Ever since Mad About You and Seinfeld ended their runs almost a decade ago, I must confess I’ve watched very little, if any, prime time network television. I suspect that’s not unusual as many of us changed our viewing habits and became political junkies once cable news channels became widely available by the mid-1990s. There are some of the best Dish TV packages out there for those who still want to sit down in front of their TV, so fear not regular viewers, there is always something for everyone, whether that be prime time, dish, or cable.
The Virginia and Maryland suburbs had cable television available at least a decade before we here in Washington, DC were introduced to it in the early 1990’s. I’m not really sure what the reasons were for the delay. Difficulty in digging ditches in the city to lay cable and the resulting traffic jams, I’m sure, was a major reason. Bureaucracy — which we specialize in and is found in abundance in the DC city government — undoubtedly was an impediment too. And you thought the old Soviet Union had a monopoly on centralized bureaucracy? Nope. We even have a Safeway food store here in the DuPont Circle area, one of the few in the immediate neighborhood and one affectionately referred to as the “Soviet Safeway.” Residents buy whatever the store offers for sale. Choices are few.
The introduction of cable television in DC did re-acquaint me with some of my favorite shows from years gone by. Even today, cable TV features carry some of our favorite shows, especially with the wealth of television options such as Amazon Fire and Andriod TV Boxes as well as others. However, there is a lot more choice offered in today’s age, meaning that viewers often have to choose between different cable providers, which can be somewhat difficult. Fortunately, you can search online for cable providers in my area, helping to give you a better idea of the choices you have when it comes deciding what TV shows you can watch.
I really miss many of the great television sitcoms and shows of the 1970’s and 1980’s for, other than providing laughs, they reflected our ever-changing society and its demographics. Perhaps no tv show did it better than All in the Family. Produced by legendary writer and producer Norman Lear — and based on the British television series Til Death Us Do Part — the brilliant cast of, among others, Carroll O’Connor (who played Archie Bunker, the quintessential “Reagan Democrat” well before Ronald Reagan ever became President of the United States) and Jean Stapleton often made us think of the world around us. This article, written almost two decades ago summarizes Lear’s important contributions to our society
He was the king of the sitcom when he walked away from prime time in 1978. Now Norman Lear is returning to television with the first of four series he has in the works, hoping there is still a place on the tube for his distinctive blend of humor and social commentary, and intent on letting America know what’s been on his mind.
Exactly 20 years have passed since Mr. Lear’s “All in the Family” introduced Archie Bunker to American viewers, proving that prime-time comedy could explore subjects like bigotry, sexism, politics, menopause and impotence and opening the door for series like “Roseanne” and “Married . . . With Children.”
What other memorable impressions do tv shows leave on our minds? Not unlike most people here, I assume, I can readily identify a theme or song from an old show I liked and watched with regularity. If you’ve seen Jay Leno’s ‘Jaywalking’ segments on ‘The Tonight Show,’ you know that the politically disengaged participants may or may not be able to identify pictures of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Conyers, Christopher Dodd, Bill Richardson, or any other major politician but ask them about tv trivia and, you guessed it, they know it well.
While surely not a comprehensive list, here are some of the most-popular tv themes and songs of all-time over the past many decades of network television
The Avengers, 1961-1969*: is probably the most style-conscious series of the swinging sixties, with 161 episodes transmitted between 1961 and 1969. Debonair secret agent John Steed battled against the diabolical plans of deranged masterminds in rural England, assisted at one time or another by his beautiful assistants, Cathy Gale, Emma Peel, and Tara King.
Bonanza, 1959-1973: the Bonanza theme actually included lyrics, embarrasingly performed in the pilot by the show’s cast.
Chico and the Man, 1974-1978: the show’s theme was written and performed by blind pop singer Jose Feliciano, who also appeared in a 1976 episode as Chico’s skirt-chasing cousin.
The Fugitive, 1963-1967: found guilty of murdering his wife, Dr. David Kimble escaped his captors when the train taking him to jail crashed. On the run from the authorities, he becomes The Fugitive, his only hope being to track the murderer himself.
(See Opening Theme Here – Embedding disabled by request)
Star Trek, 1966-1969: tells the tale of the crew of the starship Enterprise and that crew’s five-year mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” In its first two seasons it was nominated for Emmy Awards as Best Dramatic Series. After three seasons, however, the show was canceled and the last episode aired on June 3, 1969.
All in the Family, 1971-1979: perhaps the best tv sitcom ever, it covered the major societal issues of the day since no program before or, perhaps, since.
The Jeffersons, 1975-1985: a spin-off of All in the Family, it was the longest running comedy (or series of any genre) with a predominantly African-American cast in the history of American television.
Here are the rest of the themes and theme songs from television shows I’ve included in the poll
It is probably true that whenever we hear a song, theme, or jingle from the past, we can usually associate it with an event in our lives. When you hear a particular theme or theme song, what are you reminded of… a happier period in your life? A time when your life was undergoing major changes with marriage, school, divorce, living abroad, or kids? Career or job changes? A particular episode of the show? A dramatic political event that changed this country? The triumph of your hometown sports team? Something else?
I’m aware that I haven’t included shows from the past fifteen years or so. It’s only because, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, that I’m not as familiar with them. Feel free to share your memories and add your choices in the diary comments. As it is, I had quite a bit of difficulty in choosing the ones listed on the diary poll. But, choose, we must.
In a tip of the hat to Meteor Blades, don’t forget to take the poll.