The era of black-and-white TV

President Obama dismissed the Republican convention in these terms:

“Despite all the challenges that we face … what they offered over those three days was more often than not an agenda that was better suited for the last century. It was a re-run. We’ve seen it before. You might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV.”

If only it were!  That was the last time anything was consistently good on television.  That was the golden age of TV, the era of Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, Rod Serling, Edward R. Murrow.

The  Eisenhower administration!  The early Elvis!  Intact families!  Route 66!

I guess the dividing line would be one’s attitude to the counter culture beginning in the late 1960s.  Liberals would generally favor that, I suppose, with Conservatives bemoaning the changes (e.g., the sexual revolution).

Though the era of black-and-white TV was a vibrant, creative, and positive time culturally for America, it was no utopia, with real problems.  For example, the institutionalized racism of the Jim Crow laws.  But compare the early Civil Rights protesters–moral, religious, dignified–with today’s Occupy Wall Street protesters (unfocused, hedonistic, squalid).  And, if you want counter culture, surely the Beatniks, reading existentialist philosophy and listening to jazz, were cooler than the Hippies, tripped out on acid and wearing flowers in their hair.

I wonder if we could date our cultural collapse from the advent of color television.  (The first all-color lineup was in 1966, which would be about right.)

via Obama: RNC fare for ‘black-and-white TV’ – POLITICO.com.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Dan Kempin

    I wondered when I heard this whether it was a gaffe. The most formidable voting demographic, from what I always hear, is seniors. Seniors are old enough to remember black and white tv and probably remember it fondly. (Not that I am calling you a senior, Dr. Veith, but your response seems to validate my thinking. ) Black and white tv may be old technology, but it also evokes older values. I don’t think that evocation is as negative as the president’s campaign assumes.

  • Dan Kempin

    I wondered when I heard this whether it was a gaffe. The most formidable voting demographic, from what I always hear, is seniors. Seniors are old enough to remember black and white tv and probably remember it fondly. (Not that I am calling you a senior, Dr. Veith, but your response seems to validate my thinking. ) Black and white tv may be old technology, but it also evokes older values. I don’t think that evocation is as negative as the president’s campaign assumes.

  • Michael B.

    “The first all-color lineup was in 1966, which would be about right.)”

    And Medicare started in 1965. I wonder how seniors would feel about getting rid of that. And while we’re on the topic of nostalgia, I’d ask if you really agree with the protests of the 1960s? Is that just for civil rights, or are you going to include the anti-war and equal-rights for women protests?

  • Michael B.

    “The first all-color lineup was in 1966, which would be about right.)”

    And Medicare started in 1965. I wonder how seniors would feel about getting rid of that. And while we’re on the topic of nostalgia, I’d ask if you really agree with the protests of the 1960s? Is that just for civil rights, or are you going to include the anti-war and equal-rights for women protests?

  • WebMonk

    Aaaaaaand cue the nostalgia. Things were always better when we were kids. During the 1990s, the decline began not too long after WWII ended. Now the begin of the decline begins in the 1960s.

    Give it another 20 years, and the decline will have begun in the 1980s. When I get to my 50s, I will most likely join the tradition and gripe about how things began to decline after my childhood.

  • WebMonk

    Aaaaaaand cue the nostalgia. Things were always better when we were kids. During the 1990s, the decline began not too long after WWII ended. Now the begin of the decline begins in the 1960s.

    Give it another 20 years, and the decline will have begun in the 1980s. When I get to my 50s, I will most likely join the tradition and gripe about how things began to decline after my childhood.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Exactly, Webmonk. Solomon had something to say about this.

    This type of argument is more psychological than logical.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Exactly, Webmonk. Solomon had something to say about this.

    This type of argument is more psychological than logical.

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael B.@2: Irrelevant question, because no major candidate is proposing to “get rid” of Medicare.

    WebMonk@3: Yes, yes. There is always “that guy” who insists on waltzing into a discussion and insisting that any fond assessments of a previous epoch are baselessly “nostalgic.” Fine. But the 1950s, as it happens, were a lot better than the current decade. So, in fact, were the 1990s (the decade of my youth). And as far as I recall, even in the 1990s, the sixties (especially 1968) were regarded as the pivotal moment in our cultural decline.

    My point is that, depending upon our metrics, there are some grounds to proclaim that previous eras were better than ours.

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael B.@2: Irrelevant question, because no major candidate is proposing to “get rid” of Medicare.

    WebMonk@3: Yes, yes. There is always “that guy” who insists on waltzing into a discussion and insisting that any fond assessments of a previous epoch are baselessly “nostalgic.” Fine. But the 1950s, as it happens, were a lot better than the current decade. So, in fact, were the 1990s (the decade of my youth). And as far as I recall, even in the 1990s, the sixties (especially 1968) were regarded as the pivotal moment in our cultural decline.

    My point is that, depending upon our metrics, there are some grounds to proclaim that previous eras were better than ours.

  • Orianna Laun

    Nostalgia? Sure. There is, however, valid evidence that the 1960s were a watershed era. I am a “Gen Xer” and even I can see the ideology shift that took place then.
    My husband and I were without cable for awhile and so we watched reruns of All in the Family on a local channel. One can see the divide being played out between the generations, mostly through the arguments of Archie and his son-in-law. Archie was a bigot, sure, but he embrace the black-and-white values. His son-in-law embraced the counterculture of the 60s. The women were stuck in the divide. Who was right? Let the viewer decide. All I can say is you won’t see on TV today a grandpa sneaking into the church to baptize his grandson because the parents refuse to have him baptized and the priests won’t in deference to the parents. According to what I learned in confirmation, Archie shouldn’t have. It’s like they say, I guess– knowwhat they called “The Good Old Days” back in “The Good Old Days?” “These troubled times.”

  • Orianna Laun

    Nostalgia? Sure. There is, however, valid evidence that the 1960s were a watershed era. I am a “Gen Xer” and even I can see the ideology shift that took place then.
    My husband and I were without cable for awhile and so we watched reruns of All in the Family on a local channel. One can see the divide being played out between the generations, mostly through the arguments of Archie and his son-in-law. Archie was a bigot, sure, but he embrace the black-and-white values. His son-in-law embraced the counterculture of the 60s. The women were stuck in the divide. Who was right? Let the viewer decide. All I can say is you won’t see on TV today a grandpa sneaking into the church to baptize his grandson because the parents refuse to have him baptized and the priests won’t in deference to the parents. According to what I learned in confirmation, Archie shouldn’t have. It’s like they say, I guess– knowwhat they called “The Good Old Days” back in “The Good Old Days?” “These troubled times.”

  • Cincinnatus

    So I need to clarify my comment: In addition to NOT using the word “insist” twice in a sentence, I intended to note that “as it happens,” the 1950s were a “lot better than the current decade” on a host of variables: religious observance, patriotic sentiment, illegitimacy rates, divorce rates, associational life, etc.

    Obviously, as already noted, it was worse according to some other metrics: racial equality might be one of those metrics (though, honestly, its arguable that the status of the African-American is unambiguously better in 2012 than it was in 1952. For example, a black person in 2012 is far more likely to be murdered–by one of his fellow blacks–or addicted to drugs, and schools today are in many cases even more segregated than they were when some jurisdictions mandated segregation).

  • Cincinnatus

    So I need to clarify my comment: In addition to NOT using the word “insist” twice in a sentence, I intended to note that “as it happens,” the 1950s were a “lot better than the current decade” on a host of variables: religious observance, patriotic sentiment, illegitimacy rates, divorce rates, associational life, etc.

    Obviously, as already noted, it was worse according to some other metrics: racial equality might be one of those metrics (though, honestly, its arguable that the status of the African-American is unambiguously better in 2012 than it was in 1952. For example, a black person in 2012 is far more likely to be murdered–by one of his fellow blacks–or addicted to drugs, and schools today are in many cases even more segregated than they were when some jurisdictions mandated segregation).

  • Susan

    Obama is progress? Gimme that black and white TV!

    The 2012 Democratic party will officially adopt another extreme position on the issue of abortion on Tuesday. According to a copy of the party platform, which was released online just before midnight on Monday, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay.” They will be endorsing taxpayer funded abortions. Remember when their platform for abortions was: safe, legal, and rare? Well, they’ve dropped the rare. Obama opposes any restrictions on 3rd term abortions (eg: partial birth abortion) and voted 3 times against born alive protections that would prevent infanticide. It’s also been reported that one of the most popular buttons at the convention is: “Sluts Vote” – sheesh.

    No thanks. A resounding NO vote to the party of genocide, infanticide, and moral decay.

  • Susan

    Obama is progress? Gimme that black and white TV!

    The 2012 Democratic party will officially adopt another extreme position on the issue of abortion on Tuesday. According to a copy of the party platform, which was released online just before midnight on Monday, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay.” They will be endorsing taxpayer funded abortions. Remember when their platform for abortions was: safe, legal, and rare? Well, they’ve dropped the rare. Obama opposes any restrictions on 3rd term abortions (eg: partial birth abortion) and voted 3 times against born alive protections that would prevent infanticide. It’s also been reported that one of the most popular buttons at the convention is: “Sluts Vote” – sheesh.

