Look, I know that the world is falling to shreds, and that there are a zillion serious events occurring right now which demand our attention. But this blog has not offered a non-political weekend post in a long time, and, well, the piffle you are about to read has been welling up for a while.
We all grew up watching unfunny television sitcoms. We all loved
those old shows, back when we were young and could not recognize insipidity even when it was licking our faces like an over-affectionate Havanese with co-dependency issues. I'm talking about old
TV, geezer TV, shows that were first seen on screens with round corners and scanlines so wide you could count them from the house next door. TV you watched by candlelight.
Youngsters catching up with those old shows on cable or YouTube must have one question on their minds: Back in the '60s, did anyone actually think that sitcoms like My Three Sons
and Petticoat Junction
or I Dream of Jeanie
The answer is: No. We did not laugh. Not even when we were kids.
We sat in front of the screen in granite-like silence, unamused, unsmiling -- yet strangely entranced. We didn't multi-task; we didn't talk amongst ourselves. We just sopped everything up, asking no questions, simply accepting it all the way jump drives accept new files, and we wouldn't finish downloading until the news came on.
During an episode of The Brady Bunch
, my trance ended. Pop.
Just like that. It was an unsettling experience: The television was on, yet I was not hypnotized. Very disturbing. Maybe (I thought) the set needed repair. That's when I gave up television, adjourned to the local public library and began my lifelong quest to be Smarter Than You.
And now here we are, decades later. I've caught up with some episodes of those old shows on YouTube. Despite being Smarter Than You, many questions remain unanswered.1. Roy Rogers.
This was the most surreal show ever broadcast, and not just because Roy, on horseback, was somehow always able to catch bad guys who drove trucks and cars. The big question is this: What the fuck did Roy Rogers do for a living?
Apparently, he owned some sort of ranch, although I don't recall seeing him do any actual ranch stuff. Dale may have had something to do with a restaurant. Okay, but then...why was he out chasing bad guys?
How could someone in the modern age regularly engage in police activity without actually being in law enforcement?
Occasionally, you would see Roy pull a gun on a bad guy. Suppose he had pulled the trigger: Wouldn't he have gone to jail? What right did he have to draw a weapon?
In episode after episode, there would be a scene where we would witness the bad guys planning some evil scheme or other, and one bad guy would say: "Yeah, sure, that takes care of the cops -- but what are we going to do about Rogers
?" Jeez, dude, what about
Rogers? Why is he even an issue? If he's a Batman-like vigilante, why don't the cops seek to arrest him
. The big problem here may have escaped your notice when you were a kid. What's with all the art?
We're talking Rembrandt, Picasso, Modigliani, Grandma Moses. All hanging on the walls of the Stevens residence. The question is: Within the universe of the show, were these supposed to be reproductions or actual paintings?
A go-getting, desperate-to-crawl-into-the-upper-middle-class householder like Darrin ought to start buying original art, so these pictures probably were not prints. (Obviously, they were
prints on the set, but I don't think that they were supposed to be prints in terms of the show's reality.) Maybe Sam blinked them onto the walls. If so, would Darrin feel comfortable accepting stolen art? Wouldn't he notice a news story announcing the mysterious theft of Rembrandt's Girl With a Broomstick
The other big Bewitched
question has probably already occurred to you. In episode after episode, Agnes Moorehead pops into the scene in medias res
, and it is clear that she has somehow overheard the things that were said before her arrival. So, like, do Samantha and Darrin have any real privacy? If I were Darrin, and if I thought that Agnes Moorehead was watching me at all times, little Tabitha would never have come into being.3. Lost in Space.
Believe it or not, we '60s kids didn't think that Dr. Smith was gay, no matter how many sly hints the writers would toss into the dialogue. Yes, we were that
naive. (Seen today, Mark Goddard's sheer disgust with the effeminate Smith is the funniest aspect of the show.)
Yet even at the time, I often wondered: Why does the family allow young Will Robinson to spend so much time alone with Smith?
That was a fair question not because Smith was gay but because -- in the first episodes, at least -- he was evil. A Russian spy, or something of the sort. A cold-blooded killer. Then, somewhere toward the end of the first season, he stopped scheming and started camping.
What the hell? Why does the family trust him? Did they forget all about the really evil stuff he did when the series began?
(Lost in Space
and the Jetsons
taught us that, in the future, the hot blonde eldest daughter would always be named Judy. And she would get hardly any lines. Oddly enough, in the real 21st century, Judy has become an unpopular name.)4. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
This is the show that really bugged me at the time, and it bugs me even more today.
For both the series and the old Gene Tierney movie, the set-up is simple: A woman who is a writer moves into a cottage haunted by the ghost of a sea captain. They can speak to each other freely; eventually, they develop romantic feelings for each other.
Here's the part I don't get: On occasion, she suffers from writer's block.
She doesn't know what to write about.
Now, this woman has just scored the most impressive interview since Bernadette Soubirous. How can she not
know what to write about? Throughout the entire series, she never thinks to ask the Captain the obvious questions: What is the afterlife like? Is there a final judgment? If so, on what basis are we judged? Is there a heaven? A hell? A supreme deity? Which religion comes closest to the truth? Why do ghosts exist? Why does suffering exist? What about reincarnation? Do ghosts look they way they did at the moment of death -- and if so, what would the ghost of someone who walked into an airplane propeller look like?
your book, lady.
Instead, this stupefyingly incurious woman asks none
of that stuff. Or if she does ask, she asks off-camera -- and whatever answers she may have received have not affected her life in the slightest. We never see her go to church, for example.
Also, it is established in the very first episode that the ghost watches her while she sleeps. He's in her bedroom all the time
. And she's cool with this. I guess, back in the '60s, we were supposed to believe that widows never dated and never masturbated.5. Petticoat Junction.
The Shady Rest hotel is 25 miles away from the nearest town. It's not on a highway. Why would anyone build a hotel in such a place? How can this enterprise function? Why would anyone stay there -- except maybe to scope out the three hot daughters? Since this show takes place in the south, why do none of the three hot daughters have southern accents?
Okay, I know. It's just a show. I should really just relax.PS:
Football -- that's the game with the non
-spherical ball, right?