Monday, October 7, 2013

Retro TV Today: Looking Back Through Strained Eyes

By Steve Crum

Remember the golden days of television when Lucy and Ricky, Rob and Laura, and Ozzie and Harriet slept in separate beds? When maxed out bathroom humor consisted of Jack Paar getting censored for referring to a (*shudder*) “water closet” in an on-air joke? Or just hearing Archie Bunker’s toilet flushing? Forgetaboutit! It’s 2013, when reality shows reign and sitcoms tell it like it is. 

So here’s the set-up. I have taken 10 current TV shows and morphed their actual plots into vintage TV shows...just to smother you with the realization that TV, society, values, and mores have changed in five or six decades. Like you didn’t know it already. For credibility, the 2013 TV shows are matched by number in the footnote. Set your DVR!
1. LEAVE IT TO BEAVER [1957-63]
Ward and June Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley) are excited about son Beaver’s interest in a photography class at school until they discover The Beav (Jerry Mathers) is taking full frontal nudes (aka “Beaver shots”) of female models in class. 

Ed Norton (Art Carney) seeks advice regarding how to gently break the news to his visiting sister about his divorce from Trixie (Joyce Randolph) and his engagement to boyfriend Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason). 

Humorist/talk show host Jack Paar gets huge studio audience laughs and applause by f-bombing his guest, Republican zealot Richard Nixon. 

4. FATHER KNOWS BEST [1954-60]
Jim Anderson’s (Robert Young) parents separate after 40 years of marriage, so his overbearing mother chooses to move in with him and his family. Problems arise, including his mom’s tendency to cut silent, smelly farts. 

5. THE DONNA REED SHOW [1958-66]
Mary Stone (Shelley Fabares) goes on her first date after getting sober, while her mother, Donna (Donna Reed), teaches son Jeff (Paul Peterson) how to gamble. 

6. THE FLINTSTONES [1960-66]
Fred Flintstone (voice of Alan Reed) decides to have the vestigial twin growing out of his neck amputated. 

Two members of the musical family find out they are pregnant. Mom (Shirley Jones) decides to include the sordid details in her upcoming autobiography. (OK, I took dramatic license with the last line.) 

8. FELIX THE CAT [cartoon series, 1954-?]
Felix decides to have one last wild night before he is neutered.

When Mary Livingstone backs out from an agreement to sleep with boyfriend Jack Benny, he decides to sue her for sexual harassment. 

10. MR. NOVAK [1963-65]
The trials and tribulations of John Novak (James Franciscus), a high school English teacher who secretly deals in manufacturing and selling methamphetamine...and spelling it correctly.

Footnote of borrowed plots from actual 2013 TV shows:

1. THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW...”Art” episode
2. MODERN FAMILY...”Farm Story”
3. REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER...any given program
4. THE MILLERS...”Pilot”
5. MOM...”A Small Nervous Breakdown and a Misplaced Fork”
6. FAMILY GUY...”Vestigial Peter”
7. GLEE...”Preggers”
8. NEW GIRL...”The Captain”
9. THE MINDY PROJECT...”Magic Morgan”
10. BREAKING BAD...entire series that just ended
Imagine if these old TV programs actually had plots THEN as described, and how their ilk would have become progressively more crude and rude 50 or 60 years later. It is enough to make one run to the water closet. 

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