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Today’s TV recalls a different ’60s than I do

POSTED: October 2, 2011 1:25 a.m.

The new TV season seems to have a fascination with the 1960s. There are several shows that hearken back to the days when folks dressed up to go to work or for a night on the town.

When I think of '60s era shows, I think of the Cleaver family of "Leave it to Beaver." June, the mother, always had on a dress and pearls. I can't remember seeing her in anything else. The dad, Ward, always had on a suit or a freshly pressed shirt and sweater.

A few years ago, I had lunch with Jerry Mathers, who played the Beaver. He was a nice guy. Unfortunately for him, he was forever stereotyped as a nice guy. To date, they haven't asked him to play the bad guy on "Law and Order."

Maybe that isn't so bad.

These new shows about the '60s have a little edge to them. "Pan Am," which is based on the now-defunct airline of the same name, portrays beautiful stewardesses as somewhat wild and promiscuous.

The same kinds of themes are in the other two '60s shows, "Mad Men," and "The Playboy Club."

Let me confess that I've only seen bits and pieces of the latter two, but have read the notes of TV reviewers.

I know that folks didn't all behave in the era of my youth. But we were sheltered from it.

Nobody dwelled on the fact that Ben Cartwright of "Bonanza" had been thrice widowed. He had three grown sons who were as different as the day is long. Adam, the architect was dapper and urbane. Hoss, the middle son, was a big lug of guy you just had to love. Little Joe was a tad of a hothead.

Somehow, they all seemed to get along.

Granted, the show was set in the untamed West and not in the '60s. But it was a mainstay of the time.

Dr. Ben Casey was an intense doctor. We didn't see much in the form of romance until that woman came out of a 13-year coma. Even then, there was nothing tawdry about their relationship.

It wasn't a perfect time, but compared to today's television, it was rather tame. We didn't have but three channels to fill. The edgy stuff was Dean Martin smoking and drinking on screen. Somehow, we seemed to overlook that.

I'm not naive enough to think that the '60s were anything close to perfect. I saw the effects of racism, war and greed and didn't like what I saw.

I don't know if there will be newspaper columnists 40 or 50 years from now. The indications are that all communications will come in the form of a 140-character Twitter posting.

However, when he or she is lamenting about how good things were back in the teens, or whatever we will call this decade, folks won't exactly think one of those "Real Housewife" shows as representative of real life at the time.

The great thing about the '60s is that we did sit down together and have a meal, survived houses that had one phone, one bathroom and one TV.

It was a good time and I'm glad I got to see it firsthand.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesville
times.com/harris.

 



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