|"I want to play a real man in all my films, and I define manhood simply: men should be tough, fair, and courageous, never petty, never looking for a fight, but never backing down from one either....
"I don't want ever to appear in a film that would embarrass a viewer. A man can take his wife, mother, and his daughter to one of my movies and never be ashamed or embarrassed for going."
- John Wayne
Viewers of the TV Land cable channel on recent weekday mornings have had the opportunity to enjoy re-runs of 50-year old situational comedies such as “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and the “Andy Griffith Show.” On a “Van Dyke” episode I saw last week, Dick's beloved alter ego, Rob Petrie became concerned over what seemed like circumstantial evidence that one of his fellow “Alan Brady Show” writers, Buddy Surrell, may have been cheating on his wife.
After a series of hilarious missteps, it turned out that Buddy was actually seeing his rabbi on the side so he could study for his bar mitzvah with the goal of warming the heart of his aging Jewish mother.
Maybe the prevalence of moral decency on these old shows is the reason why nostalgia TV programming is growing on cable television, with ME TV, Antenna TV, Cozy TV, and others joining TV Land on the list of Nostalgia cable outlets just in the last year or so.
While even the prospect of sexual immorality was considered abnormal and troubling back in the days when Rob was writing jokes for Alan Brady and Lucy was worrying about Ricky's swimsuit wearing movie co-stars, a current show called, “American Horror Story” seen on FX, 10 pm Wednesdays, has no such inhibitions.
On “American Horror Story,” Sister Jude, a Catholic nun described as “more sadistic than saintly,” becomes sexually attracted to a priest, Msgr. O'Hara, whom she subjects to “brutal punishment,” all in the name of love. Sister Jude is described by the show's producers as “formerly a girl named Judy who slept her way around the State of Massachusetts.”
Webster defines the word “sociopath” as “one who has little regard for others but who merely manipulates others to get what he or she wants.” By this standard, our wonderful friends at NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox are doing their best to create a next generation of Americans whose only TV role models are sociopathic to the extreme.
On an episode of “Father Knows Best,” shown recently on Antenna TV, teenaged-son Bud Anderson rescues his older sister, Betty, from the overly aggressive attentions of a campus football hero who has spirited her up to a Lover's Lane type spot against her will. Later that same night, the offender shows up at the Anderson home to apologize to Betty and her parents.
On a show called, “1600 Penn” about a fictional First Family seen Thursday nights on NBC, the plot last week did not concern any effort on the part of anyone to make the USA better, but the fact that the president's adolescent daughter had gotten pregnant. It turns out that the young lady isn't too sure of the name of the father, but instead keeps protesting that it was “only one night.” Seeing his sister's anguish, her brother picks this moment to steal his sister's cell phone and throw it in the White House pool.
On an episode of “Leave It To Beaver,” shown a few weeks ago on Antenna TV, the nine-year old Beaver feels mortified because he has said “a bad word” in school (never heard by the audience) during a moment of stress within earshot of his teacher, Miss Landis. When the teacher insists that the Beav bring one of his parents to school to apologize for his lapse, Theodore brings his older brother instead because he can't bear to tell his mother what he said.
On another Thursday night feature of today's TV called, “Two And A Half Men,” when one character announces to a woman that he has been deceiving her about his identity, she replies: “I thought (another character) was the douche, but you are the douche!” Later on, in a fantasy musical sequence, singers repeat over and over again: “You're a douche! You're a douche! You're a douche!” ”You're a vagina cleanser!” (The latter wording was undoubtedly written to appeal to those who thought the previous lines were too subtle.)
Rob and Laura, the Andersons, the Beaver and his parents couldn't even have imagined such horrors in their day. On that recently re-run episode of the “Van Dyke Show,” Rob explains some of his antics by telling Buddy, “It's my business because I care.” What a shame that on today's TV, nobody does.