I have recently discovered that I just don’t like television very much anymore. I lost interest in “Lost” after two seasons, don’t really care when “Desperate Housewives” is on anymore and haven’t watched “Grey’s Anatomy” in eons. While I still have my favorites, including “House,” “American Idol,” “Friday Night Lights” and several others, for the most part, I shun T. V. to read a good book, watch a movie or tap away at the computer.
I used to love T. V. when I was growing up. I was brought up in a lower middle class home, the youngest of four kids. We didn’t have money to go on vacation, have the latest and greatest toys and gadgets, but we had T. V. gosh darn it! Back in the day when parents didn’t know that it was detrimental to park their kids in front of the T. V. for a few hours to get a much needed break and when you could watch T. V. without paying the cable company the privilege of enjoying Channels 2, 4, and 7, we enjoyed T. V. for what it was worth. My recent disappointment with the offerings on television and my acceptance that television is not the great distraction and source of enjoyment it once was has led me to look back at the television shows I very much enjoyed as a child of the seventies.
The Mike Douglas Show. There have certainly been very capable and entertaining talk show hosts in recent years including Ellen and Oprah, but Mike Douglas will always have a warm place in my heart. The consummate gentleman, Mike Douglas was warm, witty and always gave his guests the room and space to steal the show. I once heard or read that Rosie O’Donnell was inspired to become a talk show host by watching The Mike Douglas Show in her youth. I believe it. Not only did he make the job look easy, he made hosting a talk show look like the best job in the world.
Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. It was on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert:” that I was introduced to Kiss, David Bowie, Blue Oyster Cult and many other famous rock bands of the era. Airing at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night, I remember very vividly sneaking into the darkened living room and watching this show with my older brother, with the sound turned up very barely above mute.
Happy Days. I had a very difficult relationship with my father my entire life and remember wishing that “Mr. C” was my dad. Besides the daddy issues that I apparently experienced, “Happy Days” was a terrific half hour sitcom that had great actors, fun story lines and brought us all back to the simpler and gentler times of the 1950’s. Henry Winkler was wonderful as “Fonzie,” Marion Ross was fantastically cast as the nurturing Mom and Ron Howard was delightful as the innocent and charming “Ritchie Cunningham.” The story lines were simple, but rang true, and always left you with a good feeling at the end. Family comedy at it’s best.
Laverne And Shirley. Piggybacked to “Happy Days,” “Laverne And Shirley” told the story of two single gals living in Milwaukee, working as bottle cappers who were perpetually on the hunt for love and luck. This show was truly slapstick comedy with stars Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams getting into one jam after another. I absolutely loved this show and thoroughly enjoyed the overall silliness as well as the message that women could forge out a life for themselves on their own, independent from a man. Many years later, I was a single gal in my twenties living in a basement apartment with a roommate. We often called ourselves “Laverne and Shirley” as we looked out our only window and watched the legs of our neighbors go by.
Fantasy Island. “Fantasy Island” was a mainstay of my Saturday nights as a child. Airing after the equally entertaining “Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island” was the story of a magical island where visitors could live out their fantasy under the guidance and wisdom of the well cast and recently departed Ricardo Montalban as “Mr. Rourke.” The inhabitants of “Fantasy Island” always left a little wiser than they arrived, thus providing a great message at the end of the show.
“That’s Incredible.” Hosted by Cathie Lee Crosby, John Davidson and Fran Tarkenton, “That’s Incredible” was the epitome of the family show that people of all ages could sit together and watch with equal enthusiasm. “That’s Incredible” featured regular people with talents and skills that were entertaining, inspiring and “incredible.” I believe this show came on at 8 or 8:30 and remember very clearly my brothers and I squabbling about who would get in the bath/shower first to get done in time to watch “That’s Incredible” from start to finish before bedtime.
Match Game. I probably shouldn’t have been watching “Match Game” when I was due to the strong sexual innuendo contained in the episodes, but I loved it nonetheless. Hosted by Gene Rayburn, the fun game show was a favorite in my family. With bold and sassy guest stars like Vicki Lawrence and Tom Poston and regulars such as Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly, “Match Game” was a terrific game show with just the right amount of silliness and skill.
The Carol Burnett Show. I might have already been watching the reruns by the time I became hooked on “The Carol Burnett Show” in the 70’s, but I know that I loved it dearly. A sketch comedy show with such talented comedic actors as Carol, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Harvey Korman. Hysterically funny, my family used to wait for the cast to break up on camera, which they invariably did when the material was exceptionally funny. Who could forget Carol coming down the staircase as Scarlet O’Hara with the drapes and curtain rods sticking out of her dress and saying that she “saw it in the window and just had to have it.” Classic.
Am I remembering these shows nostalgically because I am growing older? Did my parents make the same comments that “There is just nothing good on television anymore.” Maybe. All I know is that I am fondly remembering these shows as I aimlessly flip the dial looking for something good to watch on television tonight.