By: Michael Bird

 

As the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer come to an end, the BirdKids have been spending countless hours in the swimming pool at their grandparents’ home in Blue Ridge. I call it the “Thibodeaux Mansion” because the house is so big, but its owners gladly welcome all the Thibodeaux and Bird grandchildren without question.

In between the pool times, of course, there are opportunities for eating. And we’ve had a good time visiting (and eating) with Sena’s brothers and sister, who have also been in town over the summer. My wife’s siblings live all across the U.S.A.   One sibling lives in Oklahoma and is married to a Ukrainian woman. They and their four children (we call them “The Cousins”) are here for the summer. One other sibling lives in Colorado; another in Louisiana. The various configurations have been in and out of town during July.

Other than swimming and eating, we occasionally pile in front of the big television in the family room. And on the occasions when I’ve commandeered the remote control, I try to find programming that will appeal to our diverse group.

Last weekend, our sunburned denizens of cousins and BirdKids were in the living room at the Thibodeaux house and I turned the channel to MeTV.

Let me say that I have been a MeTV fan since WAKA added it to their digital subchannel lineup several years ago. MeTV plays all the great shows of the past, and – unlike all other channels – it even allows the opening and closing credits to play unedited, and un-squeezed.

I started enjoying MeTV back in 2013 with their “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke” marathons. I thought that with our world coming apart at the seams, it was nice to watch a show where the lines were more clearly defined between the good guys and the bad. No ambiguity: the Cartwrights and Marshal Dillon are going to make the best moral choice possible under their Wild West conditions.

Then, I went into a serious “M*A*S*H” phase. During 2014, I tried to watch every single episode of the series on MeTV. And, at 11 seasons, it lasted three times longer than the Korean War depicted on the show.

Lately, I’ve seemed to have less spare time for television, but when I am watching with the family, I try to expose them to some of the old shows of the past that seemed less threatening than what is programmed today.

That’s not to say that there is not fine television in 2017; far from it, this has been called a Second Golden Age because of the availability of stellar writing, feature film-level production and directing, and of course motion picture-quality acting.

And yet, the other day when I turned the Thibodeaux TV to “Leave It to Beaver,” nobody in the room knew what to think.

In the episode we viewed, Theodore Cleaver (the Beaver) was given an heirloom ring by a distant aunt. Parents Ward and June warned Beaver not to wear the ring to school. Of course, he did. And it got stuck on his finger. And an entire sitcom episode went by that didn’t revolve around put-downs, insults or cheap laughs resulting from sex jokes or asinine parenting decisions. Again, I’m not saying there is no place for this type of humor, but no one in the room seemed to know what to think of such an antiquated program.

Beaver Cleaver faced the same kinds of things any child does. The difference is how a kid like Beaver would be approached now. It may have been an idealized version of suburbia, but I see nothing wrong with enjoying shows like “Leave It to Beaver” alongside anything on the air today.

Michael Bird is a music educator in Tallassee.