Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, October 08, 2007

Back From the Dead

by Jeffrey S Savage

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard the big news. No, it’s not that Peter Jackson may yet film The Hobbit (although that is pretty cool too.) It’s not that author extraordinaire, Kerry Blair, may come out of her self-imposed retirement (which we are all fervently praying for.) It’s not even that Sariah made her Utah County book signing debut during the men’s session of General Conference so she wouldn’t have to deal with Rob and me harassing her with questions like, “So when Nephi cut off Laban’s head, how did he keep from getting blood all over Laban’s clothes, which he later wore?”

Nope. I’m talking about the BIG news. I heard about it last week on the radio. The teaser was this: NBC is bringing back a classic TV show from the past.

I’ll be the first to admit that while I don’t seem to have as much time for television now that I have four kids, a full-time job (which is suddenly yanking me all over the country in search of Q4 sales. A rainy shout-out from Boston’s very froggish weather.), and am always trying to finish one book or another, I was once a certified TV junkie. As a kid, I knew every show schedule and memorized even the commercials. (It’s slinky, it’s slinky, it’s fun, it’s a wonderful toy.)

So I was pretty dang jazzed when I heard one of my old favorites was coming back for another try. Who cares if the actors probably won’t be the same? Who cares if the story-lines now have to be politically correct? I could probably even live with the occasional sexual innuendo. (I mean I used to sneak out of bed after hours to watch Love American Style with a blanket over the TV, so my Mom wouldn’t catch me.)

Finally the radio station came back from commercial to tell me the long awaited news. The television show which network executives with minds vastly superior to mine (can any of you Utahans tell me who I swiped that line from?) chose to bring back from the dead is . . . drum-roll as you think about what the incredible news will be . . . is . . . calm your pulse, maybe even take a seat in case you pass out . . . is . . . Knight Rider!

What? Knight Rider?! Are you kidding me? Of all the cool old shows they could have brought back, they are resurrecting a show about a talking car—and it’s not even My Mother The Car? I mean how stupendously lame is that? Come on, nowadays we have cars that tell us where to turn (in Mr. T’s voice if you are Josi Kilpack), cars that parallel park themselves (which I don’t think even KITT could pull off), cars with DVD players in the dash, cell phones in the visor, and refrigerators in glove compartment? How impressive is Knight Rider going to be when he probably doesn’t even have a built-in microwave?

In honor of this less than overwhelming news, I decided to list my top ten shows I wish they would bring back.

10) Since we started with a car theme, I’m going to begin with the cartoon that taught every guy the way to get a hot babe (like say Julie Wright or Annette Lyon) was to have a vehicle with lots of buttons on the steering wheel. Of course I’m speaking of the one and only Speed Racer, featuring: The Mach 5 (now there was a car), the voluptuous Trixie, Spritle, Chim Chim, Pops Racer, the mysterious Racer X, and of course Speed himself. I mean is KITT going to be able to cut down rain forests, pollute the ocean from under the water, send out that cool little homing pigeon, and jump 100 foot chasms, all while hiding a kid and his monkey in the trunk? I rest my case.

9) Today’s TV seems to be either SITCOMs where people insult each other through the entire show and end up sleeping together at the end, or crime dramas with names like CSI SUV Special Unit Biloxi. But back in the day, there was a show with cutting edge humor, spine tingling drama, and gadgets that make today’s technology look like something out of the 1950s. Of course I’m referring to the all time classic, Get Smart. Where else could you find Agent 99, Shoe Phones, and The Cone of Silence? Comedy at its finest.

8) For my next choice I’m going to come forward a few years to a time when there was actually something worth watching on Saturday night. Okay, fellow TV junkies; It’s 10:00. You just finished laughing along with Gopher and Captain Stubing on The Love Boat. What comes on next? If you immediately started shouting, “Ze Plain! Ze Plain!” give yourself a gold star. That’s right, I’m talking about Fantasy Island. Where Tattoo and Mr. Roarke picked up guests every week in that cool orange station wagon and let them live out their fantasy while learning a valuable lesson. Where are shows that are that entertaining and actually teach you something now?

