Thursday, May 06, 2004

The Telly: All that Razor says is correct. I haven't watched a sitcom regularly since "Newhart" went off the air. I haven't watched a drama regularly since Crockett got the dumb haircut and the Testarossa on "Miami Vice." That said, there has been praise (albeit not entirely unalloyed) in unexpected quarters for "Friends," so I'm willing to take it on faith that this was an influential show. Even people who derided it are talking about it; such is the definition of a media sensation.

Might I propose, not altogether unexpectedly, that "Friends" was, in fact, no more than the best of what was on? That's a low bar to clear, you must admit. In addition, it was the first sitcom to deal explicitly with your (and my) generation without looking through a home/family prism. The kids from, oh, let's say "Silver Spoons" are all grown up now, living in New York. (But not really. Where are the roaches? The tortuous hallways of walkups and railroads [they don't live in the Ansonia, after all]? The Saharan steam heat that makes the windows drip?*) Anyway, being the only thing at that time featuring characters of that age, it had a built in demographic of twentysomethings who rival the baby-boomers for believing that they are the most fascinating thing on the planet.

All this aside, I think it is rather a defining characteristic of our generation that, as you say, there is no bad TV. I'd claim that this is all due to a certain amount of goggle-eyed wonder. We were, after all, the kids who grew up with three networks, PBS, and some UHF stations that showed a lot of religious programming and reruns of "Green Acres" and had to be, literally, tuned in on the crank dial. I can see how the menu of choices could be like heroin to someone my age. (Hell, Springsteen's silly "57 Channels (and nothin' on)" is going to be out of whack by an order of magnitude any day.)

As long as you brought it up, I heard the Cars on the ol' wireless driving to work this ayem. I have their stuff on vinyl, so it doesn't go into heavy rotation. Still, about 85% of their stuff is wonderful, cannily composed stuff, quick and sweet, like musical Pixie Stix. And then, of course, there is the added charm of memories of listening to Candy-O on 8-track with my friend's high-school-age sister in her Ford Maverick, knowing that she really, deep down, dug me and could tell that I was very mature for my age. Ah, the stuff of 10-year-old dreams.

*Sidebar: For that matter, Mr. Urban Liberal Smarty-pants, where are the blacks on "Friends"? Or the chicanos? Is this some parallel-universe New York? If not for a certain condescendingly pat nebbishyness of some of the charcters, which we are meant to take as a stale approximation of Jewishness (or what Jewishness might seem like to a bunch of honky writers who grew up in gated communities), it could be a shiny-toothed Aryan uber-city in a world where the Nazis won the war. "Welcome Back, Kotter" was more diverse than this twenty-five years ago.

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