Saturday, December 10, 2011

Boomer Christmas

You wouldn't know it by this picture, but those little houses are nearly falling apart, the angels are tarnished, the last surviving reindeer has one antler, and the quintuplet of bendy elves are now only twins. Although not having retrieved these items from storage for over twelve years, I lugged the old suitcase out (also full of tinsel remnants...who are playing at Stubbs tomorrow night by the way...and fake snow the color of fake ash.) The idea was to use them in a "nostalgia" display at the store, which just didn't happen. So as Kelly and I were beginning the task of putting ornaments on our previously lit tree, she was hijacked by a phone call and I took the opportunity to lay out this "village of the damned". As I had conveniently ducked away to the back room to avoid a look of horror I subconsciously was expecting, I heard the "Umm...honey?" Kelly's predicament of having her beautiful living room enlivened by the decorative equivalent of mildew was just too much. "But I put these up as kids!!!" I nasally protested. When I saw the beautiful ornaments she had ready to hang, I realized my little town of Reverie should be condemned. I knew I had a future blog out of it though. But being the creative good soul she is, Kelly salvaged my nostalgic dream and created, with some new snow and creative lighting, the scene you see.

Retro is the big thing this year for the holidays. You can read about the trends here. Thanks to the appeal of the series Mad Men and the retro chic style throwbacks, the holiday season is the perfect time to express our sense of, well, cheerful fatality.

In spirit with the theme of my blog, I will share a few of my Christmas memories. As a good geek, most revolve around the television set. Why is it we rail against commericalism nowadays when so much of our childhood was actually informed by such, maybe not as crass and crude as today, but consumer-driven nonetheless. Starting with the Macy's Parade....a department show hosting previews of Broadway musicals and a parade with cereal character balloons and current prime time tv stars....Santa's visit down the wintry Ed McMahon-lined avenue ushered in the new toy commercials to come on Saturday morning.

You knew you would catch the annual screening of Rudolph and the Peanuts gang. Or this
chestnut, remember?

This was before the advent of cable or vhs..appointment tv it was called. (Actually, the vinyl records of soundtracks provided the only PLAY ON DEMAND we had in those days. And what's hot now? Vinyl!! )

San Antonio was a great place to grow up for Christmas. We had the Windcrest lights and Santa at North Star Mall. But anyone who grew up in SA during those days will never forget the spectacle of a Joske's Winter Wonderland. Man, if it weren't for department stores what would we have done? Let's not forget fast food. It's hard to even walk into a McDonald's these days, but as a kid there was no better place to imbibe on Apple Pies and twenty five cent cheeseburgers.

And what would Christmas Eve be without the thirty-minute Tonight Show replacement featuring Doc Severinson and the NBC Orchestra which was repeated over and over for years.

So what is it about yesterday's memories that hasten a reliving? Why are the boomers holding sway with their dysfunctional pasts? (I really shouldn't let us take all the blame....the eighties have co-opted the retro boom revisiting video games that this technophobe stil hasn't heard about.) I can only speak for myself (which is what a blog is for, I suppose) but it seems that time moves so fast now, what with the 24-hour news cycle. Current events stay current for maybe twenty minutes before your facebook feed alerts you a new headline. Trends are timeless only in that they last for hardly any time at all.

As I notice that the rerun of Rankin-Bass's Rudolph garnered top 10 network ratings last week, it shows me that people are hungry for family programming that still has some innocence, that isn't rooted in snarky humor based on bodily functions and pre-teen sexual innuendo that is so common nowadays. I remember attending the Zilker Trail of Lights in Austin one season and one of the sections featuring cartoon characters, for all the kids to enjoy, had cutouts of old Warner Brothers characters, Peanuts characters, some Smurf action, Woody Woodpecker, Disney and Dr. Seuss and.....South Park? That's right.
Soon we will consider it quaint to watch a Soprano's Family Christmas Celebration or the Snoop Dog Blunt Holiday Special. We already have a Victoria Secret Christmas.

The boomers are to blame though. We have created an environment of permissiveness in media content and advertising that has taken away the charm, the warmth of the Charlie Brown tree search and replaced it with in your face SNL jokes about holiday "Schwette Balls." Give the audience what they want. The audience that you helped create, I guess. Now we can watch a foul-mouthed Cartman tear down all traditions in the name of satire and this is now considered family viewing. It all has it's place, of course, and what some people call "adult sophisticated entertainment" nowadays I call lazy crude bathroom humor. But those of us who haven't grown up with that kind of abrasiveness as the norm do revert back to the quiet, sensitive, good-natured entertainment, and, yes, advertising of the good ol' days.

