Got Insomnia? There’s Always Family Feud.

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Last night, I couldn’t sleep until about 2:30 a.m. because of an earlier nap. So I was flipping through channels, and found a show I could watch mindlessly. It was an episode of Family Feud on the Game Show Network channel – and the best thing was that it was captioned. When I was younger, my mother tried to lipread the questions and signed for my dad and me when she could. I remember always laughing at how Dawson would kiss the women every chance he could get, but my family and I never really understood the questions or purpose of the game until we bought the board game version.

Over the summer, my boyfriend, who is a teacher, became addicted to Leave It to Beaver. My stepfather loves old Twilight Zone shows with its campy science fiction stories. That’s because these shows are all in syndication, and they’re all captioned.

There were so many uncaptioned shows I watched as I grew up. I was five years old when captioning began to hit the major networks, although it wasn’t until several years later that there really was a significant amount of captioned shows. I often spent spring and summer breaks at my grandmother’s house, and she would write what was being said on The Price is Right! or Press Your Luck. I would watch, making up my own dialogue and analyzing how the contestants spoke, moved or played.

Last night – rather, this morning – as I was trying to find a decent show, I realized that I had forgotten how it was to watch an entire show from start to finish without understanding the dialogue. It wasn’t hard to do when I was younger, because I was so accustomed to it. But today, it takes me less than five minutes to switch the channel if there are no captions. I have no patience for watching uncaptioned shows anymore.

Even as I write this, I’m flipping through channels at 9:40 a.m., and nearly every show is captioned, including old movies starring Audrey Hepburn. This might not seem like a big deal to people who may think these shows are cheesy or lame. But there have been so many times when I saw references to pop culture – for instance, Hawaii Five-O – that I could understand, but not really relate to. Now, thanks to captions, I can finally relate to who Mrs. June Cleaver is, Jack Nicholson’s “Heeeere’s Johnny!” and what Bob Barker always says at the end of his shows, and so many other cultural references. I’ve been reliving my parents’ childhoods watching reruns of Bewitched, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and other television shows that have brought laughter to so many generations.

Still, there are so many syndicated shows that still aren’t captioned- even if they were captioned the first time around. Love Boat comes to mind. So I think I’ll start finding out information about where to send letters to thank these stations for captioning their shows, and to ask them to consider captioning these shows once again. Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to enjoy these shows in 10 to 20 years with my own children, regardless of if they’re deaf or hearing.

Now I need to get going. Little House on the Prairie is on.

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