Tuesday, October 01, 2013

TV in the Fifties

These days the only shows I watch on TV are on MSNBC.  Mostly political discussion (liberal) shows that I use as background while I'm at my computer or eating a meal.  The only shows I watch on regular TV are "Judge Judy" (which I DVR) and "Greed" which is on CNNC. I never watch anything on the commercial TV.  Some years ago I used to watch "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars" but I've fallen away from watching those shows too.  

I like comedy.  To me, the situation comedy shows on regular TV are asinine and juvenile.  I just don't see the humor.  Almost always there are smart assed kids who are smarter than their parents.  And always the "dumb white guy" stereotype, perpetually horny, ogling after some buxom female.  I as a gay man got tired of substituting my likes for the straight world.  Then TV got "with it" and started having gay characters.  But alas, I have yet to find a realistic gay character.  To me, these shows just aren't funny.  Maybe it's me.  Maybes I've turned into an Old Grump.  I don't know but what I do know is that I have better things to do with my time than to watch these lame attempts at humor burdened down with too many commercials.  My brain turns to mush when I even attempt to get through a half an hour of one of these shows.

Two and a Half Men - a horny, whore mongering drug addict - funny? I don't think so

Now growing up in the Fifties, TV comedy was a whole different thing.  In the early Fifties we didn't even have a TV.  I remember the first TV on our block (Washington Avenue in Downingtown, Pennsylvania) was owned by my friend Eddie Rose up the street. I used to go up to his house every evening at 6:00 pm to watch "Frontier Playhouse" which played old western movies.  If I got up there early enough I could watch "Kukla, Fran and Ollie", a puppet show.  We even had a local puppet show called "Willie the Worm."  I know, I know, sounds stupid but to this 10 year old, gangly kid living in the poor white section of town, TV was a treat.  

Me with my cat "Bobby" in front of our old black and white TV - I still have that "deer lamp" - cat is long gone as is that innocent boy looking at you through the past - 1958

One of our family's favorite shows was "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx.  Looking back on those shows now I realize how sophisticated his comedy was.  All Groucho had to do was pause and give a look and you "got"the humor.  

Groucho with a young Marilyn Monroe (before her nose job)

You know folks, the best humor is when folks are just themselves.  No script, no outrageous situations like cruel mad chef cooking shows or "The Biggest Loser" but just regular, ordinary folks like you and me being ourselves.  Oh where is a show like that today?

This monster is entertainment?

More like The Biggest Loser

I guess the closest we can come to something like that is a talk show like David Letterman or Jay Leno.  Jon Stewart of Comedy Central and Stephen Colbert occasionally have some good interviews but they are lost among the late hour and the barrage of so many late night shows.

The "beav" and (hunky) Wally - oh yes!
(by the way, what happened to Tony Dow in his later years, OMG!)

Am I the only one who longs for those innocent days of shows like "Your Bet Your Life" and other shows like "Father Knows Best", "Leave it to Beaver and the "I Love Lucy" show? 

Oh God, my favorite all time show every Monday night at 9:00 pm - everything stopped while our family gathered together in front of our 15 inch black and white Philco TV to watch Lucy and her latest antics

Yes folks, I am forever thankful for the era in which I grew up.   

The way I thought our family should be, dad dressed in a suit at the dinner table.  My dad wore a sweaty, greasy tank top much to my everlasting chagrin - yes, I know this family was only a fantasy but what a nice fantasy for this kid growing up in the Fifties


anne marie in philly said...

spouse and I just watched the groucho clip; todd could tell me EVERYTHING about pedro!

tv today sux.

nitewrit said...


I don't watch much TV anymore. What I miss is sitcoms back in the day (1950s & 1960s, possibly the 1970s) used a variety of life's struggles and instances to get their humor. Today it seems the biggest crisis on most of these shows is whether the characters can get laid (pardon the bluntness) before the climax (pardon the pun.) Speaking of puns, I can do without the constant body part pins, breast and penis jokes and bathroom humor. It is not that sex and bathroom problems cannot be humorous if don't right, but I don't have to be constantly slapped in the face with it. Most of the writers seem to be lacking in imagination, originality or wit.


nitewrit said...


