I am perfectly aware that I have been far too influenced by television. I am part of the Television Generation and I’m pretty sure that my family was some kind of test model for the Big Three networks. We had t.v. sets in practically every room and things never felt quite normal unless at least two of them were blaring in the background. Indeed, my warmest and fuzziest childhood memories involve curling up in front of the tube, a can of Tab in one hand and a bag of Jay’s potato chips in the other, watching reruns of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Bewitched,” and any kind of Charlie Brown special. I learned about medicine from Marcus Welby, law from Owen Marshall and World War II from the guys on “Combat” but I think I learned the most–and, oddly, the least–from the goofy, corny, at times downright bizarre “Love, American Style.”
“Love, American Style” debuted in 1969 when I was in the fourth grade, an impressionable age for sure. It was kind of a sitcom, sort of a drama and a whole lot sex obsessed although I was too dumb/naive to get that at the time. It had one of those pop theme songs that went something like: Love, American style, truer than the red, white and blue..Love, American style, that’s me and you… Contrived for sure but I swear I got goosebumps every time I heard that opening anthem.
Each show featured (I think) three different short stories about people in love, American style. If memory serves me correctly, one story was semi-serious and the other two were completely ridiculous. As a fourth-grader (and a fifth-grader and a sixth-grader and on and on for as long as the show aired or until I finally had something better to do on Friday nights–oh, wait, that never happened), I thought life really was going to be exactly like an episode of “Love, American Style,” hopefully a serious episode and not one featuring Stuart Margolin going after a hapless blonde with a crazed look in his eyes. I assumed that people actually met the love of their lives in places like car washes and fast food restaurants, fell in love immediately and stayed in love forever. I also thought that the majority of adult problems revolved around misunderstandings, missed telephone calls and a whole lot of miscommunication. I’m glad I didn’t know then that the majority of adult problems typically revolve around far, far worse things.
It must have been a blast to have been a television writer when “Love, American Style” was on the air. How long could it have taken to come up with a plot where a flower delivery guy accidentally gets punch spilled on his pants, takes the pants off so that the attractive woman he delivered the flowers to could wash them and then is forced to hide in a variety of hiding places–pants-less–when the attractive woman’s husband arrives home unexpectedly? That had to be way easier to whip out than any CSI episode.
I know it’s a sign of age to talk about the good ol’ days ad nauseum but those really were the good old days. Thank God for DVD’s because the first season of “Love, American Style” is available and I just ordered it. As soon as it arrives I’m going to grab a can of Tab, a bag of chips and park myself on the sofa. Sounds like a good Friday night to me.