The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Old TV Shows on DVD

By Andrew Tibbetts

As a lonely gay kid growing up in rural Ontario I watched a lot of TV. When I think back to the shows I used to watch during the difficult times of my life, I wonder if the fondness I feel for them is like how other people remember old best friends. They were always there, always able to cheer me up and they had to go home when moms called ‘dinner’ or ‘bedtime!’ Now that everything’s on DVD, I’ve had the mixed blessing of being able to revisit a couple of shows that sustained and nurtured me.

The Wild, Wild West was on after school. I’d come home bruised from bullying and flop down in front of what my father always called ‘the square god’. Even though the Wild, Wild West cut into dinner time, my mother must of realized its revitalizing effect on me because I was allowed to watch it while eating my supper on a TV tray. I remember it as brilliant, mesmerizing and thrilling. Despite its having the trappings of a western it was more of a spy thriller with gadgets, like a turn of the century ‘Batman’ or James Bond with spurs that jingle-jangle-exploded. I especially related to the recurring villain Megalito Loveless, a genius midget with a great sense of humour. He lost every battle against the intrepid heroes but always managed to escape to plot for another day. One got the sense that the good guys admired and respected him. This was therapeutic for me in many ways.

Later in life: high school hell. I stayed up late and watched “The Avengers” rerun on CBC. It was my favourite part of the day. Sophisticated, sexy. The triumph of brains and style over brutality. I’d waft through the halls of my high school, brainy and stylish and despite the barrage of insult and objects tossed at me I felt that some other world awaited me where I would triumph. I just needed to find my Emma Peel, or was it my John Steed?

Watching these two shows recently has been incredibly disappointing. The shows seem thinner, marred by misogyny and hints of other ‘isms’, less magical, less thrilling. Dumb.

Of course, it’s me that has changed. It’s a trick of consciousness to make itself feel like an eternal, permanent, unchanging, unified entity. Just at it appears that the sun goes around the earth, from our seemingly static perspective our revisited childhood schools seem smaller; our monstrous teachers, human; our adolescent diaries, unintentionally hilarious. It certainly doesn’t feel like my tastes, or my entertainment needs have changed. I am the same person sitting in front of the square god popping in the DVD. It is the show that has changed.

My favourite TV show of yore was “The Secret Army”. It was a thoroughly exciting and morally challenging show about the French Resistance. I think it appealed to me most of all because I felt like an underground revolutionary in an oppressive regime. Although I wouldn’t have been able to articulate that as gay teenager in Northern Ontario.

I haven’t ever heard this show mentioned. I can’t seem to google up any trace of it. It’s not out on DVD. And maybe that’s a good thing. I’m not sure I want to see what has happened to my oldest and best friend.


Blogger Anne C. said...

I love it when you do crazy stuff like work two jobs or commute for six hours a day. You will probably accidentally write an award-winning novel while you're at it.

Wed May 09, 08:48:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

I don't know if this is it, AT, but if it is, it sounds like "Secret Army" might still be worth revisiting.

Wed May 09, 09:42:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Wonderful writing about a painful time, Andrew. And it's true about those old shows. The ones I loved now seem corny and preachy.

Wed May 09, 12:47:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I checked that link Melissa and- yup, gulp- that's it. It looks like it came out on DVD in 2003. It sounds like a very well made show that will probably stand the test of time, but I probably won't search it out, due to recent disappointments.

Wed May 09, 05:44:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

When you mentioned the French Resistance, I instantly thought of 'Allo, Allo'.

Our favourite show as kids was The Carol Burnett Show. Maybe I should spend my first royalty cheque on the DVD version. Remember her rendition of Gone With The Wind? The dress scene was hilarious.

Wed May 09, 08:22:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Chumplet, I do, I do remember Carol Burnett doing Gone With The Wind. She wore the drapes on a hanger.

Wed May 09, 08:32:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

"Ah saw it in a window, and I just couldn't resist." LOLOLOL

Wed May 09, 10:23:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Some shows I can't watch again, either. The mnemonic thing and all...

Of those I've seen again recently, I think Soap holds up the best. And All in the Family. Yes, the 'isms' are there, but there will be 'isms' for today's shows, too.

Rewatching can even be illuminating (if one can pull her hands away from her face long enough to get past the mild embarassment ;) )

Thu May 10, 12:18:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Right, it wasn't a hanger, it was the curtain rod! I'd love to see that bit again.

Thu May 10, 03:15:00 pm GMT-4  

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