By the way, my little village didn't make it to the store, but I put together a nostalia display featuring old cartoon Christmas albums, vhs tapes and children's books reflecting the sixties and seventies. In front, I placed a stack of books, "Christmas Wishes" regaling all these commercial Christmas memories with photos and essays.....and only one is left.

So I am grateful for my memories this year. But more grateful to have someone to make new memories with!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

MTM Enterprises - The 70's

Last night, after acquiring Season 6, I had the pleasure of sharing with Kelly this scene from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", considered the funniest moment in TV history. It inspired me to write this blog about this classic comedy factory.

Mary Tyler Moore, fresh off her success reteaming with Dick Van Dyke in a comedy special (revisiting them their Dick Van Dyke Show personas, Rob and Laura Petrie), was tapped by CBS to star in her own sitcom in 1970. She formed a production company with her husband Grant Tinker and the rest is herstory.

The number of sitcoms created by MTM Enterprises in the 70's were only eclipsed by those of Norman Lear (All in the Family, Sanford and Son) and Garry Marshall (Odd Couple, Happy Days). Whereas Lear's videotaped sitcoms were loud,brash, controversial, and populated with Broadway stage actors, MTM's filmed output provided slick, well-written and consistent entertainment with film and TV professionals...rivaled only by "Barney Miller." This was due mainly to bringing on incredible writers ( James L. Brooks, Alan Burns, Lorenzo Music, Patchett and Tarses) and directors (Jay Sandrich and Jim Burrows).

As I did in my last post regarding Norman Lear, I want to take a look at the MTM programs that didn't quite last as long as they should have. The shows you know about need no discussion: Mary Tyler Moore Show, spinoff Rhoda, Bob Newhart Show and WKRP In Cincinnati. The dramatic programs included Lou Grant (another MTM Show spinoff) and The White Shadow. Here are the shows in the 70's you won't find on DVD.

Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers. (CBS). This 1975 fall series was highly touted but lasted only a few episodes. Hang-dog character actor Sand played a Boston concert cellist. This premise once again set an elitist bar for sitcoms which at this time were mostly set in blue collar environs. Featured Penny Marshall (what didn't in the 70's?) and the recently departed Steve Landesberg ("Barney Miller").

Texas Wheelers (ABC). Another failed 1975 fall project, this single-camera sitcom featured no live audience..or even a laughtrack. A far cry from the urban sophistication of MTM's other shows, this one featured Jack Elam as a dad raising a family including future reality TV stars Gary Busey and Mark Hamill. This one should be on dvd for the curiosity factor alone but there probably weren't enough episodes. Busey and Hamill would go off into their own versions of outer space from here.

Bob Crane Show (NBC). This midseason replacement in 1975 featured the now-infamous Crane as a dad going back to college with his daughter. His Disney dads were probably a template for this format. This may have been one of his last jobs before his horrible murder. Crane may have been haunted by inner demons but I was haunted by the theme music from this series all my life for some reason. Here it is:

Phyllis (CBS). The second "Mary Tyler Moore Show" spinoff was not as popular as the previous "Rhoda" but still lasted two full seasons. It was actually funnier. Cloris Leachman brought her hilarious Phyllis Lyndstrolm character to San Fransisco after the death of her unseen husband Lars, leaving her penniless and looking for a way to support herself and her daughter.

She worked for a photographer the first season and a city councilman the second. The family she moved in with was a wacky crew headed by veterans Henry Jones, Jane Rose and the feisty Judith Lowry. "Phyllis" still shows up on reruns on cable, usually following "Rhoda" (just like in 1975).

Doc (CBS). Another fall premiere on CBS. A gentle sitcom about a NY family doctor played by Barnard Hughes and his wife played by Elizabeth Wilson. This show had a great timeslot and did well enough to be renewed. Unfortunately, it was retooled to the point of non-recognition. MTM decided to compete with Lear at this point, moving the good doctor to an urban clinic with all new characters and videotaping the series...a first for MTM. This was much cheaper than filming and with rare exceptions would be standard format in the future. I clearly remember a very young Steve Martin playing a guest role on this show during the first season.

