18 April 2009

A Golden Age of Television

I was pretty damned lucky to have grown up in the 1960s. Not because of the music, books or movies that were big at the time, but because of television. I have made no secret of my distaste of current television offerings. These are not the rantings of a dottering old man; rather, the observations of someone who grew up surrounded by shows that are considered some of the best television ever made.

Recently, I compiled a list of the television programs that I most enjoyed when a child.

My favorite of all time was, as I have written here before, "Mission: Impossible." It premiered in 1966 when I was about six. That same year was, of course, the original "Star Trek."

By then, I had already been introduced to great writing and concepts of science fiction in "The Outer Limits" (starting in 1963) which, more than anything, scared the crap out of me. (Fun scary, not permanently-damaging-my-fragile-young-mind scary.) Also already on the slate was "Lost in Space" (starting in 1965). I know it was campy; but (I realize now) I watched it more because I was in love with Mark Goddard (pictured).

My next favorite shows all came from England starting around 1972 with "UFO" which caught me because of the science, "Space: 1999" (in 1975) which I started watching because Barbara Bain was in it, and the funniest show ever produced in the entire history of television "Monthy Python" (also in 1975). (I remember arguments in high school between the "Monty Python" contingent and the "Saturday Night Live" contingent over which was funnier.)

What surprises me is that FIVE of these shows were science fiction. Of course, I watched other television during those years -- notably "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (from 1970), "The Bob Newhart Show" (from 1972), and the greatest variety show ever produced, "The Carol Burnett Show" (from 1967) -- but, great as these shows were and have proven to be through time, they just did not stay with me decades later like the original seven.

The one show that really affected me when it was canceled was "Mission: Impossible." Soon after it went off the air in 1973 I went to some kind of convention that was promoting the appearance of (get ready) Peter Lupus ("Willy" on "Mission: Impossible." I know, right?). I went, found him, begged him to autograph a photo I had of him and then, while he was signing, asked him why the show went off the air "because, clearly, it was the best program on television, ever!" He said in a weary, bored and condescending tone: "I don't know, kid. I guess the network just wanted something else." He shoved the photograph back at me and walked away. What a shit! Barbara Bain would surely have been classier than that.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I remember those MP vs. SNL arguments, too. We Python fans were right, of course.

The shows from that era that have really stayed with me are the original Star Trek, The Wild Wild West, and The Avengers. U.F.O. and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. are also favorites, but I didn't see them until much later (MFU circa 1980, and U.F.O. sometime in the '90s.)