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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Television Through The Ages - Or, My Ages, At Least!

 I guess I've always been a bit of an outsider.  Not in a deliberate, cool, rebellious kind of way, but in a sort of sad, distant, my-passions-lie-elsewhere sort of sense.  I spent a lot of time alone reading, writing and daydreaming, or playing with my brother and/or the few good friends we had around us while growing up.  Sometimes, my passions were shared by those around me, but - more often than not - I was kind of loving things on my own.  Usually it was difficult (if not impossible) to find another living soul who loved something the same way I did, or with the same intensity.

 While I still mostly feel that to be true now, I find that the internet has brought geeks together in ways never seen before, and I generally feel less alone in my enthusiasm for things.  Because apparently - no matter how remote and unheard of something I love may be to the populace at large - there is at least one other person out there in the world who shares my giddy fondness for things I thought I was alone in loving.  It's really just a matter of finding those precious few.

 I've been thinking a lot lately on television shows - both those presently watched and those long gone.  It's likely that my becoming involved with The Mind Reels had a lot to do with it, actually, because part of our reason for creating the blog was to give voice to things we were loving that didn't seem to be getting much coverage in our social and internet circles.  I finally have a venue in which to talk about the things that currently have my attention, but I was thinking - why not dive into some of those nearly-forgotten passions of my youth?  Why not talk about all of the TV shows I watched that really meant something to me personally, regardless of whether or not anyone else on the planet was watching them at the time, too?

 I mean, I certainly grew up on TV.  We always had one in the house, I think.  Though we didn't always have cable, that's for sure!  Ah, the antenna days of 3 channels, or so.  Depending on the weather.  Despite having so little to choose from, we actually managed to watch a lot of TV as kids.  All the usual stuff...Flintstones, Looney Tunes, Leave It To Beaver, Little Rascals, the Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday, and a plethora of Saturday morning cartoons - some of which you'd know, some of which you may never have heard of (or maybe forgotten).  I remember having vague kid crushes on Loretta Swit on M*A*S*H* and Erin Gray on Buck Rogers.  The Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman.  I would go on to have MANY more crushes on TV characters after those first early days of my existence.  Several in particular would go on to haunt my consciousness for years after - some even to this day.

 I think now, when I watch something new on TV, part of me is still looking for that undefinable spark of magic in the stories and characters I see on screen, that will get inside me and take hold.  I'll spend time later, perhaps, talking about the more current incarnations, but I think that only time and distance can really work as an indicator to how strongly things will continue to resonate with me once they are gone, so for now, I will talk a bit about some of the things I loved to watch most when I was growing up.  You can check them out below!

Battle of the Planets:

Probably one of my very favourites when it was on, BOTP took up time watching together with friends after school, and I remember playing different scenarios as the characters all the time, and bantering about theories as to the evil Zoltar's true identity - I even remember drawing everyone out on paper and hanging them on the walls in my closet so I could sit in there and talk to them (don't bother, I've been making the jokes in my head for ages)!  And no, even though there was only one girl in the G-Force group, she was not the character I represented when we'd play.  I was Mark, my brother was Keyop.  Jason, Tiny and Princess were played by whoever was there at the time.  It's kind of a ridiculous show to sit and watch now, but there's still enough fond memory inside me to make it totally worth mentioning here.

Charlie's Angels and The Greatest American Hero:

 If my early love of Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman were any indication that my "heroes" would stray from the Supermans, Spidermans, Batmans and Incredible Hulks of my youth, it would really be no surprise that these two shows would dominate, instead.  I think I loved every single cast member of Charlie's Angels over the years.  Except Shelley Hack.  As Tiffany, she replaced Kate Jackson's exiting Sabrina, and my wee heart was far too broken to forgive her at the time.  I'm much better now, but even then, I am sure I didn't realize how much I adored Kate Jackson until she was gone.  I watched other Angels come and go, but Sabrina Duncan was the only departed gal I never got over losing.  She was the sole reason I started watching Scarecrow and Mrs. King, actually - but then I ended up just loving that show on its own, too.

 Greatest American Hero was...I don't even remember how I started watching it.  All I really remember from the time it was actually on TV was that Bill Maxwell was funny, and Ralph couldn't land (once he'd figured out how to fly) to save his butt.  And Connie Sellecca is really pretty.  I remembered something vague about Ralph being full of electricity and needing to keep the suit on or he'd die.  But a few years ago, I bought the series set on DVD and watched them all again - and I loved it even more!  Okay, fine, yes, I bought the set that comes in a tin case with a cape and t-shirt iron-on and freaking light-up instruction manual, okay?  Sheesh!  BUT it was the show itself that I fell back in love with.  Those three actors worked really well together, and while the storylines got ridiculous as the studio became more involved, the characters at the heart of it were genuine and real, and I happily followed them through to the bitter end once again.

