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Friday, November 19, 2010

punch line television

So here we are.
Remember Hee-Haw
I remember watching this, or should I say, I remember being forced to watch this back in the era of single-television households, when I was a kid. Cheap, syndicated corn-fed laughs served up on giant hay bales by toothless hicks in overalls and busty farmer’s daughter-types spilling out of their gingham, floating on hooch fumes and sticky with sweet chicken-fried metaphors you could sop up with a biscuit.
And Benny Hill? That was another one I was forced to sit through. Cheap, syndicated tweed cap-topped laughs served up with a side of steak and kidney pie by bawdy old Brits in derbies and busty young birds spilling out of their nurse’s uniforms, awash in Guinness and double-entendres, and somehow always ending with a fast-forwarded chase featuring character actors in various states of undress that ultimately makes one wonder what took us so durned long to break from our motherland’s monarchy.
But they were more than just tacky TV shows. They were incredible punch lines. Bright and brilliant examples of crap.
And now I realize the worst part about getting older. It’s not any of the things that the beauty magazines or medical journals would convince you that they are. It’s not the aches, pains, wrinkles or grays that make you feel old before your time. No, sir or madam.
It’s the realization that compared to today’s crap, the crap of your youth is freaking genius. I’m not talking about how much better the shows back then were. I’m strictly looking at the bottom of the barrel, then and now. Every generation has punch line television, and it’s scary when you finally have the perspective to realize how much the punch line shows continue to keep reaching new lows.
Two words: Jersey Shore. If that’s not a punch line, I don’t know what is.
Granted, maybe I never gave the punch line television of my youth a fair shake. Maybe they became tainted by my lack of control over the dial or the fact that I kept hearing these voices telling me that I wanted my MTV. 
And upon adult review, there is a certain appeal to the old cheese, and what used to be processed American has aged into a halfway decent cheddar or muenster. Not brie, mind you, but it still makes a decent sandwich. 
Even if you hate all things Grand, Ol’, or Opry, you can’t deny that Roy Clark was one hell of a gifted musician, or that Junior Samples’ deadpan was genuinely laugh-inducing. Benny Hill seems to grow more charming with age. And anything sped up to fast motion is funny, and anything put to “Yakety Sax” is funny... but put together, as they are in every ending of Benny Hill, its hilarity is greater than the sum of its parts. 
Which begs the question: in twenty or thirty years, will we look back on Jersey Shore and find brilliance in it? And if so, what will be the reason? Will it be because it was ahead of its time? Will it be because there is hidden sociological importance in it that we cannot possibly appreciate today? Will it be because it contains the early seeds of genius from the future expatriate winner of the 2033 and 2035 Oscars™, Dame Snooki?
Or will it be because when we are mired in the vast wasteland of the punch line shows of the future, Jersey Shore will seem genius only by sheer comparison?
Yeah. I thought so. 
Because compared to Hee Haw, Benny Hill, and the other punch line shows of my youth, the punch line shows of the previous generation seem to get exponentially better.
My Mother the Car, anyone?
Hmm... suddenly the future doesn’t seem like I’ll need to wear shades.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

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