Our Parents' Crazy Rules About Watching the Idiot Box

TV was going to rot our brains or turn us into degenerates—over our folks' dead bodies

We boomers were the first generation to be raised on TV, and we're forever bonded over the fact that all of us watched "Leave It to Beaver," "Bewitched" and "Bonanza" at the same time in living rooms throughout the country as we came of age.

Almost as magical as watching the very first episode of "Bewitched" was looking forward to talking about my new favorite TV show with my girlfriends at school the next day. With only three channels available, I could rely on the fact that they'd have watched it too.

Another thing we all had in common? All the crazy rules our parents had about watching the "idiot box." In our house, for instance, "Peyton Place" was strictly off-limits—but it was OK to watch along when our nanny tuned into her favorite soaps. (As long as we sat at least 3 feet from the screen at all times.) My friend Deb could watch anything she wanted, but she was forbidden to snack as she watched. Our favorite hangout? At Beth's house—not only were we free to watch "Dark Shadows," but her mom baked us chocolate chip cookies.

When I recently asked my friends if they could recall a few of their own TV-watching rules, I got some great responses.

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I was forbidden to watch "The Little Rascals" or "The Three Stooges" because they might put bad ideas in my head.

I wasn't allowed to watch "Love, American Style" or "The Newlywed Game." My mom thought they'd give me a bad impression of adult relationships.

We weren't allowed to watch "Lassie" or "Flipper." My dad didn't approve of any show where an animal was smarter than the people.

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My grandmother thought "The Six Million Dollar Man" was too violent; we were supposed to watch "The Lawrence Welk Show" instead.

I wasn't allowed to watch "Bewitched" because it was too misogynistic. And I couldn't watch "The Brady Bunch" because it was too unrealistic. (But I was allowed to watch "Days of Our Lives." Go figure.)

Our parents didn't let us watch "Love, American Style." So of course we watched it at our grandparents' house.

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I wasn't allowed to watch Amos N' Andy. My mom thought that neither Amos nor Andy (and especially the Kingfish) portrayed black people in a favorable light.

No TV at meal times.

No Saturday morning cartoons after 11:00. (Time to play outside!)

I wasn't allowed to watch hospital shows. (Too graphic?) Which probably explains my life long addiction to hospital shows.

We were forbidden to watch "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." because it was too violent. (That seems laughable now.)

My dad watched "Howdy Doody" with us … to ruin it. He made fun of every character.

I wasn't allowed to watch "Peyton Place" because it wasn't "for children." I was in elementary school, but all of my friends watched it!

We weren't allowed to watch cartoons.

No soap operas for us!

My forbidden show was "Three's Company. "Too risqué. We could watch "Happy Days"and "Laverne & Shirley," but then the TV went off.

We weren't allowed to watch "Dark Shadows." Our Catholic mom thought it was evil.

We couldn't watch "Dark Shadows" either. Mom thought it would give us nightmares.

I wasn't allowed to watch "Laugh In." It was "too hoochie-coochie."

We couldn't watch "The Three Stooges" because they were foolish.

"If you sit too close, you'll go blind." I heard that a lot.

We weren't allowed to watch TV during a lightning storm.

We were only allowed in watch in the evening, on rainy days, or if we were sick. Never during daylight.

My brother and I could each choose one half-hour show per night. That was it.

No TV before homework. Other than that, we were allowed to watch anything and everything.

There were no restrictions on content in our house, but we had to ask permission to watch. I can't tell you how many times we quietly knocked on our parents' bedroom door on Saturday morning and asked if we could watch TV. My dad would very often reply "Yes, but don't turn it on."

Of course, an entire generation being able to watch the same show at the same time is a thing of the past. Instead, our kids enjoy endless "content" on a million different "platforms." Are they better off than we were? Probably. But do they all know what TV show this was from:

They laugh alike, they walk alike,
At times they even talk alike —
You can lose your mind,
When cousins are two of a kind.

Those were the days (which, as we all know, was also the theme song from "All in the Family").

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