Thursday, April 18, 2013
It’s from longtime reader Mary Stella:
I'd like to know what shows influenced you the most in television and how, and what's your dream three-hour night of television, including any shows from any decade, including now.
THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN was also an early influence, but thank goodness I outgrew wearing those capes.
I always loved sitcoms. I was about nine when I first saw the “$99,000 Answer” episode of THE HONEYMOONERS. I didn’t see the payoff coming (I was less sophisticated at nine), and (SPOILER ALERT) when Ralph couldn’t identify the song Norton played as a ramp-up to every other song during their practice sessions I laughed for twenty minutes. It’s the biggest laugh I ever had in my life. And it was the first time I ever wondered, “How did they do that?” From then on I started watching sitcoms differently, paying more attention to the construction and appreciating the writing more. I can still watch those original 39 episodes on a continuous loop.
In college I became enamored with Woody Allen and thought if I was ever going to become a writer I would concentrate on screenplays. Then I saw THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and knew television was for me. Still, to me, THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW is the perfect sitcom.
The early ‘70s was a golden age of sitcoms. Shows like MASH and ALL IN THE FAMILY were both inspiring and intimidating. MASH, in particular. I’ve always loved language and the early Larry Gelbart years were extraordinary. It was so unique. Every other show had set-ups and punch lines, this one just had a steady stream of witty remarks, turns-of-phrase, imagery, and absurdity. No one could do that like Gelbart. Trust me, I tried for four years.
Once I entered the field myself then it was more specific writers than shows that mentored and influenced me. Writers like Gelbart, James Brooks, Allan Burns, Tom Patchett, Jay Tarses, Gene Reynolds, Glen & Les Charles, Garry Marshall, Jerry Belson, Steve Gordon, and David Lloyd.
Okay, that answers the first part of your question. Now for my dream three-hour night of television. I’m going to cheat. I’m just going to concentrate on comedies. Dramas take up two slots. So here are my all-time favorite sitcoms. The odd thing is that with these nostalgia stations like MeTV, a day may easily come when this is the line-up.
8:00 THE HONEYMOONERS
8:30 THE BILKO SHOW
9:00 THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW
9:30 THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW
So now I throw the question back to you? What would be your dream three-hour night of TV, dear readers?
By Ken Levine at 7:00 AM