Friday, September 27, 2013

Classic 60s TV

  AOG, Madrid

There’s something about it which makes me keep coming back for more. But why?

It was my birthday a couple of days ago and my partner had a gift vooucher which expired on the same day. We rushed to Barcelona’s FNAC to get me some sort of quick-lets-not-waste-it! last-minute gift. 

First we went to the book section, and the book I had in mind, one about one of Spain’s best illustrators from the 1930s, Carlos Saenz de Tejada, was out of stock. So we went to the CD section. Couldn’t find anything I liked -these days, with Spotify on my mind, I buy less and less music.

So off to the DVD section.

Yes, I’m one of those people who likes buying DVDs, and I especially like television series. And these days, I am especially hooked on those series from my childhood, which were not exactly of my time. What do I mean?

I mean that when I was a kid, my television programs were mostly 1950s cartoons, and 1960s series.

I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, Batman, Get Smart, Daniel Boone, The Flying Nun, Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hills Hillbillies, The Outer LImits,That Girl!, The Lucy Show, Lost in Space, The Dick van Dyke Show &c.

So, when given a choice between Modern Family (3rd Season) and The Twilight Zone (Season 1), I chose the latter.

I suppose that having a degree in History predisposes me towards these, for me anyway, visual documents of another era.

I enjoy looking at how those cars I used to dislike as a child, but love as an adult, moved. I like seeing how people drove. How they dressed, what they ate. Even how they spoke. Television English is a very interesting thing to listen to. So different from today’s colloquial television English — where everybody has a California accent.

Acting, obviously, has changed a lot since then too. When a woman (and it is always women), has a breakdown in 1960s land, she often falls into the arms of a man, then everything is ok.

In 2013, she goes on a drinking/screwing/shoplifting binge.Then a man turns her in the right path, and everything is ok.

I like the furnishings of the homes, the way the clothes move, the games children played. As I kid, I am not sure I understood at first that these shows were from the 1960s. In many cases, the shows themselves were in their teens back then, it was the beginning of syndication. 

We all know how I Dream of Jeannie had a bigger audience during re-runs in the 1970s than when it actually aired.

But it is more than just the visuals. It is the ideas of the time. The anthropological aspect of these shows is astounding. Not many black people, respectable women behaved and dressed in a certain way. As did men. To say nothing of the worries and issues of the time.
Watching 1960s Sci-Fi TV is also very enlightening. 

Lost in Space dealt with being shipwrecked in an alien planet, a similar concept to Gilligan’s Island. In both shows a group of people must survive and overcome their respective personality traits in unfamiliar territory.

What were the worries of the time? That Earth would blow up and we would fight for our survival? That a group of strangers who met on a boat would be able to survive on a desert island? That the rich can be of help? That a robot can both be our salvation, as well as the instrument of our destruction?

And what about traditional gender roles? And the idea about what constitutes, and what doesn’t, a family? Ideas surrounding friendship, and, of course, the supernatural.

These ideas are, today anyway,less of an issue on television, but that does not mean they are not out there, that we have stopped thinking about them, but our worries are different. We no longer worry about the superpower conflict, but we do worry about being killed by a terrorist. Or about being kidnapped and being retained against our will. Or being shot by a psycho sniper. Or…

So many things are going on today that looking at old 1960s tv is a very definite form of escapism. But also, a source of intrigue. 

Were people back then not worried about issues like our own? Being worried about death, about being abducted and killed, about abusive parents, alcoholic partners, about rape and incest, about poverty, were more than likely things people thought about back then, but, for a variety of reasons, were not talked about, or dealt with.

So when I watch these shows, I am obviously doing so for more than just one reason. It is not just leisure, it is not just curiosity, it is also a certain concern with the missing parts.
The complete abscence of gay people, the limited appearence of black people, the almost complete abscence of any other minority, of a social discourse.

Why weren’t those things talked about?

In reference to being asked about the significance of the French Revolution, Zhou Enlai -Communist China’s premier from 1949 to 1976- is often quoted as having said that, , “it is too soon to say”.

I can’t help but wonder if this is still the case with the 1960s today. As a historian, I would agree. And as a Journalist, I would disagree.


1 comment:

xochimiqui1 said...

We have SOOOO much in common…all of those TV shows you listed were my favorites also. I miss you terribly!