Playing the Indian Card

Friday, October 08, 2004

TV or Not TV?

Thinking for fun of old TV shows. Everyone remembers Monty Python and Star Trek, but what other shows would you really love to have the full run of on DVD, if you spotted it? What gems do you remember from long ago?

I think of Wayne and Schuster, first off. Nothing was more exciting when I was a kid. It was more special because it was only on once a month, and you had to watch the listings carefully or you’d miss it. They weren’t always funny, but when they were good, they were brilliant. The level of allusion turned their best stuff into high art. I remember, for example, once they did a baseball game all in Shakespearian blank verse. In their day, these guys were Canadian national monuments.

Still in Canada, the CBC production of Anne of Green Gables. I already own that one, on cassette. I can watch it again and again, and enjoy it every time. I appreciate how much culture and history is woven into it as well. Plus, Anne is one of the great fictional characters of all time. Even the Koreans and Japanese all love her.

What else? Back when Global TV first started in Canada, they got the license on the promise that everything they showed in prime time would be their own Canadian production. This of course lasted only a year or so, but for that year, there were some intersting things on TV. I loved The Great Debate, which had two prominent figures going head-to-head on some current issue. I remember Irving Layton defending the war in Vietnam, and Tommy Douglas, who was an orator of the old school. It would be great to see some of those again.

The Galloping Gourmet used to be something I'd look forward to. Graham Kerr was just fun to watch. Did you people get that in the US at all?

This Hour Has Seven Days was also very cool, but 1. you can still see it anyway in reruns, and 2. it was really just a knockoff of That Was the Week That Was, from the US, which was better. But I’d sure like a full run of That Was the Week That Was. Anyone remember that one, with Tom Lehrer's great topical songs in each episode?

For a brief time there was something called Fractured Flickers, I think by the same guy who did Rocky and Bullwinkle. (Speaking of which, Rocky and Bullwinkle was also a great. Wanna see me pull a rabbit out of a hat?). It showed late at night, after the news. It took old silent film footage and gave it a goofy narration by Hans Conreid, who had one of the funniest voices ever. I thought it was terribly funny as a kid, worth getting out of bed for in the middle of the night.

Later on, nothing was better than the old Smothers Comedy Brothers Hour. Remember "Tea with Goldie"? Mason Williams?

Later, Saturday Night Live was as exciting. But I remember it only from its very first few seasons.

I went through a long period when I couldn't miss Masterpiece Theatre every Monday night.

I used to love just listening to Walter Cronkite's voice. He had a series called The Twentieth Century that captivated me. I even loved the Prudential commercials. And remember his election campaign coverage with Eric Sevareid’s goofy self-important editorials? Very radio. It was great. I’d love a set of those, convention by convention, up through the sixties and seventies. Clips of Abe Ribicoff accusing Richard Daley of Gestapo tactics, Scranton and Goldwater at the Cow Palace, those old roll-call dramas.

There was a great British sitcom called Shelley that I used to follow. Shelley was a grad student who couldn't find a job. It struck home, in the seventies. He finally left to teach ESL abroad. Maybe that's where I first got the idea.

Someone in Britain did a poll recently, I think of TV critics, and came up with the conclusion that the best TV show of all time was Sergeant Bilko. I just don't get that one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What I'd like would be a complete set of the Northern Exposure programs, including the original series which ran only half an hour. Later shows expanded to a full hour. There was not only some brilliant repartee and some ludicrous situations -- which are par for the course, I suppose -- but also some profound theology. I gather several of the writers had seminary training. It showed...

Jim T