Just think, $257 was big money then for a quiz show (pre-$64,000 question). Of course today you can have lurid sex, near naked bodies, four-letter words, graphic violence with close ups of the wounds and spilt guts, but they would probably ban Groucho as supposedly poking fun at a Hispanic and worse yet, waving a cigar about.


Ron said...

Anne Marie,
Groucho is just as funny today as he was back in the Fifties. I loved this clip!

Ron said...

I'm with you. I'm no prude but I can do without all the bathroom humor. How much can you do before it ceases to be funny? So many shows of the past were funny without all that raunch. Think of "The Andy Griffith Show." No bathroom humor was needed. I'm glad we grew up in that time. I feel sorry for the kids today. What do they have to go with?

Ron said...


Did you notice all the smoke from Groucho's cigar? Not allowed today. Times have changed....for the better.


wcs said...

There are some gems out there... I recently discovered Big Bang Theory and it cracks me up. It helps that I'm a Star Trek geek. As for realistic gay characters, you might take comfort in the fact that most of the straight characters on tv aren't all that realistic, either. Reality is boring. I'm stuck in the 70s with Mary, Rhoda, Bob, Tom and Barbara (UK), etc. Oh, and some 80s, like Roseanne. She was funny.

WARPed said...

I used to watch a lot of TV with my grandparents, stuff like Jackie Gleason's variety show, Red Skelton show, Andy Griffith, Gunsmoke, etc.

I have been watching a lot of old shows lately: Hawaii Five-O, The Rifleman, Get Smart, Batman, Rockford Files.

But one that is really funny is Make Room for Daddy, with Danny Thomas. Rusty Hamer, his young son on the show, was *very* funny and a great actor! (I read he commited suicide later in his 20s.)



Ron said...

I also liked many of the 70's shows, especially Carol Burnett and the Mary Tyler Moore show. Roseanne was funny until she went off the rails. I've heard a lot about the Big Bang Theory. I will have to check that out by renting the DVD's from Netflix. That's how I got caught up on "Six Feet Under" which I also loved.


Ron said...


Ah yes, the Jackie Gleason show, Andy Griffith, Gunsmoke and Red Skelton show. I also like "I Remember Mama." Never missed it. Dick Van Patten played a teenager on that show. He's still around! I only saw "Make Room For Daddy" a few times. I just don't get TV today. Maybe it's me.


Stan said...

It's not just you Ron. I don't watch any of the Network Shows either as I fail to see any humor in them or entertainment. The gay characters they have on are insulting to anyone's intelligence. There are a few good programs on Showtime, AMC, BRAVO and HBO that I watch sometimes. Turner Movie Classics air some of the good old movies too. I also watch a lot of MSNBC but lately I've been getting frustrated with the mess in DC.

Ron said...

I've tried to watch some of the network shows but I just can't. Way too many commercials and then the stupidity of the writing. God awful. And you're right about the gay characters, all insulting stereotypes. There are a few good shows on HBO (too expensive) and Turner Classic movies. MSNBC is my main channel but I too am getting tired of the mess in Washington.


pat888 said...


I love the shows you mention - tho I'm not familiar with the puppets or the worm. We didn't have a tv until I was around 7. Sunday evenings my brother and I were allowed to go to a friend's house and watch Walt Disney. I haven't had a tv for over 10 years. But I do enjoy some cable series - I'm addicted to Breaking Bad. Some times it's fun to listen to old radio programs like Dragnet, The Shadow, Burns and Allen, etc. They are on Sirius radio too.


Ur-spo said...

I've said it before and I will say it again: Groucho Marx was one of the jewels of the 20th century.