Sunday Morning TV
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Charles was performing at Raleigh's gay Episcopal church last Sunday so I arose in an empty house. First thing I did was switch on the TV. Now there's a nasty thing to do to your brain. It had been decades since I'd seen Sunday morning TV and I wondered how it had changed.
Skipping among the channels most of what was on were the bogus documentary pitches for overpriced house cleaning products. You can buy identical products at Home Depot and Wal-Mart but the pitchmanís hazily enthusiastic claims must convince people that only their miracle product can get your floor really clean.
And the get rich in your spare time hucksters. Some of these have been running for at least ten years now. A real testimony to the inexhaustible suckerhood of the American public. With the stock marketís value eviscerated by the continuing revelations showing how many of those certificates were the paper equivalent of foolís gold probably even more people will buy into the wares of these kindly money wizards. Iíd say sadly but it seems better than giving the money to TV preachers and no worse than spending it with QVC.
My attention was finally caught by an infomercial Iíd never seen before. The set was cheap and the smarmy guy behind the desk looked like heíd have a hard time getting someone to trust him to give them four quarters for a dollar. He proved to be one of the two male het porn stars whose name I know, Ron Jeremy (the other name is John Holmes who had most famous penis of the 70s). He mustíve looked better in his acting years.
Jeremy was pushing herbal penis enlargement pills. I was flabbergasted to see this on TV. Figured these miracle products were only peddled via spam. The infomercial was hypnotically crass. One of the expert panel was a porn starlet whose shape had been massively enhanced with silicon. Jeremy asked if her chest had its own zip code. She and another woman confessed their need for their men to have big dicks.
Some women probably do care about size if only as part of their sexual aesthetic. But probably not nearly as much as the nervous men whoíve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the pills. Thereís always a money back guarantee. Likely the same nutty fear that makes them buy the junk prevents them from admitting the pills didnít do anything and ask for their money back
The only TV offer I can remember from the sixties was a collection of Great Classical Music. It was an LP set of snippets of the best-known classical themes: Blue Danube Waltz, 1812 Overture, you get the idea. Back then there was a vague aspiration to be or at least seem cultured. Nowadays the aspirations are to be seen with big-breasted women, have whiter teeth.
When I was a kid Saturday and Sunday were filled with the cheapest stuff the stations could find. Aside from Saturday morning cartoons the networks had no daytime shows (how many people were raised by Bugs Bunny?). On Saturdays there were a bunch of 'live action' TV shows that were produced by the people who used to make cheap old westerns and serials. My Friend Flicka, Sky King, Roy Rogers they all seemed to live on ranches or large farms. They vanished as the cartoons took over. Such forgotten oddities as Super President about a president with super-powers. Bush II if he has any power is too look ever more beady eyed and try to emulate Reagan's knack for trite pieties.
Sunday had even less until the sports programming began in the middle of the afternoon. I'd as soon eaten mud pies as watch football or baseball but I do remember the Cigar Women. Blonde, sleek, leggy, they'd make it clear that a big cigar in the mouth was a sure sign of something big elsewhere. White Owl and Dutch Masters each had their own jutting spokesgirl. They were spiritual sisters with the women who'd assure us that there was something about an Aqua Velva Man. Women would growl like cats, perhaps even waving a stripped tail. It was the heterosexuality of what is often imagined to be of the 50s living on into the era of the Beatles.
The come hither women are the earliest women as sexual objects I remember. I was thinking a bit about this the other day when the latest Rolling Stone arrived. There was an interview with Pink. I've been wondering if her flavor of white R&B might appeal to me. There she was with her hosiery connected with elastic to a silly outfit. I might've liked the outfit. But the hosiery bugged me. For a longish time hetero erotica has featured the leg underwear connected to frilly underthings. But there's something about the whole image that irks me like a pimple.
(Interposition: Eartha Kitt may be the finest example of the old fashioned but exciting qualities of heterosexual womanliness.)
I'd get up and turn the TV on. I might get to see an educational film about the orange industry. Or anything else the station could get for free. Later in the day we'd move on to edifying programming provided by what has been called the mainstream churches. In contemporary parlance the protestant churches that didn't teach hate. Morally informative playlets not unlike the Twilight Zone but without Rod Serling or amazing story lines.
Sunday television would reach its intellectual acme when College Bowl would come on. Hosted by Allen Ludden (original host of Password and Betty White's husband). It was sort of Jeopardy with college students. Then it would be time to leave the TV to daddy so he could watch morons beat other morons into the turf.
(This is from a comment I left on another journal.)
I was a steady watcher of To Tell the Truth. I used to wonder why Bill Cullen was there. He seemed just a suburban dad. He went on to host a few games shows later on.
I think Tom Poston was a regular at some point. I liked him just because he'd been in a William Castle movie I'd seen when I was little, Zotz. Back when I was young seeing people in two different programs or move from a movie to the TV seemed somehow very impressive, mysterious.
What's My Line didn't hit Savannah until the third TV station started. I was still young enough to be impressed that someone I'd heard of from books would actually be on TV.
Early TV was very NYC centric. Lots of the people were well-known there but not really out in the hinterlands. I think many of the game show hosts had come from NYC radio.
One the talk shows they'd often feature people who'd written serious books. I don't think Jay Leno will be having whoever the current W.H. Auden might be.
Match Game seemed to last forever. In the early 70s they had Charles Nelson Reilly and a woman Brett Somethingorother who were always very funny, witty. But for me the main kick was wondering how the visibly drunk Gene Raeburn managed to get through each episode.
I don't want to wax too nostalgic about old TV. But I think that since the Neilson's were just beginning the networks hadn't quite mastered the art of playing down to their audience. Not that the bread and circuses of modern TV aren't disgustingly funny in their own fashion.