I love the scene in the Coen Brothers' A Simple Man when the father has to climb to the rooftop and adjust the aerial TV antenna. They used this image for the movie poster, and with good reason: it shows us the unsung work of a dad, and his pride in a job well done is reflected by his stoic pose as he towers above the other families' houses in quiet, 60s suburbia.
As a child of the 70s, I was reminded of something else: that once upon a time, we had these long metal rods perched atop our little houses, and that was how we watched TV! While watching these DVD sets of 70s TV shows, I just couldn't remember them ever looking so clear - No one could! With cable still at least 10 years away (and even that wasn't always so crystalline) and digital TV another 20, shows of the 50s through early 80s were never fully appreciated by most of their viewing audiences because they were fuzzy, and coated with a thick coat of haze that could only be remedied by fidgeting with the fine-tuning dial (encircling the channel dial, remember?) for a few hours. We were part of the Philly market, so some channels came in clearer than others, depending on location of station. And of course, weather was always a variable; on clear days it was actually a halfway watchable picture, cloudy days, fuhgetaboutit!
I can vividly remember trying to watch reruns of The Incredible Hulk on channel 48 back in the fall of '81, just after the series was released to syndication. This was a UHF station (the smaller, non network stations on channels 13 to 70), and the reception was really bad on this one, but I just had to see the show because I missed the original run on account of an art class I was shanghaied into taking on Friday nights. Luckily the audio was ok, but otherwise I only knew when the Hulk was onscreen by faint patches of green here and there. My parents thought I was nuts, watching a screen that had no discernable images to speak of - but I didn't care. For months that was the best hour of my day.
Now, of course, everything is clear - uberclear. Thanks to all those 1s and 0s, you could squint and see every wrinkle, crease, crevice, fleck, dot and dash on any given wafer-thin LCD screen. But in a weird way, now I understand my elders telling me how much better radio was than TV because radio relied more on the imagination. That we didn't know this because TV showed everything... and made you lazy.
Grandpa, I know what you meant.