My sister happened to mention the other day that she and her two daughters have stopped watching Good Morning America. “All they do is giggle – it’s so annoying!” she says.
I haven’t watched GMA much since I executive produced Robin Roberts on GMA Sunday back in 1998. And for the seven years before that, I beat GMA in the daily ratings when I created and showran the KTLA Morning News, the Los Angeles morning monster that became the highest-rated local morning show in history. I earned my Masters’s degree in morning news on the KTLA lot. So after watching this morning’s GMA, I’d like to give its current producers some unsolicited advice on why people like my sister and her two key-demo daughters are turning them off.
I’m pretty much done with CNN. If you’ve been watching, my reason isn’t much of a revelation. CNN has become the low-rent clone of Fox News. Content has sadly been replaced with context. In every daypart, its newscasts present a ratio of about one minute of news per every ten minutes of views. I haven’t done the math but having produced 15,000 hours of “live” TV myself, it’s a solid educated guess. But here’s the hitch – Fox News learned long ago how to produce compelling context – albeit highly biased and often severely spun context – but compelling context nonetheless. I forced myself to stop watching Bill O’Reilly years ago because I realized I was becoming an angry person with him on my radar. That’s the brilliance of Fox News. Its anchors or hosts or commentators or whatever you want to call them own the stuff they spew. They sell it. And that superior sales job reaches their viewers emotionally. O’Reilly is the prime example – you either love him or despise him, but you watch him. Some would say (a favorite Fox phrase) Fox News embraces the dark side of this industry – calling itself news, insisting it’s fair and balanced, hyping the “no-spin zone” – when in truth, it’s anything but… Viewers are well aware of the network’s strategy – and still watch. Ethics aside, it’s a shrewd and successful business model.
I recently came across a few rare episodes of a long forgotten TV series that I had never heard of – Window on Main Street. The CBS comedy-drama ran from 1961-1962 and starred Robert Young fresh from his role on Father Knows Best. 34 episodes were shot, but only 8 are in circulation – fortunately in pristine condition.
Young plays Cameron Garrett Brooks, a writer, who returns to his home town after the death of his wife. He lives in the Majestic Hotel with a perfect view of Main Street. He watches the comings and goings of the townspeople hoping they will inspire him with ideas for a new book.
As I’ve become more and more jaded with the modern crop of sitcoms on TV which all feature ridiculous plots, constant dick jokes and overmodulated audio that attacks you rather than embraces you, finding gems like Window on Main Street are magnificent discoveries with their simple plots, slice of faux life images and gentle comedy of a forgotten time.
Episode #1: The Return (Pilot) – Airdate: October 2, 1961
Have you ever seen such salesmanship? These film shorts from all those 50’s & 60’s “ramas” including Motorama, Homearama and Futureama are to die for. OK, I’ll say it, they’re totally gay! But damn are they fascinating to watch. I’ve compiled a few of my favorites beginning with the cult classic, Design For Dreaming from 1956. Tad Tadlock is amazing as a woman who’s lips don’t move while she sings – and dreams about a masked man (Marc Breaux) taking her to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York for the 1956 General Motors Motorama. Spoiler: They end up falling in love on the “road of tomorrow” in the Firebird 2. Favorite lyric:
“Girls don’t go to motoramas dressed in a pair of pink pajamas.”
…and if that’s not enough, try this one on for size:
“We’d better get her into the kitchen! Quick!”
Some classic Thanksgiving moments from a time before most of us were born…