    No thanks. A resounding NO vote to the party of genocide, infanticide, and moral decay.

  • Tom Hering

    The cultural revolution of the ’60s was, primarily, a rebellion against the values of (A.) conformity and (B.) unquestioning obedience to authorities. These were values that were central to the culture of normalcy that arose after the end of the Depression and WWII. And they were values that had become incredibly oppressive by the early ’60s. You had to be alive then to know just how oppressive, but you can get an idea by watching TV dramas from the early-to-mid-1960s. Strong doubts about the culture of normalcy was a theme in many teleplays. (Including episodes of Route 66, Dr. Veith! The show’s very premise concerned two young, rootless men, who traveled around America, discovering its social problems and changing mores.)

  • Tom Hering

    The cultural revolution of the ’60s was, primarily, a rebellion against the values of (A.) conformity and (B.) unquestioning obedience to authorities. These were values that were central to the culture of normalcy that arose after the end of the Depression and WWII. And they were values that had become incredibly oppressive by the early ’60s. You had to be alive then to know just how oppressive, but you can get an idea by watching TV dramas from the early-to-mid-1960s. Strong doubts about the culture of normalcy was a theme in many teleplays. (Including episodes of Route 66, Dr. Veith! The show’s very premise concerned two young, rootless men, who traveled around America, discovering its social problems and changing mores.)

  • Mary

    Whewee, if the decline began in the 8o’s as WebMonk was proffering (in jest) that means that the 70′s were the good old days! Nixon, Ford, and Carter. Roe vs. Wade. ‘Nuff said.

  • Mary

    Whewee, if the decline began in the 8o’s as WebMonk was proffering (in jest) that means that the 70′s were the good old days! Nixon, Ford, and Carter. Roe vs. Wade. ‘Nuff said.

  • Carl Vehse

    “You might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV.”

    Uh-oh.

  • Carl Vehse

    “You might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV.”

    Uh-oh.

  • Carl Vehse

    “You might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV.”

    Uh-oh!

  • Carl Vehse

    “You might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV.”

    Uh-oh!

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    As far as I’m concerned the decline started in the aftermath of World War I. The ’60s were just the perfect flowering of a lot of poisonous plants.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    As far as I’m concerned the decline started in the aftermath of World War I. The ’60s were just the perfect flowering of a lot of poisonous plants.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    As far as I’m concerned, the decline started when our distant ancestors decided to climb down from the canopy. They obviously found evil lurking on the forest floor…..
    ;)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    As far as I’m concerned, the decline started when our distant ancestors decided to climb down from the canopy. They obviously found evil lurking on the forest floor…..
    ;)

  • WebMonk

    The 50′s were better than the 60′s. The 30′s were better than the 20′s. The 1890′s were better than the 1880′s. And so on. The “watershed” era is adjusted to fit whatever we want it to be. We pick a “golden era” (frequently, but not always that of our early childhood) and declare the world to have begun to dramatically degrade shortly thereafter with the roots planted a generation or two earlier.

    The exact same complaints can be seen in every era. If you read stuff from the 1840′s, you can copy-and-paste the griping and hand-wringing into today. Adjust the particular details, but their treatises bemoaned that the country is in decline and that society has become degenerate.

    I’m sure I’ll probably follow in the footsteps of those before and begin my own griping about how
    … in MY day we actually had to type on keyboards and it built character and that all these newfangled implants reduce cognitive abilities
    … and that divorce is so much worse than it was back in the good old 80s
    … and that people actually attended church back then instead of flitting from one to another
    … and that society was actually polite then
    … and that the advent of holographic immersion movies really ruined the art of classical storytelling
    … and that it was the early 21st century that was the real watershed era when things really began to go downhill, but the roots had already been planted back in the 1960s.

    And and and.

    My kids will follow my footsteps, and come the 2080′s they’ll gripe about how the 2040s were when it all began to fall apart, but that it was that BLEEPED Bush/Obama/Romney/Clinton era that planted the seeds.

  • WebMonk

    The 50′s were better than the 60′s. The 30′s were better than the 20′s. The 1890′s were better than the 1880′s. And so on. The “watershed” era is adjusted to fit whatever we want it to be. We pick a “golden era” (frequently, but not always that of our early childhood) and declare the world to have begun to dramatically degrade shortly thereafter with the roots planted a generation or two earlier.

    The exact same complaints can be seen in every era. If you read stuff from the 1840′s, you can copy-and-paste the griping and hand-wringing into today. Adjust the particular details, but their treatises bemoaned that the country is in decline and that society has become degenerate.

    I’m sure I’ll probably follow in the footsteps of those before and begin my own griping about how
    … in MY day we actually had to type on keyboards and it built character and that all these newfangled implants reduce cognitive abilities
    … and that divorce is so much worse than it was back in the good old 80s
    … and that people actually attended church back then instead of flitting from one to another
    … and that society was actually polite then
    … and that the advent of holographic immersion movies really ruined the art of classical storytelling
    … and that it was the early 21st century that was the real watershed era when things really began to go downhill, but the roots had already been planted back in the 1960s.

    And and and.

    My kids will follow my footsteps, and come the 2080′s they’ll gripe about how the 2040s were when it all began to fall apart, but that it was that BLEEPED Bush/Obama/Romney/Clinton era that planted the seeds.

  • DonS

    “Despite all the challenges that we face … what they offered over those three days was more often than not an agenda that was better suited for the last century. It was a re-run. We’ve seen it before. You might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV.”

    Hmm. Why is the notion of governing wherein the budget is balanced “better suited for the last century”? Why is energy production, resultant lower energy costs, government building infrastructure with current dollars and ensuring that its regulatory function encourage economic growth “last century” thinking? I’m all for the era of “black and white tv” if that is what it takes to earn a rational government.

  • DonS

    “Despite all the challenges that we face … what they offered over those three days was more often than not an agenda that was better suited for the last century. It was a re-run. We’ve seen it before. You might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV.”

    Hmm. Why is the notion of governing wherein the budget is balanced “better suited for the last century”? Why is energy production, resultant lower energy costs, government building infrastructure with current dollars and ensuring that its regulatory function encourage economic growth “last century” thinking? I’m all for the era of “black and white tv” if that is what it takes to earn a rational government.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk:

    You maintain the kernel of a valid point–that people are often nostalgic for the days of their youth. But you take it to such an extreme that you end up missing the point. You’re full of it.

    Who has ever said that the the 1930s were better than the 1920s? Conversely, who has ever said that the 1910s were better than the 1920s or ’30s (there’s a reason “return to normalcy” was a winning campaign formula in the 1920s: the ’10s sucked, so we need to go back to the ’00s)? I mean, seriously? And who has ever said that the 2000s were better than the 1990s, in general? That the 1940s–when a substantial proportion of our male youth were fighting and dying to defeat genocidal maniacs–were better than the 1950s? That the 1860s were better than, say, the 1820s and 1830s–the happy days of Monroe?

    Aside from a few excessively nostalgic–and delusional–souls, no one has said any of these things.

    Across a variety of common metrics–economic vibrancy, potential for plausible optimism, sociocultural stability, etc.–some decades really are better than others.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk:

    You maintain the kernel of a valid point–that people are often nostalgic for the days of their youth. But you take it to such an extreme that you end up missing the point. You’re full of it.

    Who has ever said that the the 1930s were better than the 1920s? Conversely, who has ever said that the 1910s were better than the 1920s or ’30s (there’s a reason “return to normalcy” was a winning campaign formula in the 1920s: the ’10s sucked, so we need to go back to the ’00s)? I mean, seriously? And who has ever said that the 2000s were better than the 1990s, in general? That the 1940s–when a substantial proportion of our male youth were fighting and dying to defeat genocidal maniacs–were better than the 1950s? That the 1860s were better than, say, the 1820s and 1830s–the happy days of Monroe?

    Aside from a few excessively nostalgic–and delusional–souls, no one has said any of these things.

    Across a variety of common metrics–economic vibrancy, potential for plausible optimism, sociocultural stability, etc.–some decades really are better than others.

  • Tom Hering

    Gosh, you’d almost think the world was no less fallen in one decade or century than it was in another. Yes, there’s always a change in the specific forms that evil takes, but …

  • Tom Hering

    Gosh, you’d almost think the world was no less fallen in one decade or century than it was in another. Yes, there’s always a change in the specific forms that evil takes, but …

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    Uh, no. But, by a variety of widely accepted socioeconomic metrics, some decades are pleasant to live in in certain places than others. I, for one, am glad it’s no longer the 1940s.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    Uh, no. But, by a variety of widely accepted socioeconomic metrics, some decades are pleasant to live in in certain places than others. I, for one, am glad it’s no longer the 1940s.

  • Tom Hering

    Even then, it depends on who you are in those places at those times.

