Friday, August 19, 2011

Greatest TV Themes of All Time #s 10-6

#10 Car 54, Where Are You?

I went through various periods in my teens where I would watch a certain TV show, or sometimes two, every day for what seemed like several months, though maybe it was as little as 4-6 weeks, as part of my daily routine, and then something would happen where the routine would be broken, or changed, either on my part or that of the programming station, and I would never watch the show again. "Car 54" which originally aired in the early 60s, was one of these shows. On the surface it seems to be an even more than usually silly show, yet there was an exuberance in its absurdity that my young self found satisfying, and which was of a quality that is not much prevalent in the current culture. My favorite episode was the one where Gunther confesses to not having read a book in his entire life and everyone nags him about it until he agrees to try The Robe, which proceeds to consume him to the point that he ceases temporarily to be the guy everyone loves such that by the end of the show they are begging him not to read any more books.

When I was a very young child, my grandmother had a dog named Gunther J Toody, so I gather the program was popular in that household as well.

It is worth noting that despite the show's protagonists being New York City policemen, its storylines rarely centered around any actual crimes, and when they did I cannot recall anything much more serious than petty fraud or running red lights, though it is possible my memory is faulty in this.

#9 Dallas

They aren't letting me embed the themes from any of the early seasons, so I will have to link to it here.

As far as embedded material goes, I can offer some footage of the great Victoria Principal disco dancing.

Dallas was to me the opposite of Car 54 in terms of the emotional reassurance it offered, and I often wonder if it did not mark a significant stage in the decline of the overall morale and spritual well-beings of the mass of Americans during this period. This was the first television show I can remember that openly reveled in the total ruthlessness and moral depravity of wealthy and powerful people rather than affecting to be appalled by it, indeed even presented it as a central component of their success. And make no mistake, compared to the average schlub viewer, they were indisputably successful, and the schlub viewer was not so gently warned that if he should ever run across people of this type he had best get the hell out of their way as quickly and unobtrusively as possible, unless he has a taste for seeing the entire edifice of his pitiful life collapse in humiliation and ruin in a matter of seconds that those inflicting the pain upon him probably would not even notice. I am quite certain that the show scarred me at an impressionable age when I ought not to have been watching it. There was in particular one episode in which J.R. had just finished financially destroying a minor rival in the oil business and giddily delivered the news by telephone from bed after ravishing the rival's woman. I realized all at once that this was what serious people were really like; and all the years of optimistic and supposedly uplifting movies and books and TV programs about adhering to the bourgeois virtues were swept away in a single blow, and I don't think I have ever had true faith in them again.

#8 The Jeffersons

Whoever owns the rights to the Jeffersons theme song is adamant that no one be allowed to hear it without a royalty, hence the silent video.

Obviously one of the great songs of all time in this category.

#7 Green Acres

While I don't remember it, Green Acres apparently vied with Petticoat Junction as my favorite TV show when I was four. I would love to be able to figure out why these 2 programs appealed to me so strongly as they did, but thus far I cannot do so.

#6 The Odd Couple

I've been having one of my retro-crushes lately on New York in the early 70s, or more precisely from around 1969-73, roughly the apogee of the Joe Namath and Tom Seaver era. In the case of New York it seems to be especially true that the heyday of sporting icons roughly parallel a particular character in the epoch of the city, and they start to fade when the character of their time fades, or perhaps vice versa--for while the changes in the city's character are fairly easy to mark through most of the 20th century, and the 1965-1980 period can almost be identified season by season, I find I have lost track of any sense of the subtleties of such changes since the late 90s--perhaps until Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera fade from the scene and are replaced by new heroes everything will seem to me fundamentally the same as they were then. As far as New York in the 70s goes, it is only this early part that I have as yet come around to finding somewhat attractive. The disco era, perhaps because I have some actual memories of it, I still have not been able to warm up to, and the Death Wish/Taxi Driver-era New York of the mid-70s, and even of the later seasons of this show, while fascinating, also seem yet a little too dark and despairing, as well as representing the period when certain appealing aspects of the old New York that were still lingering into the early 70s seem to have been, if not entirely killed off, stifled to the point that they became overwhelmed by other qualities and difficult, or at least more difficult, for people like me who are perpetually starved for them, to imbibe at second or fifth hand as perhaps it was possible to do formerly. What were these mystical qualities of which I speak? I am going to have to try to identify what it is I mean, only because it is an important matter to me, and I experience it when I do sense its presence as some absent or lost vigor that I should be partaking in, but am not. But this will have to be saved for a future post.

No comments: