Jul 4, 2022

Were TV Shows Worse Than We Remember? Nope. We Remember

Let’s watch a little tele-revision

By Ed Goldman

Happy 4th of July to the makers of sutures, managers of burn clinics and freelance arsonists: What a busy day you have in store! 

In the meantime: Every so often, a Facebook post lists a bunch of TV shows that were “far worse than you remember” they were. I’m not sure what the point of a post like this is. I already have a pretty good memory for dreck.

TV or Not TV

Is the point of these posts to destroy one more vestige of nostalgia? We already know that Santa Claus wasn’t a real guy (or so says the Easter Bunny) and that when we become parents we make the horrifying discovery that we’re the Tooth Fairy. For a quick moment, please allow me to divagate (mainly because it’s my favorite new word).  

When my daughter lost her second or third baby tooth, I thought it would be funny to leave a check under her pillow instead of coins or cash. I even drew a bogus draft from the Bicuspid Bank of Molar, Michigan, with the Tooth Fairy’s address and phone number on it. 

But my daughter’s mom told me, in the manner of telling someone he or she was being laid off, that the family had “decided to move in a different direction, Tooth Fairy-wise.” We now return to your regularly scheduled column, joining it in progress.

The fact is, almost all of the TV shows we remember probably sucked, though we didn’t always think so at the time they aired. I watch some of the old Warner Brothers westerns like “Cheyenne” and “Maverick” and except for their tendency to use extensive footage from older Warner Brothers westerns—after all, why re-stage a cattle stampede when you already shot one for a 1940s movie which was also in black and white (ergo, the images and even the costumes match)?—they hold up pretty well. Same goes for “Gunsmoke,” which ran for several hundred years on CBS and was probably canceled only because viewers had passed their sell-by date.

On the other hand, there were shows that seemed dreadful even upon their initial broadcast:

– CHARLIE’S ANGELS, which had such thin plots that each episode was padded by interminable shots of the three stars driving their cars up to a house, climbing out of the car, remembering something they left in the car and going back to retrieve it, then eventually walking up to the front door. When they weren’t doing this, they spent an inordinate amount of time answering questions that required them to first toss their hair around. Maybe the ladies had hearing issues and thought the question each time was, “Can you toss your hair around?” (not “Do you even care I drowned?”).

– THE SIX-MILLION-DOLLAR MAN (and its even duller spin-off, THE BIONIC WOMAN), which came up with the notion that these two characters ran so damn fast we could see them only if they played the footage at snail speed. This show had more slo-mo re-plays than NFL TODAY.

– WONDER WOMAN, whose principal special effects were: (a) star Lynda Carter starting to spin around wearing street clothes then completing the spin in a red-white-and-blue dominatrix ensemble; and (b) star Lynda Carter.

– BAT MASTERSON, with the preening, dimply Gene Barry playing the role not as the courageous 1860s lawman and journalist but as if auditioning to become a contestant on “The Bachelorette.”

Looking for a Great Gift?

– THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE & HARRIET, perhaps the slowest-moving show in the history of the medium (unless you factor in DRAGNET and its spawn, ADAM-12, both of which took too seriously the descriptor “police procedural,” since watching either show was like spending a very long day at the workplace). Each episode of OZZIE AND HARRIET lasted only 30 minutes but each was, like the show itself, long-running. To fill the time, Ozzie would stutter endearingly or the storyline would include the remarkably unfunny actors Skip Young as Wally—or possibly Wally Young as Skip, it really makes no difference—and Don DeFore as Ozzie’s equally somnambulistic neighbor, Thorny.  

– FATHER KNOWS BEST, in which he rarely did, unless blowing secondhand pipe smoke in his children’s eyes somehow provided enlightenment.

– STAR TREK. I know lots of people feel affection for this show but what each episode really came down to was William Shatner as Captain James Kirk, wearing what looked like a little boy’s winter pajamas, telling a space creature that we were caring humanists, not just puny earthlings. This would cause Leonard Nimoy as half-Vulcan/semi-logical Spock to, in a doomed effort, raise his eyebrow high enough to lift the show’s Nielsen ratings. As you know, the original show ran for just three years on NBC but returned as movies, updated TV versions, conventions and for all I know, podcasts and dating sites. (I’m personally awaiting the Broadway musical adaptation: “Bring in ‘da Phaser, Beam up ‘da Funk.” But I divagate.)

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).