  • Tom Hering

    Even then, it depends on who you are in those places at those times.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I don’t see the era of black and white tv as all that great. It gave us the boomers.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I don’t see the era of black and white tv as all that great. It gave us the boomers.

  • WebMonk

    Cin – the dates I picked were random. But, if you want to get into details, I have read plenty of sermons which state that the 40′s were indeed better than the 50′s, or that the 10′s were better than the 20′s. They were bemoaning that there were huge excesses and social breakups in the decades immediately following the World Wars, and that it was better when society was unified and working together and that people were more moral and attended church more and didn’t sleep around so much, and, and, and.

    You don’t think they’re right and that it’s wildly irrational to say the 40′s were better than the 50′s. You call those people “few”, and “delusional”, and that other than them, “no one” has ever said those sorts of things.

    You might be right that those people are wrong, but it’s simply not true that such people are few or delusional.

    Get some of the sermons from the 70′s – it’s all over the place that the 50′s had the roots of the great corruption of the day, and that it was the 40′s that were the last of the golden years.

    It is a common refrain throughout time: the current age is corrupt, the decay began in the not too distant past, the seeds were planted a bit earlier, and the time before that was golden. The only details that differ are the exact dates.

    Irrational? Maybe.
    Wrong? Certainly.
    Only said by the few and delusional? Unfortunately not.

  • WebMonk

    Cin – the dates I picked were random. But, if you want to get into details, I have read plenty of sermons which state that the 40′s were indeed better than the 50′s, or that the 10′s were better than the 20′s. They were bemoaning that there were huge excesses and social breakups in the decades immediately following the World Wars, and that it was better when society was unified and working together and that people were more moral and attended church more and didn’t sleep around so much, and, and, and.

    You don’t think they’re right and that it’s wildly irrational to say the 40′s were better than the 50′s. You call those people “few”, and “delusional”, and that other than them, “no one” has ever said those sorts of things.

    You might be right that those people are wrong, but it’s simply not true that such people are few or delusional.

    Get some of the sermons from the 70′s – it’s all over the place that the 50′s had the roots of the great corruption of the day, and that it was the 40′s that were the last of the golden years.

    It is a common refrain throughout time: the current age is corrupt, the decay began in the not too distant past, the seeds were planted a bit earlier, and the time before that was golden. The only details that differ are the exact dates.

    Irrational? Maybe.
    Wrong? Certainly.
    Only said by the few and delusional? Unfortunately not.

  • Tom Hering

    Re: Doc @ 21. Funny. I thought it was the Greatest Generation who gave birth to and raised the Boomers – and created the cultural context that influenced the Boomers.

  • Tom Hering

    Re: Doc @ 21. Funny. I thought it was the Greatest Generation who gave birth to and raised the Boomers – and created the cultural context that influenced the Boomers.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk: Actually, it’s fairly generally agreed among non-nostalgic (but conservative) social scientists that the 1950s contained the roots of our current moral corruption. After all, the ’60s didn’t spring fully formed from the head of the hippie movement.

    Notice that I mentioned social science. There are plenty of studies and statistics that document the superiority of certain decades (or eras) over others based upon certain metrics. Obviously, if you value resistance to authority, for example, the 1960s are going to look better to you than the 1950s. If you value social cohesion, steady marriages, and defined socioeconomic roles, you’re going to prefer previous decades. If you value economic growth, job stability, and a general mood of optimism, the 1990s are going to look better to you than the most recent decade, defined as it has been by economic recession, widespread unemployment, social breakdown, numerous foreign wars, and general malaise.

    See? The point isn’t necessarily that the 1950s were objectively better for everyone everywhere than the 1960s. The point is that those who claim that the 1950s were better than the 1960s (for example) aren’t merely being sentimental and nostalgic. There are absolutely grounds for claims of this nature.

    By the way, I would be inclined to include certain pastors within the class of those who are being merely nostalgic.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk: Actually, it’s fairly generally agreed among non-nostalgic (but conservative) social scientists that the 1950s contained the roots of our current moral corruption. After all, the ’60s didn’t spring fully formed from the head of the hippie movement.

    Notice that I mentioned social science. There are plenty of studies and statistics that document the superiority of certain decades (or eras) over others based upon certain metrics. Obviously, if you value resistance to authority, for example, the 1960s are going to look better to you than the 1950s. If you value social cohesion, steady marriages, and defined socioeconomic roles, you’re going to prefer previous decades. If you value economic growth, job stability, and a general mood of optimism, the 1990s are going to look better to you than the most recent decade, defined as it has been by economic recession, widespread unemployment, social breakdown, numerous foreign wars, and general malaise.

    See? The point isn’t necessarily that the 1950s were objectively better for everyone everywhere than the 1960s. The point is that those who claim that the 1950s were better than the 1960s (for example) aren’t merely being sentimental and nostalgic. There are absolutely grounds for claims of this nature.

    By the way, I would be inclined to include certain pastors within the class of those who are being merely nostalgic.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#23 Tom, I only used the turn of phrase as it is the term du jour for the thread for a particular time frame in history. I meant it very generally so yeah, I haven’t forgotten who gave birth to the boomers. I only meant to convey my lack of nostalgia for the time period and part of my lack of nostalgia is I am kind of tired of the boomers in general.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#23 Tom, I only used the turn of phrase as it is the term du jour for the thread for a particular time frame in history. I meant it very generally so yeah, I haven’t forgotten who gave birth to the boomers. I only meant to convey my lack of nostalgia for the time period and part of my lack of nostalgia is I am kind of tired of the boomers in general.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    I’d have to agree with the basic premiss–that the 1960s were a pretty good age for TV, though there was quite a bit of cheeseball stuff there too. It was an age where actors still remembered how to act, and plots were written with a longer time reference than the current 2 minutes or so. The new stuff is pretty near unwatchable for those of us whose attention spans have not been destroyed.

    And society at large? Well, having read issues of a decent archive of culture, National Geographic, dating back into the 1920s, I can assure you that hemlines have gone up and bodice lines have gone down since then. Lifespans have improved, as have teeth and treatment of minorities. Families aren’t doing so well, though. We can do things they never dreamed of, and they did things that we hardly remember how to do.

    A bit to learn from both, I think.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    I’d have to agree with the basic premiss–that the 1960s were a pretty good age for TV, though there was quite a bit of cheeseball stuff there too. It was an age where actors still remembered how to act, and plots were written with a longer time reference than the current 2 minutes or so. The new stuff is pretty near unwatchable for those of us whose attention spans have not been destroyed.

    And society at large? Well, having read issues of a decent archive of culture, National Geographic, dating back into the 1920s, I can assure you that hemlines have gone up and bodice lines have gone down since then. Lifespans have improved, as have teeth and treatment of minorities. Families aren’t doing so well, though. We can do things they never dreamed of, and they did things that we hardly remember how to do.

    A bit to learn from both, I think.

  • Tom Hering

    Doc @ 25, I’m not nostalgic for that time period either. Though I’m nostalgic for the quality of writing, casting, etcetera found in some TV shows of that period, as compared to what’s found in today’s shows.

  • Tom Hering

    Doc @ 25, I’m not nostalgic for that time period either. Though I’m nostalgic for the quality of writing, casting, etcetera found in some TV shows of that period, as compared to what’s found in today’s shows.

  • WebMonk

    Cin – you’re preaching to the choir that there are a lot of different says to measure things to show that decade X is better than Y.

    So how can you say (#17) that “Aside from a few excessively nostalgic–and delusional–souls, no one has said any of these things.”

    You don’t think non-delusional people can find reasons why the 40s were better than the 50s? That given the multitude of ways to compare things (religious, social, moral, economic, artistic, etc), that such a common refrain of history can’t find ways in which the 40s could be better than the 50s? Only a few and deluded could ever say that?? Really???

    No, no. That sort of statement is to be expected, and it is common (even insofar as the specific example of the 40s being better than the 50s, though decades immediately next to each other are a bit too close to each other to generally allow the full bemoaning of decay).

    This very post is an example of the general approach.

    Today there is an artistic drought in television. BUT! Before that, in the black and white era of television was the golden age!

    “That was the last time anything was consistently good on television. That was the golden age of TV, the era of Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, Rod Serling, Edward R. Murrow. The Eisenhower administration! The early Elvis! Intact families! Route 66!”

    It was an age where actors still remembered how to act, and plots were written with a longer time reference than the current 2 minutes or so. The new stuff is pretty near unwatchable for those of us whose attention spans have not been destroyed.

    See the refrain? Today is bad. Yesterday was the fall. The day before was a golden age! The facts are selected to support the view.

  • WebMonk

    Cin – you’re preaching to the choir that there are a lot of different says to measure things to show that decade X is better than Y.

    So how can you say (#17) that “Aside from a few excessively nostalgic–and delusional–souls, no one has said any of these things.”

    You don’t think non-delusional people can find reasons why the 40s were better than the 50s? That given the multitude of ways to compare things (religious, social, moral, economic, artistic, etc), that such a common refrain of history can’t find ways in which the 40s could be better than the 50s? Only a few and deluded could ever say that?? Really???

