Since my column is called “The Old Paths,” you’ll not be surprised that I love to watch old sitcoms. My hubster and I watch one episode daily at lunch; it has become a treasured tradition.
After we finished all of the Andy Griffith episodes in black and white (he refuses to watch the color ones), we tried going forward in time to “Cheers” but soon gave up. Even though the ’80’s was truly a long time ago now, the modern nature of the show was just too risqué for us. We crave the innocence of Andy and Barney sitting on the porch singing “Church in the Wildwood” or Andy and Opie spending a Saturday down at the fishing hole.
So we went back to the ’60’s and picked up “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Oh, what joy! I had not watched this show since I was a child, but suddenly the familiarity came rushing back—Rob and Laura, little Ritchie, Jerry and Millie next door, Buddy and Sally at the office. It was like seeing old friends again.
We’re on season three now, and already I’m convinced that Rob and Laura are perhaps my favorite TV couple ever. Despite the ever-humorous fact that they slept in twin beds (a la ’60’s TV morality), Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore had a rapport few TV “marrieds” had.
I find it fascinating to see (via TV) how life has changed in half a century. Laura spends her days cleaning the house, fixing duck in wine sauce or some other gourmet dinner, helping with PTA events and gossiping with Millie—all while looking like a million bucks. Rob comes home from the office, loosens his tie, plops down on the couch while Laura asks if she can get him anything before Ritchie hurries to kiss him and beg for a treat.
I guess that is way more interesting than my hubster coming home in a t-shirt and jeans to me serving fried Spam and potatoes in my pajamas while the kids are too involved in their video games to greet him. (Okay, okay, so I should clarify that my hubster works third shift and comes home in the early morning—hence, my pj’s. And by the time he wakes up at night to go back to work, the kids are enjoying free time. But the Spam and taters is for real.)
My household may not be reminiscent of the Petries’ ever-clean and efficiently-run home, but at least it’s not like Ricky and Lucy’s. There is a reason Ricky Ricardo comes home from work many days saying, “LU-cy! You got some ‘splaining to do!” Nonetheless, they are another of my favorite TV sitcom couples.
One thing I do miss about that era is the camaraderie the TV characters had with their neighbors. The Helpers were always coming over to the Petries’ for a game of cards, and Fred and Ethel spent a lot of time with the Ricardos. These days, families are too busy with the multitudinous demands of two-career households and kids with multiple extracurricular activities.
I have excellent neighbors, but I rarely see them. By the time they get home from work, they are probably tired and ready to eat supper and rest a little AFTER picking up the kids from basketball practice or dance class or whatever. I stay home with my kids most days, but at night when my neighbors come home, I’m out the door to do ministry work at The Well or 4-H events or town meetings.
I would like a Millie next door who drops by to borrow a recipe (I do cook things besides Spam) or an Ethel who pops in to say, “Whatcha doin’?” I would welcome a rousing game of Old Tarnation with friends, but who has time for that? Daddy and Mama did.
As a child, I looked forward to the weekends when Bob and Bernice might come over to take our boats to the lake, or Hardy and Gloria dropped by for a game of Rook, or Byron and Edna stopped in just to visit. That meant I could waterski with Terri or play with little Jason or go to another room to discuss Casey Kasem’s Top 40 with Wahoo. When parents fellowshipped, kids got the benefit of fun time, too.
Maybe some of y’all still do that, but most of our friends are too wrapped up in modern life to hang out regularly—not counting occasional Bible studies, Super Bowl parties or holiday events. What a shame we have lost that sense of community and become more isolated despite the fact that we’re on the go more!
If you ask me if Mike and Carol Brady (another of my favorite TV sitcom couples) had friends they hung out with, I can’t remember any. I’m sure they did, but by the ’70’s, TV families were more centered on family. With Jan always whining and Peter’s voice changing and Marcia trying out for cheerleading, Carol Brady barely had time to worry about Greg, Bobby and Cindy—much less a bunch of neighbors.
Yes, I mourn what I see as the loss of community in much of America, so I enjoy reliving it via old sitcoms. And although I do NOT mourn the loss of wearing pearls and high heels in the kitchen like June Cleaver chasing after Wally and “the Beav” while waiting on Ward to get home from work, I do love the old TV couples.
I read a meme that said the reason Mayberry was so peaceful was that the main characters were all single—Andy, Helen, Aunt Bee, Barney, Thelma Lou, Goober, Gomer, etc. Otis was married, and he stayed drunk.
Funny though that is, I must disagree. Even ’80’s and ’90’s TV couples like Cliff and Clair Huxtable, Steven and Elyse Keaton, Tim “The Tool Man” and Jill Taylor give us good examples of happy couples.
And if you want to make sure those happy couples don’t exist just in Hollywood, let me remind you that Valentine’s Day is less than two weeks away. See if Buddy and Sally down at the office can give you some ideas for what to get Laura, or maybe Ethel can babysit Little Ricky so you and Ricky can make reservations for a Valentine’s meal out.
I figure my hubster will just be glad if I change out of my fuzzy house pants or pack his lunch bag with something other than Beanee Weenees. Maybe I’ll surprise him and invite someone over to play Uno. Any of y’all free? Just make sure to bring some snacks when you come, okay? I’m not Carol Brady with Alice in the kitchen or Andy with Aunt Bee. This is real life, remember?
Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com.