Tony Randall Show (ABC/CBS). Probably one of the highest quality programs and one I would hope to end up on DVD. Randall played a widowed Philadelphia judge raising two kids with the wacky courthouse cohorts played by popular film actors of the day (Allyn Ann McLerie, Rachel Roberts).

This show (somehow failing next to Barney Miller on ABC) moved to CBS Saturday lineup the following season with minor changes....a different actress played the daughter (sitcom curse in the seventies, mocked on "Roseanne") and the addition of the great Hans Conried. Seinfeld's dad (Barney Martin) played the hapless court clerk.

Betty White Show (CBS). The now legendary White decided not to continue as Sue Ann Nevins after MTM but create a new character. She played the star of a "Police Woman" type crime show at odds with the director, her ex-husband, played by John Hillerman (Magnum). Georgia Engel followed her from MTM as her roommate. I feel if this show had followed a filmed format it would have hit the mark more. But that's just me.

We've Got Each Other (CBS). Also premiering in the fall of 1977 with White's show was this one (also videotaped). Oliver Clark and Beverly Archer joined another Newhart veteran (Tom Poston) in this sitcom about role -reversal in a marriage. Clark was the stay at home husband while Archer was the working wife. This one disappeared altogether as audiences stayed home but watched something else.

In the fall of 1978.Mary Tyler Moore tried to continue her success with a variety show, Mary. This lasted only a few episodes so at midseason they tried a revamp. Still an hour show featuring variety, The Mary Tyler Moore Hour was a sitcom about running a variety show. Very meta for the time. Still no audience, sadly. But she launched a lot of careers with this one: David Letterman, Michael Keaton, Swoosie Kurtz. Dave still thanks Mary for this one. Also some veterans including Dick Shawn were featured.

Last Resort (CBS). Playing to the new "Animal House" frat style humor, MTM ventured into unkown territory in this 1979 fall entry about a group of ne'er do wells working at an upscale resort restaurant.

Paris (CBS). A dramatic 1979 crime series featuring James Earl Jones. Highly praised but barely watched.

In the 80's, when Grant Tinker took over programming for NBC, MTM created a franchise that would inform dramatic programming for decades to come-.the dramedy.Hill Street Blues St. Elsewhere and LA Law would be critical and commercial darlings for years to come.

Many writers and directors from MTM would flourish with their own production companies in the late 70's and 80's. James L. Brooks and Alan Burns created the legendary Taxi. Their production company would create two more ABC sitcoms that were highly praised but lasted very few episodes: The Associates (1979) about a law firm (featuring Martin Short, Joe Regalbuto, Allye Mills, and Wildred Hyde-White) and Best of the West (1981,.a three camera sitcom about the Old West with Joel Higgins, Tom Ewell, Leonard Frey and Tracey Walters).
Great casts, no audience. The offspring of this creative group would end up creating Cheers, "Cosby Show', "Dear John," "Amen," Wings", "Frasier" , "Will and Grace", and other flops.

And of course Bob Newhart returned in 1982 with the long running Newhart...pretty much one of the few MTM sitcoms of the 80's. Starting off videotaped, Newhart evidently shared my opinions about that style and reverted to film for the rest of the run. Good for him.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Forbidden Lear Not Coming to a DVD Near You.

As the three followers of my blog know, I am a huge fan of Norman Lear. I can say, there is no need to rehash his famous works for you, but the other day my twenty one year old co-worker had no idea who Archie Bunker was. But he's not reading my blog. My previous Lear post goes into more detail about his major works. In this blog, I'm going to revisit some of his not-so-well-known output.

In a nutshell, His CBS sitcoms groundbreakingly covered the gamut of controversial issues. The Lear Genesis started in partnership with Bud Yorkin and goes something like this: All in the Family (bigotry, politics, rape, Vietnam, transexualism) begat The Jeffersons (elitism, interracial relationships) and Maude (liberal hypocrisy, alcoholism, abortion, infidelity) which begat Good Times (racial strife, poverty, child abuse). Also with Yorkin, there was Sanford and Son (fake heart attacks) on NBC. Lear and Yorkin split around 1974. Yorkin later created TOY productions. Lear created TAT, starting with One Day at a Time (teenage suicides, drug abuse, runaways, divorce) and the soap parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (depression, sexual dysfunction, waxy floor buildup). Lear's company continued into the eighties on NBC with Diff'rent Strokes (class structure, ethnic dilemmas, predators) which begat Facts of Life (losing virginity, self-esteem issues, physical disabilities). All these issues were handled with laughs and some really bad dramatic staging. They are quaint by today's standards but due to political correctness you could not CREATE these shows today (even though the message was clearly one of tolerance and open-mindedness as opposed to the mean-spirited Comedy Central variety of satire.)