7 & 6) And speaking of weekend television, how about Sunday nights when you were a kid (at least if you are between about 40 and 50), remember the dynamic duo of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom followed by The Wonderful World of Disney? I honestly can’t say whether it’s because the shows were so good or our choices were so limited, but we looked forward to that all through the 27 hours of church we used to attend before the block system.

I vaguely remember an episode of WWOD where a boy named Pablo snuck a ride underneath a semi filled with orange soda, along with his pet Chihuahua that could dance. I think he was coming to the U.S. It’s entirely possible that very show set off the whole illegal immigration thing. I know when I finished watching the show I wanted to get a ratty little dog and immigrate somewhere illegally—especially if I could drink bottles of orange soda the whole way.

5) Jumping back to more recent times again, you have to admire a TV show that still has commercials based on it fifteen years after it went off the air. And of course, I’m sure Julie would be the first the point out that it was produced and filmed in that lovely little offshoot of the US, called Canada. It was the show where a popsicle stick, a shoelace, two-paperclips, and a bottle of mouthwash could be combined to form a pocket-sized nuclear device that would not only blow the door off your prison cell, but also provide enough energy to power a scooter across the border and to safety (or at least to a place with real money.) Yes, I’m talking about The A Team, starring Mr. T.

Nope, just pulling your leg. I’m wishing for ten more seasons of MacGyver. That showed rocked.

4) Okay let’s go back to humor for a minute. And in particular, the variety hour. No, I’m not going to wax nostalgic about Donnie and Marie (who never really seemed to be a little bit country or rock and roll, but mostly turned everything they touched to teen pop.) Not Hee Haw (for which I was too young to get most of the jokes anyway.) I’m talking about the best variety show ever to hit television. The woman who I would watch in a New York minute if she started her own show again—the incomparable Carol Burnett. That woman could do everything. She was always funny, and yet every skit was something the whole family could watch. Where is anything like that today? Lots of family shows that are completely stupid and lots of funny shows that are not appropriate for most parents—let alone kids. But nothing that is funny AND family fare (Except for maybe The Simpsons—ducking and running.)

3, 2, & 1) My last three shows come wrapped together. Not that they played back to back to back, or even on the same day—or year. But they are the three shows that may have shaped my writing and reading preferences by scaring me so bad I often couldn’t sleep without the light on. These three shows terrified me almost every time I watched them, but I couldn’t wait to the next episodes, with my blanket pulled completely up to my chin, while my younger brother and I guessed what the next show might be about.

No Kerry, I’m not talking about Romper Room, which had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The shows I list here almost always carried a message. And it was usually something like, “If you kill your grandmother to inherit her Victorian mansion, she will probably come back and behead you.” Words to live by my friend.

The last three shows I’d like to see return in order of overall quality and scariness are:
Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
Night Gallery.
And the possibly the greatest show of all time, The Twilight Zone.

And now, gentle readers I ask you to join me in a journey beyond the fifth dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of your imagination. Come with me back in time and tell me what shows you would resurrect if you could travel back in time to . . . The TV Zone.


At 10/09/2007 8:40 AM, Blogger Josi said...

Definitely MacGuyver--that show was the ultimate bomb, and I'm not 40 yet but I remember Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney, Alfred Hitchcock come on at that same time for awhile and he was intriguing! I loved Fantasy Island! Though with today's standards it would be an islandic orgy and I could live without that. I'm not completely against Night Rider though. and which of those shows could have the same actor that looks just as hot now as he did back then? Not many, I presume. and I hate to break it to you, but it was Stephanie Black with the Mr. T GPS. I wanted the Hugh Grant version :-) fun Memories, Jeff. Makes me want to tune into nick at night

At 10/09/2007 9:39 AM, Blogger Michele Holmes said...

What, no Brady Bunch? Oh, except that still is on the air in the form of reruns.
I loved BB the best. They were the opposite of my dysfunctional family and, as an only child, I thought having 5 siblings would be pretty groovy. Now that I'm grown up I just wish I had Alice.

The Carol Burnett Show also has my vote. If only they'd play reruns of that. I could use some laugh therapy in my life :)

Thanks for the fun trip down memory lane.

At 10/09/2007 9:54 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

You've already named the only shows I never missed -- Disney, Carol Burnett, and anything hosted by Rod Serling.

