Recently, I’ve been re-watching an old favorite TV show of mine, Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Anyone under age 40 probably doesn’t even remember it. It was a spy-type of comedy that ran four seasons from 1983 to 1987 about an ordinary housewife, Amanda King, played by Kate Jackson (Sabrina of Charlie’s Angels for you 70s TV show fans) and Lee Stetson, aka Scarecrow, played by Bruce Boxleitner, a seasoned spy for “The Agency”. Completely by accident, Amanda is recruited by Scarecrow to be a spy, albeit in a courier-type capacity at first. Of course, eventually she becomes a key player in all types of Russian take-downs. After all, who would believe an ordinary DC housewife would be a spy?
Can you begin to see what I miss?
The willing suspension of disbelief.
True confession: I am not a big fan of Reality TV. Sure, I watched American Idol (whatever happened to David Cook anyway?), love ghost hunting and true crime shows and all things HGTV, but the Writer’s Strike of 2007 ruined a lot of TV for us who didn’t mind believing premises that were, ahem, a little far-fetched.
In the 80s, shows that featured a good guys vs. bad guys storyline were everywhere. In the 80s, it was easy to feature the Russians as the bad guy in every spy flick. It was the Cold War! We did not have a bunch of Russians protesting outside of a studio somewhere saying they are being misrepresented in American TV. And it made life simpler. We had pay phones instead of cell phones, typewriters instead of computers and crazy notions about impropriety. It was the day of the cowboy in the white hat versus the villain in the black hat. As I write that I realize that now even having colored hats is politically incorrect. If I’ve offended, I apologize.
I hate the PC movement. It’s probably because I am not a hateful person—either that, or I’m just an idiot. If I had to be honest, I’d say that there were always certain characteristics that, growing up, I associated with the bad guy. (No offense to the PC crowd who thinks it could be a bad “girl”, which could very well have its own innuendo.) The person who was a liar, spiteful, a thief or was anti-American was not to be trusted. So many stories today feature the person who is a liar, but for good reason; the meanie who was just misunderstood; the thief who just needed a break; or anti-American…because, gosh, we can’t think that we are better than anybody else—Americans are such an arrogant bunch. But when I watched a show where the criminal happened to be a certain ethnicity or race, I didn’t relate the bad guy in the show to anybody who fell into the same demographic. Maybe because I saw the show as…fiction. Corn was a vegetable and thrown on dinner plates as such. Who wants a show about real life? (Corn is a starch, only broccoli is a healthy vegetable. Throw out the green beans-they aren’t going to add years to your life. Mom vacuums on Tuesdays. Stop perpetuating untruths!)
It’s not that I don’t appreciate nuances in storytelling where characters are deeper than what they seem. I like watching movies and shows that stretch what I think I know. I just miss the simple bad guy vs. good guy premise. Throw in a little sexual tension (NOT rolling around in the bed after knowing each other a whole two hours), mystery and some comedy and I’m sold. I’m simple like that. So yeah, I miss 80s TV. Magnum PI. Simon and Simon. Cagney and Lacey. Moonlighting. The A Team. Somehow they had a way of having horrendous crimes, but didn’t seem so dark. They were okay with throwing us couch potatoes a taste of the darkness of human nature—murder, rape, revenge—but making it seem like it was just another day at the office for our heroes.
There are a few shows out that are a great throwback to those times. I love the show Castle, which just ended last year. Who wouldn’t want to believe that a fiction crime writer would be part of a New York homicide detective team? His theories on cases alone were entertaining. Or Bones, where a Forensic Anthropologist would be on the front lines chasing down bad guys? Now that I think about it, I think that show ended, too. But when I watch shows like that, I can see myself thrown into the action. Can’t you? It’s fun.
And why I like TV.
Like Walter Mitty, I could be the hero. Me, ordinary City employee and Mom, Amy. I could save the day. Be the unassuming hero in my ordinary town. It’s fiction. I’m okay with it. In fact, I embrace it! I am free to not associate any of the bad guys in the script because the story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in the production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.
I do miss my 80s TV. Maybe it’s because I was just a kid, and things were simpler when I had that naiveté. But it sure seemed like a lot more fun, and less of a statement. So go check out shows from the 70s and 80s. Relax, enjoy. Don’t read into it too much. You may find yourself slightly entertained. And that, in today’s reality-heavy TV, is a gift within itself. Enjoy.