In the wrong era for movies, TV

Ed Howell
Posted 5/11/17

Let’s just face it — when it comes to entertainment, I’m in the wrong era.

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In the wrong era for movies, TV


Let’s just face it — when it comes to entertainment, I’m in the wrong era.

Mind you, off the bat, I get more of a kick anyway from a different era of show business than today’s fare. I recall growing up in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, and didn’t get the influence others had. I would listen to big band records that my grandparents had, which kindled my love for that era’s jazz. I had my own TV set, and somehow got hooked into watching the last gasp of the great American variety show, so the old masters like Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante and the like made an impression. And some of the newer acts and music made their impression, too (“Piano Man” and “American Pie” will stop me in my tracks if they are on the radio, for example), but I really belong to a different era.

I am fortunate to rely upon those likes, because I am becoming less satisfied with what I hear and see on TV and the movies. I think part of it is Christian influence, and some of it is a generational influence of what should be publicly exhibited. More and more, I am a fish out of water.

In the day, you didn’t worry too much about what was said. Standards were self-policed and you could watch movies or shows with your family. I recall a Harry Houdini biographical TV movie that aired in 1976. At the very end of the movie, at nearly 10 p.m. CST, actress Vivian Vance (known for being Ethel Mertz on “I Love Lucy”) had a voiceover and made reference to what we would shorthand as SOB. Only she didn’t shorthand it, and I nearly fell through the floor at age 13.

For that matter, when you came home from school, the airwaves were filled with safe sitcom repeats (“Gilligan’s Island,” “I Love Lucy,”), cartoons and the like. It was pretty safe at night, too, as Friday nights on ABC began with “The Brady Bunch” and “The Partridge Family.” You couldn’t get safer.

We’ve come such a long way. Today, you have repeats from prime-time that have every mature theme and word on the block. Many of these shows, when in their original run, are now aired to kick off the prime-time block, so that kids can learn new words before they go off to bedtime.

If you don’t get the sitcoms in the afternoon, don’t worry. Television has now unloaded more sewer-treated programing on school afternoons than you could ever imagine. It is shocking to see how much of daytime television has given away to court shows and confrontational talk shows, where angry people scream at each other and make fools of themselves. Bleeping is heard to cover the worst of the cursing (at least for now) and chairs and bodies are practically flying through the air. Once upon a time young men once wanted to be announcers on the radio; now they must aspire to be bouncers on talk shows, holding back people who want to kill each other on national TV.

The general nature of TV shows have not one thing to do with light entertainment, nothing to do with joy. In the old day you could balance heavy and light, but heavy had its limits. Now, it seems like everything is dark, mysterious stories, with childhood fantasy reimagined in dark gothic. Serious drama is serious beyond the pale, with the walking dead people and blood coming from all directions, not to mention super heroes and villains in shadow lighting. Even the Archie comics have become teen angst stories. I’m not even going to touch reality TV, which has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with exhibitionism, politics, power and lack of manners.

Movies, I am afraid, are not much better. In the old days, I would see an R-rated film from time to time. Now, I’ve all but boycotted them for the language, violence, and depravity that are all over the place. I gave in on “Hacksaw Ridge” as the language was not a problem, trading in for historical war violence, but in recent years that has been about it.

Language really bothers me. I remember seeing “Good Will Hunting.” The story was so compelling I stuck with it, but that was the most cursing I’d ever heard in two hours. Now, it seems like the F-word is becoming so prevalent. I recently watched “The Founder,” the PG-13 story on the founding of McDonald’s Restaurants, which was generally great. Except someone threw the finger and at least one F word was used. And judging by we-think-we’re-cut things I’ve seen on TV, I imagine they are trying to figure out how to use the F-word more on TV as well.

It is a shame to have to work so hard to get decent entertainment without having to give up on values that you have for a broad audience. Perhaps audiences have changed but Christian values have not, nor have common decency that should exist for families raising their children to be responsible. Responsible adults no longer seem to be in vogue, as even presidential debates now are not deemed clean enough for young people to watch.

Some glimmers of hope can be seen at times. “Hidden Figures,” the PG story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who helped NASA, comes as close as anything these days to being what Hollywood can still achieve to uplift and entertain in a quality manner. But until I see more progress, I fear I will be entrenched in watching TCM or seeing old movies on DVD, or even watching old variety shows on YouTube. I miss the values we left before more than entertainment that could corrupt what I still have left.

Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s news editor. He can be reached by calling (205) 221-2840