retro-tv

When I think back over some of the TV I watched since I first sat in front of our old black & white Zenith on the cold linoleum floor in our family room, I realized that there are a few that had staying power. Shows that I will sit and watch, no matter how many times I’ve seen them.

Because certain shows strike a chord in us. Others? Not so much.

I can think of dozens of shows I loved while growing up that hold little to no appeal to me now. It doesn’t mean they were bad shows (well some of them were), but they were only interesting at that particular time. If they came on as re-runs on TV Land or Hallmark channel, I just wasn’t that jazzed to sit and watch them.

Bet there are certain shows that I will watch forever. Maybe not every episode…let’s face it, every show has a few dud episodes…but if I stumble across them while channel surfing, my feet and the volume are going up.

Little-House-Praire

Little House on the Praire
I love this show – have since it first began airing on Wednesday nights back in 1974. My dad and I used to watch the Waltons, so when Little House pilot movie aired, we watched it. It was along the same vein as the Waltons…good old fashioned family drama. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked. Right from the first episode the rivalry between Nelly & Laura made me say “goodnight John Boy.”

For years I watched every episode. I comisserated with Laura when Mr. Applewood picked on her and made her the class example, or when she put the apples down her dress to make it look like she had boobs. I sighed when Jason wrote he loved her on the chalkboard, and when she got her first kiss from Almanzo. I cheered when she pushed Nelly down the hill in her wheelchair, and won the big race on the back of Bunny.

And it’s not just the main characters that drew me in. Mr. Edwards, Doc Baker. Mr. & Mrs. Oleson, and even Miss Beadle were part of my Little House family. Later I welcomed  the widow Schneider and the Sanderson children…I even liked the Garveys and later, Albert.

I cried when the entire town got sick with Anthrax, or when the entire town got lost in a snow storm, or when the entire town again got sick with Typhus. I cheered when the town softball team (the millers/merchants/heavenly hosts) beat Sleepy Eye, but then cried again when the blind school burnt down. You never knew what emotion you would be feeling during that hour of power on NBC.

The show lost me shortly after Almanzo and Laura got married, I have to admit. Those are my jump the shark years. Once Jason Bateman and Shannon Dougherty came on board I was pretty much boycotting the show. But I’ll watch almost every episode before that.

lucyethel_i_love_lucyI Love Lucy
This probably should have come first. I’ve been watching this show the longest, I think, and here are scenes that still make me laugh today, even though I’ve seen them hundreds of times. Lucille Ball has to be the greatest female television entertainer ever. No arguments.

Yes, there are the classics – stomping grapes, stuffing candy in her bra, getting tanked while rehearsing the Vitavetavegamin commercial. Those are all great, but there are a few that are my personal favorites.

  1. First Stop
    This is the episode where they stop at that crazy hotel on the way to California. I can watch the scene where the beds move back and forth across the room every time. And Ethel tucking Fred into bed? Freakin’ classic.
  2. The Operetta
    I can watch Lucy in a snaggle tooth ’till the end of time. Her performance as the Queen of the Gypsies is flawless. Also catch the episode where she plays the witch in Little Ricky’s play – another good snaggle toothed role.
  3. Lucy Gets a Paris Gown
    Both of the episodes where Lucy tries to get a designer gown are great – Don Loper in Hollywood and Jacques Marcel in Paris. She wore that feed bag with such grace and elegance…
  4. Ricky & Fred are TV Fans
    Lucy & Ethel are tired of being ignored while Ricky & Fred watch the fights. There is a great scene in the police station with veteran actor Frank Nelson that always kills me. That dude was in a bunch of different episodes and he’s good in every one.
  5. Anytime Lucy is In the Show
    Ricky was nuts! I’d pay to see Lucy in the show before I’d listen to one sour note from Ricky. Sally Sweet, Hiawatha, the pompous show horse? Lucy steals the show.

There are a ton more – that show was so good. But it did jump the shark. When they moved to the country I lost all interest.

