Kids these day have it way too damn easy. When MILK and Whiskey were young, a newly released movie on TV was… well I’m just going to say it, a BIG FUCKING DEAL. This included National Geographic specials, before they became a cable channel that likes to film in prisons. Don’t get me wrong, there were always a few movies on, but it was mostly old westerns and the like. I was never one to miss a showing of Clash of the Titans, Godzilla, or Jason and the Argonauts; but a new movie was a rare bird. At this place in history “new” meant the movie had been released less than three years prior to broadcast.
In the early 80’s, unless you were “Diamond” Jim Brady and could afford HBO or Showtime, it was really special to have a recent movie make a TV appearance. Time would stop. Schedules would be adjusted. VCR’s would be programmed. Just kidding, no one knows how to do that; the “blinking 12:00” isn’t just a comedy cliché, it was a reality. There’s still one wizened 80-year-old engineer in Japan that SONY keeps on a retainer, just in case.
Around Benjamin Bubb Elementary School, the cloakroom would be buzzing with the news. “There’s a new movie on TV tonight guys!” “I know. Delta Force!” some kid would chime in, “They postponed my brother’s appendectomy for it!” Action movies or farce comedies were what we prayed for.
The TV movie was accompanied by its own ritual. There would be a tense pickup from daycare, accompanied by a high-speed drive home/run to grab a pizza. We would scramble into the house, blister our mouths with scalding hot cheese and guzzle our milk. The whole time, there would be nervous glances at the wall clock. Five minutes to showtime, asses would compete for couch space. Popcorn would be burned.
There was an intro that was the most state of the art thing the big three networks (pre-FOX) could show off with, which was an ohhh awww moment, then the movie! There was no talking during the movie, that’s what commercials were for. As for taking care of business, the line for our single bathroom was merciless. No one gave an inch and everyone was constantly keeping tabs of the commercial break. Boys regularly watered the bushes.
It didn’t matter what the subject matter was, this was early 80’s, it was a free movie, and parents could be sure that the censors had filtered out all the swearing and nipples.
So the next time my four year old is whining about Netflix running slow because there are four people in our house using the Internet, I’m going to bore him to death with some kind of Wilford Brimley impersonation about the days of analog. Then I’m going to make him get me a beer and stand by the TV so he can manually change channels, and mess with some prop rabbit ear antennas, just to get the feel of a proper upbringing.