As most of you know, my mother became a quadriplegic due to a spinal cord injury when I was five years old. She lived forty more years. Mom never complained, and she lifted the spirits of anyone who spent time with her. One of the ways I spent time with her as a child was watching television.
There were three shows that she loved, and they shared the common thread of a talented, funny, leading lady. It started with Lucille Ball, and the I Love Lucy show. That show ran from 1951 until 1957, before my time, but we could find it in reruns through most of my childhood. Lucy got herself into a hilarious predicament every episode, and my mother never failed to laugh at her. Neither did I. Perhaps her most famous scene was at the chocolate factory:
The second program my mother loved was the Carole Burnett Show. This comedy-variety ran from 1967 to 1978. Carole was the leader of a troop of comics such as Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, and Vicki Lawrence. They would perform skits each week. Some of them were one-of-a-kind’s, and others were of the serial variety. Again, Mom and I would laugh throughout. Our favorite part was an unrehearsed question and answer segment with the audience at the start of most shows. Carole was quick on her feet, essentially performing improvisational humor. She also had a nice voice. Below is a video of how she ended each episode.
And finally, my father joined my mother and us kids to watch All in the Family, which ran from 1971 to 1979. Here's the opening song:
This show was different from the other two, in that it was a mixture of comedy and serious political and social satire. Archie Bunker was the lovable bigot. He was a right wing conservative before they were called right wing conservatives. His wife Edith, who he referred to as Dingbat, was the quiet and submissive wife, except for those few times when she wasn’t. Archie’s nemesis was his son-in-law, Michael, who he referred to as Meathead. Michael was a bleeding heart liberal before they were called bleeding heart liberals.
Dad’s outlook on life was similar to Archie’s. Sometimes I overheard my parents talking to their friends about the show. Dad would often take the position, “Everybody laughs at poor old Archie, but if you really listen to what he says, he’s right about almost everything." I think my mother loved the show because she sympathized with the Edith character, and although she would never laugh at my father, she felt free to laugh at Archie.
These shows were each groundbreaking in their era. The time our family spent in watching them together was quality time. Does anyone still do that with their family? Do people still gather around and watch TV shows together, or does everyone retreat to their separate corners of the house and watch their own personal “content?”