The above-mentioned programs were all ratings hits during the seventies. But Lear struck out quite a few times. You will never see these shows on DVD. Some lasted only a few episodes. But the concepts and casts are incredible. I'll start with Lear's shows and move into Yorkin's output.

HOT L BALTIMORE (1975): Lear's first non-hit. This mid-season replacement on ABC started with dire warnings of adult content much like All in the Family in 1971.
Based on Lanford Wilson's long running Broadway play about run-down hotel filled with prostitutes, gays, junkies, momma's boys it boasted a cast of future Lear players and movie stars: James Cromwell ("Babe"), Charlotte Rae (Mrs. Garrett from "Facts of Life"), Richard Masur, Conchata Ferrell ("Two and a Half Men") and Al Freeman Jr.

THE DUMPLINGS (1976). James Coco and Geraldine Brooks played an overweight couple in love running a diner in NY. I guess by this time, Lear had tackled all issues so he moved into body types. A midseason replacement on NBC, it is amazing that this new hit on CBS, "Mike and Mallory", could call this show its forerunner. I remember watching this show, and it had a huge Broadway feel. Lear drew most of his actors from the stage and it showed here.

ALL'S FAIR (1976). On the CBS Fall Lineup, this one actually made it a year. And how this doesn't get pulled out of the vaults today I'll never know. It is all about the red/blue political divide we are seeing today. Richard Crenna played a conservative political columnist in DC and Bernadette Peters was a liberal news photographer. Despite the age difference, they develop a relationship. I think we are all familiar with the arguments they must have had. Was this how Matalin and Carville got started? Interesting casting note: This was Michael Keaton's first TV job, playing Manny Wolf, the President's joke writer. I'm not making that up.

NANCY WALKER SHOW (1976). Part of Nancy Walker's long journey to find her own show on ABC. She ended up back on Rhoda on CBS. Here she played a Hollywood talent agenct and her military husband comes back home and cramps her lifestyle or something like that. I remember the catchy theme song and the set recycled from Hot L Baltimore.
Can't find a damn thing on this show on the webs. She immediately went to work for Garry Marshall on an extremely ill-conceived Happy Days spinoff before rejoining the MTM stable.

ALL THAT GLITTERS (1977). Mimicking the format of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, this syndicated series was broadcast nightly in serialized fashion. The plot involved a corporation where sexual roles were reversed and women ruled the roost. It had an impressive cast but men didn't watch and feminists thought it was vapid.

FERNWOOD 2-NITE (1977). Running nightly in syndication to replace Mary Hartman during the summer, this hilarious talk show spoof is plastered on Youtube. Taking place in the same town as Mrs. Hartman, this local access show had Martin Mull and Fred Willard hosting in hilarious scripted or improvised interviews. Extremely irreverent for it's time. The issues were put aside here for just wacked out funny stuff. The following summer the show expanded to a national level and was renamed AMERICA 2-NITE.

A YEAR AT THE TOP (1977). More weirdness. Are you ready? Aspiring rock musicians Paul Schaffer and Greg Evigan decide to sell there soul to the devil (Second City's legendary Gabe Dell) to make it big in this CBS summer replacement series. Yes, THAT Paul Schaffer. And to make it stranger, Mickey Rooney was in the pilot.

FOREVER FERNWOOD (1978). After Louise Lasser left Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, they kept the show going briefly with the remaining cast members under this title. Not necessarily Forever.

IN THE BEGINNING (1978). This failed fall CBS premiere was part of McLean Stevenson's long post-MASH journey for acceptance. He played a conservative priest at odds with a young, you guessed it, liberal nun. This wasn't even on long enough for controversy to erupt.

APPLE PIE (1978). Fall of 1978 wasn't a good year for Lear. After Maude left the air, future Golden Girl Rue McLanahan starred with Dabney Coleman in the Depression era sitcom (it was bound to happen) on ABC featuring Lear's first blind character (played by Jack Gilford). Based on the play "Nourish the Beast", she basically assembles a family in 1933 Kansas City. She didn't outlast McLean though with only two episodes.

