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We don't have TV. We have a TV set, it just isn't hooked up to anything that gives us reception of TV channels, cable or otherwise. When people ask me if I saw something on television and I explain to them that we don't have television, they usually look at me with a mixture of pity and horror, as if I told them that we don't have indoor plumbing. Some of these people have camps where they have no TV, but they can't imagine how anyone could live without it on a regular basis, like...well, indoor plumbing. The fact of the matter is, we have no TV and we don't miss it. That isn't to say that we don't watch things on the TV. We can watch movies and the television is hooked up to the computer so we can watch 2 or 3 shows that we like the day after they broadcast, and we can stream stuff through my son's video game system so we have plenty to watch, we are just pretty selective about it. We get our news from National Public Radio and online sources, so we aren't uninformed or anything. It works.
One of the things we do is pick an older television series that we can stream through the computer or gaming system and watch them season by season. In this manner I have introduced my son, Chuck, to numerous old TV shows, from great old classic black and white shows like Sergeant Bilco and the Avengers from the sixties, to shows his brother and sister, who are a decade older, used to watch when they were younger. It's been lots of fun. Given the technical sophistication and computer generated special effects that Chuck has grown up with, you might think that he would find these old shows pretty hokey and boring, but it hasn't worked out that way at all. He loves the Avengers, which used the same sets over and over with minor variations, and he enjoyed The Man From Uncle, which I watched as a kid and was pretty cheesy even back then. He has watched MacGyver, The Rockford Files, MacHale's Navy, and the A Team and has enjoyed all of them. I asked him why he liked these old shows so much and he told me, without hesitation, that it was because the characters were so great that it made everything old fashioned unimportant. There is a lesson in that statement.
Chuck is an intelligent kid with very eclectic taste. He likes video games and shows and movies where things blow up like any 15 year old boy, but he also likes good dialogue and humor, and like everyone, he likes good characters in a story, because when you come right down to it, it's the character-driven stories that we relate to the best. Chuck loves the smooth, urbane sophistication of John Steed in the Avengers, the fast talking flim-flam of Sergeant Bilco, the slightly cynical heroism of Jim Rockford, and the over the top coolness of Mr T. He likes the characters so much he even made it through the mullet years of MacGyver without cringing. I asked him if he found it ridiculous that John Steed could overcome armed villains with his umbrella and his bowler without ever wrinkling his Pierre Cardin suit or the A Team could unload a zillion rounds of automatic fire without ever killing anyone.
“Mom,” he chided, “I play video games where my character can be riddled with bullets and recover full health in 15 seconds because he walks over a first aid kit. Besides, I love Bugs Bunny, and Yosemite Sam never dies despite the fact that Bugs ties sticks of dynamite to his mustaches that explode at least once every episode.” Good point.
I would think that this appreciation of less sophisticated entertainment was just Chuck (he is very different in a lot of ways) except that his friends enjoy watching some of these old shows with him and are very fond of some of the characters. It doesn't matter that the good guys are all really good and the bad guys are all really bad. As Chuck has said, he's sick to death of sensitive, brooding vampires with guilt complexes and moral issues. Who isn't?
Last weekend it was hot enough to drive us to seek an air conditioned environment, so I took him to see that recent remake of the A Team movie. He liked it, after all, lots of things blew up, but he was pretty disappointed with the characters, who he thought didn't have any. I told him that it isn't easy to build characters in a 2 hour movie between the massive destruction and explosions. He pointed out that the characters had existed for 20 years and the movie had only needed 2 hours to completely dismantle them. Talk about destruction.
“They should have used the original actors,” he said.
I pointed out that the original actors are all older than I am, one of them is dead, and, since this is America and we are youth obsessed, no on has any desire to watch a bunch of old guys do anything unless the old guy is Betty White.
“They should have put Betty White in it,” he maintained, “she could have taken the place of the actor who died and it would have made it more interesting. Of course, they would have to change the name of the team.”
“To what?” I asked.
“It couldn't be the A Team anymore. It would have to be the AARP Team.”
Ha ha. Aren't they funny when they think they'll never get old?
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