Television Shaped The Nation, Streaming Services Lack National Commonality

Sunday the New York Times published several special sections looking ahead to the arts and leisure aspects of life for the months ahead. From movies to the theatre, and TV, too. Which made me think about something. We know that in the years when I was a kid (probably for you, too) the three main networks aired new shows or brought back fresh episodes of continuing series after Labor Day. That model in many ways is not the norm as there is a frenetic push by streaming services to broaden their audience and steer viewers at home away from the main networks. The data shows that streaming services are making great inroads into audience share. And while there are truly wonderfully written, acted, and produced shows on such services there is one larger problem we may not have considered. One commonality as a nation when I was a kid was that ‘we’ sat down and watched Mash or Roots or (pick one) and were able to have a conversation about it on the bus the next day, at the office lunches, or over a beer after work. That connection is long gone as television has altered how we view programming. I believe that has impacted our nation negatively as it is one less thing to be cemented together about, and that does concern me.

I write this as television has made a positive impact on the real America we live in by being a mirror on society. From Archie Bunker showcasing how bigotry actually looks and sounds to “Hawkeye” Pierce bringing the humanity and angst of men and women near the war front into our homes in a way we could relate to and learn from at the same time. Soap gave America its first gay character but Will and Grace allowed for a sweeping acceptance in the nation. None of these are small things in the social development of this land.

As it turned out television was clearly one of the most influential forces in changing Americans’ own definitions and perspectives of what society can look like, and should look like while also better defining the wide use of the word family. Television sets were in the homes of liberals and conservatives alike, and slowly over time, the family sitcoms that Americans watched for decades actually helped in their own way to remake and refashion the traditional American family into the ones we see in our communities. That is no small feat.

So when we lose the television experience as a commonality in the nation to mold and reshape views and outlooks I contend we have lost a proven tool to link us as people and lift us to a better place to live.

Humanitarian Jerry Lewis Still Linked With Labor Day Weekend

If you are like me you too recall with deep fondness the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon being front and center as a way to call attention to the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s work. Watching the telethon and making a call to donate was always a part of the Labor Day weekend as much as picnics and frolicking in the sunshine. My deep respect for Jerry Lewis as a humanitarian is as strong now as ever.  His compassion and a strong sense of making sure the world could be a better place remain his legacy.

With that said I want to take a few minutes of your time with the following classic memory of a telethon event from 1991.

“The Crown” Perfect Pandemic Television Remedy

There is a wide variety of truly good television viewing to be had these weeks–just none of it on the three main networks. As the pandemic rages, while medical professionals advise us all to stay as close to home as possible, television allows for some needed escapes.

We started season four of The Crown this week and as with past years are most impressed. What stands out this season is the character of Margaret Thatcher being portrayed with the attitude and personality that we came to know from her years in power and the books that punch back at the image she tried to spin. All of that makes for a splendid post today which features the article in today’s New York Times.

Though Thatcher would later emphasize how much she lacked as a child — including hot running water and an inside toilet — her deprived home life was a result of her father’s financial meanness, not poverty. As Hugo Young puts it in his book “One of Us,” the young Thatcher “belonged to the rising petty bourgeoisie, not the beleaguered working class.” The mid-1930s was a time when 75 percent of British families were officially defined as working class, but Thatcher’s family belonged to the 20 percent that could be considered middle class.

All of this is complicated by the fact that Thatcher had elocution lessons to eliminate her regional accent, studied at Oxford University alongside Britain’s privileged elite and climbed the social ranks when she married the affluent, upper-middle class Denis Thatcher. In November 1970, when Thatcher was the education secretary, The Sun newspaper asked resentfully, “How did the grocer’s daughter from Grantham become a Tory lady with a taste for large hats, a posh home, a wealthy husband and children at public school?”

“I think the queen was very puzzled by Margaret Thatcher, because she jumped class,” Dean Palmer, the author of “The Queen and Mrs. Thatcher: An Inconvenient Relationship,” said in a telephone interview. Jumping into the upper class bracket is notoriously difficult in Britain, since, generally, the main way to get titles, land and “good breeding” — the traditional cornerstones of the aristocracy — is to inherit them. Mere money rarely cuts it. (Before Prince William married Kate Middleton, sources close to the royal family were quoted in newspapers bemoaning her wealthy — but not aristocratic — mother, whose faux pas included social climbing, chewing gum in public and an earlier career as a flight attendant.)

