Monday, September 19, 2011

Stuff I Learned Watching TV

Years ago (late 1960’s) there was an episode of the original Star Trek series called “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”.  Standard fare – Kirk et al are transported to the 20th century, sighted by Air Traffic Control, possible time paradox ensues, Scotty and Spock fix it, things return to their normal order in the space-time continuum, blah, blah, blah.  That’s kind of what this is.  In a strange and convoluted sort of way.
I started writing this around noon yesterday.  By 4:00 PM I had actually written only one single incomplete sentence.  We had company coming, I had to do my kitchen magic, post culinary ritual niceties followed, then Mary, Psyche, bedtime, and next thing you know it’s the crack of noon, Monday.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view and sense of the absurd, my original idea still works, if somewhat ‘tomorrowed’ by the seldom witnessed and oft maligned ‘yesterday’ effect.  Yes, you just witnessed the creation of a new action verb.  Please feel free to use it, albeit sparingly.  The butterfly effect of spontaneous word conception on the space-time continuum has not been thoroughly investigated.  Besides which, it could have just as easily been ‘yesterdayed’ by the persistent presence of the random ‘tomorrow’ effect.  I’m pretty sure it’s the first one, but not so much as to stop the presses over at the American Heritage Dictionary warehouse. 
Now, where were we?  Today is yesterday’s tomorrow, tomorrow’s yesterday, and in Sydney it’s sometime Tuesday.
I’ve been around TV since it was a small, snowy round B&W picture that got Million Dollar Movie weeknights, cartoons Saturday morning, and Boxing Saturday night.  Our TV had rabbit ears, picked up two stations broadcasting from New Your City – badly, I might mention (or not, depending on how the paradox resolution works out – quantum physics was never my strong suit) and Television giants mighty mouse, Captain Kangaroo, and Romper Room ruled the air.
Even then they lied to me on Children’s television!  Bunny Rabbit faked being mute, Clara-bell was really Captain Kangaroo in drag, and the Romper Room lady couldn’t really see me in the magic mirror (or could she – it would explain a lot).  Mighty Mouse sang opera, but was impervious to Kryptonite.  The coolest word in my vocabulary was ‘invulnerable’.  I learned it watching The Adventures of Superman.  I had no idea what it meant and almost always pronounced it wrong, but it was a cool word, and I was it, or it was me, or you are we and we are all together, or something like that.
The Crawling Eye really creeped me out, and The House On Haunted Hill even entertained out mice.
I would go on to learn many things from TV.
Never, ever be the sixth man in the landing team or away mission, and never, ever be the only member in the aforementioned  excursion wearing a red shirt.  Unless your rank is above Ensign.  That affords you some measure of protection.
Even forty years ago, television evangelists/faith healers wore white suits and a red carnation.
Always have a good make-up artist when participating in a presidential debate, but especially if you are the Guinness Book of Records world title holder in the “5:00 Shadow” category.  
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was better than Valium.
Given enough time, someone will come along who makes even William Shatner’s thespian skills look positively stellar!
You can be famous for being famous.
Kristin shot J.R. and Bobby was in the shower the whole time.
Magnum still looks good with that cheesy moustache.
Ever since Dan Rather went off the ranch in his quest to be ‘the most trusted man in America’ a position widely perceived to have been retired along with his predecessor at the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite, Television news people are more concerned with acting out their stories than reading their script.  Most should absolutely never under any circumstances ad-lib their report, and I honestly do not know how standing in front of a closed 7-11 in the middle of the night, hours after a scene has been cleared, ‘broadcasting live’ adds anything to the report.
The most vital weapon in the arsenal of a presidential candidate is a good spin doctor.
No one in the history of late night television understood how to recognize and milk a running gag on live TV like Johnny Carson, and no one was better at salvaging a badly written monologue than Johnny.  Sorry Dave, Jay, Conan, Craig, and all you other wannabees, but Johnny was and remains to this day ‘da man’ on late night TV.
She may be 60-something, white-haired, wrinkled, chain smoking and overweight, but Sharon Gless still looks good.
And finally, if I were ever really in trouble, I’d want Abby, Temperance  and Penelope to handle the forensics, Olivia, Brenda and Kensi to question the witnesses, Divya, Allison and Beverly standing by with the first aid kit, and Ziva, Fiona and Hetty to have my back.
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