The Great American Dream Machine

And while we’re celebrating America’s birthday, let’s remember a truly remarkable early PBS television series:

The Great American Dream Machine did not assume an audience of distracted idiots. Amazing. This particular clip was a promotion for a retrospective anthology program on the 40th anniversary of the series. It played on the TV station that had produced the series.

I do believe the series (1971 to 1973) is available on DVD, but you can find clips of various episodes on YouTube and (a few) on Vimeo.

Several years prior to this, there was the “Public Broadcast Laboratory,” a sort of beta test for the Public Broadcasting System. If I remember correctly, the archive of episodes of “Public Broadcast Laboratory” ended up at a division of the Indiana University system where no one saw them. They were available for rent, however, and I did so twice. Apparently the Corporation for Public Broadcasting retained copies as well and in the 1990s donated them to the Library of Congress. No one sees these, either. There are one or two episodes posted on YouTube that I was able to find. More on this later, perhaps, because it did have a big influence on my politics.

I can’t quite remember the last time I watched TV. The last TV set that I owned died in the early 1980s. The Chicago DSA office had an analog TV set for which we never bothered to obtain a digital conversion box. On those get-up-from-the-desk breaks, I would often turn it on briefly. I learned that the programming was actually interesting provided the sound was entirely muted. The visuals were usually artful and engaging and were sometimes even decent story-telling. With sound, the experience almost always threatened brain damage. We left the TV set behind when we moved the office from 1608 N. Milwaukee. By then, there were only three stations left broadcasting in analog format.

This, of course, is broadcast TV. Friends of mine had cable. The expense was far outside what I was willing to pay, sometimes far outside what I could afford if I wanted to eat as well, plus there were all those commercials, frequently more than on broadcast TV. Does anyone remember the early days of cable when they promised a commercial free experience because, after all, you’re paying a subscription? It seems that, beyond the obvious selling point, it was mainly because next to no one was interested in advertising on cable then. Gotcha! Bait and switch.

I can turn into a couch potato with just the internet, thank you, no need for TV.

And I have.


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