Friday, March 4, 2011

Leave it—it’s Beaver

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 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.


Silk Regimental said...

I don't watch a lot of TV "shows", but I like old movies - I always check to see what going on at Turner Classic Movies. I liked many of the same shows - Wally Cleaver played by Tony Dow lived here in Central FL for a while - I used to see him at Orlando International quite often (when I was a road warrior for Martin Marietta). Laughed at the "Ginger or Mary Ann" remark! Lately I've been watching Cash Cab and one day expect to see you and Tin Tin get in the cab for the ultimate trivia game!!

Gretchen said...

wow, I thought I was one of the only people who didnt watch tv (similar lack of snobbishness, just no real interest), although thank god for netflix so I can see 30 Rock and Mad Men. TV=Movie Portal. I remember fighting w my brother for prime spot on the floor in front of the ginormous tv console to watch Tom & Jerry, Gilligans Island, and Brady Bunch after school. Total crap and yet, still better than reality shows!

Renée Finberg said...

you are fabulous.
we must be around the same age.
i remember each one of them.
they could be sooooooooooooo corny.

thanks for the memory jolt!

Turling said...

Ah, the good ol' days. Twilight Zone, The Rifleman, Rat Patrol (agreed), Black Sheep Squadron, MASH (pre-Alan Alda taking over and trying to coninuously make statements) and Gentle Ben.

By the way, just Mary Ann. Even as a kid I could tell Ginger was too high-maintenance.

James said...

One of the most ironic things that ever happened to me was in Mannheim Germany circa 1968. German TV airing "Combat" with German dubbing. I s**t you not. Bothered me for years.

LPC said...

Enjoy your weekend. BTW, you might want to try Downton Abbey for fun. Nobody gets shot, of course, but the clothes are to die for and you can watch all of it online at PBS's site.

ADG said...

LPC...I trust that all is well in your world. Yes, I've heard about Downton Abbey and I'll surely get to it. It took me 4 years to see Mad Men.

James...Interesting. I watched "James Brown-Live from Chastain Park" (that's in Atlanta, Ga.) one night in a friend's flat in Paris. Weird but not in the same way.

Turling...Ginger was never intended to be a gal that I would "maintain"...

Renee...we might be of the same general era but you are prettier than I am.

Gretch...yep. My sister and I usually agreed on what we'd watch. Butcept Dark Shadows.

Silk Reggie...yes, I've seen Cash Cab...pretty cool.

pittsburghprepster said...

My dad finds a movie or show from his generation every night, and we watch them together. There is just something about the "good ol days" television that is so much more refreshing than the vulgar shows now. I surely have an appreciation for them, coming from a girl in her 20's. Thanks for sharing!

ilovelimegreen said...

Gilligan's Island was - and still is - my absolute favorite show; I still see myself as a female Gilligan with a dash of Mrs. Howell. But the character I wanted to be was Barbera Eden's Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie - can't believe you didn't mention that one. (I haven't had a television in almost seven years and am quite happy without one.)

j.mosby said...

What a flashback! watched them all. how about that classic phrase: Remember the saying from Combat show... "Sticks & stones will break my bones, but tanks will always kill me".

Main Line Sportsman said...

Awesome post...I loved re-runs of Combat and Rat Patrol and 12 O'clock High...they were before my kid-time first run...but caught them on after school re-runs.
Darks Shadows scared my little ass as a Tot when my brothers watched. Gilligan was a staple...loved Beaver and Sea Hunt and Voyage...again...loved this post! You still got it Dude.

Anonymous said...

The Twilight Zone
Outer Limits
Perry Mason
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Have Gun Will Travel (speaking of pocks)
Route 66
Wagon Train

Anonymous said...

What, no Maxwell Smart? No brogue phone?

CeceliaMc said...

Yeah, lots of men your age are still quite the fans of Beaver...

Hogan's Heros used to play on Nick at Nite and was a hoot!

ADG said...

Thanks everyone and yes! I realize that there were other great shows during this era. I only listed my faves but certainly, I remember the others.

ADG said...

Ps...Well in all fairness Cecelia, we cut our teeth on it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I had forgotten some of those shows - as they were way into reruns by the time I saw them. When I visited my Grandmother (in rural VA ) we used to watch Hee Haw. That was a real eye opener for a suburban DC kid.

Best regards,


Mona said...

ADG, it's good to know I'm not alone. I watch very little television these days myself. Thank you for the stroll down memory lane! It made me smile.

Britt Sudduth said...

You nailed it. I loved the summer cause you could watch all the good ones that usually came on right after you left for school. Where's Father Knows Best? I though it was cool how he changed into his soft blazer for the evenings but never loosened his tie. And I secretely thought June Clever and Eddie Haskell were having a secret love affair behind Ward's back!

Lisa said...

