They were more than just movies.

Over the last few months, Liam has become quite enamored of The Muppet Movie (which means I'm succeeding as a parent, but that's not important right now), and there's hardly been a week since, oh, January at least, when I haven't seen this 3 or 4 times a week. And thankfully, the re-watch value of this movie is astonishingly high... if this were, I don't know, Cars or something, I think I'd have gouged my eyes out long ago. But it got me to thinking just how cool it is that he has the option of watching this over and over again, because when I was little - hell, when most of you were little, too, I'd wager - back before the days of even VHS availability, you only got to see this when it came on TV, be it on a random network broadcast, cable superstation movie program, or if you were lucky enough to have it, HBO. If you missed it (or couldn't tape it, once VCRs became plentiful), that was it until the TV Gods decided to air it again, so you made damn sure you parked your butt on the couch at the appointed hour.

Of course, this isn't an issue now. We live in an era when just about every TV show or movie you can imagine is available on DVD for sale or rental (with a notable exception here and there), and with eleventy-jillion cable networks and On Demand programming, the array of material we have near-perpetual access to is even wider still. And I love it, but still, there's something I sort of miss about how things used to be: none of these movies or shows seem particularly special anymore, or not as special as they used to be. I guess I just miss these things seeming like "events."

For example: The Wizard of Oz. Growing up, this was on once a year. Twice if you were lucky, but I don't recall that ever happening much. And as a result, Wizard of Oz Night was a capital-e Event, and you, me, and everyone we knew in our age bracket treated it as such. If I was out playing after dinner, I was on the couch at 8 p.m. sharp. If I was out somewhere with my parents - shopping, school function, dinner at the grandparents, whatever - I made sure they had you home in time to see the CBS Special Presentation logo spinning out at you from the center of the screen.* My mom would break out the old hot-air popper and make me a bowl of popcorn (complete with melted butter... drool), pour me the biggest glass of Kool-Aid you've ever seen, and I'd be set for the night, barring bathroom breaks, which I'd time perfectly with the commercial breaks. And the biggest deal of all, of course, is that I'd get to stay up late to see the whole thing. Bedtime was always pretty strictly set in my house, but Wizard of Oz night was always a special exception. Of course, I think I fell asleep before the end at least as many times as I actually saw the full movie (maybe even more often, come to think of it), but still, even the theory of extended bedtime was a huge deal.

And it was the same story with Mary Poppins, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Star Wars (so rarely shown on TV as a kid that every occurrence was met with near-religious ritual observance), and yes, The Muppet Movie (and maybe a few others I can't remember right now): these weren't just movies being shown on TV, they were happenings, the sort of thing you looked forward to all year long. And as much cool stuff as Liam is going to have to look forward to himself (and Erin and I along with him), I can't help but think that he'll really be missing out in this particular regard.

*Obviously, this applied for A Charlie Brown Christmas, too. That logo is almost a requirement to complete the viewing experience, and it's a crying shame that's not included on the DVD!


  1. For me, it was all the movies you metioned, but also Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

    Man, I wanted a car like that.

  2. You know, to this day, I don't think I've ever seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang all the way through. And I've sat down to watch it at least a dozen times. Something else always seemed to come up to prevent me from watching all of it. I should really remedy this some day.