Disney: Chihuahua? Charlie the Lonesome Cougar would have eaten him in one bite. I used to sneak meat outside the house after my parents went to bed, hoping Charlie would come live with me. (Ideally, we would move into a haunted house.)

Carol: I dressed up like a charwoman at least three Halloweens in a row. A testament to how beloved she was -- everybody guessed who I was! Wish they'd bring that show back. Nowadays when I dress like that people merely think I'm sloppy. Oh, wait...

LOVE the blog!

At 10/09/2007 10:49 AM, Blogger Rebecca Talley said...

I loved it when Carol was dressed like Scarlett but still had the curtain rod across her shoulders. Loved her show.

I absolutely remember all of these shows. Loved MacGyver (it's what spurred me to watch Stargate SG-1).

I loved the Brady Bunch, too because they had a lot of kids and they always had fun. And yes, these days, I'd love an Alice, too.

One of my favorites was the Partridge Family. I was always convinced that David Cassidy would knock at my door and ask my to be part of their band so I practiced singing and dancing in front of the sliding glass door all the time. I thought they had such a cool family and David was my dream man--I just knew he sang all of his songs to me. ("I think I Love You.")

Yep, TV was better way back when.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Now that Mutual of Omaha theme is stuck in my head!

At 10/09/2007 12:29 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Hey, I think they are doing a remake of Get Smart.

Also, to make Knight Rider more (um, modern? no. flashy?) they are going make it transform a la The Transformers. So, you kind of get two nostalgic boosts in one!

My two favorite shows growing up have already been remade, but I haven't seen the new incarnations, and I suspect I don't need to: Dukes of Hazzard and the Incredible Hulk.

(Jeff: sign me up for a Mach 5, too. Who doesn't want an automatic jack to propel them into the air?)

At 10/09/2007 12:38 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Knight Rider? Okay then.

The Love Boat/Fantasy Island combo was a Saturday night ritual in my childhood. Omaha and Disney on Sunday, too. My personal fright came from Hitchock Presents. Freaked me out big time, but I loved it.

Oh, and as for the reference in #10, remind me to slip you a twenty next time I see ya.

At 10/09/2007 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aw, Jeff I love Knight Rider! I am excited it is coming back! Love Boat and Fantasy Island were good, too, Carol Burnett was awesome and Romper Room? I always waited for her to see me, but she only called my name once.

MacGyver was one of my favorite shows and not just because I thought Richard Dean Anderson was cute, but because of how resourceful he was. I even liked Teri Hatcher as Penny Parker. The fact that it was filmed in Canada--British Columbia and one episode in Calgary, Alberta if I remember correctly--was just a bonus. LOL Do you remember what MacGyver's first name was? I do. *wink wink*

Julie Bellon

At 10/09/2007 1:08 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Bonanza (the early years), Disney, Carol Burnett, Mission Impossible, Death Valley Days, Red Skelton Show, Twilight Zone, Hitchcock, Battlestar Galactica, Andy Griffith. I used to even watch Zorro or whatever western came on right after school, Ed Sullivan,Perry Mason, and Five-O. I drew the line at Lawrence Welk and wrestling after the novelty of having a TV wore off. Hmm, I used to watch more TV than I thought, certainly more than in recent years. Few shows catch my interest and fewer hold it anymore.

At 10/09/2007 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Muppet Show! (you can get them at the library now) ANIMAL!!!!

Janice Sperry

At 10/11/2007 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I vote for Carol - Carol Burnett is a national treasure! You just don't find comedienes as funny as her!

At 10/15/2007 6:25 PM, Blogger Worldbuilder Robin said...

I saw the trailer for the Get Smart movie that's coming out, so that one's being redone. And they did do a Fantasy Island remake with Malcom McDowell (is that his name? The bad guy from Star Trek:Insurrection?) as Mr. Roarke, but it wasn't very good. There was at least one season of a new Muppets show, but it didn't last.

In fact, most re-done or remade shows are being made "modern" by taking away any sense of values that the original characters had and/or turning it much more violent and/or filled with sexual innuendo. Examples include the Transformers movie and any re-make show on Sci-Fi channel (i.e., Battlestar Galactica or the Bionic Woman).

So I for one would hate to see most anything from my childhood re-done. Because it would suck.


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