Monday, August 25, 2014

Gunslinger Genzlinger

Kinda dumb piece in The New York Times by Neil Genzlinger about vintage TV.  I agree that people like to talk about golden ages that never were, and that a whole lot of TV used to be pretty weak.  But a whole lot of TV is weak today as well.  It just depends on which titles you pick.  And Genzlinger picks such poor examples for his piece it's like he's not even trying.

He says I Love Lucy doesn't hold up, and I admit I'm not a big fan, so I'll let that go.  But then he says of The Honeymooners "Couples defined by screaming seem more sad than funny today."  Genzlinger is missing the point--it's a chance to see Jackie Gleason and Art Carney at their best.  Argumentative couples are still a mainstay of sitcoms, but great clowns are few and far between.

But now let's look at the rest of the show Genzlinger chooses to explain how poorly retro TV holds up:  The Many Love Of Dobie Gillis, Gilligan's Island, Green Acres, Welcome Back, Kotter, Dallas, Boy Meets World and Sex And The City.

Bob Denver notwithstanding, I wasn't aware that anyone thought Dobie Gillis or Gilligan's Island were classics, or even particularly good.  Dallas I never watched, but as phenomenally popular as it was, did anyone ever think it was much more than an outrageous, even campy, melodrama?

I'm shocked to hear anyone thought highly of Boy Meets World, yet Genzlinger himself likes it: "This was and still is a wonderful show. I just don’t want to see it on TV again, because its mere presence might remind me of the sequel that just started, “Girl Meets World,” which doesn’t come close to clearing the bar the original set."  Doesn't this disqualify him as a TV critic?

I don't really have anything to say about Sex And The City, but, as it went off the air in 2004, and has been followed by two movies, even Genzlinger admits it's not truly vintage yet.

As for Welcome Back, Kotter, it was never considered that great.  It also wasn't that big a hit (never making the top ten) and it didn't win any Emmys, so why bother to attack it?  Apparently Genzlinger has an anti-Travolta reaction that was already happening when the show was originally on, so he's a bit late to the party.  (Actually, I've been watching the show lately and it's fairly enjoyable, especially the early seasons.)

Now we come to the dumbest thing he says:
‘GREEN ACRES’ (1965) Speaking of stereotypes, there was this empty-headed series. Along with “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Gomer Pyle” and a few others, it made sure “rural” and “stupid” would be wrongly linked for years to come.
The 60s featured a ton or rural series, and most of them weren't much, so why pick on the one that's special?  Far from empty-headed, this was a show with a lot on its mind.  At first blush it's just a reversal of The Beverly Hillbillies--instead of hicks moving to the big city, city slickers are moving to the sticks.  But this is a show where the characters can read the titles and hear the incidental music, where pigs talk, where moon rocks communicate while aliens stop us from communicating, where the characters put on their own version of The Beverly Hillbillies, and so on.  The show, at its best, was a slice of surrealism hiding behind cornpone humor, going to places few even attempted.  Makes you wonder if Genzlinger has ever actually watched Green Acres.
I'm all for critics having a little fun every now and then, but even for a playful piece like this, he might have put a bit more thought into it.


Anonymous Denver Guy said...

And then, of course, there are a dozen or more classic shows that were great and are fun to rewatch that apparently he skips over. MTM, Bob Newhart, Andy Griffith (early seasons), Twilight Zone, Star Trek (imho), Nightstalker, Carol Burnett, Dick Van Dyke Show - these aqre few that jump to my mind. These are shows I'll watch if I come across them.

Of course, I do fail to understand why we are inundated with Leave it to Beaver, Brady Bunch and other lesser shows on the "Vintage TV" stations. I didn't really enjoy these shows the first time around. Besides MASH, I do have trouble finding good vinatge TV on the re-run stations.

8:51 AM, August 25, 2014  
Blogger New England Guy said...

It should be noted that in the mid-80s, LA Guy had a poster (OK a page torn out of the Village Voice, I think)on the wall which proclaimed Green Acres' Paul Henning to be a genius.

It was part of a larger cartoon about "Lowlife Scum" I recall but that's entirely beside the point

9:17 AM, August 25, 2014  

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