Television has started making me feel old.
I’m not old. Let me get that out of the way at the start.
I admit that I am getting older. Maybe. I don’t really feel any older than I did a decade or a generation ago, but the gray hair in my beard and the birthdate on my lying driver’s license could lead one to think otherwise. Let’s just say I now qualify for Medicare and will soon be drawing Social Security checks and leave it at that. That’s not old.
It used to be old, but it’s not anymore.
When I was younger, way back in the bright early days of the Baby Boom, television made me feel young. The shows were full of bright young or at least young-ish people having fun: Mary Tyler Moore brightening her newsroom, the Smothers Brothers telling jokes and hosting The Who, Alan Alda suffering through the Korean War.
Even the ads were full of young people. And they sold the kinds of things young people wanted: flashy clothes, flashy soft drinks, toothpaste for flashy smiles.
Now I regularly watch the news, sports, a smattering of sitcoms and some British imports. The actors are old and act older, even the ones I used to watch when they were young. Judd Hirsch is old and irascible on one show. Elliott Gould is old and clueless in another. They seem so, well, old.
Even the ads seem older. They’re full of silver-haired people pushing drugs to combat diseases I’ve never heard of and hope I never get. The toothpaste they sell doesn’t fight cavities, it fights gum disease.
I think of it as the geriatrification of TV. That’s different from gentrification. When neighborhoods gentrify, they tend to get younger and wealthier. When TV geriatrifies, it tends to get older and wealthier. Call it the Downton Abbey Principle.
The latest TV show to make me feel old was the Grammys.
In my younger days, I thought the Grammys were a joke. Nobody good every won. The awards went to old people I didn’t care about. Frank Sinatra seemed to win everything. The Rolling Stones got ignored. The Grammys were for old folks. (Things change, of course. Nowadays, I like Sinatra and the Rolling Stones have collected Grammys, including the kind given to performers just because they’re old.)
But watching the Grammy show on TV recently, I felt like I somehow had skipped a generation of music on TV. The performers all were youngsters I’d never heard of. The show was aimed at young people. When old-timers Bono and The Edge first appeared onstage, it was as guests of the star rapper Kendrick Lamar. I have children younger than Kendrick Lamar.
I know TV isn’t all for old people. I know that somewhere out there in the higher cable numbers there’s a Disney Channel pitched to kids and a bunch of hip shows that draw in millennials, but now I find I’ve ended up on the scary streets of the television version of Old Town.
It’s starting to get old.