caught up in the 30 minute cycle of TV programs. I’ll go and take a bath after this program, I’d say to myself. Then just as the program was ending and I was backing out to the bathroom, another interesting one would come on. The programs would segue into each other and I’d sit there, glued. Let’s just say that back then, I was taking my morning showers right around lunchtime. Eventually I was allowed to stay up and watch TV for as long as I liked. On a few occasions, my father would go off to bed just before 9pm. He’d ask me to watch the network news and tell him all about it in the morning. By then I had lost interest in the 9 o’clock news. I’d watch something else, then wake up in the morning and listen to the 7 o’clock news on the radio and relate that to my father. Ingenious, eh? He knew the difference. He caught me in the lie. We laughed about it.
A couple of years later, I became something of an expert on the subject of movies. I could reel off Al Pacino’s movie credits (I could recite the dialogue at the restaurant when he got drunk in the movie Scarface) and tell you how much DeNiro got paid for Wag the Dog or what Waterworld made (cough!) at the box office. If you couldn’t remember the name of the actor who played the role of the prison warden in Shawshank Redemption, I was the man to see. I began having withdrawal symptoms when I didn’t see a movie in a couple of days. Suddenly the house began to feel a bit like prison, or rehab. So I registered at a video club.
One day, I went to the video club to borrow some movies. After I’d made my selection, I was told that I had broken some sort of record and was therefore entitled to a bonus 10 rental. Would I like to take some now, and the rest later? No sir! I’ll take ‘em all right away. There I was hauling a ridiculous stack of fourteen movies from the video club to our house.
I’ve come a long way from those days when my life seemed to revolve around the box. I still love to watch Television programs and movies, but my attention span seems to have shortened. I flip channels so often that the buttons on my remote controls are worn.
So once again, I raise my glass and doff my hat to that magical box that brings a lot into our homes, takes us to untold places, and fills us with wonderment, joy and sadness. If you think I’ll ever stop watching the box, you can forget about it. Right now, I’m off to watch the Scandal.