Tom Bosley, the gentle father of Richie Cunningham on the '70s sitcom Happy Days, died yesterday, right on the heels of another loss, that of iconic TV parent, Barbara Billingsley, of Leave It to Beaver. Their deaths cause me to reflect on the changes in TV families in my lifetime.
I remember the day my dad brought our first television home. It was very small: a 12-inch round screen. My first recollections are of "Howdy Doody," "Lone Ranger," "Mickey Mouse Club," and family sitcoms: "Leave it to Beaver," "Father Knows Best," “My Three Sons,” “The Donna Reed Show,” and "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett." These families were loving, close-knit, with children who were well-behaved and respectful. Fathers were always available and mothers were nurturing. They were safe. But in the 80’s, all that began to change. TV fathers were either absent (“One Day at a Time”) or foolish (“Married with Children”), with sassy smart-alecky children. The days of the classic family sitcom with wholesome advertisements have been replaced with reality television and noxious commercials.
As I look at the evolution of TV it amazes me at just how far this technology has come in 60 years. From very tiny, snowy, hard to see, black and white tubes to 60+ inch plasma, flat screen, high definition and digital via satellite! But tantamount to the technical incline is the moral decline. The real shame is not that the good old days of television are gone. The tragedy is how TV has become a vehicle for influencing moral corruption: surely what Paul meant when he said "For it is a shame even to speak of those things... because the days are evil." (Eph. 5:12,16).