And partly because you were a captive audience, "Nightline" could afford to cover events in some depth. Today's news shows must shout to be heard above one another, before impatiently skipping to the next topic.
Both of these old ABC shows illustrate by contrast that in today's media-soaked society, everything seems special, and yet nothing does.
Football fanatics can now tuck themselves away in special-purpose viewing rooms to watch any number of network, cable or satellite broadcasted games.
As for your uninterested spouse, he (or she) can shuttle off to another media room and select from among scores, or even hundreds, of equally unimportant shows.
What's gone from our viewing pastime is a sense of anticipation. The kind Americans felt when they eagerly awaited the Beatles' appearance on Ed Sullivan's variety show in the 1960s.
Except rarely, we are no longer united by shared entertainment. Instead, we are segmented, parceled and categorized. Everything is important to someone, but almost nothing is important to everybody.
"Nightline" served the same social purpose. When the show became overdone and esoteric in later years, it was still required viewing -- by young and old -- when major events happened. Even the least engaged among us would be forced to watch the program over a rerun of Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show."
Media reflects the society it serves. Today we are a nation of specialization, from doctors and lawyers, to assembly-line workers with one specialized skill.
We share few common interests, tastes or perspectives. We like different songs, different heroes, different passions.
And we have far less detailed knowledge about the world around us. The next generation may teach us that the segmentation of America may have gone too far.