Monday, September 24, 2007

Timeless TV

It's funny what you remember from your childhood.

Thanks to our library's fabulous DVD collection, I've enjoyed watching some favorite old TV shows lately: MacGyver, Remington Steele, Northern Exposure and, yes, even Hart To Hart. (I'm hoping they'll order Moonlighting soon.) What's fun, of course, is getting to see with adult eyes the programs I used to look forward to as a kid or a teen...shows that helped form my notions of storytelling structure, character development and romantic comedy.

Some episodes hold up remarkably well to the scrutiny of time and maturity. Others, not so much.

The curious thing is that when an old program I'm watching now (some two or more decades after it first aired) strikes an emotional chord in me, I have to work much harder to think like a writer. The very timelessness of certain scenes pulls me into the show and makes me forget to analyze the pacing, the character arc, the dialogue exchange, the plot escalation or whatever. (I give writerly reasons like this for allowing myself the luxury of DVD procrastination. I'm working. Really.)

And, yes, just as often I'm thrown off by some woefully out-of-date pop-culture reference or by some really terrible hair or clothing style (i.e., Teri Hatcher guest-starred on MacGyver once and, oh, the huge, dreadful earrings!), but I'm still shocked by how many times the writers and directors of those now-old TV shows got the human drama just right. How they pinpointed the most universal social dynamics and the all-too-common fears men and women have about being in relationships with each other--be they work, family, friendship or love. How, even though I know about the inevitable demise of these characters, the aging of the real-life actors, the replacement of these programs with others several seasons over, I can still return immediately to their lives, and to a time when they lived out my earliest ideas of what constituted "funny, romantic, smart and interesting." And I'm so glad we have the DVD technology to bring them back...if only for a few hours.

Anyone out there have some favorites, too?


Eliza said...

We just signed up for Netflix again, mostly to watch TV on DVD. As far as shows that helped develop my writing instincts, I know that I got way too much of my comedic timing from the Simpsons. Plus I think my sister and I were exposed to Live at the Improv at a formative age.

L.A. Mitchell said...

I remember that Teri Hatcher episode--actually more than one, right? I'll bet it took her awhile after that role to live down being such a ditz.

My favorite MacGyver episode is toward the end of the series, where we finally get to relive his powerful backstory regarding guns and his childhood friend. So emotional. What a hero.:)