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Thursday, April 4, 2019

All I Really Needed to Know I Learned From '70scoms

The current analytical thinking that leads to detours from reviews into Blogland shows that the underlying premise of Unreal TV is flawed. Unreal TV 1.0, which has evolved into Matt Nelson Reviews, is based on the idea that we need "unreal" sitcoms and other non-fiction fare to escape our cold cruel world. The actual truth is that we need '70scoms as our model for life.

Anyone with even advanced-beginner knowledge of television history knows that '50scoms typically revolve around suburban nuclear families in which every member presents a mostly idealized version of his or her real-life counterpart. This leads to the mid '60s in which a combination of greater awareness of our society, the Vietnam War, and the increasing popularity of the counter-culture give rise to "freakcoms." The outsider may be a hillbilly living in a mansion, a New York lawyer living among hicks, a clan (or two) of monsters in suburbia, a struggling rock band living in a beach house, or a genie or a witch co-habitating with her fella. 

The ''70s give rise to arguably the most realistic era of sitcoms. Our main man or woman is out in the workplace that typically is part of the story. Significant others who survive the TV Land purge of spouses  are almost as likely to bring home some bacon. 

The '80s represent the Cheese Age of television in which '70scoms jump the shark and become cartoonish versions of their former glory. The highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer notes that this is the period in which the Norman Lear groundbreaker "The Jeffersons" largely has Louise Jefferson and neighbor/best friend Helen Willis play cheap copies of Lucy and Ethel.

The new kids on the block mostly are silly fun with little or no substance. Of course, Fox entering the picture in this era contributes to this.

The '90s become the era of urban "friends" living in apartments that their real-life counterparts can only dream of affording. The better news is that the subgenre of gaycoms paves the way for marriage equality and other 21st century advances.

The 2000s are the "Two-and-a-Half Men" and "How I Met Your Mother era of crass and crude sitcoms that rely on shock value for laughs. The 2010s seem to be a free-for-all.

The reason for this recap is to show that '70scoms are the only ones that (as intended) most realistically reflect the American life of the era. The bad news is that things have greatly changed for the worst; the good news is that that we can change back.

The two '70scoms that first come to mind when thinking of the fare of the era are "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Bob Newhart Show." It is interesting that the former Tyler Moore series "The Dick Van Dyke Show" is one of the first that literally and figuratively gives the workplace and the home equal time. 

Starting close to home, it is nice to see folks who reasonably resemble the people in our lives. Further, reel-life friends and neighbors are not always so nice but at least are never toxic. The sad truth is that many people in 2019 start from a neutral stance but are quick to resentment and related anger. This is assuming that you even interact with the boy or girl next door. 

A public encounter from the era of the 2000 presidential election that can be considered the beginning of the end of civility in America perfectly illustrates how far we have fallen since the ''70s.

I have worn red polo shirts all my life without incident until randomly wearing one to the Michael Moore anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 911." Despite paying money to see a movie that is critical of Dubya and not having uttered a syllable in the theater, I soon became the object of active scorn based on my attire.

The first absurd aspect of this is the assumption that the shirt is a declaration of being a Republican; the added insult is that this perfect stranger is a monster who deserves such an attack. The truth is that I am am independent who vocally advocates putting a moderate in the Oval Office.  BILL GATES IN 2020!

Moving onto the workplace, it is nice to see a fantasy world in which most people get along and even foes co-exist in relative peace. An amusing  real-life aspect is often joking to someone involved in long-term conflict with a co-worker is that the solution is to lock them together in the supply room overnight, The very apt reply is that the resulting ceasing of hostility only lasts a week.

The first part of the final act lesson regarding all this is that everyone should remember the importance of working and playing well with others that the aforementioned shows reflect. Part of this that these series also reflect is that you do not have to love thy neighbor or co-worker but  must show that person common courtesy at least until he or she figuratively throws the first punch; even then, turning the other cheek is tougher but still is the best option. 

The second part of the lesson is even more important; one big reason that we are in our current hostile state is that our candidates for federal offices increasingly run negative campaigns that greatly contribute to the divisive nature of our society. Hating someone based on a snap judgment that he is a Republican now justifies attacks based on a perception of being a "Have" even when not much actually is had.

A sadly amusing aspect of this is regularly overhearing employees at Target and virtually every other retail business complain about the "rich people" with whom they interact. The reality is that it is highly unlikely that anyone with incomes in the highest tax bracket even shop at these stores. 

The relative (and mostly achievable) Utopia of '70scoms is a world in which your core group is your support system and rarely the cause of stress. Further, you are judged based on on your inherent qualities and usually are literally and figuratively invited to the party so long as you are a decent and caring person. Sounds good (and attainable)  to me. ​ 

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