Small screen escapism
May 27, 2013
by Ivan Raconteur

Owing to the nature of the noble vocation in which I find myself engaged, I spend seven or eight days a week dealing with cold hard facts.

Or rather, I spend my time trying to distill as many facts as I can find amongst the mountains of hooey through which I must sift on a weekly basis.

It is incumbent upon me to immerse myself in the present, anticipate the future, and try to explain what I see to our readers.

My lot is to convert, to the extent possible, a kaleidoscope world into sober black and white.

Most of the time, this is a pretty good gig.

The hours are long, and there is no danger whatsoever that I will ever have the stress that comes with finding oneself in the top tax bracket, but despite these drawbacks, I am reasonably sure it beats working for a living.

It can wear a person down, however.

Most people, when confronted with major tragedies like the devastation left by the tornado in Oklahoma, or with events such as vehicle crashes or house fires, can simply tune out.

A lot of people who would rather not know about the iniquity and hooliganism that exist, even in their own quiet communities, and who would prefer not to hear about unpleasant realities can choose to ignore them.

People in the news business, whether they want to know about these things or not, are forced to face them head on. Not only face them, but dig into them, analyze them, and then turn around and explain them.

The relentless parade of pain, politics, corruption, suffering, brutality, hypocrisy, and inhumanity can be overwhelming, and the incredible pointlessness of it all can take the spring out of one’s step some days.

Reporting on illness, injury, loneliness, and loss, important though it may be, just isn’t much fun.

Sure, we report good things, too, and sometimes might wish these were the only things about which we had to write. However, the bad stuff is out there, and no matter how much readers or viewers protest and SAY they want us to report more good news, it is the other kind they actually read or watch.

It is also true that people in the news business have a responsibility to report both good and bad news. Sometimes, the most uncomfortable or difficult stories to write are the ones that are most important for people to read in order to make good decisions.

Well, friends, as much as I take my role seriously, I have a deep, dark confession to make.

There are times when the game starts to get me down, and I temporarily escape through a small screen to a world that never was.

In this fantasy world of days gone by, anything is possible.

Spending half an hour with Ernest Borgnine’s gang of cutthroats on “McHale’s Navy” can make even the tragedy of war seem light and entertaining.

Taking a time out with Phil Silvers in his iconic role as the scheming Master Sergeant Ernest G. Bilco can make the monotony of life on a small post-war Army base seem like an adventure.

Watching Fred MacMurray dispense fatherly advice on “My Three Sons” is always good for a laugh, and the homespun humor on “The Andy Griffith Show” can provide a welcome oasis of tranquility.

Observing the antics of the Clampett clan on “The Beverly Hillbillies” sometimes shows how simple ideas might solve a lot of problems.

Programs like “Hogan’s Heroes” can turn the most difficult situation into a farce.

These shows, and dozens of others like them, are far from reality, and that, I suppose, is the point.

There are times when the programs from a bygone era have a special appeal, and convey a certain innocence. This is not because the situations they depict ever existed.

Even when these shows originally aired, there were plenty of problems in the world. Perhaps the reason they were popular then is the same reason they are popular now – they provide an escape.

Sometimes we just need to get away from the present for awhile.

I don’t have much time to sit in front of the television, but when I do, I don’t want a “reality” show – I want an “unreality” show.

In their own goofy way, these old TV shows can help to ground us, and remind us of some basic values. They don’t require a lot of thinking or analyzing. Many of them employ humor rooted in human nature, and allow us to laugh at ourselves by pointing out the absurdity of the way we sometimes think and act.

Classic TV shows are not an accurate representation of life the way it is now, or the way it was then. But they may represent something that more closely resembles the way we wish life could be.

It’s not too difficult to see why that might be appealing. When we feel things are moving too fast or becoming too complicated, it is natural for us to wish we could slow things down and simplify our lives.

And, if all of our problems could be solved in less than half an hour, wouldn’t life be grand?

We cannot and should not ignore the world around us, but, if we take a break now and then to escape, it can help us cope with things in the real world when we return to the here and now.

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