By the time she became prime minister in 1979, Thatcher looked and sounded posh, but she had very little in common with royalty. Still, a stickler for the rules and an ardent monarchist, Thatcher famously arrived early to her meetings with the queen and gave incredibly low, reverential curtsies. She admitted in her autobiography, “The Downing Street Years,” published in 1993, “I was anxious about getting the details of procedure and protocol right.”

But biographers have observed that Thatcher’s anxious disposition, pretentious accent and grandiose manner simply irritated the queen. Before Thatcher became prime minister, she was invited to Buckingham Palace as leader of the Conservative Party. “On at least two occasions,” Palmer said, “she got dizzy and fainted, and the queen had to say ‘Someone catch that woman — again!’”

West Wing Cast Says “Vote!”

The NBC show West Wing from decades ago remains one of those powerfully written, acted, and themed presentations that has not grown old. The image of a cerebral, articulate, and personable president and a White House team of professional and capable staff has been a tonic for those of us who yearn for such an administration in Washington to again take hold. The last four years of inept, mean, White-Nationalistic, and xenophobic chaos makes President Jed Bartlet missed all the more.

To get back what this nation has lost is the goal of the cast of that memorable show. (This home watched the entire multi-season episodes this past winter–yet again.) They ‘came together’ to make the point of getting out and voting!

“Decisions are made by those who show up.”

So says President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) in season 1 of The West Wing. Two decades after the show brought the White House home for millions, those words have a painful prescience. America in 2020 is fragile, fearful, fractious. Little wonder that for many, standing up to be counted no longer feels like civic duty — but an actual life-or-death issue. So there can be no better time for West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin and his cast to reconvene. Not merely to swap old stories, but to urge Americans of all perspectives to participate in democracy. 

“Our nation is about the citizens who actually roll up their sleeves and get involved, and one of the ways [to do that] that was important on the show and important to us in real life is voting,” Hill says. “I think that has resonated with people over the years. And I’m honored to be a part of this campaign to just inspire people to vote. Because if we take our eyes off the prize, the prize will be lost. We have to stay engaged if we want to see ourselves reflected in our country.”

Labor Day And Jerry Lewis: A Walk Down Memory Lane (With Video)

There will always be a special place in the national heart for Jerry Lewis.  Humanitarian extraordinaire.

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Readers might recall that on the Sunday of this weekend in years past the Parade section that accompanies the local newspaper would have a feature about the poster child for the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon along with the smiling face of one of our national treasures, Jerry Lewis.  But the telethon is no more and the man who started and sustained it for decades has died.    Years prior to this passing executives within the MDA foolishly and recklessly forced Lewis aside and things were never the same with the telethon.  Yes, I am still bitter about that action.

I strongly suspect many feel the same sense of nostalgia around the country about Lewis, a man who exemplified decency and an abiding commitment to ‘his kids’.

Over the many years of my life, I watched several hours of the telethon on Sunday night and then into Labor Day.  There was always a bustle of excitement when tote board numbers would change and Lewis would add his charm and wit to the higher cash totals that had been generated from his tireless work.  In my high school years, I would call and donate ten dollars and urge my classmates to do the same.  Several years in a row my plea was reported on the local coverage.

America was one big community filling the boots of firefighters with money, people heading to the local TV affiliates to add their cash to the canisters, but most important of all just picking up the phone and making a pledge to help someone else.   While everyone was trying to make a difference for the cause, I always felt this was one of those days when we were all just a bit more united, a bit more of a family, a bit more of the type of people we really want to be as a nation.

Jerry Lewis was doing a telethon for a disease, but the effect had far larger and deeper ramifications.

He remains one of the best examples of humanity I have known in my lifetime.

Here is a classic example of the magic we came to expect on his telethons.

Happy Birthday To The President Of The United States…..

….Martin Sheen. He turns 80 today.

 

Your Jeopardy Clue

The Jeopardy clue was “where one finds dumbbells?  The category was ‘y’ being the only vowel.

Without missing a beat my husband, James shouts, “What is the White House?”

That is a winning response no matter how it is sliced or diced!

Made It Three Minutes Into The Grammy Awards…

…and then came this line in what is called music.

I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100 percent that bitch”.

I refuse to put up with this trash and have it come into our home.

Period.

Time for a movie.