Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Writers Workshop: They don't make 'em like they used to

Once again, it is time for me to respond to Mama Kat's weekly writing prompt. Here is what I chose this week:

1.) They just don't make (fill in the blank) like they used to!

Well, we can say a lot of things about this prompt here, kittens. There are a lot of things that they don't make like they used to. A LOT. But rawther than me post a tres long, boring, complicated, non-sensical RANT, I shall choose one area of pop culture that has particularly vexed me, especially over the last four or five years.

Let's face it, kittens, they don't make television like they used to.

I was raised in the 1980s, but I lived on reruns of classic 1960s and 1970s sitcoms. I used to really enjoy staying home from school to watch The Brady Bunch and I Dream of Jeannie. Oh, how I wanted to be Jeannie! With the blink of an eye I could solve any problem. I also thought it would be kinda neat to live in a bottle and turn to smoke whenever I had to go inside, but that's another story.

Anyhoo, that's what I'd watch during the day. The after-school hours were filled with I Love Lucy (not from the 1960s or 70s, I know), Mary Tyler Moore, and, of course, Carol Burnett and Friends. With the exception of Lucy's pratfalls and Carol's costumes, most of the humor was well above my eight- or nine-year-old head, but I really enjoyed the actors' personalities.

Nighttime was the best. No, I did not stay up late enough to watch Johnny Carson or David Letterman, but nighttime was when The Muppet Show came on. Oh, how I adored the Muppets. That would be the last show Sister Kitten and I would watch before bed.

The best thing about these shows was, as I got older, there was a whole new level of humor I picked up on, which made me appreciate them much more. I didn't realize that these shows were written for adults, but when I saw the adult aspects of the comedy, I liked them better.

I just wish you could say the same things about American television these days. So many shows are so slickly packaged, manufactured, and just plain cliched. This especially applies to the tv that the kids are watching these days. I'm talking about shows like Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, and--oh dear God, I think I just vomited in my mouth--JONAS. The writing in these shows is crap, none of the plot lines are realistic, and the kids just dress too damn perfectly. Kids no longer watch reruns of shows that their parents held near and dear to their hearts. Let's face it--they stay home from school and they have to choose among Springer, Steve Wilkos, and other sorts of programs that seem to bring out the worst in human beings.

You mention shows like The Brady Bunch and The Facts of Life to kids these days, and they're like, "I've never heard of that show!" Or, they have seen some of the episodes that their parents have on DVD and they say proclaim that the show is lame.

Not to mention, when these kids get to be my age, they're all gonna watch these shows and think, "I watched this crap?!?" The humor stays with their age group; there's not much there for the adults to like.

And Lord knows what kind of crap their kids may watch!

I'm not saying that all American television is bad; it's not. There are shows like and The Daily Show and The Colbert Report that have brilliantly sharp writers. I also like shows that push the envelope when it comes to quirky comedy, shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. I really like shows that take a risk when it comes to that sort of thing, and there aren't many shows that do that any more. And some of the shows that do do that aren't always given a fair chance to succeed.

I am a snob about television writing, and when it works, it works brilliantly well. I'm so happy that 30 Rock is a hit. I love Tina Fey's ideas, and I have a bit of a TV crush on Jack McBreyer (or is it on his character, Kenneth the Page?) Anyhoo, I just hope that future writers of American television can step up their game a notch, or else there won't be much of a future in American TV.

Then these writers would have to write books.

Which, actually, may not be such a bad thing...hmmm...

I leave you now with some pearls of wisdom from Brian and Stewie Griffin, from the opening of the 2007 Emmy awards. They've pretty much summarized, in one musical number, everything I've articulated here.


Anonymous said...

I agree! and I love Family Guy and 30 Rock :-)

Jenners said...

Amen, Kitten, Amen. You captured it perfectly. And we are totally simpatico when it comes to worthwhile shows.

septembermom said...

I love so many of those shows! I Dream of Jeannie and Carol Burnett are two of my all time favorites. I enjoyed Stewie and Brian's "insights" too!

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

I could not agree with you more!! Well written, Kitten! :) When I first started blogging, I was part of the movement to 'Save Journeyman'...I wrote a post about 'Television, As We Know It, Is Changing'. You've covered a lot more significant points brilliantly! :) Love it! :)

Mammatalk said...

I agree. Why doesn't the cream rise to the top anymore in television??

RunninL8 said...

So true. We don't even have cable (or whatever the term is these days) at our house. We just do netflix. I don't miss it AT ALL. And when someone just RAVES about a series, we can get it on DVD-right now we're doing the Sopranos...We get our yearly blast of tv watching when we head to my mom's in Jersey every summer. And I can't stand 99% of it! All the babbling bimbo talk and "news" shows, commercials, god-awful tv movies, the retarded sitcoms-it is all so DUMBED down, I can't STAND it!!!
I truly believe that no tv keeps our family strong, our kids based in reality-off their butts- loving LIFE, and our marriage stronger because we don't tune out from each other in front of the tube every night. We have a glass of wine and talk until logic says, GO TO SLEEP or you will be miserable in the morning.
Ugh. I could go on...I fekkin LOVE Carol Burnett!!!!

Jodi said...

You are SO right! I totally agree with you. I watched I Love Lucy, The Brady Bunch, and The Facts of Life. Remember also our other favorite - The Magic Garden. So many wonderful shows that kids these days do not get to see or do not want to see.

That YouTube video was great. I loved the Sopranos part...too funny!

Anonymous said...

Oh the level of humor you're speaking about is why I love pixar films! And yes, the shows the kids I nanny for watch are just ridiculous. I'm always looking at them like 'what the??'

Mel said...

You know what? When I was a kid I used to hate it when Harvey Korman would laugh at Tim Conway. I remember thinking, "That's so unprofessional." Now, though, it's hilarious. I love shows and movies where there are layers of comedy. When my nieces are here, I laugh at different parts of Sponge Bob than they do and they ask me why. One day, Grasshoppers, one day...

p.s. Totally crushing on Seth McFarlane, myself.