Monday, February 11, 2013

Alex P. Keaton, Potsie, and The Ricker

I’m not too terribly sentimental or nostalgic, but I find myself longing more for the days of yore.  No, I don’t want to be a kid again…but I’d like for my kids to have the opportunity to enjoy some of the more wholesome things of my youth.

As a kid, I played outside a lot, but also watched a good bit of TV.  This was WAY before cell phones, wifi, iPods, HD, and video games with amazing graphics. I was incredibly fortunate to receive an Atari game system when I was about 8 or 9 years old.  Missile Command, Frogger, Pitfall, Breakout,  and Kaboom! were games I’d waste the hours away playing.  Who needs PS3 HD graphics with online community gaming capability? 

But even though I enjoyed the Atari, I was still more addicted to the remote control than the joystick. I would spend my summer mornings the same way each day.  I’d start off with a healthy dose of I Dream of Jeannie, along with an episode of Gilligan’s Island, and follow that up with Bewitched and an episode of Happy Days and The Brady Bunch.  My favorites were Major Healy, the “old” Darin, Richie Cunninghan, Potsie, and Peter Brady.

As the years passed, the shows I enjoyed in syndication expanded to include the likes of Laverne & Shirley, Silver Spoons, the Jeffersons, and Diff’rent Strokes.  I grew to love characters like Carmine, Lenny & Squiggy, Bentley the “honkey” neighbor, “The Ricker” – Ricky Schroeder, Willis, and “Weesie.” 

All of these shows were HUGE prime-time sitcoms during the 1970’s and 1980’s that I enjoyed as a kid in reruns.  As the years passed, I also enjoyed watching shows such as What’s Happenin’? (you gotta love Dwayne – hey hey hey!), The Cosby Show,  The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Who’s the Boss?, and Gimme a Break.

What did all these shows have in common, besides the fact they were sitcoms?  They were FAMILY sitcoms, and there was no reason that elementary-aged kids couldn’t watch them!  They were funny (some funnier than others), had big-named celebrities, and compelling characters. And, believe it or not, sex, drugs, politics, social agendas, and profanity/ vulgar language weren’t a part of the script, unless the episode was dealing with one of these topics in a constructive manner!

As funny as they were and continue to be, shows like Roseanne, Married…with Children, and The Simpsons paved the way for a new, edgier, less family-friendly sitcom.  And, that was OK for a while.  But, today we really do not have any true family sitcoms that air in prime time during the week.  I can honestly say that there aren’t any shows that my kids and I watch together.  And, that is truly a sad thing.

Last year, my wife and I saw that a new Tim Allen comedy was going to be debuting.  I loved Tim Allen in Home Improvement during my high school and college years, and remembered how family-oriented that show was.  So, this new show – Last Man Standing – seemed to fit the bill. We set up the DVR, and watched the first episode with our kids – ages 7 and 11 at the time.  To my dismay, I found that the show was not appropriate for kids under 13.  We forced ourselves through two or three more episodes to give it the benefit of the doubt, and our feelings were confirmed – we couldn’t watch the show with the kids without having to hold our breath and cross our fingers that something inappropriate wouldn’t come up.

You know, I may come across as an out-of-touch fuddy-dud.  Maybe I’m not as cool as I used to be.  Perhaps I have grown even more conservative with age.  But, my honest opinion is that Hollywood is missing out on an opportunity to bring back sitcoms (or any TV shows) with good, old-fashioned WHOLESOME family values.  And, until that happens, I am content with my kids watching SportsCenter, The Disney Channel, The Food Network, or not watching TV at all.

You don’t need to over-use slang words or profanity to be funny.  You don’t have to have teenagers and adults wearing nothing or drinking or doing drugs to be relevant. You CAN have a loving, faithful married couple, and you CAN have respectful, responsible teens.  It worked for Bill Cosby.  I believe it can work again.