It seems the Idler has made a terrible mistake. When it came time to make our lenten resolutions the cable bill had just arrived, and after carefully examining it, our bank balance, and our beer budget, we foolishly opted to not give up drinking. There are mitigating circumstances: football season had just concluded and we had a cold one in our left hand as we dialed the cable company with our right. But the stark and terrible truth is we did it. We cut the cord.
We’re not completely tubeless. You can get a flat plastic antenna about the size of a legal size sheet of paper that will hook right up to the coaxial port on your television. (Those HDMI ports? Save them for DVD/Blu-ray and Netflix.) If you position it right – on or near a window seems to work best – you’ll get all the local stations, most of them in high definition. So it’s the four networks and Public TV, then. Not so fast. There are other channels, strange places from the poor side of tube town. With them, you get to take a ride in a time machine to your, or your parents’ and grandparents’ childhood. It’s a primitive, innocent landscape where there is no cursing, nudity or “adult” subject matter; where the must-see TV shows must be seen mostly in black and white.
If you’re old enough to remember watching them as a kid, it’s fun to look at them from the other end of the tunnel. Do you know how many shots the rifleman fires in the show’s opening sequence? You hear 12 but you only see him cock the rifle 10 times. Sam Peckinpah, famous for his later, blood splattered films, wrote the Rifleman pilot. But the only blood in “The Rifleman” is seen when our hero scuffs up a bad guy or gets a few lumps himself in the pursuit of truth and justice. And Lucas McCain’s rifle was an 1892 .44-40 Winchester, the same gun John Wayne toted in “Stagecoach.”
Okay, so whose uncle was Uncle Fester? Morticia’s, of course. Do you know the name of Wednesday’s headless doll? Marie Antoinette. Gomez’s occupation? Lawyer. Why does Gomez look at both his wristwatch and his pocketwatch? They both show the wrong time, but when he averages them it’s always correct. Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) was a Harvard man who also played policeman Francis Muldoon in “Car 54 Where Are You?” Yvonne DeCarlo (Lily Munster) was Moses’ wife in “The Ten Commandments.”
Jackie Gleason ad-libbed every “Bang! Zoom!” in the Honeymooners. It never appears in any of the scripts. Trixie Norton’s real first name was Thelma. Audrey Meadows was the only cast member to receive residuals. She had a very farsighted business manager.
But remember, when you get tired of shows that are a half a century old, you can still switch back to modern network fare. It’s kind of jarring, though. You can still get “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” or whatever. The thing is, after a few evenings of 60’s fare, these shows seem like all glitz and no substance. They seem to feature exclusively handsome young men and gorgeous young women who are always going to be successful in the field of romantic intrigue. Where’s the entertainment in that? Why not incorporate some of the classic TV characters. Let’s put Goober in the midst of a bevy of supermodels. Or what about Gomer. I guess Jim Nabors would be poor casting come to think of it. How would Aunt Bea do with the bachelors? Probably bake them some brownies.
Come to think of it, the one thing we really miss about cable is the sports. No ESPN. So if there’s a big game on, we’ll just have to go down to the tavern. Did we mention we didn’t give up beer?
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