Y’all. Remember when a TV had three channels and they signed off at midnight? When you had rabbit ears and a roof antenna that looked like a metal grill?
When the channel needed changing, you got up, walked a few feet and flipped a dial.
If you weren’t home at 8 p.m. to watch the Mary Tyler Moore Show, you were out of luck. You sat through commercials, or set land speed records racing to the bathroom and back.
(Quick, try to name these products: “My wife… I think I’ll keep her.” “Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.” “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.”)
Today we can record programs, play them at our convenience AND SKIP THE COMMERCIALS. Of course there are only two kinds airing these days: Drugs that might kill you, and grinning lawyers with toll-free numbers.
(Remember when it was illegal for attorneys to advertise? In 1976, after two Arizona attorneys publicly shilled their services, the Arizona Bar Association suspended them for six months—but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor in 1977. Some old-school barristers still refused to advertise, believing it was vulgar. Feeling nostalgic yet?)
Back to the TV: Fifty years ago we had “Ironsides” and “I Dream of Jeannie.” Now we have “Southern Charm,” which, in case you’ve been unconscious, follows the vacuous lives of Lowcountry socialites as they party, gossip, make out and compete to see who can wear the heaviest false eyelashes.
Let’s look at a few great shows from the last 40 years: “All in the Family,” “The Wonder Years,” “Scrubs,” “Criminal Minds,” “Frasier,” “Flipper,” “Chicago Hope,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Office,” “Moonlighting,” “Picket Fences,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Party of Five,” “Cheers,” “Ally McBeal,” “M*A*S*H,” “30 Rock,” “Golden Girls,” “The Bernie Mac Show.”
My all-time favorite sitcom was “Sports Night,” which was smart, fast-paced and hilarious, so naturally it was canceled after two seasons.
I’ve never seen an episode of “Breaking Bad,” which my brother T-Bob cannot understand, or “Downton Abbey,” which my dearest friend is also unable to comprehend.
Currently the only shows we watch on network TV (and by watch I mean record for later) are “Jeopardy,” “Modern Family” and “Young Sheldon.”
Mostly we kick back with Netflix and Amazon. “Longmire” is good. So is “Jack Ryan.” “The Kaminsky Method” with Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, is hilarious and binge-worthy. Justified is a guilty pleasure; it’s fun to watch everyone holler “Raylen!” with a straight face.
But my favorite, my obsession, my watch-until-my-eyes-get-dry show is… “The West Wing.”
I never saw it on TV 20 years ago because I always had meetings that night. When it first showed up on Netflix I thought, I need to check that out. Finally, a few Friday nights ago, I figured, Rob Lowe and Martin Sheen, how bad can it be?
That’s how my addiction started.
The guy who created the show and scripted the first four seasons is Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote “Moneyball,” “A Few Good Men,” “The American President” and… “Sports Night!”
Saying Sorkin can write is like saying J. Paul Getty had a few bucks. The dialogue, the story arcs, the character development — it’s all amazing. I’ve never followed politics closely, but you don’t have to be a policy wonk to like “The West Wing.”
I’m now 30 episodes in. Sweet, patient Widdle knows not to speak, wave or breathe in my direction when I’m watching Jed Bartlett, CJ Cregg and Sam Seaborn. (Good news, honey! There are only 126 episodes left.)