Friends, Americans, countrymen. Lend me your eyeballs. For I come here not to praise Regan's Folly, but to bury it. Regan's Folly, it should be known, was the name my wife gave to the 27-inch color TV we bought when I first moved to the US nine years ago. It was my baby. I watched Al Gore win, then lose, then tie, then lose again in 2000 on Regan's Folly. Entire Star Trek series materialized, and then faded away. I watched nine frustrating years of Red Sox baseball on that TV. And then, suddenly... it was gone.
I have always been a child of TV. Growing up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, the biggest arguments in my house revolved around who got to pick what we would watch. As the oldest child in the house, and the biggest, I tended to get my way more often than not. My siblings still nurse not-so-secret grudges about those days. Peace only came when my parents put a TV in every room, preferring the sounds of silence over the camp fire rowdiness of owning only one TV.
One of the greatest crises of my then-young life came the year I gave up watching TV for Lent (I'm a former Catholic) during the middle of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It was the late winter of '71 and my team, the Boston Bruins, had destroyed the NHL record books with their overwhelming goal-scoring prowess. I was certain they would blow by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. Giving up TV for a few weeks seemed like a piece of cake.
But then the unthinkable happened. The Canadiens battled the Bruins to a seventh game. I sat outside my parents' bedroom, listening to the game. (As all Catholics know, you always become a 'country lawyer' about what you can and can't do in order to keep a Lenten obligation.) Finally, I could wait no longer. I rushed into the bedroom to watch the game. The Bruins lost 4-2. To this day, I remain convinced that the Briuns' loss was a divine punishment for my inability to stay away from the tube.
Thoughout my 20s and 30s, I continued to be a slave to the remote control. I was that guy that fit every demographic the TV and cable networks wanted. When I married, I figured that little would change my viewing habits.
Alas, t'was not to be. Barb, my wife, grew up in a house WITHOUT A TV. I didn't even know such houses existed in the civilized world. It seemed almost, well, communist. Then again, from what I saw on TV, communists would have killed their comrades for a RCA or a Sanyo with a nice picture. Barb also informed me that she didn't like watching TV. I staggered back, hardly believing what I was hearing. Still, this was the love of my life and I was willing to try to make our TV viewing habits work together.
Here was the deal. I would stop watching so much TV if we could buy a really good, really big TV. That way, I explained, even if I watched less TV, I would see more of what I could watch. Barb didn't understand the logic of this, but logic has nothing to do with the cravings of a TV junkie. She reluctantly agreed, and we went to Sears, where we bought Regan's Folly.
For several days I just sat in a chair in our living room and stared at it. It was turned off, but I didn't care. It was so BIG. And then when I turned it on ... heaven. I could tell a lot earlier when Yasser Arafat really needed a shave. Everytime Captain Picard said "Engage" I got goose bumps. Playing on a bigger TV didn't help the Red Sox, but then again, I wasn't expecting miracles.
Although the rule was less TV, I found ingenious ways to watch it. At the first sign of rain, for instance, I would proclaim, "Well, can't take the kids out today," and reach for the remote. But over the years Barb caught on to my tricks, and we watched my viewing time shrank smaller and smaller. And what we did watch was "better for us." For instance, while I didn't watch much Bugs Bunny anymore, I became addicted to the Food Network, and grew to love Emeril, Martha, and Jamie Oliver, that spunky lad.
But there is no SpongeBob in my house. No wrestling smackdown specials. We completely avoided the Pokemon fad. I have never seen a single episode of '24', nor have I ever watched a single episode of any reality TV show, from 'Survivor' to 'American Idol' to 'The Bachelorette'. I don't want my MTV. Seriously. True be told, I don't think I've missed anything. And my kids, raised on the Discovery Channel, PBS, and The Crocodile Hunter, don't seem to mind the TV being turned off. They would rather, well, read a book than watch Nickelodeon.
And then, two weeks ago, without any warning, Regan's Folly seemed to shiver, shake before the tube went dark. And it wouldn't not come back on. With the Red Sox sure to win it all this year (don't say it) and my favorite episode of Iron Chef coming in a few days, we had to make a decision. Repair or replace. We finally chose replace because it now costs as much to buy a new 27-inch color TV as it would to repair it, with digital looming in the near future.
And so Regan's Folly sits waiting for the trash pick-up this week. But she will be missed. Last night, my oldest daughter, Bobbie, came to me and said she wanted to make our new TV look dirtier, so it would remind her more of the only TV she has ever known in her young life.
I know how you feel, honey, I know how you feel.