In the 1950s, nobody was discussing things like "open marriages," or Women's Lib, or Civil Rights. Those things simply did not exist on television and you'd be called a pinko Commie scum if you even tried. But the mood in the country was sour enough that television by the late 60s had to react to what was happening in the real world. And I don't think the things on Bewitched were so much pushing a "liberal agenda" as they were pushing the envelope on the kinds of topics that could and should have been discussed on television. When I think of "Sisters at Heart," I don't see it as liberal. I see it as forward-thinking, as it introduces the concept of racial prejudice to children in a gentle and comedic way. TV should have been doing that kind of thing all along, but the 50s frankly sucked and fear ruled the day. That's the truth about the 50s. All the shows that aired prior to say, 1965 seem ignorant today simply because they had no choice but to play it safe. [bolded emphasis mine]
The original poster emphasized a couple of words, namely "sucked" and "truth", near the end of his paragraph. And I emphasized another couple of words to point out something he raised. All of this got me to thinking about which TV on DVD decade was represented the most in my collection, and which one I appreciated the most. And the answers revolve around the comments made above. And I'd love to hear not only what decade is best represented in other HTFers collections, but possibly why you think that decade is one you enjoy so much.
As most of the regulars here at HTF know, I'm a fan of vintage/classic TV on DVD. By that I generally mean TV shows from the 50's and 60's. I do have shows from the 70's and 80's that I enjoy. And there are even one or two from the 90's in my collection. But the vast, vast majority of my viewing is from the b/w and early color era of Television. The largest portion of my collection is the 50's, with the 60's being right there as well. Things definitely tail off dramatically after that, but as I said I do have some dvd sets that include shows from the 1970's - 2000's, but as each decade progresses closer to the 21st century, the dvds I own decrease in number.
Therefore, the decade I enjoy the most is the 50's. But the 60's is right there. So it's a fairly easy call for me.
Why do I love the TV shows from the 50's and early to mid 60's more than those from the 70's and beyond? It's not because I'm an old codger. I was born in the mid 60's and would have been exposed mainly to 70's TV and beyond were it not for reruns in the afternoons and on weekends. The reason I enjoy the older material comes back to the quoted section from above. I completely disagree with the thought that TV in the 50's "sucked" for two reasons.
Firstly, I don't agree that TV in the 50's was unreal or too idealistic. For every individual that raises this objection to 50's TV, another who lived during that time will chime in and say that there really were some families that lived by the ideals of the Cleavers and Andersons (to name two well known TV families from that era). So I disagree with the contention that 50's TV was entirely unrealistic in that sense. And Paul Mavis sums this up perfectly in his review of an Ozzie & Harriet dvd set released from Shout a few years back. I'm going to quote him liberally because he says what I feel, only he does it so much better than I could ever hope to:
Frankly, I've never understood criticism like that, particularly when the analysis is thinly-veiled venom. There's a real sense of hatred coming off modern critics for The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, as well as other shows like it from 1950s TV Land; a mantra of disappointment and scorn at a business that could perpetrate such a phoney worldview on an innocent, unsuspecting, and most importantly from the critics' perspectives, gullible audience. Well, I've never cottoned to the idea that TV audiences are all that gullible. That's a conceit shared by ivory-tower intellectuals who like to think that the "common folk" are a little too common and a little too stupid to pick their own politics, their own religious beliefs, and their own TV shows. And along with that conceit comes their firm conviction that whatever the rubes see on the boob tube, they believe. They cite instance after instance of viewers coming up to actors like Rick Nelson, years after The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet ended, sobbing that they couldn't match up their own families with the Nelsons -- that indeed, the show had hurt them. The critics, as Norman Bates would say, click their thick tongues, and ruefully conclude that a deceit was foisted on the public.
Where that venom comes from is anybody's guess (I suspect it stems from the same hatred in academia for anything perceived as "the norm," or "positive," or "traditional" -- or for anything so identifiably "American" as the Nelsons), but it usually blinds the critics to the other, more sensible side of the argument. Of course, these critics never detail the millions and millions of fans who would never approach Rick or creator Ozzie with a sob story like that, because they enjoyed the show for what it was: an idealized, simple comedy that proved a solid laugh-getter for audiences who only looked for that end result - and expected nothing more. No sociology, no politics, no mirror on their supposedly tortured souls. Those are the people that shook the real life Nelsons' hands, and said simply, "Thank you for a great, funny show."
Of course, the real irony of sociological and political TV analysis comes from critics who praise a "relevant" show such as One Day at a Time because it supposedly mirrored real life - and hence its enormous popularity -- and yet damn an equally popular show like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (which coincidentally doesn't match their politics ) as being somehow totally fake. If One Day at a Time was liked by most people because it was funny, and because they saw a slice of life that they recognized as true being portrayed on the small screen, why isn't the same true for a show like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet? It may come as a shock to some TV historians, but there were actual families like the Nelsons - and there still are. Of course, these families fight, and have crisis after crisis, and go broke, and have deaths in the family -- all the things you'll never see on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. But these real-life families also find true enjoyment in spending time with each other; they make efforts to be polite and considerate of each other, they have simple, lovely adventures of everyday life and living together, and they laugh with and at each other - just as the Nelsons do. And that's what audiences responded to in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet for fourteen long years. Far from being science fiction, as most critics and historians would have you believe, the Nelson family embodied many of the traits and characteristics of social mores and practices that 1950s and early 1960s America actively strived for. They certainly didn't achieve the Nelson's results, but then again, the vast majority of the audience already knew they wouldn't. You see, they were just watching television, not real life.
Even if I did believe that 50's TV was too sanitized (for lack of a better word), it brings me to a second, and perhaps more pertinent, point: Is it really that bad to have TV shows portray a superior ideal beyond that which is common among us today? Is it really a horrible thing if the characters we watch, purely for entertainment value by the way, encourage us to a higher level of living? Who makes the decision that TV shows from that era "could" and "should" have addressed the topics quoted above from the Bewitched post? It's entertainment - not the evening news! Maybe some of us prefer our entertainment to be more relaxing. Maybe some of us prefer to actually be entertained, and not lectured on the social issues of the day (as Norman Lear did), when we come home, sit down and turn on the TV after a long day (in an often cruel and depressing world). I know I'd rather retreat to Mayberry than Archie Bunker's Queens, NY. I'd rather take a half hour and enjoy the sites and sounds of Springfield with the Andersons than sit in the stuffy school rooms with Mr. Kotter. I'd rather ride the open ranges with Paladin than sit in the same room with Maude and her big mouth. Nope, it's not even close for me. I'd rather the TV show I watch portray a place where I can escape from the garbage I deal with in this world every day. I don't need to be reminded of it. That's not what entertainment is all about for me. And that's why I love 50's TV on DVD.
Gary "just my two cents" O.