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Geek Girl Navigating the World – The Joys of TV Nostalgia, Or, how to keep your Cheese Monster happy.
I recently had to spend six weeks convalescing, and I spent it without access to either my computer or cable. However, the switch to digital TV signals meant I didn’t really have to be all that bored. This is not to say that I didn’t read while I was recovering–I definitely did quite a bit of that, but when you all of the sudden need a good, solid nap every day until you feel better, it makes a pretty big dent in the amount of time you can commit to concentrating on a novel for any length of time.
Fortunately, one of the channels that I had access to was RTV, the Retro TV network. They ran a lot of shows that aired before I was born, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they also ran shows that I used to watch when I was a kid.
I really couldn’t get into Daniel Boone, starring Fess Parker and Ed Ames. My mom really tried, though. I usually read or did something else while it was on, because the handful of episodes that I actually watched just didn’t hold my interest. I can’t really put my finger on any one thing that made me wish I was watching something else, and it really doesn’t make all that much sense to me, because I’ve got more than my fair share of hokey Disney movies that I absolutely love watching. I really enjoy the shows Elfago Baca and Swamp Fox, which I own on DVD. I can offer no rational explanation why my ordinarily historical cheesy-adventure loving brain rejects Daniel Boone out of hand, but it absolutely does.
I Spy came on every afternoon around lunch time, and I watched it pretty avidly. I’m mostly used to seeing Bill Cosby in comedy roles. I’ve even been known to watch a few of his stand-up routines. However, the role that I was most familiar with is probably the same one that most of my generation remembers, and that’s Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show. I always thought that the character was written as kind of a dimbulb, even if he was supposed to be a doctor. Phylicia Rashad’s character was clearly written as the brains of the Huxtable clan. I’ve known that Bill Cosby was far, far more intelligent than his amiable comic alter-ego, because I’ve read a couple of the books that he’s written, and his stand-up comedy was geared more towards relatable but smart humor. So watching I Spy wasn’t necessarily that much of a revelation. It was kind of cool to see that Bill Cosby’s character in that series was almost always the guy with the good ideas and a pretty dry sense of humor, who always had to bail out Robert Culp’s character from whatever mess they got into. I particularly enjoyed the episode that played off Don Quixote pretty well. It was a really fun show to watch, and I think that a lot of TV writers who rely heavily on the latest headlines could learn a little bit from watching some of those I Spy episodes.
I caught a few episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and I wish that I had gotten to see a few more. I was struck by how well the show selected stories to adapt for a TV audience and the range of actors who appeared on the episodes, including one particular episode where a very young Bruce Dern played a chillingly obvious psychopath. I had expected some of the stories to feel very dated and to drag, but that wasn’t the case at all. Even at this point in my life, where I’ve watched, read, and listened to a pretty wide variety of media, there were still surprising twists to the plots in the episodes that I watched, and only one or two of them seemed ridiculously obvious. By and large, the show contained a lot of really, really good stories, and I can certainly appreciate that.
While I was indulging in all this fantastic TV watching, I got to give in to my inner Cheese Monster (that creature that lives inside of me and carries with it an almost insatiable desire for terrible old horror and sci-fi movies, and even worse TV series). Knight Rider ran every weekday evening, and I found myself watching it and enjoying it more than I really want to admit. It’s kind of nice to be able to remind myself of a sober David Hasselhoff and what it was like to see him really succeeding in his work. The show is pretty much the epitome of everything bad and ultimately silly that went on in 80′s TV–bad hair, bad makeup, bad fashion; it’s all there in spades, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still so much fun to watch. If you have any kind of grasp on scientific principles, it becomes even more fun, because then it’s the best game of “pick apart the bad science” ever. I was especially impressed at the number of times they tried baking people to death, only to have Michael Knight and KITT save the (most often) damsel in distress at the very last second. Of course the show was formulaic, but when it’s a formula that works so darn well so consistently, there’s no reason to fix it. Come to think of it, trying to fix it probably would have ruined the show, so, ultimately, that means there wasn’t any way to really try. It’s also kind of funny to watch a show that you used to love when you were a kid and realize that the best actor in the whole thing is actually the car.
The A-Team came on after Knight Rider, and I have to admit that I was pretty determined to watch it every chance that I got. I liked Knight Rider when I was little, but I loved The A-Team. I remember that Murdoch was my favorite character, with Face following a close second. After watching the show, I’d have to say that I’m not really surprised that things haven’t changed. And, while I would have to say that The A-Team is every bit as cheese-tacular as Knight Rider, its cheese factor is primarily due to the guest stars (I saw at least two episodes that had Hulk Hogan in them) and the presence of Mr. T and the van. It’s another one of those shows that’s just fun to watch. It’s got humor and car chases and the occasional explosion with the mandatory escape from the guys trying to hunt them down in every episode. It’s like a little popcorn flick made for the small screen. Watching the reruns has further cemented my resolve to never, ever watch the A-Team movie, because, frankly, I’m pretty sure that not a single star of that movie was wearing Chucks, and either Murdoch or Mr. T was wearing them in every episode. The absence of Chucks isn’t the only reason, of course, but it’s certainly one that I’m comfortable citing, since I won’t be watching the movie to find more.
I also watched a whole bunch of Magnum P.I. episodes. I think that I still enjoy shows that steadily develop a character over the course of the show to this day because of it. I like Tom Selleck. I will probably always like Tom Selleck. When Blue Bloods first premiered, the primary reason that I watched it was because I would get to see Tom Selleck on TV regularly again, instead of just hearing him doing voice-over work for orange juice. Magnum is another one of those 80′s shows that had a cool car, but, fortunately, it also had Tom Selleck. I cannot stress that enough. Okay, maybe I can stress that point entirely too much, but he’s still a character that remains cool to this day. He was stubborn and irreverent and sometimes made no sense, but he still tried to do the right thing. Magnum also had a helicopter in it pretty regularly, so the show gets extra points for cool toys that actually existed when the show was created.
Unfortunately, while I did have the opportunity to watch The Rockford Files, it aired right around the time that I seemed to really need a nap the most. I remember a few brief snatches of the show, but not enough to decide whether I really liked it or not. I finally gave up attempting to watch an entire episode, because I realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. I mean no offense to either James Garner or anyone who worked on the show; being unable to get through an entire episode had far less to do with the show itself than my own limitations at that point. I couldn’t fight sleep, even if I wanted to. The next time that I have an opportunity to watch The Rockford Files, I’ll give it my best effort.
With all of this retro TV, you might think that the Cheese Monster would be well and truly sated. That isn’t the case. I think that the more cheese I feed it, the bigger and hungrier the Cheese Monster gets. That’s okay; I’m pretty sure that it won’t hurt me. I’m going to keep a supply of old TV on DVD just in case, though.