    No, no. That sort of statement is to be expected, and it is common (even insofar as the specific example of the 40s being better than the 50s, though decades immediately next to each other are a bit too close to each other to generally allow the full bemoaning of decay).

    This very post is an example of the general approach.

    Today there is an artistic drought in television. BUT! Before that, in the black and white era of television was the golden age!

    “That was the last time anything was consistently good on television. That was the golden age of TV, the era of Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, Rod Serling, Edward R. Murrow. The Eisenhower administration! The early Elvis! Intact families! Route 66!”

    It was an age where actors still remembered how to act, and plots were written with a longer time reference than the current 2 minutes or so. The new stuff is pretty near unwatchable for those of us whose attention spans have not been destroyed.

    See the refrain? Today is bad. Yesterday was the fall. The day before was a golden age! The facts are selected to support the view.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk:

    You’ve reversed the causal arrow. When someone says that the ’60s were the golden age of television, they mean that the ’60s produced better television shows. They do not typically mean that the ’60s were generally better than all succeeding ages, and the quality of the television proves it. Even when someone makes a general statement such as “The ’90s were better than today” they have specific variables in mind that they are merely leaving implied: The ’90s were more economically vibrant, the ’90s had better music, the ’90s had better clothes (unlikely). Similarly, very few people suggest–including my father, who is uber-nostalgic for the ’50s–that the ’50s were just flatly superior to the present in all respects for everyone. No, they think that the ’50s had more stable families (true), less atomism (true), more stable employment prospects (true), a stronger middle class (arguably true), better looking cars (true), a more universal commitment to civic virtues (true), etc.

    And they’re right, if the context is America for the (mostly white) middle class.

    I don’t see how it’s possible to refute my claim here. Yes, people in all ages are often nostalgic for the days of their youth (not always true: my grandfather who came of age in the early ’30s wanted nothing to do with anything about that decade). But it’s ridiculous to dismiss all assertions that one era is superior to another as fluffy nostalgia. The claim suffers from the reductionistic premise that all ages are basically equally good/bad. True, all eras are good in some ways and bad in others, but along the metrics valued by the average middle class white male, for example it’s easy to find some decades that are simply better than others.

    Think about it in contemporary terms: I’m a young adult who graduated from college into one of the worst economic recessions in American history. Do you think I would rather have graduated in the mid-2000′s or the mid-1990s? Similarly, my dad graduated in the mid-1970s. Why do you think my father–who also values traditional family structures and religious activity–wishes he had graduated in the mid-1950s? I hope this isn’t a hard question for you.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk:

    You’ve reversed the causal arrow. When someone says that the ’60s were the golden age of television, they mean that the ’60s produced better television shows. They do not typically mean that the ’60s were generally better than all succeeding ages, and the quality of the television proves it. Even when someone makes a general statement such as “The ’90s were better than today” they have specific variables in mind that they are merely leaving implied: The ’90s were more economically vibrant, the ’90s had better music, the ’90s had better clothes (unlikely). Similarly, very few people suggest–including my father, who is uber-nostalgic for the ’50s–that the ’50s were just flatly superior to the present in all respects for everyone. No, they think that the ’50s had more stable families (true), less atomism (true), more stable employment prospects (true), a stronger middle class (arguably true), better looking cars (true), a more universal commitment to civic virtues (true), etc.

    And they’re right, if the context is America for the (mostly white) middle class.

    I don’t see how it’s possible to refute my claim here. Yes, people in all ages are often nostalgic for the days of their youth (not always true: my grandfather who came of age in the early ’30s wanted nothing to do with anything about that decade). But it’s ridiculous to dismiss all assertions that one era is superior to another as fluffy nostalgia. The claim suffers from the reductionistic premise that all ages are basically equally good/bad. True, all eras are good in some ways and bad in others, but along the metrics valued by the average middle class white male, for example it’s easy to find some decades that are simply better than others.

    Think about it in contemporary terms: I’m a young adult who graduated from college into one of the worst economic recessions in American history. Do you think I would rather have graduated in the mid-2000′s or the mid-1990s? Similarly, my dad graduated in the mid-1970s. Why do you think my father–who also values traditional family structures and religious activity–wishes he had graduated in the mid-1950s? I hope this isn’t a hard question for you.

  • WebMonk

    “You’ve reversed the causal arrow. When someone says that the ’60s were the golden age of television, they mean that the ’60s produced better television shows. They do not typically mean that the ’60s were generally better than all succeeding ages, and the quality of the television proves it. “

    Maybe your misread me somewhere, Cin. I’m pretty sure I’ve never said or suggested something like what you imputed to me.

    When I read your opening paragraph I ended with a weird WTF-is-he-smoking expression. I have no clue where you got the idea that I was interpreting Veith’s 60s TV statement as a universal approbation of the 60s over all subsequent times.

    I don’t, and I wasn’t suggesting that nostalgia in general does this. Take that into account if you want to check what I wrote. Does that clear things up for you?

  • WebMonk

    “You’ve reversed the causal arrow. When someone says that the ’60s were the golden age of television, they mean that the ’60s produced better television shows. They do not typically mean that the ’60s were generally better than all succeeding ages, and the quality of the television proves it. “

    Maybe your misread me somewhere, Cin. I’m pretty sure I’ve never said or suggested something like what you imputed to me.

    When I read your opening paragraph I ended with a weird WTF-is-he-smoking expression. I have no clue where you got the idea that I was interpreting Veith’s 60s TV statement as a universal approbation of the 60s over all subsequent times.

    I don’t, and I wasn’t suggesting that nostalgia in general does this. Take that into account if you want to check what I wrote. Does that clear things up for you?

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk:

    See the refrain? Today is bad. Yesterday was the fall. The day before was a golden age! The facts are selected to support the view.

    Am I missing something? I interpreted you here as obviously claiming that, typically, those who proclaim a previous era superior to the present are doing so on an impressionistic, generalist basis, only finding “facts” to corroborate their sentiments in a post-hoc fashion.

    For example, my father, misty-eyed, notes that the 1950s were better than today (he doesn’t actually get misty eyes). WebMonk says, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” So my father, after stumbling around for a moment, taken aback by WebMonk’s rude manner (just kidding…), blurst out something like, “The cars looked nicer!” The aesthetics of the cars are just a cherry-picked justification that my father picked to buttress his nostalgic prejudice.

    I’m saying that this fictitious conversation is not an accurate representation of how my father’s thought-process operates. The facts are selected before the prejudice, and the facts are often verifiable. What did I miss?

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk:

    See the refrain? Today is bad. Yesterday was the fall. The day before was a golden age! The facts are selected to support the view.

    Am I missing something? I interpreted you here as obviously claiming that, typically, those who proclaim a previous era superior to the present are doing so on an impressionistic, generalist basis, only finding “facts” to corroborate their sentiments in a post-hoc fashion.

    For example, my father, misty-eyed, notes that the 1950s were better than today (he doesn’t actually get misty eyes). WebMonk says, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” So my father, after stumbling around for a moment, taken aback by WebMonk’s rude manner (just kidding…), blurst out something like, “The cars looked nicer!” The aesthetics of the cars are just a cherry-picked justification that my father picked to buttress his nostalgic prejudice.

    I’m saying that this fictitious conversation is not an accurate representation of how my father’s thought-process operates. The facts are selected before the prejudice, and the facts are often verifiable. What did I miss?

  • WebMonk

    Cin, I can’t figure out what you’re saying any more and I can’t figure out how it’s supposed to apply to anything I’ve said.

    My quote you mention as somehow being a totally broad and completely inclusive grouping … huh?!? Is that what you think?

    Today (TV quality) is bad. Yesterday {late 60s up to now} (TV quality) fell. The day before {50s and early 60s} was a golden age (of TV quality)!

    Is that so impossible to comprehend? Apply that to lots of things – societal cohesion, religious behavior, artistic quality, etc. Plug in the subject into the parenthesis and the dates into the curly braces, and you’ve got the outline of most complaints about our woes.

    And the rest of your post is beyond my comprehension how you think it applies to what I’ve said even given your misunderstanding.

  • WebMonk

    Cin, I can’t figure out what you’re saying any more and I can’t figure out how it’s supposed to apply to anything I’ve said.

    My quote you mention as somehow being a totally broad and completely inclusive grouping … huh?!? Is that what you think?

    Today (TV quality) is bad. Yesterday {late 60s up to now} (TV quality) fell. The day before {50s and early 60s} was a golden age (of TV quality)!

    Is that so impossible to comprehend? Apply that to lots of things – societal cohesion, religious behavior, artistic quality, etc. Plug in the subject into the parenthesis and the dates into the curly braces, and you’ve got the outline of most complaints about our woes.

    And the rest of your post is beyond my comprehension how you think it applies to what I’ve said even given your misunderstanding.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk:

    I’m going to pull no punches today: you articulated your thoughts@30–at least the one I quoted–poorly, and I misinterpreted.

