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November 18, 1987 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-11-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ENTERTAINMENT. 7

Why
Watch
Old TV?
Quality-and more
It's another rowdy evening at Tortilla
Flats. The only noise that can be heard
above the Manhattan restaurant's
clubby roar is the singing from a table of
fresh-faced guys whose suits say Wall
Street. As they drink Mexican beer under
a string of lights shaped like jalapeno pep-
pers, the young urban professionals belt
out the theme to "Gilligan's Island" at the
top of their powerful lungs: "IF NOT FOR
THE COURAGE OF THE FEARLESS CREW, THE
MINNOW WOULD BE LOST! THE MINNOW
WOULD BE LOST!" A waiter breezes up to
take their order, saying, "Hi, my name is
Jed"-and the group switches in unison to
"COME AND LISTEN TO MY STORY 'BOUT A
MAN NAMED JED, A POOR MOUNTAINEER
BARELY KEPT HIS FAMILY FED." The staff
says this kind of stuff happens all the
time, especially to Jed.
The jury may still be out on reincarna-
tion, but there's no doubt that there is life
after cancellation. Shows move from prime
time into the maw of syndication and then
stay with us always, filling the wee hours
and odd channels on the TV dial. Independ-
ent television stations have come to thrive
on cheap reruns, giving us more ddja view-
ing than ever. And we telespuds respond,
gathering around the electronic hearth to
watch everything from "M*A*S*H" to
"Mr. Ed." Sly references to old shows have
become a badge of hipness-as in "Stake-
out," when Emilio Estevez looks at a tum-
bledown apartment and says "Luuuu-
cyyyy, you got some 'splainin' to do." Fan
clubs spring up around longstanding favor-
ites like "The Honeymooners," while some
shows inspire quirky spinoffs, such as the
bar game derived from "The Bob Newhart
Show": whenever a character says, "Hi,
Bob," patrons chug their beer.
But why do we watch old TV when the
world is full of newer video alternatives-
and, for that matter, books? TV-ologists
don't always agree. Dennis Gillespie, who
14 NEWSWEEKONCAMPUS

PHOTOS BY PICTORIAL PARADE
Deja viewing: The 'X*A *S*H'
crew before they turned to
selling computers (above),
'Leave it to Beaver' (right)
as a vice president of Viacom Inter-
national, Inc., oversees the mar-
keting of the world's largest lode of
syndicated shows (including "I
Love Lucy" and "The Mary Tyler
Moore Show"), says the answer is
simple: "They're just well-made
television." He does add, however,
that there could be "some sociolog-
ical reason that I'm not smart
enough to pinpoint."
Steven Gottlieb is not afraid to
take that flying leap. He has prof- ,;
ited mightily from packaging
theme songs into two two-record
sets of "Television's Greatest
Hits." (A third volume comes out
this month.) Each theme shoots
straight into the crannies where
deep memories are stored, making the
records, as Gottlieb says, "a collection of
little epiphanies." It's fun to go back with
more educated ears and recognize the
jazzy strains in "The Jetsons" or the rock
guitar in "The Munsters." Gottlieb
equates what he does with pop art: "No
different from Andy Warhol putting the
Campbell's soup can on canvas." Gottlieb,
you see, is not simply making money off
the 700,000 records he has sold. He's pre-
senting "the folk music of the electronic
age." Television is "our common point of
reference."

Wait a minute. Is he saying more stu-
dents can recite the words to the Flint-
stones' theme than Hamlet's "To be or not
to be" soliloquy? Aside from the obvious
esthetic problems of comparing "the thou-
sand natural shocks that flesh is heir to"
with "Let's ride with the family down the
street / Through the courtesy of Fred's big
feet," Gottlieb has a point. Dr. Robert Bats-
cha, president of the Museum of Broadcast-
ing in New York City, calls television "the
literature of our times," and asks, "How
can you understand the 20th century with-
out looking at television and radio?"

4

NOVEMBER 1987

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