29 September 2008

Television that Changed My Life

Someone challenged me to come up with my top ten all time favorite television shows. Impossible. Well, maybe not impossible, but given that I haven't watched television regularly for the past 8 years, it's difficult for me to do so in any meaningful way. I've probably missed a lot of great shows.

But for now, I'll just tell you about shows that I feel had a significant impact on my childhood. I was a tv junkie. Here goes.

The first one you already know about. The Flip Wilson Show. Flip Wilson was the funniest man I ever saw. He had great characters like Geraldine. Geraldine had a boyfriend, Killer, and no matter what she did, the devil made her do it. There was my absolute favorite character, Reverend Leroy of the Church of What's Happening Now. But the Flip Wilson show was a variety show and he had a large number of fantastic black artists. Don't underestimate it. It was an important part of integration in America. Flip was....Flip. He was black and never tried to be anything else. He was outrageous and out there. He was Laugh In, only better.

Speaking of which, number two is Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. Oh, I remember Goldie Hawn and Ruth Buzzie, and Jo Ann Worley and Arte Johnson, and...yes....the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate awarded every week by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. But my favorite was always Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann. Who, as I recall, liked to sit on the bathtub drain as the water emptied because it felt good. Say goodnight, Dick. Goodnight, Dick.

Variety shows were pretty important in my life. Enter the Carol Burnett Show. It wasn't for years that I appreciated the ensemble that was the CBS. Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, and Vicki Lawrence (and later Lyle Waggoner). I always liked it when she took questions from the audience and the woman had the best Tarzan yell of anyone. No question about it. *ear tug*

Now when Colombo started, it was part of a weird group of dramas called the Mystery Movie that included McMillan and Wife, McCloud, and Hec Ramsey, Banacek, and some others. I didn't much care for McCloud, although it was popular, but I really liked the others. But, by far and away, Colombo was my favorite.

This list would not be complete without the king of the private dicks: Jim Rockford. The Rockford Files starred the perpetually broke Jim Rockford, who was handsome, cool, and aloof, but somehow my dad liked him. Besides, one episode had Issac Hayes on and he kept calling Jim "Rockfish". It had classic and likeable characters in the dad, Rocky, his former cell mate from San Quentin, Angel, and a parade of leggy brunettes and redheads that apparently were turned on by his messy single-wide or maybe it was that rockin' Pontiac Firebird. One of the all-time great theme songs.

Apparently, I was taken by shows about private eyes. Joe Mannix was one of my favorites. Of course, I thought he had a secret thing going with his secretary Peggy, but she seemed to always be above reproach. These guys were the coolest. They fostered in me a desire to become a detective. I actually think I would make a good detective. All except for that working with criminals part.

Ok, and now I'm going to show my hand. There was an important show (to me) called Daktari.

Set in east Africa, this was my first show about science. And megafauna. From here on out, I wanted to be a vet. Or a cop. Or maybe a vet-cop with a cross-eyed lion named Clarence.

From a very young age, I was addicted to late-night television. I used to watch Johnny Carson every night in the summer and after that a show with Tom Snyder. I think that show was called Tomorrow. But Johnny was a huge hero. I loved when he had on any of those old type Vegas types like Dean Martin or Joey Bishop or Buddy Hackett. But best, best, best of all were George Gobel, or Jonathan Winters or Bob Newhart.

Speaking of whom, my list would be incomplete without the Bob Newhart Show. Howard, Jerry, Marcia, Emily and Bob. This was the Seinfeld show before Seinfeld even began to think he was funny. I guess I'm a sucker for dry humor. Nothing much ever happened on the Newhart show. But his clients were entertaining and the show always pleased.

Finally, I'll end this list with a weird one.

Disney's Wonderful World of Color, aka Wonderful World of Disney. This had everything from cartoons to Disney Movies presented in series to nature shows that invariably followed some critter getting into the ranger's cabin and wreaking havoc. I loved this show. Disney was the Discovery Channel, The Cartoon Network, and Animal Planet of the pre-cable era. It had it all and Uncle Walt, too.

Well, thanks for taking this walk down memory lane with me. The 60s and early 70s were my childhood. Sometimes it's good to remember being a kid again. There is only one more show that I would include in this list, but it came later. That would be MASH. Maybe I'll do a television walkthrough of my adolesence and include that.

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