    Now you’re falling into your original error, though. Obviously, all assessments of a previous decade/era as superior follow the pattern you dictate. This is self-evident–so self-evident that I don’t know why you even thought it worthy of mentioning. The alternative defies logical possibility: someone who thinks cars looked better than than now aren’t going to say–can’t very well say–that cars looked better then even though they look better now. That doesn’t even make sense. A thesis of decline is suggesting a pattern of decline. To quote my schoolyard peers of yore: “Duh.”

    Your underlying point, though, seems to be that because such claims always follow your pattern, they are somehow invalid or merely subjective nostalgia. I’m saying, and I’ve said about thirty times in this thread, that you’re wrong. In case you seem to be having as much trouble understanding my relatively simple point as your verbal theatrics indicate (OMG WHAT R U SMOKING!), let me break down the debate thus far:

    You (abetted by Tom et al.): Well, Veith, everyone longs for the days of their youth, but really that’s just baseless nostalgia talking. The world has always been good/bad, and there are no consistent grounds upon which to claim that any era was any better than any other era.

    Me: Actually, many so-called sentiments of nostalgia are rooted in historical and measurable fact. Empirical measures of social cohesion, employment, etc., were higher in the 1950s than the ’60s and ’70s–as a somewhat random example. The ’50s were, in other words, objectively better than succeeding decades if, like a substantial proportion of Americans, you value thinks like employment and social cohesion.

    You: [There's nothing to put here, because you haven't actually responded to my claim yet except to question my sobriety.]

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk:

    I’m going to pull no punches today: you articulated your thoughts@30–at least the one I quoted–poorly, and I misinterpreted.

    Now you’re falling into your original error, though. Obviously, all assessments of a previous decade/era as superior follow the pattern you dictate. This is self-evident–so self-evident that I don’t know why you even thought it worthy of mentioning. The alternative defies logical possibility: someone who thinks cars looked better than than now aren’t going to say–can’t very well say–that cars looked better then even though they look better now. That doesn’t even make sense. A thesis of decline is suggesting a pattern of decline. To quote my schoolyard peers of yore: “Duh.”

    Your underlying point, though, seems to be that because such claims always follow your pattern, they are somehow invalid or merely subjective nostalgia. I’m saying, and I’ve said about thirty times in this thread, that you’re wrong. In case you seem to be having as much trouble understanding my relatively simple point as your verbal theatrics indicate (OMG WHAT R U SMOKING!), let me break down the debate thus far:

    You (abetted by Tom et al.): Well, Veith, everyone longs for the days of their youth, but really that’s just baseless nostalgia talking. The world has always been good/bad, and there are no consistent grounds upon which to claim that any era was any better than any other era.

    Me: Actually, many so-called sentiments of nostalgia are rooted in historical and measurable fact. Empirical measures of social cohesion, employment, etc., were higher in the 1950s than the ’60s and ’70s–as a somewhat random example. The ’50s were, in other words, objectively better than succeeding decades if, like a substantial proportion of Americans, you value thinks like employment and social cohesion.

    You: [There's nothing to put here, because you haven't actually responded to my claim yet except to question my sobriety.]

  • Cincinnatus

    For what it’s worth, I actually think we’re in something of a television “golden age” right now, at least in the case of drama: The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and several other offerings on cable far surpass, artistically speaking, anything that was on television in the early ’60s. If television centers your world, this may be the decade against which you will measure all future decades.

    Likely, though, you’re a more typical American, and your measures are more typical: economic growth, employment, social belonging, clean politics, domestic peace, etc. These things are fairly easy to measure, and they admit of a vision of history in which some eras actually are better than others. Is any American who values these things going to pine for the Middle Ages? I doubt it, and there’s a reason for that. They might pine for the 1950s, though, and, again, there’s a reason for that.

  • Cincinnatus

    For what it’s worth, I actually think we’re in something of a television “golden age” right now, at least in the case of drama: The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and several other offerings on cable far surpass, artistically speaking, anything that was on television in the early ’60s. If television centers your world, this may be the decade against which you will measure all future decades.

    Likely, though, you’re a more typical American, and your measures are more typical: economic growth, employment, social belonging, clean politics, domestic peace, etc. These things are fairly easy to measure, and they admit of a vision of history in which some eras actually are better than others. Is any American who values these things going to pine for the Middle Ages? I doubt it, and there’s a reason for that. They might pine for the 1950s, though, and, again, there’s a reason for that.

  • Tom Hering

    One objective measure in support of the argument that the 1950s was the golden age of television would be a list of the major talents who hosted or starred in their own shows – talents with broad, national appeal as opposed to today’s TV stars, who tend to have niche market appeal.

    Milton Berle.
    Ed Sullivan.
    Arthur Godfrey.
    Jackie Gleason.
    Sid Caesar.
    Abbott and Costello.
    Robert Montgomery.
    Groucho Marx.
    Alan Young.
    Lucille Ball.
    Red Skelton.
    Jane Wyman.
    Jimmy Durante.
    Danny Thomas.
    Red Buttons.
    Jack Benny.
    Bob Hope.
    Eve Arden.
    Martha Raye.
    George Gobel.
    Ronald Reagan.
    Perry Como.
    Alfred Hitchcock.
    Tennessee Ernie Ford.
    Robert Young.
    Walter Brennan.
    Steve McQueen.
    Loretta Young.
    Liberace.
    Bing Crosby.
    Rod Serling.

    Try to find another decade with this much top-level talent on television.

  • Tom Hering

    One objective measure in support of the argument that the 1950s was the golden age of television would be a list of the major talents who hosted or starred in their own shows – talents with broad, national appeal as opposed to today’s TV stars, who tend to have niche market appeal.

    Milton Berle.
    Ed Sullivan.
    Arthur Godfrey.
    Jackie Gleason.
    Sid Caesar.
    Abbott and Costello.
    Robert Montgomery.
    Groucho Marx.
    Alan Young.
    Lucille Ball.
    Red Skelton.
    Jane Wyman.
    Jimmy Durante.
    Danny Thomas.
    Red Buttons.
    Jack Benny.
    Bob Hope.
    Eve Arden.
    Martha Raye.
    George Gobel.
    Ronald Reagan.
    Perry Como.
    Alfred Hitchcock.
    Tennessee Ernie Ford.
    Robert Young.
    Walter Brennan.
    Steve McQueen.
    Loretta Young.
    Liberace.
    Bing Crosby.
    Rod Serling.

    Try to find another decade with this much top-level talent on television.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    Really good point, and good list. I think, at the very least, it’s fair to say that the ’50s and early ’60s were a golden age for comedy–and, of course, the TV Western.

    In terms of writing and acting talent, though, it’s hard to beat the current/last decade for television drama.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    Really good point, and good list. I think, at the very least, it’s fair to say that the ’50s and early ’60s were a golden age for comedy–and, of course, the TV Western.

    In terms of writing and acting talent, though, it’s hard to beat the current/last decade for television drama.

  • kerner

    Just as an aside, I want to say that I think the 2000′s are getting kind of a bad rap. (Although I noe see that Cin is recognizing this.) In some ways, the television of the 2000′s is far superior to that of the 1960′s. The Wire is my very favorite tv show ever, and is purely a product of the 2000′s. And some of the others Cin mentions are also 2000′s works. Partly a function of the shortened cable season, we now have the season long story arc that didn’t exist during the 1960′s. And think of the cliches that abounded during the 1960′s (eg., never fall in love with Little Joe Cartwright, or beam down from the Starship enterprise wearing a red shirt; in both cases you are almost certain to die).

    Another “golden age” that may have come and gone was Netflix. Netflix was founded in 1997, but its real heyday was the 2000′s. A great variety of viewing was available at a very reasonable price, which was great for a non-cable customer like me. Since 2011, availability (smaller selection and longer waits) has diminished while the cost has increased.

    Ah, how I long for those good old days of the 2000′s… :D

  • kerner

    Just as an aside, I want to say that I think the 2000′s are getting kind of a bad rap. (Although I noe see that Cin is recognizing this.) In some ways, the television of the 2000′s is far superior to that of the 1960′s. The Wire is my very favorite tv show ever, and is purely a product of the 2000′s. And some of the others Cin mentions are also 2000′s works. Partly a function of the shortened cable season, we now have the season long story arc that didn’t exist during the 1960′s. And think of the cliches that abounded during the 1960′s (eg., never fall in love with Little Joe Cartwright, or beam down from the Starship enterprise wearing a red shirt; in both cases you are almost certain to die).

    Another “golden age” that may have come and gone was Netflix. Netflix was founded in 1997, but its real heyday was the 2000′s. A great variety of viewing was available at a very reasonable price, which was great for a non-cable customer like me. Since 2011, availability (smaller selection and longer waits) has diminished while the cost has increased.

    Ah, how I long for those good old days of the 2000′s… :D

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 36, there’s been some great television in every decade, including the one just past. But as for drama, don’t overlook the couple-dozen or more anthology programs that ran in the ’50s, including Playhouse 90, General Electric Theater, and Four Star Theater – the latter hosted in rotation by Dick Powell, Charles Boyer, David Niven, and Ida Lupino. (How could I have left these four off my list of hosts and stars?!)

