Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Five TV shows I will stop and watch any time, anywhere

I've mentioned before that I don't watch much TV. And it's not because I have any philosophical objections to it, I just have too many other things going on.

But when I do sit down for some tube time, and I actually have control of the remote (NOTE: THIS HAPPENS APPROXIMATELY TWICE PER CENTURY), I am for whatever reason drawn to the channels that air old shows.

Maybe I'm just nostalgic, but the shows I like all aired in the 60s and 70s. I don't necessarily think TV was better then than it is now. But I think it was more suited to my tastes. And we're talking about me here, so the older shows get the nod.

If I'm flipping through our 47,000 digital cable channels and come across any of these programs, I will stop and watch. Every time. Guaranteed:

(1) M*A*S*H

There was a period in the early and mid-80s when WUAB Channel 43 in Cleveland would show a rerun of M*A*S*H every night at 7. And my brother would record it on our old, 50-pound Curtis Mathis VCR. This was a VCR that came out back when "VHS or Beta?" actually meant something. It was heavy. And it lasted a long time.

Anyway, my brother recorded all the episodes of M*A*S*H, which got me into watching the show. There was nothing else like it on TV, nor has there been since. If you're a M*A*S*H fan, usually you have to declare your allegiance in four important areas:

  • Henry Blake or Sherman Potter? (correct answer = Sherman Potter)
  • Trapper or BJ? (correct answer = Trapper)
  • Frank Burns or Charles Emerson Winchester? (correct answer = Frank Burns)
  • Old Hateful Hot Lips or Later Sympathetic Hot Lips? (correct answer = Old Hateful Hot Lips)
I think I would pay $20 just for the chance to watch an episode of M*A*S*H right now. I wonder where my brother's stock of recorded VHS episodes is?

(2) Hogan's Heroes

Sticking with the military theme...

Everything about this show was wildly inaccurate and improbable. But that was the point, right? You either enjoyed seeing the Nazis portrayed as semi-lovable buffoons or you were appalled by it. I think I've always been a little of both.

The guy for whom I felt the worst was Kinch, also known as Sgt. Ivan Kinchloe. Kinch was the African-American guy. He also had the best fake German accent. But he could only use it over the phone or the radio because...well, because not even a show like this could get away with having a dark-skinned guy pass for an Aryan in person. So Kinch always had to stay back at the POW camp while the other guys went out on wacky adventures dressed as genocidal psychopaths. Poor guy.

(3) The Andy Griffith Show

Who made this show? Don Knotts made this show. Barney Fife is easily one of the top five funniest characters in television history. And I'm willing to argue him up into the top three.

Special mention goes to Otis the Town Drunk, who wins the award for Best Portrayal of a Perpetually Inebriated Person Back When It Was OK to Make Fun of Alcoholism. Otis even let himself into jail every night just to get away from his wife. I love 60s TV!

May I present to you an excellent scene in which these two classic characters interact? Don't mind if I do:

(4) The Carol Burnett Show

The fun here was figuring how far you could get into any given episode before Tim Conway would get Harvey Korman to bust up. Harvey didn't necessarily want to bust up, of course. He was trying to stay in character. But Tim was so brilliant, and so spontaneously funny, I can't imagine anyone could have held a straight face for long.

And let's not forget Carol herself. And Vicki Lawrence. All four of the main cast members were outstanding comedic actors...to the point that I think they spoiled us for any other comedy variety show. The genre sort of fell by the wayside once the 80s hit, and I think it's because The Carol Burnett Show was so good.

(5) All in the Family

If you make me watch one sitcom over and over for the rest of my life, I'm probably going with this one.

It's dated in many ways, and part of its genius lies in how far ahead of its time the show really was. But I still think much of the writing was timeless, and it worked because Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton were so darned good.

Please, if you do nothing else today, watch this scene (my favorite one in the show's history). I can't imagine you not at least smiling at it, if not cracking up. Just awesome:

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