MASH_TV_cast_1974

M*A*S*H
Every now and then some network will start re-running this show, and hubby and I will watch religiously.  We agree that the first few seasons were the best – the original cast our favorites by far. The episode with the incubator? That’s one of my favorites.  “Did you really yell give me an incubator or give me death?”

Or the one with Adam’s Ribs. “You sent all the way to Chicago and no coleslaw?”

Hubby thought it went down hill after Trapper and Henry left, and once Frank was gone? Fuggedaboudit.

I didn’t mind BJ or Colonel Potter at first. Giving Klinger more air-time was also a plus. I even liked Charles Emerson Winchester up to a point. But the last few seasons the jokes were forced – they came in rapid-fire succession and let’s face it…people just don’t talk like that. Plus everyone got so sanctimonious – BJ and Hawkeye were constantly on the soapbox, and if I had to hear the phrase “meatball surgery” one more time…

But gripes aside, this show gave us at least 7 good seasons and I can find quite a few must see episodes in every season, even the last few. My jump the shark moment was after Radar left, and Klinger stopped wearing dresses, and Margaret got nice.

ODDCOUPLE-superJumbo

The Odd Couple
I miss this show. Somebody needs to put it back on. It was a family favorite, especially with my sisters. Tony Randall was the best. He delivered so many great lines – had such great expressions. And that’s not to take any credit away from Jack Klugman – as a pair they were flawless.

Favorite episodes are (of course) Password, Calypso Felix – when Felix crashes on Oscar & Nancy’s vacation, Security Arms – where the men move into a high security apartment building, Scrooge Gets an Oscar – where Felix asks Oscar to play Scrooge and the Flying Felix – where Oscar helps Felix get over his fear of flying.

“I much fear serious trouble in the fuseladge, Frederick.”

To me, this show never jumped the shark. It’s just the best. The freakin’ best.

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All in the Family
Groundbreaking. Controversial. And so incredibly funny.

There’s something about every charachter that you love – Edith’s long stories, Mike’s constant political rants, Gloria’s blind adoration of her overly political husband, and Archie. Ah, Archie. TV’s bigoted everyman in a white shirt and loafers.

But it’s not just these four – other characters they brought on – even for just one episode – were great.

  1. The Ripleys
    Edith answers the ad in the swap section – enter Rue McLanahan and Vincent Gardenia who play a couple of swingers who are interested in “switching partners, but not for dancing.”
  2. Frank & Irene Lorenzo
    Vincent Gardenia returned in later episodes as Frank Lorenzo – those are all watch worthy. Irene is great too – it’s nice to see Edith get a friend for a short while
  3. Mrs. Jefferson
    Mr. Jefferson was okay, but I like Mrs. Jefferson – she’s my favorite park of the Sammy Davis Jr. episode
  4. The Robbers
    Clevon Little and Demond Wilson play two robbers hiding out in the Bunkers house. There is so many funny things in this episode – it’s a must see.
  5. Beverly LaSalle
    Archie gives mouth to mouth to a transvestite. How great is that. Her character was wonderful – funny and warm. And I loved how they wrote in her death later on.
  6. And then there’s Maude
    While I didn’t like the spinoff Maude, I loved the episode where she was introduced. Cream of wheat with cheese…classic.

All in the Family jumped the shark when Mike & Gloria moved to California. The introduction of Daniell Brisebois (how do I remember these things?????) did little for me. I stopped watching. We won’t even mention Archie Bunker’s Place…

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The Honeymooners – Classic 39
Almost every episode in the classic 39 are priceless gems, jam packed with quotable lines. While I do love the majority of them, my favorite episodes by far are:

  1. A Woman’s Work Is Never Done
    Alice, tired of cleaning and getting zero appreciation for it, decides to go to work and get a maid. This episode is so freakin’ funny and filled with great quotable lines
    “I’m the only girl in town with an atomic kitchen – this place looks like Yucca Flats after the blast!”
    “Some guest, some employer…the simp and the blimp”
    “I dont clean up after any late night snacks, and from the looks of it this boy has plenty of late night snacks.”
    “If this is the servants quarters, I quit.”
  2. Young at Heart
    Ralph tries to prove to Alice that he can still act youthful. I love the scene when they dance “The Hucklebuck,” and the scene at the end where they are around the table reminiscing. Ralph begins to laugh for real during this scene and doubles over, gasping for breath. My favorite lines:
    “You’re a termite Ralph, stricly out of the wood”
    “I’ll kiss you later I’m eatin’ a patater”
    “How can someone so round be so square”
  3. Alice and the Blonde
    Alice & Trixie feel ignored by Ralph & Norton especially after they attentively fawn over Rita, Burt Wiedermeier’s blonde bombshell of a wife. The scene at Burt’s apartment and the following scene in the Kramden’s kitchen are fantastic tv fare. Great quotes include:
    “Leave it there the cat’ll get it”
    “A treasure? He keeps this up much longer he’s going to be a BURIED treasure.”
    “I call you “Killer” ’cause you slay me” – “And I’m calling Bellevue ’cause you’re nuts!”
    “Isn’t that a good idea, Tubby?”

You also can’t forget Ralph playing golf, wearing the man from space costume, Norton’s Captain video getup, and the Chefs of the Future. But I gotta tell you…I also enjoyed every single rant of Alice’s – they are great. Her colorful descriptions of their dreary apartment kill me everytime and I love seeing Ralph – who can be quite a bully/shithead sometimes – put soundly in his place.

brady-bunch-stairs

The Brady Bunch
Ok, ok, ok – stop groaning. I just can’t help it…I still love watching this show. My 12 year old breaks my chops everytime she catches me watching it, claiming it’s beyond lame. And this coming from a girl who watches Victorious…hmph. If that’s not the pot calling the kettle black.

Maybe I love it because it takes me back to cozy Friday nights in front of the television – eating rice pudding from the Pathmark and listening to my mom putting away groceries in the kitchen. Or maybe it’s because the plot lines are so positively goofy that I just never tire of them.

I mean really, what’s not to love?

  • Brushes with Greatness – Davy Jones, Desi Arnaz Junior, Joe Namath, Don Drysedale – you never knew who was going to waltz through the front (or back) door of the Brady Home.
  • A Well Travelled Family – The Brady’s got outta dodge pretty often…the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Kings Island Amusement Park…not to mention episodes involving camping, skiing, boating. The Brady’s were always on the go!
  • Tons of Guest Stars – Vincent Price, Melissa Sue Gilbert (although she wasn’t a star yet), Imogene Coca, Marion Ross, Marcia Wallace, Jim Backus, Jackie Koogan & Don Ho to name a few.
  • Alice – I loved Alice. Plain & simple.

My favorite episodes are by far the iconic ones. Marsha & Doug Simpson rank up there among the best episodes ever. Oh my nose! over and over and over again? Come, on…it’s unbeatable. The new Jan Brady is another stellar, can’t miss episode, along with the one where Peter has his personality crisis aka the famous “porkchops & applesauce” line. And my final favorite? When the Brady kids sing in the talent competition to win money to pay for the silver platter. Along with not one, but TWO classic, albeit utterly cheesy songs, I get to hear Alice say the line “Third place? What a gyp? It’s the last time I ever watch that crooked channel.”

That line had my and sisters rolling on the ground when we were kids. And it’s still chuckle-worthy to me now.

TV of Today…
I wonder what shows we watch today will have staying power for me? Some shows we watch for a year or so constantly – Like Everybody Loves Raymond, Frazier or Will & Grace. I loved those shows, but when try to sit and watch them now, I find myself switching channels during the commercial and not going back.

I know The Sopranos hit a chord with me. I will watch episodes of that on demand often enough to where I feel confident it will stay on my permanent watch list. But I wonder if shows like Modern Family, or any of the dozens of reality shows I watch will still interest me in the future. Can I see myself in 2025 settling down on my couch for a marathon viewing of Toddlers & Tiaras?

Somehow I doubt it. Housewives of New Jersey? Now maybe.

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