John’s First Post Title

“so it shall be written, so it shall be done: the ancient history of television” part one

we didn’t have video tapes or dvds or cable or on demand shit or anything like the  internet when i first started doing TV in the sixties.  we were lucky just to have a fucking tv set at first and it was in black and white like most people’s. and we really did have a hangar as an antennae on  it sometimes and aluminum foil as well…the tubes would go out…there were these people called tv repairmen t who came to your home and fixed your set…there were door to door vacuum cleaner salesmen  then,  too…

my grandparent’s did have a large rca color tv, the focal point of  their living room. they also had ten children so maybe it was—no, i know it was—a very good investment, keeping the whole extended family, all of us entertained for years… you only had four channels or so back then , in the late 1960’s in houston, texas. sometimes you got the local UHF houston channel if the dial on the set would “tune” it in, ya know, like you tune in a radio kids…oh, that’s right, you guys don’t really do that radio thing anymore either…we kids, in 1969, could maybe catch a wrestling program on the UHF channel on a saturday afternoon, if we were lucky.  i remember our local wrestling champs, the good guys, were jose lothario and wahoo mcdaniel.  i remember all of the commercials, so many of the jingles, that ran  in between it all: “Buy your Chevrolet from Persia, Mike Persia Chevrolet!”  that jingle will remain etched into my brain for as long as i live. they will be probably be my dying words…”mike..persia..chevrolet…”

if you wanted to watch a movie it had to be a repeat, or an older movie, something that had “gone to TV”  like The Wizard of Oz of The Ten Commandments.  it was a big event to watch The Ten Commandments at my grandparent’s house. we did so, every easter, for years.  we’d have maybe 15 people in that little living room, kids piled on the couches and splayed on the floor. the special effects thrilled us, the pillar of fire, moses parting the red sea. i can still see yul brynner, giving me his judgment with such deep finality:  “so it shall be written, so it shall be done”

i watched alfred hitchcock’s film “psycho” and “the birds” on that rca color tv set.  things were less violent then on television also.  you couldn’t show anything like the sex and violence we see on our many television screens today, whether it’s basic cable, bundled, or not.  just seeing suzanne pleschette get her eyes pecked out in “the birds” was plenty of violence for me.  or the old man who got his eyes pecked out. and that stabbing scene in ‘psycho,’ that was a big violent deal at the time. i was six years old watching that in 1969 and we jumped in fear when that knife appeared, my young aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters, all of us climbing all over each other during that shower stabbing scene, scared to death. today, that scene would be too tame for even a lame opening to an episode of  ‘law and order’  or ‘CSISUVCIDS” or whatever they’re calling the plethora of detective shows that parade the brutally murdered bodies of usually attractive young women across my tv screen throughout the day  now…

i remember in 1972 when my family, friends, neighbors, and america as a whole debated how horribly violent the very first (and best) film ‘ the godfather’ was when it was released in theaters. ‘ my god, the horrific realistic violence in this film! it’s too real!  it’s too much!’ the  people said, and rightly so, at the time.  yes, ‘the godfather’ was violent, and certainly nothing a ten year old should view, but it was a great film and still is today. but that violence created by francis ford coppola and his cast was a children’s sunday school puppet show when compared to the horrific carnage that is television today…

you can tell much of a society by their myths, by their entertainment, the stories they tell and how they spend their finite time alive, and surely, we as americans today have never spent more time sitting on our asses watching the collective actions of others on screens and digital stages before our faces, large screens or small, and we pay for the privilege to do so. now, as i type here at the beginning of the 21st century, we are watching the death throes of a sick and depraved culture; the decline of the american empire is in on your set daily, hourly,  before, during and after that antiquated notion that was “prime time.”  Enjoy.

no, today, at any time, just one click away, ‘on demand,’ we got what you need: we got screwdriver in your eyeballs violence, swords shoved through the back of a little girl’s skull to shoot the bloody red blade out of her mouth , though this child was mutilated by a “good guy,” or a good woman in this case, an attractive, somber, talented african-american actress wielding her own samarai sword of justice on television’s “The Walking Dead”

they kill often on ‘the walking dead.’  the show’s cast members dismember bodies, blood and guts flying, and engage in disemboweling the human body with regularity. or they chop up human bodies and then hang the body parts and guts onto themselves, the squishy nasty gore of rotting intestines, with achopped- off hand charm, run about their necks on this program, which is the number one show on television today in america, here in the cold red mid-winter of 2014.  the walking dead, where even little boys and girls shove crowbars through people’s eye sockets and exploding skulls, and the children blow out the brains and the children they blow out the guts, of others, with their own powerful guns…

but hey, those are zombies though, right? who gives a shit if you kill a zombie.  i mean, it’s either us or them, when it comes to those zombies.  you’re either with US or you are one of THEM, the others, whomever they might happen to be.  so, ya know,  it’s okay.  it’s okay to kill those bad guys. just like it’s ok to kill vampires in all of those graphic vampire films today, a genre one would think had spent itself for good when even long dead presdents like honest abe lincoln started  killing them on the big and small screen. don’t even get me started on the sick fucks who write and film these slasher horror films then today..i don’t know about you, but i don’t want to watch someone be tortured and gutted and violently brutalized for  two minutes, much less 90 minutes or in hours and hours of programming.