Jennifer Slept Here:

 I need to talk about this show.  I need it to come out on DVD, actually, so that I can buy it and have it for ever and always.  Half-remembered as a simple comedy about a family who moves into a home previously occupied by a famous movie star who'd died too soon, only to learn that the previous occupant hadn't really left, I knew it was something I'd enjoyed, but I think I'd watched it more because my parents had turned it on.  The teenaged boy (the only one who could see Jennifer the ghost) was kind of cute, and Ann Jillian is still beautiful even now, but I didn't remember much specific about it, until I discovered that someone had recorded every episode from their television, and posted it all on YouTube for me to enjoy all these years later.  And enjoy I did!  I actually stopped watching with 3 episodes left to go in the series, because I found myself becoming too sad to get any closer to the end of it all.  It's still funny, it's still moving, and in some ways, it's even still relevant.  I've never so badly wanted to move into a new place and find some gorgeous famous ghost living there, as I do now, too!  Just sayin'.

Silver Spoons:

 My wee kid-crush on Erin Gray would grow much stronger while watching her on this show, but it would be outshone by my absolute adoration of one Ricky Schroder.  I've talked about him already, so I won't babble much on about him now.  Suffice it to say that I grew up watching him on Silver Spoons.  As his character struggled to find his identity, so too would young Suzie Q work through some of the same issues, often turning to The Ricker as a guide of sorts.  And it was funny...they actually did a lot with that show that I appreciated even more after I got older and started looking back on it.  It will forever be a favourite of mine.  The fact that I now get to talk to Erin Gray semi-regularly is just a wonderful bonus.  ;)

Facts of Life:

 This is another one I've started collecting on DVD.  I'm happy to say that it also holds up well all this time later.  I grew up watching these girls, and the performances across the board are all genuine and sincerely wonderful.  Jo, Natalie, Blair and Tootie were kind of my guides to how to grow up, and I would follow the advice of Mrs. Garrett to this day.  I had strong feelings for Family Ties, Growing Pains, etc, as well, but it was Facts of Life that spoke to the young girl in me, and I will always have a space in my heart for it.  Especially now, actually, because I still find myself laughing out loud at various episodes, and crying through others, even when I know the lines so well I can almost recite them with the actors.  They accomplished something really special with that one, I think.

Drama and Action Shows:

 Now we get into some of the heavy hitters for me, really.  The Dukes of Hazzard gave me my very first moment of feeling safe and content as a child, when I was introduced to my first episode in Georgia with my cousin and his mom.

 The A-Team was wastched religiously and reeenacted with friends when we played after.  Again, I was not Amy the girl.  Naturally, I played Hannibal, the brains behind the operation! 

 Code Red, about a good-looking, fire-fighting family (led by Lorne Greene), who sort of adopt an orphaned kid into their department.  I think it preached about fire safety or something, but all I really remember is wanting to be Adam Rich's character and have those people all looking after me.

 The Littlest Hobo was a dog who went from place to place helping people, and having a new name every episode.  I really wanted him to come stay with me, and always cried when the theme song would play at the end of the episode and the shepherd would move on to another place.

 Hardcastle and McCormick I really just remember for the car.  I was more of a Knight Rider girl, I guess.  A lot of shows were built around vehicles back then, hey? 

 And finally, Twin Peaks - I can not say enough about it.  I was obsessed.  Everything was a clue.  I had Laura's Diary.  Okay, I still have it.  Don't judge me!  I recorded every single episode from my TV onto VHS...oh, to have a look at some of those tapes again!  The commercials alone would be hilarious!  And even now, watching them discover Laura Palmer's body and give the news to her family and friends is beyond heartbreaking.  Such a great and bizarre show.  Plus, if you're not at least a little in love with Audrey Horne, you probably don't have a pulse.

Science Fiction Shows:

 Again...there were so many that I loved and still love.  This is really just a handful, culled from fond memories of my TV-watching youth.  There were many, MANY more.

 Automan:  All I really remember about this show was that the dude was actually kind of a computer (he glowed like Tron), and he followed around Cursor, which was literally an old-school blip from the days when computer mainframes took up entire rooms, if not buildings.  And Cursor would show him where to go.  Or something.  I think he solved crimes with a human partner.  Or something.  He had a cool car, though.  Again with the vehicles.

