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Monday, March 23, 2015

'Back to Dystopia Days' How the Cunninghams of the '50s Would Fare in 2015 (Part One of Three)

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The fact that "Back to the Future" trilogy hero Marty McFly travels from 1985 to 2015 in the second entry in that classic film series makes the dismal state of television in the 2015 of reality an interesting coincidence. A prior Unreal TV review on the wonderful documentary "That's Not Funny" and a more recent essay on the demise of the "Must-See" NBC Thursday night lineup communicate related thoughts.

The cultural impact of the first "Back to the Future" movie includes a newspaper article soon after the 1985 release of the film that comments on a scene from the 1955 portion of "Future." The author of that article discusses observing the audience hysterically laughing on seeing men in pristine white uniforms rush out to check the oil, wash the windshield, and gleefully perform other "extras" on a character pulling into a gas station to fill up.

The point of the article is that that level of service is comical in the self-service era of 1985. The larger theme is the overall decline of customer service in the 30 years since the '50s. A more recent personal memory is having to essentially beg a man who was literally staring into space to leave his booth to help with a malfunctioning gas pump two years ago.

Other personal media-related thoughts regarding these dark times in which we live involve speculation as to how the "average middle-class" Cunningham family of the '70s sitcom set in the '50s "Happy Days" would fare in modern times. Sharing these predictions with a friend and media colleague a year go prompted him to coin the phrase "Dystopia Days." (A friend with whom I discussed this article offered that darker observation that the Cunninghams of the '50s would be dead by 2015.)

The fates of the actors who portray secondary "Days" characters sadly largely coincides with the imagined current lives of their fictional counterparts. The ugly litigation regarding the effort of members of this group to obtain compensation for using their image on a slot machine is one example of this. It seems that fee-grubbing attorneys and a general adversarial national mood are major factors regarding all this.

"Days" fans and gossip mongers are also very aware that Erin Moran, who portrays sassy little sister Joanie in "Days," is essentially destitute and apparently has severe emotional issues.

This first entry in a series of three is designed to introduce the themes discussed above; the second entry will focus on speculation regarding how our nuclear family from the '50s would fare today, and the series will wrap up with speculation regarding the fate of the secondary characters.

One sign of this dystopia in TV Land is the Bill Cosby scandal derailing plans for a new sitcom featuring that former "Must See TV" star. This comes in the wake of the recent flops starring fellow "Must-See" veterans Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes. The amusing classic-style 2015 set in the '80s sitcom "The Goldbergs" likely becoming a victim of the edgy Fox drama "Empire" is yet another sign of this new dystopia.

The sad fact is that the worlds of 1955 and 1985 are things of the past in every sense of the world. Desperate housewives have left the rest of us desperate for quality escapist comedy in which the leads are not  toxically jaded broke young urbanites, morbidly obese folks who consider their condition one big joke, people who either get far more or far less sex than the average American, or families that are more likely to be at each others' throats than in each others' corners. It seems that going from Brady to Bundy paved the way for going from Keaton to Kardashian; the sense that we have been together for a million years and will be together for a million more is no longer a good thing.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding any of this is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

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