I don’t watch television anymore. But I’m not one of those intellectual snobs who never saw value in the boob-tube. If not for LFG and some of the shows she likes to watch, I’d do away with the thing altogether. The few things, Mad Men for example, that I’ve discovered and enjoy, can be downloaded and watched on demand. I’m always late to the movie/miniseries/Public Television special party but then I catch up and am usually glad I did. I’ve loved all the Ken Burns stuff. The Civil War series was worth watching just to hear Shelby Foote and his-the most beautiful, Southern accent I’ve ever heard. I just watched The Reader about two months ago and I’m sure I’ll get to The King’s Speech in another year. Shut up. I could also watch Pickers, Dirty Jobs and Pawn Stars endlessly.
And Mad Men? Damn. The beautiful cinematic formulaic brilliance. I downloaded every episode and reveled in every chauvinistic, sociopathic, liver destroying, lung congesting dry-hump in the office moment. And I can’t wait for the next season to avail from iTunes. It’s 6:25 am as I type this and I’m hankering Mad Men-ish before getting out of bed. I could go right now for a wedge salad with blue cheese and bacon sprinkles right after my third martini and continuous nicotine inhalation while admiring on my lap a young corseted-conical bra-ed hottie. Shut up I said.
I get the business model of CSI and the reality shows-especially the reality shows. Few people know that the genesis...at least part of it...for the low overhead-no big-name talent business model is related to The Archies. Don Kirshner told the story about becoming weary of the egos manifest in low talent, high entitlement tantrums of The Monkees. So instead of dealing with it he simply created a fictitious group.You don’t pay high dollar talent. The reality show formula is absurdly simple. You recruit a shameless bunch of trash to preen weekly on said show and your gross margins become breathtaking. No actor calibre wages or egos to negotiate and the American public eats the crap like catnip. If there’s anything that indexes our loss of decorum, style, sense of deportment and propriety, it’s the reality shows.
But I loved television as a kid. And reflecting on the shows that I watched with my mom and my sister made me realize that most of them were in syndication by the time I ever began watching them. And it was way simple back then. Advertisers had a one-in-three shot of success before they ever picked. And so to hedge, agencies simply bought ad time on all three networks. Bam. So here’s a rundown on the stuff that filled my pediatric noggin…
Gunsmoke…My mother LOVED James Arness and so all of us watched Gunsmoke with her. Butcept my dad who was always playing cards or something on the weekend nights. And I can remember being little enough to sit with my mom in her chair while we watched it. She’d then carry me to bed and tuck me in exclaiming all the way down the hall, in her high pitched Southern mama voice… “I’ll still be carrying you to bed when your feet are dragging the floor” …and what’s wrong with that. Southern boys love their mamas fiercely. My mama was and still is for that matter, a damn rock.
Bonanza…we watched it but for me there was always a taint on it. It aired on Sunday nights and I always had a dark cloud of Monday morning reality hanging over me by then. Sunday nights were never fun for me because the pock of next morning elementary school was on everything I did, saw or thought about after twelve noon on Sunday. Plus my spiritual ass was still blistered from the fire and brimstone of church earlier that day.
And let’s take up the issue of shoot-em ups other than Westerns. I loved Combat with Vic Morrow. And I can attest that little boys who grow up with Johnny-Seven machine guns and GI Joes and cap pistols and Army-Navy store surplus gear…tykes who kill their buddies (Yankees and Nazis) on their front lawns and the adjacent housing construction sites of their world, do not grow up to be killers. Shut up a-damn-gain.
We argued like crazy about who was dead and who wasn’t… “I killed you now fall down...”
Rat Patrol…We’d watch it and then act it out on our Stingray bikes…up and down the street…someone riding tandem and manning the jeep mounted machine gun.
Twelve O’clock High is a vague memory for me. My uncle Frank was a tail gunner on a B-24 in WWII. He didn’t think much of these kinds of shows.
But Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Sea Hunt are anything but vague. Both of these fascinated the hell out of my active little mind and …
…I was Lloyd Bridges at the pool one summer. I remember being fascinated by his hairy forearms and wondering if I’d have some like his one day. I wanted sideburns too.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a fave. And I remember my buddies and I would play spy type stuff indoors when the weather was bad. I was always Illya Kuryakin and took great pleasure in saying that name. Hell, anyone from Florence South Carolina would take pleasure in being able to say correctly that name. “You ain’t from around here are you boy”… I saw David McCallum walking on 5th avenue in Gotham a few years back but decided not to bother him with the above little ditty about my love of his character. I’m sure he’d heard it before.
The Wild Wild West was another of my mom’s favorites. I think she had a thang for the cowboy archetype.
Daniel Boone was a favorite of mine but even at a tender, gullible little age, I could see the cardboard cut-outs of the stage prop wilderness sway when someone moved too quickly.
The sitcoms were great back then and I regret that LFG won’t know Barney Fife like I did. Nip it. Nip it. Nip it in the bud.
“It’s me it’s me…Ernest T. I can see you but you can’t see me!” My god what a great character… “Is you an Englishter or an Irishter? … Juss got my hairs cut…they’s kinda slickety in the back”
The ascot is inextricably linked to Thurston Howell, III. And as for the age-old question of “Ginger or Mary Ann?” … Bofe please.
I worried that my mama knew what I was wondering about when the Petticoat Junction girls popped up from the water tower during the opening scene. And I felt guilty about wondering what they looked like from the neck down while sitting in the chair with my mama. Spare me the comments about the Oedipal shit bubbling up in this post.
Who wouldn't have traded, at least for a day, their dog for a pet dolphin?
Uncle Martin…I remember Bill Bixby saying this but it was after school during the week and I was usually supposed to be doing homework.
Ditto for Lost in Space…. “Danger Will Robinson”
Dark Shadows used to scare the dooky out of me. But my three-years older sister insisted on watching it. And she’d close all of the blinds just to make the den scarier. I was just as scared of the Wizard of Oz and thanked the programming gods that it only came on once a year. The flying monkeys of course, scared me but only a bit more than those marching guards in the overcoats carrying those big-ass axes and chanting "oh-eeh-oh….ooooh-eeh-oh."
I loved Jonny Quest on Saturday mornings. I was fascinated by Jonny’s Indian friend Hadji. We had no South Asian folk in Florence. The only Indians I’d ever met were the sad caricatures of Native Americans I encountered during my White Trash Vacation.
I also loved Hazel, She reminded me of my favorite aunt. Aunt Inez…the oldest of my mom’s nine sibs and the matriarch of our clan.
The Beverly Hillbillies was a profit rich endeavour for FilmWays and an embarrassment to the executives who ran it.
Even I thought F-Troop was stupid.
I am not making this up. Green Acres had a character…a pig named Arnold Ziffle. LFG’s mom and I looked at a lovely home on the water near Annapolis years ago. It was in a town called Arnold. I could not bring myself to live in a town with a name inextricably for me…associated with that damned pig.
I can’t be the only one who had feelings of fear and remorse coursing through his pediatric veins when Beaver Cleaver fell in the billboard soup bowl. I thought we were all going to be grounded for life.
So here’s to the mind numbing phenomenon known as television. I miss the time in my young life when these and other shows mattered. But not too much. Oh, and the title of this post… “Leave it—it’s Beaver” … I’m working on a reprise of the classic show, but with a contemporary twist. Instead of a Barbara Billingsly as June Cleaver, I’m working a two Ward Cleaver angle.
Onward. At Home. Till Sunday.