Thursday, April 24, 2014

Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Larry, Moe & Curly, Lucille Ball, Buddy Ebsen, Andy Griffith, Barbara Billingsley, Red Foxx.

The screen used to be smaller. It only showed images in shades of black, white and all grades between. The sound came out of a small speaker, and you had to turn a dial to change the channel.

There was NBC, CBS, ABC and Public Broadcasting.

None of them broadcast 24 hours a day. Instead they ended the television day around midnight by playing the national anthem, usually with an American flag flapping in the breeze.

Bob Denver, Davy Jones, Bob Crane, Ross Martin, Irene Ryan, Jim Backus, Jean Stapleton, Farrah Fawcett.

Mid-1960s, color was introduced. Full, glorious technicolor, just in time to usher in the age of psychedelics. The Partridge Family, The Monkees, H.R. Pufnstuf, and the Saturday morning cartoon lineup; there was bright, vivid color splashing the screens keeping us enthralled.

Film noir in its deep black and white tones had become outdated, relegated to the old days of entertainment. And even though neo-noir carried the mantle of its predecessor, it didn't capture the classic feel of the originals instead creating its own atmosphere heavily influenced by the Cold War.

Don Knotts, Eddie Albert, James Doohan, Eva Gabor, Frances Bavier, Ernest Borgnine, Carroll O'Conner.

Sometime in the 70s, the broadcast signal stopped coming via antenna and was delivered to subscribed households through wire, into a plastic box with a row of buttons. Channel choices went through the roof from four channels to thirty. We could even watch stations from the Boston area. Our options were far greater than they had ever been.

Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, Darren McGavin, Jack Lord, Dennis Weaver, Ted Knight, Sherman Helmsley.

The 80s saw a spate of uninteresting programming. The edgy issues-oriented comedy, the steampunk thrillers, the pioneering sci-fi, the intriguing action were all replaced with unfunny school and family scenarios and glam evening soap operas.

The one show that still had merit, though it had strayed quite a ways from its roots, M*A*S*H, bowed out in 1983 with one of the most watched series finales in history. It was a holdover from the 70s and with its closure, a golden era of television had come to an end.

Larry Linville, McLean Stevenson, Harry Morgan, Jack Webb, Tom Bosley, Bill Bixby,

Barbara Stanwyck

Now we are treated to vapid reality shows, raunchy sitcoms, mindless drivel and the occasional interesting show. Programs that show promise get cancelled early while the most mundane filth is renewed season after season. The golden era is far behind us reflecting the tastes of a culture that has grown cynically numb to good storytelling. Titillation is the norm, and that envelope gets pushed further and further in attempt to keep interest levels high.

Thought is out. Articulateness is passe. Talent is disregarded. Symbolism is dead. All that remains is flesh. Can death be far behind?

Television is entropy.

Phil Silvers, Don Adams, Bea Arthur, Fred Gwynne, Vivian Vance, Harvey Korman, Lorne Greene

Most people gaze neither into the past nor the future; they explore neither truth nor lies. They gaze at the television. ― Radiohead


Kevin Bowser said...

Remind me again . . . Who shot JR?

Jeff Howe said...

No idea. Didn't watch Dallas :)