Tuned In

Robo-James’ Time Machine: The Electronic Nurse

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One thing you learn a lot about as a TV critic is people’s relationships to their childhoods. Especially when writing obituaries–there’s a kind of intimate connection that people form, as kids, with TV that it’s hard for other entertainment genres to match. There’s so much of it, for one thing: just look at the number of notable, nostalgia-triggering passings over the past year, from Richard Dawson to Andy Griffith to Don Cornelius to Dick Clark to Welcome Back Kotter’s Ron Palillo.

And most significant to me, the line that comes up in comment after comment whenever I write about an old sitcom or a recently-passed game-show host: “I used to watch that show all the time when I was home sick from school.”

We spend a hell of a lot of time watching TV, at all stages of life, in all kinds of circumstances, at all times of day. But there’s something about that particular one that retains people: the memory of being nine years old, on the couch in your PJs, sick but also totally stoked that you were watching TV instead of sitting in class.

You have favorite childhood movies, music, books. But they didn’t nurse you through the flu; they didn’t sit up with you when you were still queasy from throwing up. At least, not where “you” means someone roughly my age. Today, of course, a kid home sick from school might as well spend his or her time with a Harry Potter DVD or a Super Mario videogame.

There’s still something about the passiveness, and the bottomlessness, of TV entertainment that makes it a perfect fit for the convalescent, but I do wonder whether today’s kids will grow up with the same imprinted affection of being nursed to health by TV. For my younger readers: How did you (or do you) spend your time at home on sick days? For my older (like me) readers: what were your favorite sick-day appointment shows? (I was a Price Is Right loyalist, see above.)

And what do your own kids do on sick days? Read? I weep for today’s youth!