Although Americans in the 1980s enjoyed a cafeteria of entertainment possibilities, the main fare for most remained television. Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), what they watched on TV underwent certain changes. Mark Fowler, appointed by President Reagan to head the FCC, regarded television as just another appliance, "a toaster with pictures," that should be treated like a business, nothing more or less. Under Fowler's leadership, the FCC in 1981 discontinued rules limiting the number of minutes per hour that could be devoted to advertising and stopped requiring television stations to play a public service role.
A 1990 Gallup poll showed that the percentage of persons who considered watching television as their favorite way to spend an evening declined from 46 percent in 1974 to 24 percent in 1990, no doubt reflecting their complaints about the quality of programming. During these years, dining out, going to movies or the theater, playing cards and other games, dancing, and listening to music showed comparably sharp declines in popularity. Taking their places were activities not included in the 1974 survey, such as jogging, working in crafts, and gardening. Reading and spending time at home with the family showed slight increases. Nonetheless, the average American spent some twenty-eight hours in front of a television set each week. Many of those were daytime hours, as soap operas and talk shows remained popular.