who wants to watch someone be tortured for two hours? apparently, quite a few people, including myself and my neighbors and relatives and friends, close and afar.  but one does wonder just when the fuck did the graphic violent torture of animals or our fellow human beings become so entertaining? or profitable, quite profitable, indeed…it started a couple thousand years ago i suppose, or more…but  must we still re-enact such horrors? are we that bored? and who wants such violent pain and suffering in their head anyway? the screams of agony of the dying, dead, and tortured echoing for a lifetime off the walls of the mind…

there is a name for people who enjoy the violent suffering of others: we call them psycopaths and not only do we tell their stories and watch them, they have become the new archetype, the hero now as well. or perhaps they always were.  alexander the great didn’t become “the great” in our history of western civilization by running a floral shop in macedonia… they make history, those psychopaths,; we remember their names…

the godfather of 1972  is shown on basic regular cable tv today. and they don’t even need to cut out the violence anymore. sure, they gotta cut the curse words. and god forbid you see a woman’s nipple or a man’s dick, however limp or shriveled. the genitalia and sex thing is still ‘out’ forbidden here in god’s country. i mean full on nudity,  real sex, that’s bad stuff.  the emperor cannot have any clothes on for christ’s sake, what are thinking man?  but he can cut off your goddamn  head,  absolutely. in slow motion and HD, throughout this day’s programming…brought to you by…someone.

in the late 1960’s,  they didn’t have the massive load of children’s programming they have today either to hypnotize, calm, and brainwash kids into making their parents buy them shit.  i mean, sure,  maybe we asked for a frisbee back then but not because we saw it on tv, but because we saw someone throwing a frisbee down at the public park, or on the public beach in galveston…without today’s tonnage of children’s programming then, something like The Wizard of Oz was again, AN EVENT. those colors, those technicolor greens and reds and blues were thrilling for the eyes and mind of a child, or frightening to some; those flying monkeys and that wicked witch scared the hell outa my little sister.

otherwise, walt disney has us kids by the balls with his show ‘the wonderful world of disney’ on sunday night.  and man, the wonderful world of disney, well, that was about IT for television for kids except for the occasional charlie brown specials that eventually came along. or the wonderful fact that for years you could get up early and watch a couple of hours of saturday morning cartoons, collections of old looney toons, bugs bunny, foghorn leghorn, and the roadrunner, the best of the lot.  or maybe, sometimes you got something silly and thus childish to watch,  like ‘the monkees.’  in the mornings of the weekday,  there was usually a bit of the three stooges along with the horribly, weirdly animated “Clutch Cargo with His Pals Spnner and Paddlefoot!” just before you had to go to school.  and during the week, you could always count on a hit of sesame street for a little something good, or even a shot of  mr. roger’s before you outgrew him and his sweater… at least he was a nice guy, or just a relatively calm and non-angry or over excited adult which appealed to me.  after school, you could then mainline ‘gilligan’s island’ daily along with “speed racer,” the laughably bad “ultra-man” from japan, or ‘the munsters’ or ‘the addams family,” fred gwynne in ‘the munsters’ still makes me smile today…i found him comforting somehow when i was a kid, this gentle person who was a monster to be feared by the rest of the normal human world…

on sunday mornings, for kids at least, you were fucked..  if you weren’t being drug to the giant catholic church downtown, you had to watch some horrible claymation, thinly veiled christian cartoon programing with an idiotic boy and his talking clay dog that was dull and obvious manipulation to teach you to be ‘good’ and love jesus.  sunday afternoon also brought we children the hokey slapstick of the “variety program” “Hee Haw.”  i still wonder if the rest of the country was forced to endure hee haw also.  or did ‘hee haw’ only air in the south?…regardless, it was the closest thing to children’s entertainment on a sunday in my state of texas.

today, i would think, a program like Hee Haw would be laughed out of the room, that is, off the air. probably, justifiably, as the blatantly sexist and white trash discrimination against the south that it was, satire of the cheapest sort.  i remember thinking even then, “Is this supposed to be me? This is the south?” and ” Who are these hillbillies?” i also wondered where the black people were on Hee Haw, the ones that i went to school with. or my other close neighborhood friends, the children of the italian american catholic family down the street, or the second generation chinese amerians, or the mexican americans  who also all lived on my city block along with us, the scotch/irish catholics…

To me, Hee Haw was just a bunch of loud white redneck hicks yukking it up… but then again, i lived in the inner city of houston.  i was a city boy, the closest we got to the country,  playing around beneath  the tall, green loblolly pine trees that ran along White Oak Bayou… i did like the women on hee haw though…those short cut-off blue jean shorts they wore,  those large breasted blondes on the show…i can remember their bit as they washed clothes in steel tubs, their breasts bouncing, the young women in pig tails, singing “we’re just really not the gossiping kind, we don’t wanna go roun’ spreadin’ rumors, so you better be sure and listen up the first time!” the coen brothers haven’t been too far off from  Hee Haw either really in films such as  “O brother where art thou?” with its campy hillbilly shtick. in fact, none of their southern parodies came off too well to me, a real southerner, a real Texan.  though i laughed at the film ‘raising arizona’ when it was released in theaters, i didn’t know many people who talked like nicolas cage or holly hunter did in that film.  yeah, i had a few cousins who did, they were close, but not that cornpone… john goodman was the most realistic texan in that now also old comedy, one of the coen brother’s early feature films….

so who knows…maybe ol’ roy clark and buck owens were onto something like ethan and joel … truth be told,  i guess I did like roy clark and his banjo, or mainly, just his friendly smile. but  i couldn’t stand to look at buck owens face.  or to listen to his corny whiny country music…fuck buck.  i always changed the channel whenever that guy started singing. I preferred the show Soul Train to all of Hee Haw anyway… the music on soul train, so much better.  hell, even the local five o’ clock news, the daily murder report of the very real city that surrounded me in Houston, Texas was better to watch  than an episode of  Hee Haw. That is, that was, for me…a bored 10 year old kid just looking for something to do on a hot Sunday afternoon,  in 1972…