Remember when you needed to read a book to watch television? Sure, that “book” was the “TV Guide,” a publication now gone the way of jelly sandals and the Walkman. The TV guide – and no matter whether you had the official guide or the insert that came with your Sunday paper – this small, centre-stapled booklet was a wonder to children. It revealed information which lead to one of the best nights of our year; an event that was a cherished childhood memory for hundreds of thousands of our generation: The annual televised viewing of The Wizard of Oz.
Are there any memories of our childhood so magical as the night The Wizard of Oz came on the television? The excitement was right up there with Christmas “specials,” and watching b-list celebrities attempt long jump and javelin on Battle of the Network All-Stars. Sorry, Netflix; as much as we all loved Stranger Things, nothing comes as close to televised perfection as watching an agitated Ed Asner get up in host Billy Crystal’s grill over Valerie Bertinelli’s disqualification from the obstacle course. This was popcorn television, friends.
These memorable television events happened only once a year, and we wouldn’t be warned or prepared. I think the anticipation would have near killed us and/or driven our parents quite round-the-bend. I’m almost positive the lack of warning that a showing was about to occur was a self-defense mechanism on their part, and now as a parent, I feel it was a smart, sanity-preserving move.
We’d know it was “the night” shortly after dinner, and it usually unfolded something like this:
First came the smell. Popcorn in the big pot, on the stove. The sweet, nutty and unmistakable smell of melted butter and salt on popcorn in a bowl so big it felt like a bathtub. We hadn’t seen nor tasted anything as delicious as that popcorn, and if you were lucky, you got your own glass of pop to wash it down. Pop and popcorn. This was living, friends. That smell alone was a treat; it was a harbinger of something special. It was movie night.
Once the show started, no one spoke. No one moved, and no one dared to even question the later bedtime. Bathroom needs went untended because “this is the part where she melts the witch!” was coming up. Across a vast nation, siblings normally at each other’s throats respected foreign concepts like “personal space.” No names were called, and no arguments were voiced over whose popcorn bowl had more popped kernels. No one who had ever participated in this ritual before was willing to risk banishment to a cold and dark and decidedly Wizard of Oz-free bedroom. These two and a half hours were different than any other two and a half hours we had lived all year because they somehow existed on a physical plane defying any reason or science or logic. There was wonder in this precarious space, backlit by an old analog television and scented with hot butter, where time somehow managed to both stand still and pass in a flash.
Things change, of course; it can’t be helped. Generations age, entertainment mediums shift, and technology changes at breakneck speeds. The world is a different place now. We don’t watch the same things, and we don’t watch them the same way. Time moves on, and we now consume content on demand rather than waiting for an annual “special”. Our popcorn is made in the microwave instead of on a stovetop, but some things are constant: the memories these wholesome movie nights created, and the huge buttery bowl of Orville Redenbacher popcorn that went with it. Orville has removed the artificial ingredients from their microwave popcorn, meaning snack lovers are assured of delicious 100% whole grain Orville Redenbacher microwavable popcorn any time the craving hits – movie nights included! And just like back then, Orville still goes hand in hand with the joy and wonder of a family movie night.