Sunday, April 12, 2009

Retro Active Television

What really happens when you watch a classic TV series? It's like stepping into a time machine. A classic series can transport you back to the era when it was being aired, as if you are watching it along with its respective audience. Use your imagination, and you can be a part of that particular time. It is a heightened level of escapism. And that's Retro Active.

Here's a new discovery, both exhilarating and disappointing: "He & She". It ran from 1967-68 and received glowing reviews and several Emmy noms (it won for best writing in a comedy series for that year.) From what I've read, it was ground-breaking and set the bar high for the shows to follow with its style and sophistication. Unfortunately, it is not available on DVD, but on YouTube (somehow) there are two full episodes. To some degree this show seems to have inspired The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In fact, although set in New York, not Minneapolis, the apartment looks practically identical, so much that when the Paula character says, "This is my house" in the scene below, I'm a bit stunned since it seems more like Mary Richards' house to me... Of course that show, with MTM, would begin two years later and run for eight successful seasons.

As it turns out, critically acclaimed and award-winning shows (particularly for comedy writing - hint, hint "Arrested Development"?) were canceled abruptly and prematurely back in the day, as well. Watch the show for yourself, below, starring real-life couple - married since 1961, and still today, believe it or not - Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin. I should add, although Paula looks smashing, the patch on the arm of her dress in the clip is a bit odd.

Speaking of Retro Activity, and one season wonders...

"Gidget" ran for only one season in 1965 and is now showing on On Demand. Good for when you're in the mood for a very easy, breezy, innocent 60's surfer girl show - it's really one of a kind. Apparently it didn't develop much of an audience while it was aired, but soon after they pulled it and started airing reruns, it generated a cult following. It's actually pretty entertaining. (Terrible intro, though. Terrible.)

Onto other retro activity, namely fighting crime - and one show that did have its fair share of success, starting in the late 60's and well into the 70's. It could be referred to as "No Guns, Some Violence", but instead it was aptly named "The Mod Squad". It's been said that before the actors playing the squad were willing to sign on, they instigated a clause where their characters would never use guns. They were hippies after all, but this was incorporated nicely into the show. Thus, they never did use guns - but the fists do fly, and if any low-life totes a gun it gets wrestled and tossed away in the scuffle.

Below is the climactic fight scene from the first episode of "The Mod Squad". Linc and Pete's dive tackles are epic. They do them in every show, and the dives seem to get better, bigger, even swan-like as the series progresses. The following scene features their first attempts in which they manage to break up Julie's apartment and banister pretty good.

It's great to watch this series, on DVD, at night before bed. Very comforting, a good trip. Solid, as Linc Hayes would say.

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