YouTube Makes Life Better

You know those annoying stories older people tell younger people about how “In my day, we didn’t have X, and you whippersnappers don’t realize how lucky you are…”? Well, this is one of them.

The year was 1974. As the nation reeled from Watergate, President Nixon’s resignation and the rise of disco, a wonderful new Christmas special gave us all hope for the future.

It was “The Year Without a Santa Claus“, and it electrified the grade school crowd (and many of their parents) primarily due to two show-stopping dance numbers.

Snow Miser and Heat Miser! The next day at school, everyone was running around the playground signing “BA DUM DUM DUM….TOOOOOO MUCH!”

(Incidentally, it was a culturally important moment as well: Heat Miser and Cold Miser were the first openly gay characters to star in a Christmas special since that dentist kid with the swoop haircut in Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer).

Arguments broke out across my grade school about the lyrics of the songs. Because no one had a VCR, we all had to go on our faulty memories. Come next Christmas, I would show that smart-mouth Billy Petoski that it’s “I’m Mr. Sun” not “I’m Number One”! We nursed such grudges like love affairs, expecting vindication 12 months hence.

Excitement grew throughout the year as we awaited the next broadcast. The anticipation became excruciating in early December when TV Guide announced our joyous reunion with the Misers would occur that coming Thursday! Huddled in front of the television 20 minutes in advance so as to take no chance of missing anything, I turned the dial (which went from 2 to 13) to the channel in question and prepared for my long-delayed reward.

And then, it began “I’m Mr. Snow Miser, I’m Mr….” Snow. As in snow all across the television screen. The television signal was gone on all channels.

This is as good a time as any to apologize to my Creator for the words that then escaped my young mouth, particularly given the time of year.

At least my school mates would be able to tell me what happened, I thought. But no. Sad-eyed children trudged into Second Ward Grade School the next day, all telling of similar trauma. Snow and ice had somehow damaged a television transmission tower or wire or whatever other arcane device adults were supposed to use to give us the TV we deserved. None of us got to watch the Misers, and would not be able to do so again for a full year. Agony.

But, whippersnappers, no such trauma is yours. Not for the Misers nor for virtually any other treasured TV or movie moment. It’s all there on YouTube, Vimeo and the like. Enjoy, and realize how blessed you are.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans and drugs. He is the author or co-author of numerous books and scholarly articles, and has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Guardian (UK), the San Francisco Chronicle and other media outlets. When he is not in the San Francisco Bay Area, he is usually in London, where he is an ad hoc policy adviser to the national and city government, an honorary professor of psychiatry at Kings College, a senior editorial adviser to the journal Addiction, and a member of The Athenaeum. When he is not in the San Francisco Bay Area or London, he is usually in Washington D.C., where he serves as a frequent science and policy advisor to federal agencies, and where he has served previously as an appointee to a White House commission and several Secretarial task forces. From July 2009-2010, he served as Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. When he is not in the San Francisco Bay Area or London or Washington D.C., he is usually in the Middle East, where since 2004 he has volunteered in the international humanitarian effort to rebuild Iraq’s mental health care system. This work has taken him to Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to teach and consult with Iraqi health professionals and policy makers.

3 thoughts on “YouTube Makes Life Better”

  1. One of my strongest childhood memories came from an evening of watching Nick at Night with my younger brother and sister. Specifically, Nickelodeon was running old episodes of Alfred Hitchcock presents, and we whined until our mother let us watch one, even though it was 10 pm and technically past our bedtime.

    We watched a half hour episode of a story called “I Killed the Count,” a mystery about a Count who had been found murdered, and no less than 3 men who adamantly claimed that each had personally done the deed. At 10:30 we begged and pleaded for just a little more, knowing we would never see it again (that was how it used to work!), and she gave in. Naturally episode 2, a nail-biter if there ever was one, promised “a thrilling resolution” in the third episode, and Mom put down her foot. We all went to bed, miserable and trying to figure it out, wondering if we would ever learn who the killer was. It was crushing.

    I kid you not, for 20 years we tried to figure out what had happened, to no avail. This was before casual email and internet use, back when you still had to use a card catalog at the library, and the show proved impossible to research. The episodes in question were never rarely referenced in books, let alone released on video (or, later, on DVD), and after years of scanning the TV listings (we were determined children), we admitted defeat. But we never let Mom forget it.

    Three years ago, my brother–now married, with a house and a wife and broadband internet–emailed us all to say that Netflix streamed old “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episodes, and did we want to come over for an evening of finding out who killed the Count? We made an evening of it, and even let Mom come to watch with us. Thanks to Netflix, we were finally able to put the mystery to rest. (We still give Mom grief about it, but less so now that we know the ending.)

    If you had told me back when I was 9 what I would be able to do with a computer and a TV one day, I would have thought you were drunk or insane.

  2. SPOILER: Keith was right, the Heat Miser does sing, “I’m Mr. Sun.” But he also sings, “I’m Mr. hundred-and-one,” as in degrees F, so Billy Petoski wasn’t completely out to lunch.

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