WBZ, Channel 4, used to be the NBC affiliate in Boston. At some point in the mid-1990s, they switched over to CBS. No one’s quite sure why, but I’m sure it had something to do with that Joe Shortsleeve character. I don’t think they were too happy about it – this was the mid-90s, the era of Seinfeld and ER, when Must See TV actually meant Must See TV, because if you weren’t up on Jerry and George or Dr. Greene in 1996, then God help you socially. This was the era when a bland show like The Single Guy could become a hit just because it was on between Frasier and Friends. CBS, on the other hand, was known for such happenin’ shows as Diagnosis: Murder.
I was in Mrs. Elliott’s high school journalism class at the time, and she took us to WBZ on a field trip. It was very exciting, but there was a certain pall about the place. WBZ had become, with the stroke of a pen, the home of Murder, She Wrote, and no one was too happy about it. Not even Joe Shortsleeve, who sort of waved us off and wasn’t very nice to us, which is probably why I blame him for everything these days.
I’m sure he’s a lovely fellow who was just having a bad day.
That’s really not the point here. This video came out about ten years before that, back when you were still watching Alex P. Keaton and Sam and Diane on WBZ-TV 4, when they were celebrating their 35th birthday. As one does when they approach A Certain Age, they downplayed their age, charmingly insisting “We’re 4 Today!”
Now, I was also 4 in 1983, and an only child. I can’t imagine the impact on my already swollen ego of seeing this commercial, perhaps even on my 4th birthday. Did I think they were talking about me? Did I just assume they were talking about me, because why wouldn’t they talk about me, I was an only child after all, and thus the center of the damn universe? Is this commercial the reason why I have such a bloated sense of entitlement that’s constantly battling with a crippling sense of failure? Because, as a child, I seriously believed that all those people on TV – Liz Walker, Jack Williams, even a disturbingly young Bob Lobel – were talking about me turning four on television?
It’s quite a thing for one to bear, so early in life.