July 17, 2014

Around the dial

This week David at Comfort TV says what I've believed for a long time:  Mission: Impossible is TV for smart people.  Not only does it not refuse to pander to the audience by providing them with emotional soap opera ("the focus is always on the mission, not the operatives who carried it out."), it forces you to try and keep up with its frenetic pace and intricate plots.  The producers assumed their audience was smart enough to do so; if you couldn't, too bad for you.  Spot on, David.

And spot on to Cult TV as well, for another incisive look at the use of allegory in The Prisoner.  This week it's the episode "Free For All," which is rich in allegory and symbolism.  Pretty soon it's going to be time for me to start through the cycle again, beginning with Danger Man and proceeding through to The Prisoner - I'll be reading through these again as I watch.  And I can't wait to read your theories on The Butler as Number 1!

There can be no doubt that Made for TV Mayhem is dealing in mayhem of the highest order today: a look at small screen scream queens (say that five times fast).  Let's see, do I recognize any of these names?  Diane Baker, who always cut a lovely figure on television; Anne Francis, who didn't do much screaming in Honey West but changed her tune in the '70; Vera Miles, who always looks great.  Yeah, I recognize them.

I touch on old-time radio (OTR) from time to time, and since we've gotten Sirius I've gained an even greater appreciation for some of the shows that really forced the imagination to work; How Sweet It Was takes us through a collection of shows celebrating the 4th of July.  When you have some time, really check these out; they're a delight to listen to.  And yes, I'd buy war bonds from Cyd Charisse, or anything else she cares to sell.

Not a TV piece per se, but Terry Teachout writes this week about the limits of nostalgia, and there's no doubt that nostalgia plays a major role for many of us in gravitating toward classic television.  I really should devote a piece of its own to this article, but since you'll probably get sick of waiting for it, I'd urge you to read the whole thing now.  I particularly appreciate this quote, cribbed from Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

And finally, yours truly appeared this week at Christmas TV History's Christmas in July feature.  There's a new post up every day, with some absolutely wonderful memories and recommendations from writers all over the blogosphere, so you should make it part of your daily routine.

As a side note, one of Joanna's questions was "Name one Christmas program/movie you enjoy watching all year round."  I didn't think of it at the time (you'll have to read it to find out what I did say), but it struck me on the way home: it has to be Bing Crosby's 1977 Christmas show - you know, the one with the Bing/Bowie duet?  There's another segment to that program, though, a truly awful attempt to interject David Bowie into a second appearance without him actually being there.  While Bing and one of the kids are going through a box of memories in the attic, they get on the subject of heroes, which leads to a cut of Bowie's video for his song "Heroes".  Now, Bowie is a great performer and "Heroes" is one of his great songs - but it has nothing to do with Christmas, and it's absolutely painful to see it wedged into this show just to make it relevant.  Having said that, though, I'll listen to "Heroes" at any time of the year - like now.

By the way, another of the questions was to "Send us to three places on the Internet."  I chose my three, but in reality I'd readily recommend any of the blogs I've featured in this piece today or on the sideboard.  Your blogs are the best at keeping classic TV alive, and the pleasure you give me in reading your pieces is equal to the pleasure I get in writing about them.  You guys are the greatest! TV  


  1. I enjoyed reading your favorites on the Christmas TV History web-site. I have special childhood memories of watching Rudolph, too! Isn't it funny and wonderful... that watching a simple Christmas Cartoon can take you back to childhood again!

    I also love your banner above! It is a classic and beautiful image of family watching TV together! Very nice!!! I hope some still do!

    1. I'd like to think so as well, Net. I love it when parents can turn their children on to older programming; often, the kids wind up thinking shows like Andy Griffith are great fun.

      Oh, and the power of memory - it's a strong, strong thing, isn't it?

      Thanks for the kind words!

  2. Thank you for another honourable mention!


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