Saturday, August 22, 2020

Learning About Life from Reruns


Scott D. Parker

 Late Sunday evening, after the wife and I watched a new-to-us show, Glitch, on Netflix, we turned off the steaming service and landed back on regular cable TV. This being a weekend, the channel was still tuned to MeTV, the channel that shows classic TV. I love Saturdays because it’s westerns all day. During our Covid-19 era, Sundays have become The Brady Bunch day right after I stream my church’s service.

That Sunday evening, the show being broadcast was The Dick Van Dyke Show. It was "Show of Hands," a season 4 (1965) episode in which Rob and Laura and their son, Ritchie, accidentally get their hands stained with black ink. This being episode 28 of the season, it was probably late spring 1965. What gave the show its comedic element was that they were to attend an awards show specifically, although not explicitly, on the in-show’s treatment of the equality of African-Americans in society.

The acceptance speech Rob gives—after he admits the truth about why he's wearing gloves and takes them off to show his black hands—basically said that to treat each other equally is the right thing to do. The characters on the show all laughed at Rob's predicament. This episode led directly into the next.

Tired though I was, I sat and watched these two episodes. The wife did, too. We started chatting about us being latch key kids in the 1970s. That is, we school-aged kids would go home after school to an empty house because both parents would be working. Sure there was homework, but there was also the freedom to do what you wanted with no parent telling you 'no.'

Not having the plethora of entertainment options available in 2020, we'd zero in on TV and the reruns being broadcast. Here in Houston, that was mostly Channel 39 and Channel 26, the two independent UHF channels. Here's where we'd get a steady diet of shows from the 1950s (I Love Lucy) and the 1960s (Dick Van Dyke, Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, etc.). Day after day, we'd consume these shows, memorizing them, laughing at them.

And learning from them.

It was my wife who made the observation: Because these shows we watched in reruns were intended for adult audiences (or at least the entire family), they were not specifically geared to children and their tastes. That was for Saturday morning cartoons and PBS. Watching and seeing how adults interacted with each other, we learned about adult life. Sure, it was often over the top and overly funny, but the common thread was there. Adults got into situations, worried about what to do and the consequences, and made decisions. If it was the wrong decision, they learned. If it was the right one, someone on the show also learned. 

We kids absorbed what we saw and internalized it without even knowing it.

Now, don't get me wrong: entertainment geared for kids is perfectly fine. And yes, lots of it is imbued with lessons to learn. But when you have a diet consisting only of kids entertainment, how do you learn about the adult world? Yes, I know, learning about life from TV is not really how you do it. You get out there and live life, learning along the way. But entertainment plays a role, too. Movies, TV, books, music: it's all in the mix. 

Seeing Old Shows With Fresh Eyes

What's fun about catching an episode of an old show like the Dick Van Dyke Show we saw as an adult is the ability to see the content with fresh eyes. Sometimes, your adult self sees old episodes you remember as a kid and you go "Boy, was that silly" or "How did I even like that?" Often, as we're eating lunch on Sundays and The Brady Bunch (actually, the Brady Brunch where MeTV sequences four episodes with a common theme) is on, the wife will remember and (sometimes) chuckle, while the boy rolls his eyes. I simply grin and keep watching. it's the historian in me.

Then again, you catch an episode like "Show of Hands" and you realize a subtle, powerful message was being delivered not only to adults in 1965 or the kids who might also be watching in 1965, but to folks in the 1970s and beyond. Especially kids. 

We were learning and laughing at the same time and didn't even realize it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Danger Is Sweet

I’m on a little road trip this week, on vacation, and I’ll be back with a post at the usual time and in the usual place next week.

In the meantime, here's a sign I saw on a twisty hiking path with many steep ledges. I thought, yes, it may be an accurate sign, but isn't it true, in essence, nearly everywhere?

Besides, you don't have to be a daredevil (and I am certainly not) to know that sometimes, as Dorothy B. Hughes says in one of her books, "Danger is sweet”.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Joe Clifford gives us THE LAKEHOUSE

The award-winning and always effervescent Joe Clifford writes like a man on fire. With six standalone novels, five books within his Jay Porter series, and a dark and edgy short story collection to his name, he has a rich and highly acclaimed cache. He is also a much sought-after editor with a host of anthologies to his credit, including TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen and JUST TO WATCH THEM DIE: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash. And Joe has a new release just in time for fall.



Let’s learn more about Joe’s latest hardcover and sixth standalone, THE LAKEHOUSE. 

Cleared of his wife's murder, Todd Norman returns to her small Connecticut hometown to finish building their dream house. However, new suspicions and tragedies follow Norman, once dubbed “The Banker Butcher,” when the body of a young woman washes ashore just after his return.

Small-town Sheriff Dwane Sobczak's investigation leads him to disturbing information involving prominent townspeople. A radical preacher. Disgraced preacher. Down-and-out PI. With the dramatic New England weather as a backdrop, THE LAKEHOUSE is a domestic psychological thriller filled with the powerful and the prey. Sordid pasts and questionable futures.

Early praise for THE LAKEHOUSE

  • “The Lakehouse is a riveting page-turner where the secrets roll at you like dice. Clifford’s gritty and immersive writing style is the perfect vehicle for this tale of a town where nothing is as it seems, where truth after astonishing truth is revealed layer by layer, until it all comes together in a satisfying crescendo. Highly recommended.” ―Jess Lourey, Amazon Charts bestselling author of Unspeakable Things.

  • "Joe Clifford's The Lakehouse is a gritty and wonderfully menacing story. You'll want to rush and slow down while reading. You'll want to peek and stare down what's coming. This is one of Clifford's greatest tricks―and one of his best novels to date." ―Rachel Howzell Hall author of They All Fall Down.
  • “Clifford does a good job depicting the police chief’s growing disillusionment with what was once “his quiet, wholesome town.” Fans of grittier crime fiction will be satisfied.”- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Visit Joe at and follow him at @joeclifford23.