October 20, 2017
Around the dial
In his article about the current series Mozart in the Jungle, Brian Phillips at The Ringer makes the comment that "TV shows at this moment are so often interested in participating in a larger cultural discourse," something that has frustrated me no end. Yes, it's true that my interest in classic television extends to what it says about the culture at the time it was made, but that is as often due to its inadvertent role as a time capsule, and our retroactive analysis of what it all meant. Phillips looks at a specific episode of Girls, for example, "the way it plugged into an existing conversation about male power and the nature of consent."
This is a good segue to David's recent piece at Comfort TV, in which he looks back at the Brady Bunch episode in which Marcia tries to join an organization that's a thinly-disguised version of the Boy Scouts. You might be reminded of that episode in light of the news (old news, now - must be at least a couple of weeks ago) that the Boy Scouts will now accept girls. David's point - one which he's made in the past, and quite well - is that "classic TV – even those series that are deemed the most simplistic by our ‘sophisticated’ modern standards, can do more than just provide 30 or 60 minutes of entertaining diversion. They teach us something about the times in which they were made – and might even teach us something about the times we live in now." The Brady Bunch does that in this episode; Marcia isn't trying to make some sort of grand political statement, not really. She just wants to prove that "women should have the same opportunities if they have the requisite skills." Nowadays, says David, the same episode might be interpreted to mean "that everyone should be allowed to do everything on their terms, regardless of any preexisting criterion." A bit of a difference there, don't you think? The point is that sometimes (most times?) you can make your point without turning your program into some kind of grand political manifesto. Just let the action develop organically - it will do the rest.
Elsewhere, at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear Ivan reviews Where's My Fortune Cookie?, Phil Proctor's autobiography, in which we learn what it was like being a part of the great Firesign Theatre group. Having mentioned Bob Cummings a time or two, I was particularly amused by Phil's recollection of working with Cummings in the theater. I won't spoil that for you - go over there and read the whole thing.
At Made for TV Mayhem, Amanda interviews Lisa Holmes from Music Box Films/Doppleganger Releasing, regarding the release of made-for-TV movies on Blu-Ray, including Summer of Fear, with Lee Purcell and Linda Blair. Amanda's so right - the telefilm is a genre that continues to be interesting; for the many bad ones that may have come along, it's clear that the filmmakers were really trying to do something with this type of movie.
If you like The Twilight Zone, you're in luck, as The Twilight Zone Vortex's Jordan gives us a list of the best TZ podcasts. It can be hard knowing where to start with all the casts out there; getting a roadmap from someone who knows what he's talking about helps.
Speaking of both Amanda and podcasts, you won't want to miss this week's Eventually Supertrain, in which she and Dan discuss two late-'80s slasher movies, Iced and Moonstalker. (Nice segue, don't you think? I'm full of them this week.)
At Cult TV Blog, John brings up the British children's show The Feathered Serpent as a jumping-off point for a discussion of children's TV in general, and how it works (or doesn't work) as a means of imparting knowledge on its young viewers.
I really like Jodie's entry at Garroway at Large this week, not just because of its discussion of Dave's Wide Wide World program, but because it reminds us of what a wonder television was in the beginning, and how we could still be wowed by this big, wonderful world and the technology that brought it to us.
Terry Teachout taps into the wonderful Archive of American Television for this interview with composer Fred Steiner, who talks about composing the immortal theme to Perry Mason.
If you have any others we should know about, let me know. Otherwise, back tomorrow with some more fun. Right? Right!