Quality tv viewing, from a time when silliness ruled. Whacky shows that shaped a generation.

March 6, 2012

Davy Jones and his mates gave hope to goofballs all over the world.

Those of us who wondered if we could get through life with nothing more than a laugh and a song were truly inspired. Didn’t matter that we were only seven.

When the Monkees lead singer shuffled off after giving his final performance last week, it got me thinking about those early tv shows. The ground-breaking ideas that sparked our imagination.

Before we proceed, an important warning. If you were born after 1980, return to the safety of your iPhone immediately. The following involves programs that you’ve probably never heard of. We’ve entered an old-fart only zone.

I loved the Monkees. Four guys running around in ever-diminishing circles, wearing funny hats and singing cool songs. It was a celebration of silliness.

Dad wasn’t so keen. Pointless, he reckoned. Why would anyone watch such rubbish, when the ABC had decent English comedies?

Before I began Monkee-ing around, it was all about cartoons. The Flintstones. The Jetsons. The Bugs Bunny Show. Ground-breaking animation about the past, the future, and talking animals.

All three worked, because there was a focus on the absurd. Fred’s foot-powered car. The Jetson family’s futuristic house. The Road Runner escaping every single death plot so carefully organised by Wile E Coyote.

My tv time was the hour before the nightly news. Usually in winter, when daylight disappeared. But only on non-footy training nights.

Dad would never miss the news. Even then, essential viewing. Another wonderful habit passed down from my parents.

Before we received our visit from Roger Climpson, there would be a variety of shows keeping me entertained. And only now do I realise they all were based on a ridiculous notion.

I Dream of Jeannie made Dad and I laugh, and quietly inspect every strange bottle we found on the beach. Just in case.

Bewitched made us wonder if that nice looking blonde up the road was actually casting spells on Dad’s old Holden. It was so silly, with twitching noses and meddling mother-in-laws, that you had to giggle.

How could you not love Granny in the Beverly Hillbillies? Lust after Elly May? The concept was as silly as a wheel. But we loved it.

Mr Ed changed the way I approached horses. What if they did have something to say? I’ve been listening ever since. Although it must be said that not one has so much as whispered a tip to me.

Get Smart. McHales Navy. The Flying Nun. All with marvellous degrees of loopiness.

I expect you’re green with envy about now, with the knowledge that I was able to watch such golden entertainment. Well, it wasn’t quite perfection. There was something missing.

Dad never fully explained why, but we couldn’t pick up Channel 10. And in the world of schoolboy tv watching, that made me something of an outcast.

No Gilligans Island. I knew nothing of Ginger and Mary Ann. I had no idea who Hogan was, or Schultz, or indeed any Heroes.

The rest of you had watched six seasons of MASH, before I knew which war they were fighting.

And the biggest blow of all. No Brady Bunch. How could I join in the jokes about Marcia, when I had never laid eyes on the girl?

Somehow, I survived. The beauty of repeats. I still look out for all the shows I’ve mentioned here. And it’s rare that they don’t provide a smile.

What does that tell us? Possibly, that I’m easily amused. And that when it comes to comedy, even now, there’s nothing to match true silliness.