My parents got their first television in 1951, the year I was born. They had the first TV in the family; the first TV in the neighborhood. They told me stories about everyone coming over on Friday night to watch Boxing. (What the heck was that about?)
We had an old Sylvania TV. I loved the stylized letters of ‘Sylvania’ – wide ‘S’, short tail on the ‘y’, the letters all connected in a strange sort of cursive. I loved the rabbit ears (aluminum-foiled, naturally). I loved the dusty hot smell if you squeezed your face around the back. And that was really a squeeze since the TV didn’t move. It weighed about 700 lbs.
Reception was a snowy day all year round. Sometimes my sisters and I just watched shadows. And the picture rolled incessantly. Inexplicably, we sometimes could stop the rolling by standing in a certain spot in the living room. We took turns standing in that spot.
We watched everything: 77 Sunset Strip, Sky King, Mickey Mouse Club, December Bride, Have Gun Will Travel, The Real McCoys. And Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan.
I didn’t love all of it though. I hated cartoons. I hated Ozzie and Harriet. I hated that all the good shows about kids – Circus Boy, Fury, Rin Tin Tin – were about boys. Where were the shows about girls?
I was determined I would be the first girl to have an adventure show. I would have a horse AND a dog. And beautiful clothes and long hair. I would almost die in every episode, but I’d triumphantly survive. And maybe I’d sing a song.
I continued this fantasy all through grammar school and even secretly in high school. I went from Bonanza to Dr. Kildare to I Spy – just waiting for the day I’d have my own show.
Then I had a revelation. It took a very long time. It was 1974, and I was twenty-three. I was watching my favorite show, M*A*S*H, and I saw it – the perfect TV role. Nurse Kellye.
Nurse Kellye was in almost every episode. But that actress (also named Kellye – how convenient was that?) never had much to do. She hung out with the stars but she didn’t have to work hard. She had to learn maybe one line a week. I’ll bet she made pretty good money too. For ten years.
That’s better than being a star. You get to partake in the glamour with NONE OF THE WORK. I’m so there.
And today, there’s even better. It’s Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers of Law & Order. You know, she’s the humorless autopsy doc (“It was a 44 slug to the armpit”). Over the years, she’s had a zillion hairdos (I can identify), long, short, medium, usually red. No kid, but “not quite old” – so naturally I love her already. She looks really smart, but usually exhausted. But she’s not – exhausted, I mean. She works about two minutes an episode. Two minutes a week for eighteen years. So yeah, she’s smart.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a heroine who had to overcome hardships. But now I’m a grownup – I want fun, money, and the easiest job in the world.