The Man Behind the Curtain

To kick off the week-long celebration of the tenth anniversary of Television Obscurities, I’d like to share a little about myself. It seems like the perfect opportunity to do so. I’ve long avoided the subject of who I am by simply not bringing it up. That’s worked pretty well. But after a decade it feels like maybe I could stand to open up a little bit.

My name is Robert and I love television. I love watching television, reading about television and writing about television. This should not come as a surprise to anyone.

But this might: I was born in the mid-1980s and am currently in my late twenties. That means the vast majority of the shows I write about were originally aired decades before I was born. In fact, by my count only five of the shows I’ve written in-depth articles about were originally on the air during my lifetime. Of those, there’s only one that I actually watched.

I was in high school when I started Television Obscurities. I have since finished college and graduate school. Believe it or not, I wrote a college application essay about The New People. And I got in to that college.

At first, the reason I maintained a veil of secrecy about my identify was due to the fact that I was under 18 and that was the smart thing to do online (at least it was back in the late 1990s when I started going online and creating websites). As the years went by it was just easier to continue not talking about myself. Occasionally I would get e-mails from people asking for my name because they wanted to cite an article or a post I had written. And once or twice people have wanted a name to put with the anonymous face behind Television Obscurities.

What always worried me and what kept me from revealing anything about myself after I turned 18 and was an adult and it was safe to do so on the Internet, was the thought that people would learn how old I was and discount everything I had to say. How could someone who wasn’t even alive in the 1950s write intelligently about television in the 1950s? I had no expertise, qualifications or authority to offer.

Friends and family insist this is an irrational fear. After all, historians routinely write about events that happened decades or even centuries in the past. Nobody researching the Civil War today, for example, actually lived through it and yet new books and documentaries continue to be released.

I would like to think that I have shown that I am fairly knowledgeable about certain television shows that went off the air long before I was born, either from viewing episodes or doing extensive research, as well as some aspects of television history in general. I may not have personally watched network television develop over the course of decades but I’ve read an awful lot about it. And I’ve tried to educate myself the best way possible: by watching lots and lots of TV.

So there you have it. Be sure to check back later today for a look at my personal favorite obscurities. Starting tomorrow I’ll be delving into the history of Television Obscurities and later this week I’ll be previewing new monthly columns. And every night this week at 8PM I’ll be posting an interesting or unusual promotional spot to the Video Vault.

4 Comments

  • jb says:

    Nice to meet you, Robert. I am sure I am not the only regular reader who is surprised to learn how young you are; your perspectives on TV read like someone with firsthand experience of the vintage TV you write about so well. But no worries. Keep up the valuable work you’re doing here, and we’ll keep reading it.

    • Robert says:

      I appreciate the kind words. I was dreading the first reaction to this post, fearing it would be more angry than understanding. I guess I had nothing to worry about.

  • I’m surprised at your age at well, but it wouldn’t have made me discount your expertise. That’s clear in your work here from the first time you start reading. Congratulations on 10 years of blogging.

  • DuMont says:

    Congratulations Robert on your website. It is always a treat to read up on a small screen gemstone that you have retreived, polished up with your essays and impecable, academic sourcing (so unlike your generation, I might add) and put back up on the shelf.

    When I first read about your age in this post, I was gobsmacked, but in a hopeful, reassuring way, because you have become an authoritative web resource for an era of television that is going/gone with the wind. I really missed your posts when you went on your temporary hiatus about a year ago, and I was so happy that you returned.

    If I had to guess who you were, based on your posting history, actually more based on your brother website tributing ‘M*A*S*H’, I would have guessed you to be somebody who grew up through the Vietnam era, was perhaps scarred but then redeemed by it, going on to become somebody fascinated by popular culture but also frustrated by it, deliberately watching and critiquing from the sidelines, exhibiting a penchant and flair for obscure, rewarding television as cultural validation. Or maybe that’s me?

    Such is the Internet, a community of identities that are no longer judged, or pre-judged, by the old markers of gender, race, age, economic status. Just judged on good arguments or points of fact versus bad. What I find refreshing about your story is that you have gone the other way of most people who play around with age, i.e. sounding more mature in age than you are. Normally, in our ageist culture, it is the other way around thinking back to the story of Miss Riley Weston, the 19-year-old writer for ‘Felicity’ who was fired when it was learned that she was 32-years-old instead.

    So, after all is said and done, Robert, your website will still be a place I shall return to again and again for for facts and thoughtful discussion of televisions finest obscurities throughout the mediums history.

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