not-real TV

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When I turned on the TV one recent morning to catch the local news and weather, I heard a vaguely familiar young voice say something like “blah blah blah Uncle Charlie blah blah blah…”  That woke me all the way up. I found my glasses – it was Chip (or maybe Ernie)! Then in stumbled Uncle Charlie (on the screen, not in my bedroom) complete with the apron. It was “My Three Sons.” Oh my.

Apparently someone came up with the idea to rerun those TV “classics” from my childhood. It is a cable station called “MeTV” (an acronym for “Memorable Entertainment Television”) and advertises incessantly on its sister station – a legit ABC local network affiliate. MeTV also broadcasts local news at 10pm – for those of us who can’t stay awake until the typical 11pm news on the “real station.” Now that I think of it, us 10pm news watchers are probably the same ones who watched “My Three Sons” as kids.

Flipping though my diary archives yields a treasure trove of MeTV possibilities; although I’m not sure I’d want to watch them now.

A random sampling:

  • My Favorite Martian
  • Addams Family
  • Gomer Pyle (or as my brother affectionately referred to it – Gomer’s Pyle)
  • Flipper (faster than lightning)
  • Kentucky Jones
  • Gilligan’s Island (it was years before I realized the s in island was silent)
  • Walt Disney (on right before Ed Sullivan)
  • Ed Sullivan (on right before Bonanza)
  • Bonanza (if I was lucky & mom didn’t realize I was still up this late on a school night)
  • Johnny Quest
  • Donna Reed
  • My Three Sons (!)
  • Bewitched
  • The Farmer’s Daughter
  • Andy Griffith
  • The Lucy Show

This was just 2 weeks worth of shows in one year…..a tiny sampling.

My TV listings were often more detailed than homework descriptions. There are comments such as “I watched Bewitched. I like that program very much.” Well, I imagine I did. Here was a woman who could do whatever she wanted just by twitching her nose. The first woman on TV with superpowers. How fantastic was that?

Or “We watched Addams Family & Gomer Pyle on TV while we ate dinner. Gomer Pyle is FUNNY.” Hmmm….why was he funny?  And “I watched a new show called Lost in Space which is about a family with kids & is floating around in a spaceship & is Lost in Space.” That about covers it.

Binge watching one night in the 1960’s: “Camp Runamuck, Hank, Hogan’s Heroes, Gomer Pyle, Smothers Brothers, UNCLE – Waverly Ring Affair.”  (Camp Runamuck?? Hank??) I also would rather not think about the subject matter of “Hogan’s Heroes” being an actual comedy. It is, however, on MeTV.

I watched quite a bit of television as a child.  I also read Nancy Drew books and played outside when I had free time, but I think I loved television the best. I could escape and imagine something different; it became a lifeline of sorts. Those perfect family sitcoms with an Uncle Charlie or an Aunt Bee. Or the nose that twitched and made things happen. The brothers that got along in “My Three Sons” & “Leave it to Beaver.”  The cousins in the “Patty Duke Show” – they got along too.

Pure entertainment drew me in – especially “Variety shows.” One unforgettable one: “The Ed Sullivan Show”…The Beatles! The Rolling Stones! The guy who balanced the spinning plates and of course Topo Gigio!! The June Taylor dancers on “The Jackie Gleason Show” – filmed from above to see the kaleidoscopic patterns they would make. I first fell in love with Lily Tomlin’s humor on “Laugh-In.” All this from just 3 networks!

I took great comfort in knowing that:

  • Lassie would always locate Timmy and find the well – every single time
  • Gidget would always be cute and get a date
  • Mighty Mouse would always save the day
  • Superman would always fly fast and get the bad guy
  • If Opie, Chip, Ernie, Beaver, Wally, Cathy, Patty, et al. misbehaved, their punishments would – at the most – be a “stern talking to.” Their worries, if they had any, were whisked away by episode’s end.

I spent those hours entertained…but also worry free, knowing that it would all work out – whatever “it” was. Was any of it realistic? Of course not. Did it matter to me then? If someone had pointed out that there was no such thing as a flying mouse (obviously not) or a flying man (again, nope) or that girls don’t need to be cute and have boyfriends (would find that out eventually), it would have made no difference. Reality wasn’t the point. And I am grateful.

I do wonder who watches MeTV and why. I admit that I didn’t watch any of “My Three Sons” the other day when I discovered it coming to life on my TV by accident. There was a “Leave it to Beaver” moment one morning as well, when I was expecting GMA.

Are today’s sitcoms “better” than they were in the 1960’s? I don’t know; but I wonder if they give kids the easy escape they may be needing. I hope so. Those slices of not-real life helped me get through childhood. Today’s kids may need something different or maybe there is still a need for not-real TV. Reality for today’s children seems as if it could be a difficult burden.

I know, I know, the sitcoms of the ’60’s were unrealistic and perpetuated many stereotypes and inappropriate role models.  I agree. But still. Sometimes it can be more important to give a worried child’s mind a rest, at least for a short while. That has value.

After all, I knew very well that mothers did not always (or ever) wear an apron, heels and pearls to cook dinner. And of course there could very well be a Superwoman. And that families (of many colors) really did have problems – sometimes serious ones. And that war is hell; not funny.

I should change the channel back to the “regular” channel after the 10pm news from now on. No need to accidentally see Jeannie in the turban rising out of the bottle first thing in the morning. Although….”Bewitched” could work…and might be an easier way to greet the day than what happened overnight in real-life land.




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