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 36, there’s been some great television in every decade, including the one just past. But as for drama, don’t overlook the couple-dozen or more anthology programs that ran in the ’50s, including Playhouse 90, General Electric Theater, and Four Star Theater – the latter hosted in rotation by Dick Powell, Charles Boyer, David Niven, and Ida Lupino. (How could I have left these four off my list of hosts and stars?!)

  • Cincinnatus

    Now you’re just indulging nostalgia, Tom ;-)

    I’m with kerner: television drama really came into its own in the last decade. The reasons are multifarious. Kerner noted a couple: shorter cable seasons, etc. It also helps that cable television, not shackled by the paternalistic–actually, maternalistic FCC–can replicate a certain gritty, err, “realism” that television in the ’50s couldn’t. Moreover, the way actors delivered their lines prior to, say, the late ’90s was frankly stilted and annoying, more appropriate for a Shakespeare production than believable drama. Finally, I think Americans today are much more comfortable with a certain amount of cynicism, pessimism, darkness, wickedness, as well as sustained story-telling, in their entertainment. Television writers and producers on AMC and HBO in particular are bringing to their shows production values that are appropriate for bigscreen movies, and intricate character development that simply couldn’t fit in a movie. This is unprecedented.

    Of course, I’m overstating the case a bit. The most popular television shows with the public at large remain stupid reality TV dreck like American Idol or badly produced dramas like NCIS. And don’t get me started on the “comedy”: Two and a Half Men is just gag-worthy in all respects.

    I should remind everyone, though, that the quality of television is really a poor measure of a decade.

  • Cincinnatus

    Now you’re just indulging nostalgia, Tom ;-)

    I’m with kerner: television drama really came into its own in the last decade. The reasons are multifarious. Kerner noted a couple: shorter cable seasons, etc. It also helps that cable television, not shackled by the paternalistic–actually, maternalistic FCC–can replicate a certain gritty, err, “realism” that television in the ’50s couldn’t. Moreover, the way actors delivered their lines prior to, say, the late ’90s was frankly stilted and annoying, more appropriate for a Shakespeare production than believable drama. Finally, I think Americans today are much more comfortable with a certain amount of cynicism, pessimism, darkness, wickedness, as well as sustained story-telling, in their entertainment. Television writers and producers on AMC and HBO in particular are bringing to their shows production values that are appropriate for bigscreen movies, and intricate character development that simply couldn’t fit in a movie. This is unprecedented.

    Of course, I’m overstating the case a bit. The most popular television shows with the public at large remain stupid reality TV dreck like American Idol or badly produced dramas like NCIS. And don’t get me started on the “comedy”: Two and a Half Men is just gag-worthy in all respects.

    I should remind everyone, though, that the quality of television is really a poor measure of a decade.

  • kerner

    Tom:

    Yeah, but some of those shows were bad. When I watch “Father Knows Best” today, Jane wyman is the only person I don’t have the urge to slap.

    But I really do agree with you and Cin on this much: I miss the variety show. I never missed Red Skelton as a kid, and even shows like “The Tonight Show” had guests perform some kind of act, as opposed to just sitting there talking.

  • kerner

    Tom:

    Yeah, but some of those shows were bad. When I watch “Father Knows Best” today, Jane wyman is the only person I don’t have the urge to slap.

    But I really do agree with you and Cin on this much: I miss the variety show. I never missed Red Skelton as a kid, and even shows like “The Tonight Show” had guests perform some kind of act, as opposed to just sitting there talking.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 39, without a doubt, there’s been a marked improvement in television writing and production values since the 1990s (I’d cite Seinfeld and From the Earth to the Moon as two ’90s examples). But this is compared to the general state of television in the ’80s, ’70s, and late ’60s. (There were exceptions.) As for dramatic realism in the ’50s, what about one-off classics from the anthology series – like Marty, 12 Angry Men, and Requiem for a Heavyweight? Or is dramatic realism dependent on foul language and sexual content? ;-D

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 39, without a doubt, there’s been a marked improvement in television writing and production values since the 1990s (I’d cite Seinfeld and From the Earth to the Moon as two ’90s examples). But this is compared to the general state of television in the ’80s, ’70s, and late ’60s. (There were exceptions.) As for dramatic realism in the ’50s, what about one-off classics from the anthology series – like Marty, 12 Angry Men, and Requiem for a Heavyweight? Or is dramatic realism dependent on foul language and sexual content? ;-D

  • kerner

    “I should remind everyone, though, that the quality of television is really a poor measure of a decade.”

    True. However, ways in which the 2000′s were better than the 1990′s:

    “Monica” did not become a verb during the 2000′s.

    During their comparitive boom times, 1995-2000 showed an increase in charitable giving, but 2000-2005 showed an even greater increase over the previous 5 years.

    No impeachment proceedings were commenced or prosecuted against the president during the 2000′s

    Automobile fuel economy was better in the 2000′s than it was in the 1990′s, and arguably, the cars became better looking during the 2000′s.

    As a raw number, there appear to have been fewer abortions during the 2000′s than the 1990′s.

    I could probably find a few more positive metrics for the 2000′s if I wanted to take the time.

  • kerner

    “I should remind everyone, though, that the quality of television is really a poor measure of a decade.”

    True. However, ways in which the 2000′s were better than the 1990′s:

    “Monica” did not become a verb during the 2000′s.

    During their comparitive boom times, 1995-2000 showed an increase in charitable giving, but 2000-2005 showed an even greater increase over the previous 5 years.

    No impeachment proceedings were commenced or prosecuted against the president during the 2000′s

    Automobile fuel economy was better in the 2000′s than it was in the 1990′s, and arguably, the cars became better looking during the 2000′s.

    As a raw number, there appear to have been fewer abortions during the 2000′s than the 1990′s.

    I could probably find a few more positive metrics for the 2000′s if I wanted to take the time.

  • kerner

    Tom:

    Marty is a true classic. But you have to admit, even though it is mostly implied, the sexual content in that film is pretty strong. My recollection is that Marty was the one guy in his social circle who thought of women, at least one particular woman, as an object of his love and not just his sex drive. Strong stuff for 1950′s tv, and an interesting commentary on the 1950′s to boot.

  • kerner

    Tom:

    Marty is a true classic. But you have to admit, even though it is mostly implied, the sexual content in that film is pretty strong. My recollection is that Marty was the one guy in his social circle who thought of women, at least one particular woman, as an object of his love and not just his sex drive. Strong stuff for 1950′s tv, and an interesting commentary on the 1950′s to boot.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I though NOW was the new Golden Age of Televison. What with shows like Say Yes to the Dress, Pawn Stars, Chopped, Miami Ink, Betty La Fea and Swamp People, How could it not be a Golden Age?

    But back to what The One said: “what they offered over those three days was more often than not an agenda that was better suited for the last century. ” A sneer, I see. That’s convincing. If that’s the game we’re playing, then what Obama and the Dems are offering is an agenda that’s better suited for last century too. If you’re into Soviet style single-party overlordship, that is.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I though NOW was the new Golden Age of Televison. What with shows like Say Yes to the Dress, Pawn Stars, Chopped, Miami Ink, Betty La Fea and Swamp People, How could it not be a Golden Age?

    But back to what The One said: “what they offered over those three days was more often than not an agenda that was better suited for the last century. ” A sneer, I see. That’s convincing. If that’s the game we’re playing, then what Obama and the Dems are offering is an agenda that’s better suited for last century too. If you’re into Soviet style single-party overlordship, that is.

  • Tom Hering

    kerner, you might be interested in Borgnine’s last movie. Though it looks like you’ll have to wait (not too long?) for the DVD if you don’t live in a major city.

    http://www.thewrap.com/movies/column-post/indican-release-borgnines-final-film-53046

  • Tom Hering

    kerner, you might be interested in Borgnine’s last movie. Though it looks like you’ll have to wait (not too long?) for the DVD if you don’t live in a major city.

    http://www.thewrap.com/movies/column-post/indican-release-borgnines-final-film-53046

  • Michael B.

    ” Television writers and producers on AMC and HBO in particular are bringing to their shows production values that are appropriate for bigscreen movies, and intricate character development that simply couldn’t fit in a movie. ”

    Any Game of Thrones fans on here?

  • Michael B.

    ” Television writers and producers on AMC and HBO in particular are bringing to their shows production values that are appropriate for bigscreen movies, and intricate character development that simply couldn’t fit in a movie. ”

    Any Game of Thrones fans on here?

  • mikeb

    Tom @ 23

    Greatest Generation = Really good at overcoming Depression, fighting and winning wars. Really bad at raising families and passing along their values to their ‘boomer’ offspring.

  • mikeb

    Tom @ 23

    Greatest Generation = Really good at overcoming Depression, fighting and winning wars. Really bad at raising families and passing along their values to their ‘boomer’ offspring.

