Saturday, February 28, 2004

NY Times' Emily Nussbaum Likes 70s TV ... and so do I

Clearly, Emily Nussbaum of The New York Times likes 70s tv, revels in it, and, quite frankly, so do I, so it's all good. But, as they said in the 70s, don't go breakin' my heart, Emily Nussbaum, stay for a while, see this 70s thing through. The reasons for that 70s love, though, are not so much for artistic excellence, on my part at least, although in the cases of Land of the Lost , I, Claudius, Roots and Schoolhouse Rock, excellence is in abundance, but the real reason is more generally because people of my generation -- kindergarteners in the 70s -- viewed that culture at large with the wide eyes of wonder at 70s reality, or, what was going on. This is not my thought but the thought of an interesting letter in the Arts and Leisure section of tommorrow's NY Times from a man whose name escapes me (I threw out my A & L subscription copy with the old coffee filter this morning, alas).

So, as Emily Nussbaum sexes us up with a wonderful exposition on Starsky and Hutch, and how they shepharded in the gritty tv drama era of the 70s, when ethnic cops, divorced cops, slutty cops, and cops living in slums themselves took on the underbelly of our decaying urban centers. And hardboiled drama (the 70s were synonymous with urban decline, grafitii, "white slavery," Fort Apache the Bronx -- so the rise of the cop, as cultural hero, was all but telegraphed) were all the rage, here are some other (making ironical quotation marks in the air) "Big 70s Subjects" I'd like to see Ms. Emily -- my new journo sex symbol, by the way (sorry, Lola Ogunnaike) -- tackle, like 70s cereal box "face" and former footbal star, Lynn Swann:

1) Schoolhouse Rock's The Figure Eight, Infinity and the Nietzche's concept of The Eternal Return Question. Come on, Emily, I've been puzzling over this concept for the better part of twenty years. I mean: What does that song mean, Emily Nussbaum. Could you break down for us the mathematics of infinity in Arts and Leisure?

"If you could make a figure eight
That's a circle that turns 'round upon itself

Place it on it's side and it's a symbol meaning ... infinity"

What-the-fuck? Is that some veiled reference to the Bill Murray character in Groundhog Day? Help me out here, Em; break me off some meaning.

2) Of The Dramedy and It's Discontents. Why oh why, dear reader, did this particularly significant cultural artifact achieve it's provenance and peak in the 70s? Was its rise related in some phantom-sinister manner to the urban decay of the age? Were the execs affraid of too much drama and therefore threw in some giggles? And, as an offshoot to the dramedy, is the troubled youth, who often was the dram in dramedy. That was a big issue in the 70s, these troubled youths who "mouthed off" to parental authority figures. In the 60s, the kids really only wanted peace, love and understanding (okay, the Beats also wanted hot sex and South American Drugs and poetry, but they still snuck out to do it). But in the 70s a whole new breed of ruffians, like Ralph Macchio on quintessential 70s dramedy Eight is Enough, and the troubled Kristy McNichol on the oft-forgotten, but once highly popular, Family. These kids were testing the limits of 70s freedon -- they mouthed off to their parents to their faces! Nowadays this noble banner is being held up by that angry kid on WB's Everwood who keeps yelling at Treat Williams for moving his family only so that the ungrateful ass can get a good life. And bloggers. We mouth off to authority figures too with mischiefFuck. *averts gaze*

3) Bad Science Fiction. Of course, in order to co-sign on this topic with me, you would have to agree -- at least in principle -- that there is, in fact, such a thing as good science fiction. What was it about the 70s that caused such bad science fiction? Bad fiction is bad enough, but why drag "science" into it -- and is it really science if you mention things like other "galaxies" and "alien races."

Was the rise of bad sci fi related to the demise of the folksy humanitarian impulse that spurred that 70s sense of that whole 'hey baby, what's your sign?' (again with the planetary references), Keep on Truckin' and UNICEF commercial era? Had we grown tired of the planet in the wake of the OPEC scandal and yearn for off-world travel? Had Carter fucked the whole shit up that bad? Or am I being too idealistic in my tele-metaphysical speculation: Was it merely tv execs trying to get up into that Star Wars bitch?

Whatever the case, we were inundated with some interesting at the time (but, in retrospect bad) sci-fi, among which, stinking up the DVD storage area at Amazon's warehouses are Space 1999 and Battlestar Galactica.

4) Commercials with a Social Message. Hey, what's up with that, Emily? Emily Nussbaum, explain why so many commercials in the Age of Aquarius had such a strong social message and sense of universal brotherhood (like Lowenbrau's "Here's to Good Friends") and, frankly, just love sweet love (Love, American Style)? Two examples of this species come to mind almost immediately: one, the Coke "I'd Like To Teach the World to Sing in perfect Harmony," and the "Keep America Beautiful" ad campaign where Native American Iron Eyes Cody cried at the lack of environmental awareness of the 70s.

So, Emily, you've now got a full plate on explaing 70s tv and the big questions. Keep on truckin'

No comments: