Sunday, August 22, 2010

Greatest Television Of All Time

Boy, isn't that a grandiose statement, especially considering this will be solely my own opinion.

I got an email from my brother tonight with a link to an article written by a his friend Tom. It was Tom's opinion of the 10 greatest television shows of all time. I read it. I disagreed. Too many of his shows were modern series on the premium movie channels, shows that aren't available for all to watch. This can't help but lessen their impact.

Brother M responded with one of his own. I read his. I disagreed.

Maybe my definition of "greatest" isn't the same. Anyway, I complied my own list. I am of the first generation (I think) that was raised on television, so I remember the groundbreakers - those shows that set the stage for those that would follow in their footsteps, the rule breakers - the ones that changed the social climate, and the ones whose impact has become indelibly ingrained in American culture. Oh, and I couldn't limit myself to 10.

These aren't necessarily my favorites. They are included because of the scope of their influence on culture and the impact they had on the television as a medium. In my opinion.

So, in alphabetical order . . .

ALL IN THE FAMILY didn't care whose toes it stepped on. It slapped racial, ethnic & political issues right in our faces without worrying about political correctness. It took a sitcom about a bigot that tackled issues previously taboo on TV and made it one of the most popular and successful shows of all time.

COSMOS is one that was on my brother's list, and I have to agree with him on this one. Never before had hard science been so entertaining. I could still watch it over and over, even though some of the information has been supplanted by newer discoveries. I don't know that I ever saw the stars the same since. All billions and billions of them. But I like Brother M's rationale for its inclusion much better: "...Carl Sagan’s exploration of the elegance of the universe was more than the typical Discovery Channel show about killer asteroids. It was a sweeping documentary of what it means to be a curious animal endowed with the creative spark and covered literally everything from the evolution of the brain and the destruction of the ancient library of Alexandria to the discovery of the twin paradox and conjectures about the beginnings of space-time. Plus, if you watch Cosmos, you’ll understand a lot more of The Big Bang Theory."

DALLAS gave the primetime soap a perment place on television, paving the way for all those shows on Tom's list. Even though Peyton Place was the prototype here, it never attained the cult following Dallas did. I still remember the summer of agony waiting to find out who shot JR.

HILL STREET BLUES / ST. ELSEWHERE are lumped together for a couple reasons. They were on at the same time and accomplished the same task. They ushered in the ensemble cast (now copied by just about EVERYONE), and showed the cops and doctors not as clean, shiny heros, but as fault-filled humans who were sometimes heroic and sometimes failed.

I LOVE LUCY broke the ground of television comedy. It was, at various times in its run, the most watched program on television. It was the first to be shot in front of a studio audience and consistently earns a place in greatest TV lists from both TV Guide & Time Magazine. It was also the first show to feature a "biracial" couple - a 'white' woman with a 'brown' man. It was, simply, the prototype of television comedy.

LEAVE IT TO BEAVER gave us the quintessential, yet impossible to live up to and completely unattainable, definition of the all-American family of the 50's. It became the image of the ideal life and set the tone for so many ideal family shows to follow. I wanted to live there.

M*A*S*H let us see the horror of war in prime time. It was the first program to regularly have us laughing and crying at the same time, often every week, and no one can dispute the anti-war messages it delivered so well.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE has never cared who it poked fun at, and the biggest names in TV, movies, and politics have gamely gone along with the skewering. It was the first of the non-prime time shows to come back on the air after 9-11 and show us that we were allowed to laugh again. It has also launched more successful careers than just about any other show.

SEINFELD added a whole lot of entries to our lexicon of catch phrases and terminology. Who doesn't know "Yadda, yadda, yadda", "Not that there's anything wrong with that", "Master of my domain", "No soup for you!"? For a show about nothing, it became a whole lotta something.

SESAME STREET let the classroom into the living room and became the babysitter of generations of kids while setting the standard for educational programming. Its fuzzy puppets with their distinctive personalities have been part of every American household since. It debuted in 1969, meaning that it has been bringing smiles to our kids for 41 years, making it the longest-running program on television aside from news shows and soap operas (I think). Not even the death of Jim Henson could stop it, and it has the distinction of being the most widely watched children's program in the world. And no, the Cookie Monster will never be replaced with the Veggie Monster.

STAR TREK broke so much ground I can't begin to list it all. Not only that, it also set the stage for countless spin-offs and movies. It is undoubtedly one of the most successful franchises of all time. And let's not forget the first interracial kiss on television.

THE DAILY SHOW is another one that doesn't care who it makes fun of. But aside from that, it is done with so much intelligence that politicians regularly pop in to try to curry favor and ask for Jon Stewart's opinion. What other fake news/comedy show can claim that?

THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW was the first to really focus on a successful single woman. There were no husband & kids to define her character, and the program centered around her job, not her family or her hobbies or her boyfriends. Probably the first real feminist program.

THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW took a chubby black woman and turned her into one of the richest and most influential people in television. She paved the way for countless knockoffs, none of which could match up. If Oprah endorses it, it sells. Period.

THE SIMPSONS always surprises me when I realize how long it has been on the air - since 1987. It successfully skewers aspects of American society, some of which we are a little uncomfortable admitting hit a little too close to home.

THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JOHNNY CARSON didn't start it. Jack Paar was the first host, but Johnny Carson became the face of the Tonight Show and he left a whole lot more people with a whole lot more memories during his tenure than his predecessor or his successors. He paved the way for the successes of Letterman, Leno, and Conan.

So, that's my dashed-off list. No doubt tomorrow I'll want to add or delete or change the wording and make it sound as good as Brother M's, but if I keep thinking about it too much, I'll never finish. What would you add or delete?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Another Cloudy Sunrise

Found this in my drafts. It's from June. Forgot to post it. Oops.

Whenever my old friend RAD is in town for some family business (or monkey business),
he'll call and see if I want to get up before the crack of dawn and go take pictures of the sunrise.
10 years ago, I would have told him to take a hike, but as I become older and more decrepit,
it's getting easier to get up early. Huh?

We've done this before when it was cloudy and not particularly colorful,
although there's nothing like a deserted beach all to yourself.
And son of a gun, we had an encore of cloudy. The pictures were completely uninteresting.
Even the sea oats were bare and dead looking. I think this is the best of the bunch.

Anyway, he made some whiny noises about broken promises of muffins
the last time he was here, so I dragged out the bowls & muffin tins & my finest groceries.
Had to shut him up about it (just kidding RAD).
No, really, it was my pleasure.

First were some peanut butter, banana & chocolate chip muffins.
I had some nice bananas,

some nice whole wheat flour,

and chocolate chips.

They turned out very well, considering. At least he said they were good.

I also decided to make some cheesecake muffins . . .

. . . with a dollop of strawberry jam in the center.

I think I liked those the best.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Finding Inspiration

It's all too easy to get caught up in the twists & turns of your life
and end up bemoaning all the things that don't go your way.
I'm terribly guilty of that.
But every day that I go to work and see the smiles on the faces of our kids,
in spite of the insurmountable obstacles they face every day,
I'm kicked back to reality.

Brandon is one of those.
You all should know him by now.
(Put "Brandon" in my search box & a bunch of stuff will come up.)
His mind is fine, but his body has not cooperated.
Yet, he still manages to maintain a cheerful attitude.
He is a kind, considerate, smart, and thoughtful young man.

That doesn't mean he doesn't have his moments.
Yeah, I'm lookin' at you, buddy.
(And you know your mom will back me up on this.)
So, when the angst of adolescence rears its teenage head,
he looks for inspiration too; some meaning to his life.
He found some, in spades.

Look at this good-looking young man...

One day a couple months ago, when a planned outing to church didn't work out,
Brandon ended up watching a video of Nick Vujicic, the founder of Life Without Limbs.
He hasn't stopped.
PLEASE click on that short video link.
One of his special friends at work, Diana, mentioned
wouldn't it be great if we could take him to see him in person?
We found out that Nick was going to be in Virginia on July 31
as one of his worldwide stops.

The stars are aligning.
Hmmmm, could we?
Hmmmm, would it be possible?
Let me see what I can do.

It takes a plethora of planning to get him out of the Home overnight,
and a lot of work once we get wherever we're going.
Doesn't matter.
St. Mary's (I have said this before, I know)
goes above & beyond to give joy to our kids' lives.
(The nursing assistants at St. Mary's provide the bulk of our kids' personal care.
It is very physical & tiring work. I salute them.)

Our issue of lodging was solved by Sista G.
She said we could stay overnight at her house, since she lives right there.
And she pulled out all her tricks to keep Brandon entertained while we were there.
Movies, balloon-bouncing dogs,

feeding the sheep & horse.

One of the almost-grown lambs, the one they saved from near-death & raised in the house,
came inside for a little visit and nibbled a pretzel off Brandon's shoulder.

The fun quotient worked so well he wants to go back.
Well . . . you know, we're planning to go to a Hokies game on Oct 9th,
which is also just down the road from her house. . . . .
nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
Thank you so much Sista!
You helped give Brandon an unforgettable gift.

You know how they say 'you never know what you can do until you try'?
Well, you never know what will be given to you unless you ask.
A simple request emailed through Nick's website
garnered a generous reply from Allison, one of his assistants.

There were at least a thousand people assembled for Nick's talk,
both in the main assembly room and in an overflow room,
where they watched him on video.

Thanks to Allison, out of all those people,
only one was granted a meeting with Nick afterward in his private room.

Only one.

Nick was wonderful - loving & kind.
He gave Brandon his time.
Talked to him. Prayed with him. Made him feel special.
He did not make us feel he was in a rush at all,
even though another service would be starting shortly.
It was something none of us will ever forget.
At the end, Nick asked that their chairs be maneuvered he could get close for a special hug.
A hug that lasted.

Nick, thank you from the bottom of our hearts and may God bless you all your days.
This was an experience Brandon will never forget.
(I know I never will.)
One that strengthened his spirit.
One that will fill his heart & occupy his dreams for a long time to come.