OMG!! What a stroll down memory lane. With the exception of "Leave it to Beaver" and "Daniel Boone", I saw every show and loved them. "Dark Shadows" had to be watched on the QT at a neighbors house as mom was none-to-keen on that one but she did favor "Hazel" as I always went into cleaning mode after a viewing.

Kathy said...

Star Trek. oy.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever have to suffer thru HeeHaw? Whenever we went to grandparents farm in rural Miss, their 3 channels only picked up HeeHaw!

Pigtown-Design said...

do you remember a show that was on briefly called The Persuaders? It had Tony Curtis and Roger Moore and was only one season long in 1971. I LOVED that show!

{no real t.v. now}

Anonymous said...

Great post. We didn't have a t.v. for eight years of my childhood, my father said it rots your brain. When he broke down and purchased one I was only allowed to watch Wild Kingdom and Lawrence Welk. At the time I thought he was so mean. Now I thank him everyday for my love of reading.

Memphis88 said...

Funny you should mention Foote because his estate sale is actually this weekend.

Here's the link to the available items:

ADG said...

Memphis88...Man, that Estate Sale looks incredible!! I'm sure there will be a mob scene there. Are you going? If you are, get me something...a Foote bauble/trinket or something. You pick it...a $200.00 budget. And send me my damn shoes.

Kerry ...good for your daddy.

MegTown...I do not.

RetroVintage...Mississippi WAS HeeHaw no?

Kathy...Star Trek Oy...Oy? Shatner and Nimoy...otherwise Goy.

Lisa...I need a dose of Hazel over here in this pigstye. of my favorite episodes of father knows best was when he accidentally put too much money under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy. I bet June was a screamer.

Mona...glad to do it. Now send me money.

Anonymous said...

Max, you's just the best. Even when you is plum woe out and all dried up, you's still so goood [baad].


JKG said...

"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."

When is this ever *not* true?

We might be half a generation apart. "I Dream of Genie" was my "Petticoat Junction." Also, for my generation, staying home from school sick meant by then game shows: "Joker's Wild," "Hollywood Squares," "The Price is Right," "WoF." Some nighttime crossover, but the only sanctioned TV other than "Sesame Street," "Mr. Rodgers," "Electric Company," or "3-2-1 Contact," was "M*A*S*H." Which I loved, until I discovered the movie version.

Preppy 101 said...

Thanks for this stroll down memory lane - a bit like my feelings when I watch Mad Men - emphasize that I was a mere child of 10 in 1960, lest anyone think I'm Betty or Joan or Peggy ;-) Your detailed recollections really do amaze me. Have a great weekend! xoxo

Anonymous said...

My after school routine was park myself in the library, on the sofa, (with a bowl of ice cream & Nestle's Quik chocolate powder sprinkled on top and stirred in) tune in for Gilligan's Island & I Dream Of Jeannie, wipe out the ice cream, then bolt for a pre-supper bike ride.

yoga teacher said...

This was so much fun!
The first time I felt *old* was about 20 years ago when I mentioned "Dobie Gillis," and a co-worker had no idea what I was talking about.

We lived without TV for years until my daughter objected, because she was the only kid who didn't get to see "Gilmore Girls." And now "Glee." But still no cable.

We do like NCIS, and my kiddo wondered why I laughed so hard when someone wondered what Ducky (played by David McCallum) looked like when he was young. And the answer was: Illya Kuryakin.

And props to my neighbor, who invites me over for Dexter and Mad Men.

Anonymous said...

"Nestle's Quik chocolate powder"

Brother! I can smell and see that stuff from here, you had to take the edge of a knife to pry off that top and with your spoon you'd hit the dry shelf-like striations below. I love you for putting down Wagon Train earlier, I can tell from your vintage list that you probably watched Dobie Gillis and, if so, you and I are the only ones here who know that Warren Beatty, Bob Denver, Tuesday Weld made early regular appearances on that show. From Duane Hickman the logical/illogical next step is Bob Cummings, did you watch that show? Schultzy. Something about Bob Cummings reminds me of Robert Culp, no explanation, but that leads to I Spy.

Time to pour some wine....

Patrick Guanciale said...

Brought back a bunch of good memories. Just blogged this post at

Patsy said...

I would have traded our dog + all three of my younger sisters for a pet dolphin.

Anonymous said...

"I would have traded our dog + all three of my younger sisters for a pet dolphin."

I would have traded my two brothers, my Dad, my pink plastic diary and my dog for Josh Randall, Wanted Dear or Alive.

The Leopard said...

I will see your excellent TV lineup and raise you The Avengers (Emma Peel Era), Honey West,The Addams Family, Burke's Law, Secret Agent Man, Batman, Then Came Bronson and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. Also, please refrain from using your childhood memories in your blog, your scaring those of us who are your age (just kidding, keep up the good work). Now if I can just find my Archies 45 of Sugar,Sugar.

Anonymous said...

Emma Peel. Still gives me shivers. Thanks.