Television Evolution

January 30, 2008
This is an article about a time when perfect sixties housewives from June Cleaver to Donna Reid burned up the small screen with their endless stream of muffins and mousy-faced children. This is also an article about a time where people get their television kicks from sitcoms about familial dysfunction and over zealous hospital dramas.

Now a days we scoff and balk the pure thought of the saccharine lifestyles once lead by America's favourite TV families. Since the end of that era of television, our time has spawned a parade of satires- unfunny and hillarious alike- to exploit the defects of the average family. Each seems to be a parrot of the other, from According to Jim to House of Payne, sometimes it leaves you asking “Haven't I seen this show before?”

They say that since Leave it to Beaver, TV has gotten smarter. And, in some respects, I can't argue. There are shows that have evolved and become truly intelligent and witty- but for a few, this comes with a prince. Take The Sopranos, for instance. There is a television program that's brilliant- but it sports a cast of unpleasant and sociopathic characters plus a shades-of-grey plot line that doesn't exactly leave you feeling good come the end. It's like they've sucked the humanity out of life and only left a pallet of blacks and whites.

At least in The Donna Reid Show, you could count on laughing on either the stupidity or the naiveté- after all, what is a good TV show without at least one good guy to relate too? In these respects I envy television of eras past- no mob hits, no frequent and violent character death- just a family living the American dream. Very simple, very KISS.

But in other ways, I'm glad we've moved on. I know that I can only take so much of the American dream before I start taking hostages- and that's when I go to watch the contemporary gems. The cast of 30 Rock singing “Midnight Train to Georgia”, the lightning fast pop culture references spouted by the Gilmore Girls- even Tobias's unintentional double entendres from Arrested Development. Put together, these all shine a spotlight on some of the true modern TV genius.

So I'm not sure if you can call what television has gone through 'evolution'- because I'm fairly certain that the programs that are so popular today could have been produced sixty years ago- and in some cases, they were. You'll see many sexed-up versions of things shown in past time all over the tube- but you'll also find new and original things to watch instead.

The thing you need to remember is to never forget things like I Love Lucy or The Partridge Family- no matter how silly they may seem now, they're brilliant in their own way- in the way that they entertained the masses for years without sex or drugs or violence.

When you try to compare each era of tube time, don't always base it on content- but things that they've accomplished. You might just find that they're not so different after all.

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