  • Michael B.

    @mikeb

    “Really good at overcoming Depression, fighting and winning wars. Really bad at raising families and passing along their values to their ‘boomer’ offspring.”

    One interesting question that I’ve wondered is why did the revolutions of the 1960s (civil rights, women rights, etc) happen in the 1960s? Why not the 1920s, or the 1990s? On another note, social conservatives believe they can somehow legislate us back to the 1950s: If only we could get an amendment banning gay marriage and abortion, then things would be the way they were. Even if such legislation would pass (and it won’t), those days are gone.

    And for all the other working-class and middle-class white males like me on here, those days probably weren’t so great for us either. Remember that we were often considered excellent cannon fodder by the government for America’s military adventures.

  • Michael B.

    @mikeb

    “Really good at overcoming Depression, fighting and winning wars. Really bad at raising families and passing along their values to their ‘boomer’ offspring.”

    One interesting question that I’ve wondered is why did the revolutions of the 1960s (civil rights, women rights, etc) happen in the 1960s? Why not the 1920s, or the 1990s? On another note, social conservatives believe they can somehow legislate us back to the 1950s: If only we could get an amendment banning gay marriage and abortion, then things would be the way they were. Even if such legislation would pass (and it won’t), those days are gone.

    And for all the other working-class and middle-class white males like me on here, those days probably weren’t so great for us either. Remember that we were often considered excellent cannon fodder by the government for America’s military adventures.

  • WebMonk

    Michael B – I’m a fan of the books, but I haven’t gotten into the TV series yet. From what I’ve heard, it’s awesome, but I just haven’t had time. I don’t mind waiting for a few years, and that way I can watch a bunch of seasons all in a row.

    There are a lot of great shows on right now, and I can think of plenty over the last 20 years that were great as well. By and large, I think there are plenty of shows that have come out “recently” that rank up with the very best of the previous 60 years of TV.

    Dr. Who! Firefly! Star Trek TNG! Star Trek Voyager! Babylon 5!

    (are my sci fi preferences showing? :-D )

  • WebMonk

    Michael B – I’m a fan of the books, but I haven’t gotten into the TV series yet. From what I’ve heard, it’s awesome, but I just haven’t had time. I don’t mind waiting for a few years, and that way I can watch a bunch of seasons all in a row.

    There are a lot of great shows on right now, and I can think of plenty over the last 20 years that were great as well. By and large, I think there are plenty of shows that have come out “recently” that rank up with the very best of the previous 60 years of TV.

    Dr. Who! Firefly! Star Trek TNG! Star Trek Voyager! Babylon 5!

    (are my sci fi preferences showing? :-D )

  • Cincinnatus

    Star Trek Voyager? Really?

  • Cincinnatus

    Star Trek Voyager? Really?

  • SKPeterson

    Just a question, but why are we assuming that all of the tv shows in the 60′s were wonders of the human imagination. I expect that many of them were crap, like much of the programming today. There’s no nostalgia like a false nostalgia.

  • SKPeterson

    Just a question, but why are we assuming that all of the tv shows in the 60′s were wonders of the human imagination. I expect that many of them were crap, like much of the programming today. There’s no nostalgia like a false nostalgia.

  • Tom Hering

    SK, who has argued that all the shows of the ’60s were good? Or even all the shows of the ’50s? (It’s the 1950s that are most often referred to as “the golden age of television.”)

  • Tom Hering

    SK, who has argued that all the shows of the ’60s were good? Or even all the shows of the ’50s? (It’s the 1950s that are most often referred to as “the golden age of television.”)

  • WebMonk

    My wife likes Star Trek Voyager, so I’ve watched it a LOT. I’ve come to like it quite a bit, though I guess I do realize it’s not up to the higher quality standards of the original Star Trek and Star Trek TNG.

    Tom, I’ve heard that 50s = golden age of TV too. I’ve watched quite a bit of 50s TV and I have been less than impressed.

    Bonanza? (lump all the westerns in with Bonanza) Honeymooners? Beaver? Man Called X? Adventures of ______? Father Knows Best? I Love Lucy? It’s got to be nostalgia when people declare those as wonderful shows. Shallow, formulaic, minimal character development – much like many of the shows on today.

    Golden age in that TV really started to develop and grow? Definitely.
    Golden age in that TV was mostly fantastic art and entertainment? Pfft! Not hardly.

  • WebMonk

    My wife likes Star Trek Voyager, so I’ve watched it a LOT. I’ve come to like it quite a bit, though I guess I do realize it’s not up to the higher quality standards of the original Star Trek and Star Trek TNG.

    Tom, I’ve heard that 50s = golden age of TV too. I’ve watched quite a bit of 50s TV and I have been less than impressed.

    Bonanza? (lump all the westerns in with Bonanza) Honeymooners? Beaver? Man Called X? Adventures of ______? Father Knows Best? I Love Lucy? It’s got to be nostalgia when people declare those as wonderful shows. Shallow, formulaic, minimal character development – much like many of the shows on today.

    Golden age in that TV really started to develop and grow? Definitely.
    Golden age in that TV was mostly fantastic art and entertainment? Pfft! Not hardly.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – I do like Voyager, and TNG, and Star Gate SG1, and Star Gate Atlantis and Star Trek Enterprise…

    One should enjoy a TV program for what it is. There are good and bad ones, sure, but one can surely take that too far.

    BTW, pseudo-dramatic, scripted reality TV IS taking it too far.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – I do like Voyager, and TNG, and Star Gate SG1, and Star Gate Atlantis and Star Trek Enterprise…

    One should enjoy a TV program for what it is. There are good and bad ones, sure, but one can surely take that too far.

    BTW, pseudo-dramatic, scripted reality TV IS taking it too far.

  • kerner

    Tom @45:

    I’ll be watching for it.

    Webmonk @53:

    I may be the only person of my generation who will admit that I havem and had at the time, a real problem with “I Love Lucy”. The characters had one of the worst marriages I have ever seen portrayed on TV. Lucy spent almost all her time deceiving her husband, who spent most of his time stifling her desire to share his limelight.

  • kerner

    Tom @45:

    I’ll be watching for it.

    Webmonk @53:

    I may be the only person of my generation who will admit that I havem and had at the time, a real problem with “I Love Lucy”. The characters had one of the worst marriages I have ever seen portrayed on TV. Lucy spent almost all her time deceiving her husband, who spent most of his time stifling her desire to share his limelight.

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk, considering the sort of shows you like, it’s not surprising to me that you don’t think much of shows from the 1950s. And that’s okay by me. I’m not out to change your tastes. But I still think there are objective measures of television quality – it isn’t all a matter of personal taste.

    Take character development, which you mentioned. I’d argue that Ralph Kramden, as a character, has more depth than Captain Picard. Why? Because domestic comedy allows for it. The more normal a situation, the more extraordinary you can make the characters in that situation. It isn’t “too much” – it doesn’t work against the premise. But the more extraordinary a situation (as in science fiction), the more you have to make the characters in that situation run-of-the-mill, recognizable “types.” Otherwise it’s all “too much” – extraordinary premise plus extraordinary characters equals conceptual exhaustion for the audience. Now, yes, a show like Firefly did more with its characters than most science fiction shows. But that’s because it could, i.e., it was really just a run-of-the-mill Western with science fiction trappings, and every viewer knew it (except, perhaps, for ardent Whedonites :-D).

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk, considering the sort of shows you like, it’s not surprising to me that you don’t think much of shows from the 1950s. And that’s okay by me. I’m not out to change your tastes. But I still think there are objective measures of television quality – it isn’t all a matter of personal taste.

    Take character development, which you mentioned. I’d argue that Ralph Kramden, as a character, has more depth than Captain Picard. Why? Because domestic comedy allows for it. The more normal a situation, the more extraordinary you can make the characters in that situation. It isn’t “too much” – it doesn’t work against the premise. But the more extraordinary a situation (as in science fiction), the more you have to make the characters in that situation run-of-the-mill, recognizable “types.” Otherwise it’s all “too much” – extraordinary premise plus extraordinary characters equals conceptual exhaustion for the audience. Now, yes, a show like Firefly did more with its characters than most science fiction shows. But that’s because it could, i.e., it was really just a run-of-the-mill Western with science fiction trappings, and every viewer knew it (except, perhaps, for ardent Whedonites :-D).

  • WebMonk

    Tom, I would tend to agree with you that TNG didn’t develop its characters as much as it might, but saying Picard is more two-dimensional than Kramden??? Kramden was a cardboard cutout – nothing but stereotypes strung together.

    Picard is less developed than some other characters – heck, Wesley Crusher was more developed – but I have to say that they did some development with him. Ralph? None.

    I admit that my enjoyment stems as much from worldcraft as from characters,which is probably some of what draws me toward sci fi and fantasy. But, even taking my predilection into account, I still can’t see Ralph Kramden, or the Honeymooners as a whole, as much more than stereotypes. Funny? Sure. Clever? Occasionally. But still as flat and developed as a movie poster.