HANGING IN (1979). You can read the story of this one here. Reading that will take as long as watching the few episodes that were aired. Maude was supposed to continue as a congresswoman in DC. She didn't do it. So CBS kept the premise in a couple of different versions. It somehow ended up set in an elite college with Bill Macy (NOT playing Maude's husband here) playing the dean. Don't ask.

THE BAXTERS (1979). Lasting for two seasons on syndication, this program's first half was a sitcom about an average middle-class family and the second half involved questions and answers and discussion from the studio audience about the controversial topic tackled in that episode. Was this a precursor for reality TV?

HELLO, LARRY (1979). A sort-of spinoff of Diff'rent Strokes. Although this new attempt at a McLean Stevenson vehicle lasted two seasons, it is considered one of the worst shows in TV history. (It may turn up on DVD after all!). He's a radio talk show DJ with two daughters to raise. To give you an idea of how bad this show was, the quality improved the second season with a recasting of one daughter and the addition of Meadowlark Lemon PLAYING HIMSELF. I'm not making this up.

ARCHIE BUNKER'S PLACE (1979). This one is actually on DVD. After Mike and Gloria left All in the Family, Carroll O' Conner took over control of the franchise and this four-year program continued as a hit. It was more silly and Archie became the "lovable bigot" dealing with all ethnicities in his new bar. He took away the live audience (they watched a video feed instead for reaction) and the show was last breaths of a dying format. The first couple of seasons involved Martin Balsam as Archie's Jewish partner and that same year Edith Bunker "died." The quality had already died.

JOE'S WORLD (1980). I don't even remember this summer replacement show on NBC. It was about a blue collar worker and his family. Struggling in hard times is my guess.

PALMERSTOWN USA (1980). This was Lear's only non-sitcom. This critically acclaimed drama on CBS co-created with Alex Hailey (Roots) revolved around a black family and a white family in the 1930's south. Sort of a Walton's with a social mission. A young Michael J. Fox was featured the first short season.

CHECKING IN (1981). Florence, the sassy maid on "The Jeffersons" was spun off on this show where she runs the staff at a ritzy hotel. Actress Marla Gibbs wisely returned to her previous series which stayed on the air way too long but resulted in a few Emmy nominations for her before 227 (distantly produced by Lear's company) came along.

GLORIA (1982). Sally Struthers returns in the role that made her famous on the CBS fall premiere. She has left Mike and works for a country vet. At this point, nobody cared about the Bunkers anymore.

AKA PABLO (1984). Lear finally entered the world of Latinos in this series. James Komack's Chico and the Man stole the thunder in this area in the seventies. A young Paul Rodriguez starred in the few episodes aired midseason on ABC. A la Seinfeld, he played a stand up comic who offended his tradional parents. Seems the Latino audience was also offended and stayed away.

SUNDAY DINNER (1991). Lear returned after a long absence with this one on CBS. Religion was the topic here as older widower Robert Loggia has a relationship with young Catholic environmental lawyer Teri Hatcher. Needless to say their families clashed over Sunday Dinner. Hatcher's character would talk to directly to God. I think Lear caught heat from evangelicals for casting God in a supporting role here.

THE POWERS THAT BE (1992). Lear returned to political satire in this hilarious show on NBC. John Forsythe played a daffy senator on this farce. The cast was amazing: Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men, also to play Ann Richards on stage), David Hyde Pierce (Frasier), Peter Macnicol (Ally McBeal) and others. This show was as wacked out and daring as some of Parker and Stone's output in later years, like "That's My Bush."(Lear consulted with the South Park guys in later years).

704 HOUSER STREET (1994). Lear literally returned to his roots here. In Archie Bunker's house, there now lives a died in the wool African American Democrat (played by John Amos of Good Times) arguing politics with his conservative son who was dating a nice white Jewish girl (played by future star Maura Tierney). I wonder where Archie was at this point? In a strange way, Lear came full circle with this one, inspired by Rush Limbaugh, and it was his last.

Switching gears, Lear's early partner Bud Yorkin, created his own company, TOY Productions. His biggest hit was What's Happening!!. His short time series were:

GRADY (1976). The first Sanford and Son spinoff where the lovable Grady moves in with his family.

SANFORD ARMS (1977). When Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson called it quits on the original Sanford and Son, Yorkin produced this failed attempt at keeping the franchise going. The fall 1977 series featured a new owner of the junkyard/hotel with appearances by Aunt Esther and Bubba and Grady.

CARTER COUNTRY (1977). Actually lasting two season on ABC, this one played on race relations in a small Georgia town with Victor French as the sheriff with a new black deputy.

