Perspective changes, changes, faster than lightning

Perspective changes, changes, faster than lightning
Source: Reusableart.com

Have you ever gone back to watch a TV show or film you enjoyed many years ago?

If not, I hope you'll try it -- and I hope you'll enjoy it the way I'm enjoying one of my first favorite TV series, "Flipper."

When I saw it recently in the weekend TV listings on an "All Classics" TV channel, I thought it would be worth a short look. I remembered that I'd liked watching it when I was very young, and that it was the story about two older boys growing up with their father, a park ranger in Florida, and their pet dolphin. Even if you were as young as I was when I first saw it, you could sing about the dolphin with me:

"They call him Flipper! Flipper! Faster than lightning! No one, you see, is smarter than he!"

Flipper himself hadn't changed a bit when I tuned in again as a "grownup." Sometimes his adventures consist of Flipper finding trouble and revealing it to his humans; other times, he gets in trouble and needs rescuing. (Being "faster than lightning," I guess, will get you into trouble that fast, too.)

What startles me now isn't just the good, basic storytelling -- adventure in and near the sea, no subplots need apply -- but how my attitudes have changed about Flipper's owners. I suppose I'd just have called them "the people characters" when I was young.

The family consists of Porter Ricks, single dad (for no reason I ever remember being mentioned) and park ranger; Sandy, his older son, who (on the episode I saw last) was described as a senior in high school; and Bud, his younger son, who is somewhere between 10 and 13 years old.

Bud gets an idea for an adventure, says "Come on, Flipper!" and gets a reply, in dolphin-ese, immediately. Now that I've known dogs who were less quick to reply, let alone obey, Flipper's answers strain credibility.

As for the family's adventures, I don't see many of them as "Wow! What fun!" the way I did. Oh, the occasional deep-sea dive is still beautiful -- especially as I sit cuddled under blankets against the onslaught of winter outside here. As the theme song also puts it,

"Flipper lives in a world full of wonder, flying out under, under the sea!"

But watching "older boys who get to do something" has shifted. Even "grown-up" big brother Sandy seems too young to be driving motorboats and helping his dad as much as he does, and seeing little brother Bud driving a boat with an outboard motor has become maddening. I'm likely to mutter "He's too young!" several times a show.

That brings me back to Porter, the authority figure as both dad and park ranger. My younger self would have found any explanation of why he's on his own impossibly sad, but also distracting. If it doesn't matter to the story, from poachers in park waters to the boys' grades in school (which I don't remember ever seeing them attend), it isn't part of the show. Who said we need all the explanations, after all?

Porter's character makes "Flipper" a sort of workplace adventure story, thanks to his workplace being a national park. I doubt that I ever noticed that as a child. The park was where Flipper lived, first and foremost. Porter just worked there. I wanted to learn about it as an excuse to watch dolphins.

So, all these decades later, I'm glad to have an excuse to watch dolphins again. In nature documentaries, I have trouble telling dolphins apart. But, involved in the story again, I can say as confidently as Bud and Sandy, "There's Flipper!" Once again, I'm distracted and delighted.

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  • Maybe this explains why most of the digital retro channels don't hold my interest, besides that they keep repeating only a few episodes of each series.

    However, Jack Benny still is funny 50 years later,* and the informercials for Johnny Carson demonstrate to me that Johnny did get much of his technique from Jack.

    Sometimes the infomercials are better than the originals, because they are edited down to "the best of." For instance, The Best of Soul Train was interesting, but when they reran Soul Train on Channel 23.2 (until the day after Don Cornelius died, and never thereafter) the ones after 1977 were junk. They didn't even have the theme from Soul Train and Bob Luce Wrestling (The Sound of Philadelphia, which in a sense was strange since the show originated on WCIU in Chicago and then was taped in LA).

    *Maybe one realization I had in watching the reruns is that Gracie Allen is now too dumb for me, especially in light of Connie Stevens later doing her role on Wendy and Me.

  • In reply to jack:

    You like Jack Benny, too? WELL! I think he's tremendous; his scenes with Mel Blanc could be another perspective-changer post since I no longer think of Mel only in terms of Warner Bros. cartoons.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    I started worrying about Mel when he was in a body cast. However, the routine when he was the violin teacher Professor LeBlanc whom Jack drove nuts was classic. Also, when he was Sy, Si, whose sister was Sue. If you ask me, I think I caught onto Mel first in these roles before realizing that he did most of the Looney Tunes characters. Also, it took me a while to figure out if there was a difference between Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. Also, Rabittitus.scared the hell out of me.

  • I still love the "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "The Twilight Zone".
    I wish they could see again reruns of "College Bowl" which used to air Sundays at 4:00 on NBC. Alan Ludden was one of the quizmasters. Sid Caesar's "Show of Shows" still makes me laugh.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I'm not so sure that a show asking some college students some 45-50 year old questions about anything but the classics would hold up today. "What is a computer....Something the size of a warehouse that..." I'm not even sure that putting The Walter Cronkite Channel on Channel 2.2 (as reported by Robert Feder) would work. Neither would have much pull with the ADHD generation, many of whom demonstrate that they don't know who Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton were.

    On the other hand, Sid, like Jack, is universal enough that it could work, although probably only for 2 runs.

  • In reply to jack:

    Well, maybe the rerun channels are good for showing a bit of history to younger folks, then. Jack, do you have any ideas about how I can watch more of Sid? (I know he was the inspiration for Alan Brady on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" because Carl Reiner wrote for Sid... that's enough endorsement for me.)+

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Maybe I'm missing a rerun channel somewhere. I have never seen College Bowl (although I understand I played something similar in the trivia tourney).
    As for "Your Show of Shows," how and/or where have you seen it recently? I have loved the few bits I've ever been able to see and would love to see more.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    It only seemed to turn up on PBS occasionally, sort of similar to Ernie Kovacs. Also, I don't think that the occasionally was recently (like in this millennium). indb indicates that what I recall may have been a 1973 compilation, rather than the real thing.

    Sid has recently showed up on the Movies! channel (50.2) in Silent Movie, and also had a role in History of the World Part I as a caveman.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    I remember GE College Bowl on a network going back to the 60s. I took Aquinas as meaning that he would like to see it back, but it isn't. College Bowl was essentially teams of students from 2 colleges answering various questions, which to me, and I guess Aquinas, looked very intellectual to people maybe in 9th Grade.

    There was a similar, local "It's Academic," which used high school seniors. I knew some people who auditioned for it, but it was canceled before I would have been eligible (not that I would have done any good). It is still being licensed, and their website has a picture of Hillary Clinton from Maine South H.S.

    The attraction would be similar to Jeopardy! in the old days.

  • College Bowl also has a website.

  • Maybe overly prolonging this, but The Addams Family (now on Channel 9.3, Sunday noon) falls into the category. Previously I noted that they were polite and sophisticated, but my recent take is that they make perfect sense in their world, except when the weirdos from the outside intrude.

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