  • WebMonk

    Tom, I would tend to agree with you that TNG didn’t develop its characters as much as it might, but saying Picard is more two-dimensional than Kramden??? Kramden was a cardboard cutout – nothing but stereotypes strung together.

    Picard is less developed than some other characters – heck, Wesley Crusher was more developed – but I have to say that they did some development with him. Ralph? None.

    I admit that my enjoyment stems as much from worldcraft as from characters,which is probably some of what draws me toward sci fi and fantasy. But, even taking my predilection into account, I still can’t see Ralph Kramden, or the Honeymooners as a whole, as much more than stereotypes. Funny? Sure. Clever? Occasionally. But still as flat and developed as a movie poster.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk and Tom: One thing that sets contemporary drama–including science fiction–apart from earlier television productions is that it manages to combine sophisticated character development and elaborate “worldbuilding.” For instance, the early seasons of Battlestar Galactica did an awe-inspiring job of both. Meanwhile, I’m not the biggest fan of Man Men, but the characters and writing are great, as is the recreated universe of the 1960s. Phenomenal worldcraft without consigning primary cast members to “archetypal” roles.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk and Tom: One thing that sets contemporary drama–including science fiction–apart from earlier television productions is that it manages to combine sophisticated character development and elaborate “worldbuilding.” For instance, the early seasons of Battlestar Galactica did an awe-inspiring job of both. Meanwhile, I’m not the biggest fan of Man Men, but the characters and writing are great, as is the recreated universe of the 1960s. Phenomenal worldcraft without consigning primary cast members to “archetypal” roles.

  • Cincinnatus

    Uh, “Mad Men.”

    Man Men could be a good premise, though.

  • Cincinnatus

    Uh, “Mad Men.”

    Man Men could be a good premise, though.

  • Cincinnatus

    While I’m here, I just have to share: Breaking Bad is one of the better shows of all time. I think it’s supplanted The Wire in my list of Favorite/Best TV Shows.

  • Cincinnatus

    While I’m here, I just have to share: Breaking Bad is one of the better shows of all time. I think it’s supplanted The Wire in my list of Favorite/Best TV Shows.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Of course, C et al, you are only talking about American shows here.

    For character development in a Crime/police type setting, consider Lewis, or Murdoch Mysteries, or Frost. In sci-fi – consider the Ponds, or River Song in Dr Who. And for shear acting brilliance, consider both Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock.

    There is even the new Continuum, for unusual plot development.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Of course, C et al, you are only talking about American shows here.

    For character development in a Crime/police type setting, consider Lewis, or Murdoch Mysteries, or Frost. In sci-fi – consider the Ponds, or River Song in Dr Who. And for shear acting brilliance, consider both Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock.

    There is even the new Continuum, for unusual plot development.

  • Cincinnatus

    Sherlock is indeed impressive. Neither Inspector Lewis nor Dr. Who have ever captured my attention, but that may be because my encounters with the latter have been restricted to the early (1960s? 1970s?) versions.

  • Cincinnatus

    Sherlock is indeed impressive. Neither Inspector Lewis nor Dr. Who have ever captured my attention, but that may be because my encounters with the latter have been restricted to the early (1960s? 1970s?) versions.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Lewis is currently still filming – it has been a recurring drama since 2006.

    Dr Who – well maybe you’d be comfortable starting with the Ninth doctor, or season one of the modern incarnation. Or start with Season 10 with David Tenant as the Doctor.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Lewis is currently still filming – it has been a recurring drama since 2006.

    Dr Who – well maybe you’d be comfortable starting with the Ninth doctor, or season one of the modern incarnation. Or start with Season 10 with David Tenant as the Doctor.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Of course, I should mention that Lewis is a spin-off of Inspector Morse, which was also good, and caused me to covet a 1960 Mark II Jaguar ever since :)
    http://www.morsejaguar.co.uk/

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Of course, I should mention that Lewis is a spin-off of Inspector Morse, which was also good, and caused me to covet a 1960 Mark II Jaguar ever since :)
    http://www.morsejaguar.co.uk/

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk @ 57, Kramden didn’t need no stinkin’ development. He was fully realized from the get go.

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk @ 57, Kramden didn’t need no stinkin’ development. He was fully realized from the get go.

  • Tom Hering

    Besides, what’s the point of character development except to make us feel like we’re privy to all the details of a character’s life – whether they’re relevant to the stories being told or not. In this way, the contemporary drama is more like following the participants in a reality show than it is like, well, watching a drama.

  • Tom Hering

    Besides, what’s the point of character development except to make us feel like we’re privy to all the details of a character’s life – whether they’re relevant to the stories being told or not. In this way, the contemporary drama is more like following the participants in a reality show than it is like, well, watching a drama.

  • Cincinnatus

    Uh oh: Tom be trollin’!

  • Cincinnatus

    Uh oh: Tom be trollin’!

  • Tom Hering

    Of course, I’m talking about a matter of taste now. I prefer a tightly constructed story, wrapped up in an hour, as was the style in the old, episodic series. I just don’t have the patience for story arcs and character developments that are dragged out over a season or more.

  • Tom Hering

    Of course, I’m talking about a matter of taste now. I prefer a tightly constructed story, wrapped up in an hour, as was the style in the old, episodic series. I just don’t have the patience for story arcs and character developments that are dragged out over a season or more.

  • Tom Hering

    What? Me troll? Spark conversation, maybe, but troll? Never. :-D

  • Tom Hering

    What? Me troll? Spark conversation, maybe, but troll? Never. :-D

  • WebMonk

    LOL!! That’s awesome Tom!

    p.s. Tom, just in case you aren’t familiar, that “LOL” stands for Laugh Out Loud. I know old geezers like you don’t always keep up with the latest fads. ;-)

  • WebMonk

    LOL!! That’s awesome Tom!

    p.s. Tom, just in case you aren’t familiar, that “LOL” stands for Laugh Out Loud. I know old geezers like you don’t always keep up with the latest fads. ;-)

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    WebMonk,
    Obviously, YOU are the old geezer of you call them “fads” instead of “memes.”

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    WebMonk,
    Obviously, YOU are the old geezer of you call them “fads” instead of “memes.”

  • WebMonk

    No! No!

    I’m young and hip! I’m totally down with it all! I’m like totally zoned in to the zone, you know. Like plugged in and hip and cool. Yeah, I totally am!

  • WebMonk

    No! No!

    I’m young and hip! I’m totally down with it all! I’m like totally zoned in to the zone, you know. Like plugged in and hip and cool. Yeah, I totally am!

  • Cincinnatus

    I was chastised by a student the other day for using the term “sweet.”

    As in, “Sweet ride, man!”

    That’s not actually what I said, but you get the idea.

    Radical.

  • Cincinnatus

    I was chastised by a student the other day for using the term “sweet.”

    As in, “Sweet ride, man!”

    That’s not actually what I said, but you get the idea.

    Radical.

  • Tom Hering

    I know old geezers like you don’t always keep up with the latest fads.

    Sure I do. I’m a hep cat, daddy-o. And I’m workin’ on feelin’ groovy, man – ’cause dat would be da bomb, dude.

  • Tom Hering

    I know old geezers like you don’t always keep up with the latest fads.

    Sure I do. I’m a hep cat, daddy-o. And I’m workin’ on feelin’ groovy, man – ’cause dat would be da bomb, dude.

  • kerner

    THe trouble with breaking bad, is that they had to compromise the underlying premise to keep the show going. The main character should be getting sicker and dying, and he isn’t. Also, his miraculous escapes and other improbable plot devices that allow him to not get caught are losing me.

    I had the same problem with the Sons of Anarchy. They allowed the main character to resolve his moral conflict by just forgetting it. It kept the show going, bu the cop out ruined the show.

  • kerner

    THe trouble with breaking bad, is that they had to compromise the underlying premise to keep the show going. The main character should be getting sicker and dying, and he isn’t. Also, his miraculous escapes and other improbable plot devices that allow him to not get caught are losing me.

    I had the same problem with the Sons of Anarchy. They allowed the main character to resolve his moral conflict by just forgetting it. It kept the show going, bu the cop out ruined the show.

  • kerner

    Tom:

    If I may suggest a more episodic series, that was funny and still allowed the characters to develop over time, check out The Good Guys. It never found its audience and was cancelled after just one season. Alas.

  • kerner

    Tom:

    If I may suggest a more episodic series, that was funny and still allowed the characters to develop over time, check out The Good Guys. It never found its audience and was cancelled after just one season. Alas.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner@76:

    Apparently you haven’t been watching recent episodes. They were foreshadowing the return of Walt’s cancer since season 4 (if not earlier), and his cancer is definitely back.

    The writers have had a plan all along. The question is whether cancer or his “business” will kill him first.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner@76:

    Apparently you haven’t been watching recent episodes. They were foreshadowing the return of Walt’s cancer since season 4 (if not earlier), and his cancer is definitely back.

    The writers have had a plan all along. The question is whether cancer or his “business” will kill him first.


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