13 QUEENS BLVD. (1979). This summer replacement series on ABC featured Eileen Brennan and Jerry Van Dyke. It was about tenants in an urban apartment complex. I think.

ONE IN A MILLION (1980). Shirley Hemphill's character in What's Happening wins the lottery and leaves her waitressing job in this ABC midseason replacement.

SANFORD (1980). After Redd Foxx's failed journey into variety series on ABC, he returned to NBC as Fred Sanford in two different attempts to revive interest in another previously popular franchise. He wasn't quite as successful as Carrol O'Conner, as both formats failed to generate interest in Sanford without his Son. Keeping Rollo around didn't help the fact that Lamont was "replaced" by a white fat redneck guy.

ONE OF THE BOYS (1981). Mickey Rooney again? What? In this midseason NBC show, Rooney plays a grandad going back to college with his grandson and his best friend. Ouch. Who played the two boys? Dana Carvey and Nathan Lane. I wonder how they look back at that experience.
How you go to the most groundbreaking and controversial program in TV history to Mickey Rooney is still a mystery, but I've done it somehow.

Oh, one final note: Schneider, the nosy maintenance man on "One Day at a Time" was supposed to be spun off in his own series. It would be called "Schneider." It would never air. Sorry.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Oh my...I can't believe it's not clutter"

There are numerous blogs and websites devoted to nostalgia, especially of the retro variety. This is probably a result of the many baby boomers being bitten by the byte bug. My own nostalgia blog is informed by info from others research and postings. I know I’m not speaking just for myself when I exclaim the immense joy I get out of re-hashing the visuals of a package of Goofy Grape or hearing the roller-rink rock n roll of ELO. But where does this come from?

This morning, Kelly and I were discussing the art of Feng Shui, specifically the metaphysical aspects of “clutter.” And, completely aware of my completist-driven collection of DVD’s and VHS’s (consisting of ALL my favorite films and TV shows organized in the order release, not viewing), my scientifically-organized Hanna-Barbera comic books (which I began carefully curating after I discovered the ability to easily find them for a price on the world wide webs, resulting in the replacement of worn and tattered with good to near mint copies of same), my obsessive price- conscious acquisition of books about film, cartoons, and politics (the third rail of my loco motives), and finally, my thirteen tubs of newspaper clippings, gifts, memorabilia, collectibles, and whatnots from each chapter of the ever-unfolding, unpredictable narrative I call “MY LIFE.”

In a verbal defense of this behavior (which, by the way, was about as long and tedious as the above sentence), I actually had to stretch the limits of human logic to justify a monthly storage unit expense which could soon double. But, at least in my case, the “clutter” begins with the mental aspects.

Please allow me to wax in generalities. I am speaking of myself but I have a hunch many people of my time frame may find some “aha” moments in this. Or “uh-hem.” Or “Oh shit.” Or the most popular: “Oh shut the hell up.” I digress.

The internets, the paragons of modernity and progress, have basically been the breeding ground for much of this retro-grading. This manifests itself in two ways. First, the groundswell of the above mentioned forums detailing memories aided and abetted (appropriate terms here) by you tube clips, music files, Amazon/ebay postings, and Google images can be daunting and readily available for perusal with one search….which leads to another search. We can all relate. Facebook has provided a perversely necessary tool to disseminate these memories. I created this blog for these purposes and find myself bypassing it and going directly on my Facebook wall, leaving said blog feeling neglected and unwanted.

Secondly, the voluminous amounts of NEW information, true or untrue that is cast out on our beloved webs is, well, overwhelming. No matter what your interest, you can find the topic being discussed ad nauseum on millions of pages or feeds. Today, a Jack of all Trades becomes a Jacked-Up info junkie unable to leave his bedroom. Or just burned out. So rather than trying to decipher fact from fiction, trying to belabor a point to someone who may possibly be located in the insane asylum you will surely end up in, or simply valuing your sanity and realizing you can’t solve all the world’s problems….there is the simplicity of the past.

Now, of course, the sixties and seventies were not simple. In some ways, they were even more complex than today. But we could probably take one historical event from, say, 1973 and with a certain amount of time and money, collect all written and broadcast materials about that event. When it comes to video, many things of that era were just not kept…they are gone. But there is a FINITE end to it…somewhere. Today, Sarah Palin can stub her toe and we could send to the moon and back simply the first sentences of all items consisting of evaluation on that fascinating topic. (As a side note, I am a burned out political junkie…I still follow the news but have cut out most of the wasted time on what as basically become red vs. blue gotcha pr-d to death pablum.)

