Saturday, January 24, 2009


Back in the 1978-1979 television season, ABC ruled the North American airwaves. The top four shows that year were Laverne and Shirley, Three's Company, Mork and Mindy, and Happy Days. (In that order.) I guess times were different then; the cellular structure of prime time TV programs certainly was. What are the top four shows this 2008-2009 broadcast year? Are they really any better? Or were series from thirty years ago any worse? Crap by any other year is still crap.

What is a little remarkable about the above order of popularity is the fact that Happy Days had premiered in early 1974. I remember... I was there watching it.

(The pic at the top is from a period of Happy Days that I was definitely not watching.)


The Pope said...

I don't suppose I saw much of the season pictured either, considering the lack of Ron Howard.

I don't know if I can go out on a limb and argue that those shows or any other era was better or worse than another. I can't comment on "top" shows, because American Idol and the like leave me cold.

There was something about the familial chemistry of those casts and a breeziness that is lacking in much of today's TV from what I have seen.

I admit, though it had highs and lows I am a fan of Mork and Mindy.
Every few years something does come along that is something like it or an evolution of it, arguably.

Perfect Strangers
3rd Rock from the Sun
My Name Is Earl
30 Rock
The Sarah Silverman Program
Arrested Development

The one difference might be that lead characters tend to be more flawed.

I love the fact that Morks introduction of Happy days was called "My Favorite Orkan" as homage to "My Favorite Martian" and that in 1980 Ray Walston the Martian himself was cast as the father of Robin Williams in Popeye.
It's too bad that and casting Shelly Duvall as Olive were the only insprations in that movie quite on that level.

The theme songs of 1978 into the early eighties evoke a positive feeling for me, comfort, even though at the time it was wallpaper taken for granted. It could be argued that MASH lasted much longer than the war that provided its backdrop. Very odd for war to be our comfort food, except that it was about how Hawkeye and company dealt with it. Happy Days gradually outgrew its concept - there is a built-in end even for a series - but who can walk away from a steady job? Even Magnum P.I. after a great "final episode" of his death returned for a very weak last season only because Selleck didn't want to leave the crew jobless.

With a Mork and Mindy format, sooner or later the fish out of water crawls and walks on the land and somehow lands jobs and blends in. They could have cranked up the witch hunt storyline that was flirted with, but that went away. I thought it was only on for three seasons, and I have three seasons of DVDs, but no Merth (Jonathan Winters) yet. I've recently found clips of the animated show on and though it looks terrible and uninspired I would like to sit through the complete collection. Oddly, I had never heard of the animated show until recently.
They tried everything to extend those shows you list beyond 1982. Except quality control on the scripts.

But in the case of Happy Days, the premise of a square son bringing home a local notorious thug to live above the garage is a little more interesting than "thug runs his own auto shop and is responsible and sometimes visits family he used to live with."

Barry Smight said...

One thing I will say is that when I sample old series like "Laverne and Shirley" or "Mork and Mindy" I find there is a warmth inherent in them; I don't feel this when sampling newer stuff. Do not think for a moment it is because I am looking back in nostalgia, for I rarely or never watched those shows when they first ran.