 Misfits of Science:  Early Courtney Cox, anyone?  I freaking loved this show about a group of misfits who were set apart because of their peculiar abilities.  They had a telepath, a tall guy who could shrink to the size of a Ken doll by pressing a spot on his neck, a guitar player who shot bolts of electricity from his hands...and a leader who was all too human, but eager to make a difference in the world, so he assembled them all into a team, determined to fight crime.  Or something.

 The Powers of Matthew Star:  Peter Barton played Matthew Star, a super-cute teenaged alien who ended up on Earth somehow and had Louis Gossett Jr. as a guide and mentor.  He was just trying to fit in a his high school while evading government bad guy scientist types who kept trying to capture him, if I recall correctly.  I just remember thinking he was cute.

 Starman:  Another cute boy in Christopher Daniel Barnes was welcomed to my TV set in the form of this spin-off from the Jeff Bridges movie of the same name.  He played the son of Starman; the result of a relationship between his human mother and off-world father in the movie.  Again, I really just remember thinking he was cute.

 Voyagers!:  I just bought the DVD complete series a few years ago, and I am kind of surprised to say that it actually still holds up.  The beautiful and tragically gone-too-soon Jon Erik Hexum played Voyager Phineas Bogg, a time-traveller who - led by his Omni device (I want one) - would go to spots in time where something was going wrong, and have to fix it.  He accidentally ends up in 1985 (?) and climbs into a boy's bedroom, only to be surprised by the boy and attacked by the child's dog, who grabs the guidebook and knocks boy and Bogg out the window, where they jump to another time with Omni before falling to their deaths.  Bogg is lost without his guidebook, but the boy, Jeffrey, is a history whiz, and can usually figure out what's wrong with the time periods they end up in.  I learned a lot of famous historical moments through that show, but it never felt like learning.  There were guest stars a-plenty during the series' short run, and it sort of led to me loving Punky Brewster (Meeno Peluce, who played Jeffrey, is Soleil Moon-Frye's brother) and Quantum Leap (which dealt with a similar theme, but with more ordinary people most of the time), I really can't express my love for it enough.  Watching it now still gives me some of the same feelings I remember having when I watched it as a kid.  You can't ask for more than that.

 V:  My obsession with V is complete and total and still continues to this day.  I can't get enough of it, and trying to talk about it here is almost a waste, simply because there is no way to adequately express how much that miniseries and series meant to me as a kid, nor how much it still means to me now.  Mike Donovan, Julie Parrish...DIANA!  I love that whole world and the characters and the re-imagined version that was on recently took hold in a different way for me, but my heart will always in part belong to the original.  Not that it was better television, per se, but... it became my escape, my safe place, my comfort food - for so long.  Even now, I like to wrap myself in it and just be there.  It's my favourite.  So is Faye Grant.

 X-Files:  I was older when this one took hold, but given that I watched it religiously for the full 9 years that it was on - and that I am working my way through all of the episodes again now on DVD - I feel like this show spoke to me as an outsider, and made it cool for me to be a part of the larger world.  I had friends who watched it at the time, and I discover new people all the time who loved it then, and who love it now.  The fact that Gillian Anderson has been announced as a guest for Fan Expo here in August 2012 is almost too much for me to bear.  I nearly stopped breathing when I read the news.  It's just that exciting to me, and pretty much just because of this show.  I think both she and David Duchovny are talented actors, but there's just something about spending so much time with Mulder and Scully that just makes me feel not alone.  Not in a The Truth Is Out There kind of way, either.  More in the sense that it's another safe place - safe for me to be me and live in a world where anything can happen.  I think that X-Files is maybe second only to V for how it makes me feel.  And as excited as I am by the possibility of meeting Gillian Anderson in real life, it's likely that I'd lose my mind completely if Marc Singer, Faye Grant or Jane Badler were coming to a con near me.  But chances are I will lose my mind over Gillian, just the same.  ;)

 So there you have it.  There is a whole list of other shows I could talk about right in front of me, but I think these are the important ones for today.  Also, this is one really long post!  I never intend to say so much, but I guess that's what I get for trying to write about something I love.  Apparently, once I get started, I find it very difficult to stop! 

 Or something.


  1. Wow, these are bringing back some weird memories! I watched Charlie's Angels, and my hubby was actually a long-time friend of the "little man", Mike Anderson (his real name) from Twin Peaks. I LOVE supposedly crap TV. And even the hokey stuff is good fodder for studying plot.

  2. hahaha No kidding! There are so many other shows I wanted to mention that I watched and felt like literally no one else did. Of course, they usually got cancelled so quickly that I may very well have been the only one watching...

    Hmm...maybe that's a blog post for another day! ;)