So when I find myself perching on the precipice of a three-hour debate regarding health care or paternity suits, I hear the calling of my newly found facebook friend from New Hampshire who just posted the cover of Gold Key’s The Munsters issue number 4 and an accompanying analysis of 12 cent price point. The resulting three hours ending in a video file of Tony Orlando and Dawn playing Robin Hood and His Merry Men was no more of a valuable time suck than some endless back and forth on the latest American Idol controversy.

I look back fondly at there being only three TV stations (and the PBS affiliate). At prime time (remember that?) starting at 7:00 you had a choice of two sitcoms, a family adventure or McNeil-Lehrer report. Simple. When something newsworthy happened, there was the network evening news, the morning shows, the newspaper or weekly newsmagazines. An interrupting news bulletin was REALLY news. And the follow-up journalism/criticisms/analyses/wrap-ups would not be packaged and ready for consumption two weeks later. Jeez, I remember VH1 doing an “I Love the 90’s” special in 2002. Come on.

So to go back to the Feng Shui discussion, I was justifying physical “clutter” with the concept of mental “clutter.” Which feeds which? It’s true that the acquisition of the material items has been suspended due to the time spent surfing about those items I still have not collected- or gathering more useless info on the items I already have. And this retro surfing is enhanced by the revulsion and, let’s face it, fatigue of the barrage of information related to everything nowadays. I could just get rid of my collections and start over. That would be the simplest and most painful solution. The “mental” clutter would probably follow due to the resulting nervous breakdown. Which would lead to a New Life with New Interests. Throwing out the “mental” clutter would give me time to re-evaluate my priorities in life. In that case, the “physical” clutter may sit in a closet and storage unit for awhile. Then, in ten years, I will rediscover it after I have produced three successful screenplays: one about a frustrated filmmaker, one about a psychotic comic book collector, and one about the undoing of a major political figure due to his unnatural hoarding instincts.

Then, and only then, can I know that I gleaned everything I need from those books, films, and life experiences to create something meaningful. And there is no need to hold on to them. No need to re-hash or re-watch or re-read. No need to have a “wall of memories”. I’ll just have three dvd’s with commentary, the resulting novelizations, the reviews of those films, the memorabilia from the making of those films, the documentaries and behind the scenes clips, the 6-volume reality show sets about my triumph in “removing the clutter”, the resulting self-help book titled “Removing the Clutter”, and an Academy Award.

I’ll have either that to replace all the other stuff. Or I can make a decision right now to divest myself of all of it in one fell swoop. Yes, all of it. Well, except that Dell issue of Huckleberry Hound with the balloons on it. Oh, and two-disc Dr. Strangelove, can’t part with that. While I’m at it I may need information from that book on Watergate for an upcoming screenplay..and well, come to think of it…there’s the--

Gotta go! While I’ve been writing this, Kelly has cleaned out her spare bedroom and we need to go to Goodwill. Oh, well.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Great Nutrition Turn-on: "Mulligan Stew"

Is this my first blog of 2011? It's about time!!

Anybody, remember this catchy theme?

Anyway, with all of the talk of funding cuts for public education and school programs, I am reminded of a multi-media (sort of ) approach to nutrition education that really worked for me. When I was in 5th grade, in 1973, I loved Saturday morning programming and I loved comic books. Well, evidently, some genius came up with a great way to reach the young members of the FGA chapter (Future Geeks of America).

One day, in my little country schoolhouse, our teacher handed out this comic book:

It had puzzles and activities and stories. And you followed along with a Saturday morning show. It was syndicated and followed the regular network programming. Fortunately, we had TV out in the country. This series was a very typical early 70's show with loud polyester, cheesy music, record-cover graphics, lsd-influenced animation, obnoxious (yet polite) kids, and token adults with porn 'staches.....kind of a low rent "Zoom" meets "Electric Company". Shot on 16 mm, it had the effect of being a driver's ed instructional video on acid. Speaking of porn, I think the character actor at 2:14 was featured in "Debbie Does Dallas."

"You gotta eat breakfast"..

What would a seventies kids show be without tambourines?

Just a fond remembrance. I don't have much else to say. My comic is in tatters, so I ordered a new one online. And thank God for Youtube.

More blogs to come this year. Lots stored up. Let's get this puppy moving.