The original family sitcom ran from 1954 to 1962… and if you don’t know it… you should. I’m not referring to I Love Lucy… another staple of the time… but… not the best of the best in my opinion.
The show that I still love features the Anderson’s… who lived a nice, clean life in the town of Springfield. Not sure exactly what state the Anderson’s Springfield was… but it really didn’t matter as far as the plot goes.
Let’s see if the character names ring a bell?
Of course there was the patriarch Jim Anderson, a good-hearted gent who owned his own insurance agency and ran his home with a fair sense of honesty and role modeling.
He was joined by the sweetest mom on the block… Margaret Anderson, who had the ability to calm down any one of the three Anderson off spring… namely… Betty, Bud and Kathy… or “Kitten” as her loving dad called her.
Got it yet?
Father Knows Best probably, the most beloved TV series of the 50’s and early 60’s.
The critics loved it too… It won 6 Emmys.
And now, a half-century after it left the air… it still has staying power, even in today’s world of anything goes and censors whose standards reside somewhere in junior high… not to mention the fact that ridiculous creatures are regularly being turned into “reality show celebrities” in the same medium that once gave us something to be proud of.
Robert Young, Jane Wyatt, Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray and Lauren Chapin made up the cast of this classic insight into a time when life was a little simpler. The family unit wasn’t something out of the ordinary… the role of a parent in a two parent household was clear, and the feeling that things could always somehow work out… was always present… as were the Mom and Dad.
And that’s just it… Robert Young was more like a dad than just a father… and he DID know best. Margaret was the kind of mom who wouldn’t let her children get into a jam if she could help it. She’d do a paper route in the rain for Bud when he was too sick to go out… and Jim passed on an important Chamber of Commerce dinner to make sure that he could attend Kathy’s school program. For Jim and Margaret Anderson, albeit that they were only TV Characters, family always came first… an attitude that is hard enough to find in real life, let alone on television nowadays.
It’s easy to poke fun at Father Knows Best… just like Ward and June Cleaver’s family including Wally and Theodore in Leave It to Beaver… another good example of how things used to be. But when I hear someone snicker about those simpler times, it’s usually because they never knew the world then and therefore, they can’t understand what they never knew or experienced in the first place.
A dad, who put his family ahead of his job and most certainly ahead of himself, is a character upon whom we can… and should take notice.
Good, moral people with integrity would stand up pretty well these days… in fact, they’d probably stand out… as I like to say, like brown shoes with a tux. Honesty has a shelf life.
In contrast, I’d love to see the reaction to some of the clowns we have forced upon us on the big flat screens today, transported in time to black and white, when being a self-centered egomaniac with little or no talent didn’t play very well with a more discerning public.
Toss somebody like Honey Boo Boo, the mercifully forgotten Paris Hilton, the Kardashians, the Ozborne’s or Lyndsey Lohan and her dysfunctional family into a time when we had respect for ourselves as well as others and you would see those stars fade in a nano-second.
What are the chances that the likes of Snooki and the rest of the cast of the pointless Jersey Shore, or Jersey-licious, or Real Housewives of Who Caresville will still be remembered 50 years from now?
Zero! And that is a fact.
I recall an episode of Father Knows Best where Bud and Jim decide to build a family trophy case to house all the ribbons and medals that they’d won… everyone in the family that is, except Margaret who felt like maybe she should win something too, so she snuck Jim’s best fly casting road and reel and took lessons so she could enter the local contest with the other gals… and… she got pretty good at it too, under the tutelage of a real fly fishing champion. But, the day before the contest, as she hurried home, she slipped and fell on the front porch and hurt her casting arm.
Showing what a loving family might do in a show of affection, Jim, Betty, Bud and Kathy all pitched in to give her a tribute of just how great a mom she was by re-enacting another 50’s TV show… called This Is Your Life.
One by one, they described how she had unselfishly given of herself so that they could each, individually feel better about themselves and just how proud they all were of her, despite the fact that she didn’t have a single blue ribbon, a medal or a trophy like they did to stick in the family trophy case.
Even the fishing teacher presented her with some special fly fishing flies as an award for working and practicing so hard that she went from pathetic to what he called, the best student he ever had.
Corny? Maybe. But the underlying element of every episode was simple, understandable, and it was always underscored with love and respect for one another. What do you say we resurrect those family values to replace selfishness and rudeness?
I’d love to see Father Knows Best brought back to Prime Time TV. Not a remake with a pack of actors between re-hab stints pretending to be nice to one another, I’m talking about the real thing, the original show reruns in glorious black and white splendor. I’m advocating gathering the family together in front of the TV to watch and to learn not only how things USED to be… but, how they should be once again.
A two-parent family with children who understand right from wrong would be a welcomed addition to our American family landscape. This would not be the Conner family of the caustic Roseanne Barr Show where blatant disrespect was mistakenly confused as humor. Not Family Guy, where sarcastic cartoon characters are passed off as entertainment. Not the Bachelor or Bachelorette programs where people exhibit such a lack of self-respect that they embarrass themselves by their mere appearance of standing on a sleazy auction block.
Oh, the list goes on and on, with hundreds of channels screaming for programming, there has to be something on the tube. The sad fact is that there is a serious lack of decent messages being put in front of our children and we are allowing them to feed their minds, without saying a word. Sounding like the great censor… I just think it’s time to exercise a function that is available to all of us… the parental control option.
TV has become the cheap baby sitter. It’s often not a concern of what is on as much as the fact that something… anything… is on. What I refer to as the “Who’s your buddy? Who’s your pal?” parents can selfishly focus on themselves instead of the childhood needs of the lives that they have brought into the world.
Parents… grandparents older siblings and babysitters could benefit from younger children actually seeing what a functional family looks like, even if it is on TV.
I’m a big fan of stuff like the Andy Griffith Show too… where a single dad does his best to raise his boy with lessons learned around the old fishin’ hole… or Dick Van Dyke, where a couple named Rob and Laura Petrie can live happily in New Rochelle, NY and raise a son with love, humor and music in their home.
The point is fairly simple. Families have always had challenges and they always will, but I just don’t feel that today’s TV needs to have a camera running every time someone kicks over a rock and another reality show celebrity slithers out.
Give me a good story where people support each other because it’s the right thing to do, in the natural order of how families are supposed to work.
My wife and I still enjoy flipping on the TV to spend a half-an-hour in Springfield with the Anderson’s… sometimes I wish we could just stay there.