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Day 24 in a month of writing: A New TV Season Doesn’t Mean What it Used To

Marlo Thomas - That Girl

Marlo Thomas – That Girl

Monday night Jeff and I watched Big Bang Theory. The character Penny had gone from long locks to a short cut and we found out what had happened to Sheldon Cooper since the finale of last season. They actually aired two episodes. Then we watched some new show about geniuses who help Homeland Security with a sidekick waitress who was on American Idol long after I quit watching and was in some other show I never bothered to view that got cancelled. After watching all but the final season of Breaking Bad on borrowed DVD’s in a three-week stretch the summer before the finale, I doubt I will ever be tied to a TV schedule again. We don’t have Netflix or own a DVR but I’ve been known to watch a Dance Moms episode on my laptop in a pinch. The last time I was concerned about missing a show was sometime during Desperate Housewives back when I used VHS tapes on the rare occasion that I couldn’t be on Wisteria Lane for a Sunday evening.

Perhaps it’s my age or that my kids are away but I have an odd longing for a TV show that I really want to see but none of them engage me enough to compel me to tell a white lie to avoid scheduling something over them. There was a time though where my TV shows mattered to me, when realizing it was seven o’clock on a Friday could send my best friend Melanie and I screaming “Brady Bunch” into the shag carpeted splendor of her basement and the relaxed seating of a bean bag chair. Better get ice cream before the escapades of the Partridge Family began. Eventually Room 222 made its way into the Friday line-up but just like the Odd Couple it started out on a different night of the week. Even Love American Style had started on a Monday before finding its way into the time slot before the evening news on Fridays.

Saturday Night Live was the show that I hated to miss when I was in high school. For my generation it served as a self-induced curfew for those wishing to be in the know on Monday mornings at school. Clearly that has changed with websites, social media and the fact that most phones will permit you to locate anything you may have missed. Long before SNL came to be it was The Carol Burnett Show that coaxed me to get in and out of the tub on Saturday nights. Her gowns, her guests, the sketches and the cast members cracking each other up was too good to miss. Though I always thought of it as a part of my childhood Saturday evenings it was originally aired on a Monday and after ten and a half years of songs and monologues it ended on a Wednesday evening in March of my freshman year of high school. There is a distortion of reality that comes with nostalgia that will keep me believing that The Carol Burnett Show was always on Saturday night. Mary Tyler Moore, now there is a woman who owned Saturday night, in an era when it was not embarrassing to be home watching TV on a Saturday Night, though that is not how viewers saw Mary Richards spending her weekends and she even worked for a TV station, in Minneapolis, where I was watching the show. Today it would take an entirely different sort of show to feature the Riverside highrises in their opening montage.

The first new television season I recall was the year they launched the Flying Nun (so to speak) which was 1967, the year before I started kindergarten, that was also the first time I remember seeing Marlo Thomas in That Girl which was in its second season. In retrospect, I guess I was likely being put to bed by 7 pm during prior years. The 1960’s were the golden era of women with magical powers; witchcraft, genie skills and flying gave young girls a lot to aspire to. Shows still tend to copy ideas and concepts; reality shows, competition programs and fairy tales all seem to have had multiple networks clamoring to meet audience preference needs. Entire networks now are devoted to Do It Yourself programming, travel and real estate. Often this sort of programming will air marathons of the show after the initial run. Franchises like the many versions of “Real Housewives” host reunion shows and tabloids love these faux celebrities because viewers oddly can’t get enough of them. The shows are cheap to produce because there is no true actress or actor and other than salaries and footing the bill for some extravagant staged social events or travel there is little script writing or set design. This year the theme on cable channels is “naked” shows, surviving naked, dating naked and even a real estate show in a nudist community. Apparently there is some commercial market for that. Maybe luring advertisers who make vinyl furniture coverings and antibacterial wipes.

As a child I remember types of shows that networks tried during different seasons. There were westerns when I was real little, medical shows, attorney shows, cop shows, PI  shows, women cops  and by the time I was in high school the night-time soap opera was a popular format. Sitcoms could be about where you lived, where you worked, where you went to school and I think an entire network could run just reruns of shows whose hired help was a primary character; Hazel, Family Affair, The Nanny, Charles In Charge, Whose the Boss?, Mr. Belvedere and many others come to mind. Great era pieces; Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons and my underrated favorite The Wonder Years. Occasionally I  find the concept for a new TV show intriguing but with over a hundred channels to choose from there is simply an overload of potential viewing options. Rather than selecting something to watch on TV I often opt to read a book or write a blog and wait for the evening news.

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