Monday Musings: Generation TV

I was recently reading comments on an author’s blog (probably Tiffany A. White, but I can’t find the post) and noticed that several people were talking about Saved by the Bell – which I don’t think I’ve ever seen!  That show debuted after my school years.  In fact, I spent a lot of my time when that show was airing watching CNN’s coverage of the Gulf War, not finding out who Screech was. 

Saved by the Bell cast

Besides reminding me that I’m getting older by the nanosecond, the conversation made me think about how TV shows characterize generations.  Growing up in the 70’s, I have never met anyone my age who hasn’t watched The Brady Bunch (1969-1974).  That was THE family sitcom for our time.  My sister was so well-versed on the Bradys that she could usually predict the plot line based on the opening scene.  (“Jan is wearing her yellow dress and coming down the stairs, so this is the one where she fakes a boyfriend named George Glass and rubs lemon on her freckles.”  That kind of thing.)  The show was such a part of our childhoods that I wonder how many of my generation have secretly downloaded It’s a Sunshine Day onto their MP3 players. 


Then, there was Happy Days (1974-1984).  Cool was defined by the leather-clad Arthur Fonzarelli; 1950’s style and music made a comeback; and my friends all thought Joanie and Chachi were the perfect couple.  Of course, Ron Howard was the crux of the show as the naïve but maturing Richie Cunningham.  In addition to its success, this show spawned Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and Joanie Loves Chachi.  Happy Days was THE show to watch.  (Well, until Fonzie jumped the shark.) 

Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-1979) was perhaps my generation’s Saved by the Bell.  If not for Kotter, I’m pretty sure John Travolta would not have played Danny Zucko a few years later in Grease.  Looking back, the funny thing is how few women were in the show.  Other than Mr. Kotter’s wife and a few supporting actresses who interacted with the main characters, it was a male-focused show.  But Juan Epstein’s mother’s notes were always entertaining, Vinnie Barbarino was nice eye candy even if he was intellectually-challenged, Arnold Horshack was probably our version of Screech – a little nerdy, and Freddie Washington was the really cool one at the end of the day.  And the show made us appreciate that some teachers care about their students quite a lot. 

The last popular sitcom I can recall being a big deal when I was growing up was One Day at a Time (1975-1984), which traces the family of a divorced mother and her teenage daughters – played by Mackenzie Phillips (daughter of Mamas and Papas’ John and Michelle) and Valerie Bertinelli (before Eddie Van Halen and Jenny Craig).  This show dealt with more serious issues – like family break-up, drugs, teenage sexuality – but interjected humor as well.  I think I have at one time or another seen all of the episodes for this show. 

Maybe these shows do characterize my generation well.  It was post-1960’s, but tough subjects were still not talked about a lot on the TV screen.  Slowly, however, shows debuted that dealt with both humorous plots and tough family challenges.  

So what sitcoms define your youth?  What do you recall about them?  Do you think they represent your generation well?  What family sitcoms appeal to you today?

15 thoughts on “Monday Musings: Generation TV

  1. I remember watching The Red Skelton Show because it was geeky funny and clean and slapsticky but hilarioius. The Ed Sullivan Show, of course, introduced us to a LOT of famous talent. It's where I first saw the Beatles, lying with my girlfriends on my bed, drooling. My Favorite Martian and Lost in Space were crucial to getting me "into" space movies.Thanks for the walk down memory lane!Patti

  2. I remember when Happy Days was still on TV and airing new episodes. I also remember when Laverne and Shirley were doing the same, though I remember the episodes after they moved to California better than the ones where they lived in Milwaukee. When I was a teenager, my favorite show was Roseanne. It still makes me laugh. It was mean. The show, the characters in it, the things they did–were mean. I think that was the first show I remember seeing where everybody wasn't a goody two-shoes. Roseanne and Dan Tanner were good people, but they'd also tell malicious jokes behind your back. They weren't robbers, but they didn't pay their bills on time all the time. They were…real. LOLThanks for this post. It was fun thinking about this.

  3. I'm one of the Saved by the Bell generation. I loved that show and would watch it after school with my brother. I wanted to marry Zack Morris. I do remember watching Happy Days with my dad (reruns, since I wasn't born until 1980 🙂 ).I think another show I liked, also with a school dynamic, was Head of the Class. And the short-lived (but much-loved) My So Called Life.

  4. Ooo, Erin just made me remember Head of the Class! I really liked that show, too.And Perfect Strangers – anyone remember the "Dance of Joy"?I am of the "Saved by the Bell" generation, but never got to into it, but I also didn't watch Dawson's Creek and the like as I got older (even thought everyone else was).

  5. I remember all fof those with fondness. But I also recall, Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and Gilligans Island. And the Adams Family! Ah, much sweeter times when the creepiest things were Morticia's plants.

  6. What a great trip down memory lane. I would add Taxi, Charlie's Angels, Fantasy Island, Love Boat, Buck Rogers, Knight Rider, Magnum P.I., Remington Steel, Dallas, Falcon Crest, Dynasty,CHIPS, V, I Love Genie…okay maybe my folks watched too much television.

  7. I saw a bunch of shows in your comments that I watched too! I loved Gilligan's Island, Charlie's Angels, and Square Pegs put Sarah Jessica Parker on the map!I also admit to watching Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, Dick Van Dyke, Make Room for Daddy, and more on reruns. Loved them all!

  8. WHAT a fun post, Julie! And, thanks for the linkage!I loved The Brady Bunch, One Day at a Time, and others like Growing Pains and Just the 10 of Us. You should totally check out the reruns of Saved by the Bell. 🙂

  9. I was a "The Greatest American Hero" tragic at 7 years of age. We were allowed to sneak in the original "Battlestar", mostly because my Mum had a thing for Dirk Benedict. Magnum PI was another staple but I'm not even gonna go there so far as my mother is concerned. Selleck has actually aged well I think.

  10. So, I was born in 1987, yet i have seen all the shows you are speaking of, but One Day at a Time.I liked Saved by the Bell, but I remember watching things like (example) "Boy Meets World". Today I still watch things I would have liked when I was younger (yes, younger than 24)…like "Secret Life of the American Teenager" and "Switched at Birth".

  11. I'm with Sandy, David, and you, Julie. I Love Lucy, Ozzie and Harriet, Dick Van Dyke, Father Knows Best and all the rest mentioned were part of my growing up. My father hated the Addam's Family but my mother liked it. She worked late on Fridays at the bank (back then Banks weren't open on the weekends. When she came home we'd pull the portable TV into their bedroom and pile on her bed to watch it while my father watched his program. Thanks for the memories!

  12. Hi Julie!We're the same generation. I laughed when you mentioned how well versed your sister was in The Brady Bunch. That's like my husband! I also watched The Beverly Hillbillies and The Waltons. Thanks for taking me down memory lane! Great post!Jolyse

  13. Dean – I remember the Greatest American Hero too!Ashley's – I watched Boy Meets World in reruns, but liked it pretty well.Donna – The Addams Family is a good one! We watched that and the Munsters a lot too.Jolyse – I have never seen the Waltons, even though I remember it being on. I've heard it was a great show.Thanks for stopping by, y'all!

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