Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Bold Ones versus Grey’s Anatomy: And the days when Marcus Welby charged patients by their income

Posted By on Tue, Jan 8, 2013 at 12:01 PM

A few months ago Tracy and I watched an episode of The Bold Ones, a 1970s television series which featured revolving stories about attorneys, doctors, a United States senator and police officers. The show in question was about a doctor who had performed an abortion out of his sense of conscience.

As I watched the program, I recalled the first time I had seen this particular episode. Living at Zweibrücken Air Force Base in Germany, where my father was stationed, it was one of the shows offered up to us on American Forces Television.

Though you could say that I was pretty solidly liberal even at the time, my views on abortion were not, to say the least. I am sure that the program left me with some discomfort, and may even have caused me to rethink my feelings - though not for very long, I suspect.

In the 21st Century, my feelings about the program were quite different than they had been when I had watched it in the early 1970s.

Today, we have legions of folks who rise up and are quick to tell us what subjects should and should not be presented on television; many have been the protest letters to TV Guide, for example, when a program dares to deal with a real-life issue, or to have characters actually express opinions that some viewers take umbrage with.

This was not so during the 1960s and 1970s. Okay, we had Gomer Pyle (oddly enough, the word Vietnam never seemed to be uttered during the entire run of this program’s run) and Nanny and the Professor (hey, it Juliet Mills, okay?) but we also had The Bold Ones, The Twilight Zone, The Mod Squad, and Hallmark Hall of Fame productions.

Yes, before Hallmark got its own channel and neutered itself, some of the finest, most thought provoking programming on TV came from Hallmark. Other programs on TV also offered the occasional episode dealing with what were known as “social issues.”

Those who dash off outraged letters to TV Guide because a character makes a remark about one of their sacred cows would have a coronary if they were to go back 40 years and watch TV.

True, Sturgeon’s law dictates that 90 percent of everything is crap, but that 10 percent still got through to us on TV.

After Kent State, an episode of The Bold Ones - the brilliant shows featuring Hal Holbrook as a U.S. Congressman - dealt with the aftermath of similar campus shooting, Rashomon-style.

Even Marcus Welby charged patients on a sliding scale, based on their income. You think that concept would even get through, these days?

Ah, “these days.”

The days of escapism and general gutlessness on the part of television producers and network programmers.

On Grey’s Anatomy, patients are an afterthought, an annoyance to be dealt with, while each photogenic doctor gropes another. Not to pick on this show, but it is the perfect example of what medical shows have degenerated into.

Grey’s Anatomy, like its cousin, Private Practice, is a show where medical ethics are tossed out of the window at the drop of a hat, all for the sake of a plot point. If there are consequences for behaving unethically, they don’t last very long.

Of course, with almost ten more minutes cut out for commercials than we had a few decades ago, it’s hard to get a coherent story out of most modern programs anyway.

The Name of the Game was my personal favorite back in the Olden Days, a finely written show which dealt with issues we still face - but you won’t see on TV today, a medium devoted to Dance Moms (yes, let’s celebrate the truly ugly in the human race), bosses who go “undercover” and make their employees lives better (who needs unions?) and some space creature called Honey Boo Boo.

Oh, and really, really sexy doctors, lawyers and politicians writhing in full color across our screens.

While ordinarily I think that people who watch TV shows or movies on cell phones are cretins, I think this may be the perfect venue for them. A tiny screen for programs with tiny visions.

I don’t live in the past; I just wish that:

A) Audiences today were more demanding (and less whiny) about what they watch and . . .

B) That TV producers had more respect for their audiences.

I mean, if you get a chance to tell a story, why not tell a story?


What do The Postman and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, have in common?

Once upon a time there was (there still is, when you get down to it) a really, really great science fiction novel called The Postman, by David Brin. Many of us read it and longed for the day when it would be made into a movie.

Well, that day came, and it was total crap. This winter, while waiting for that snowstorm that never arrives, why not curl up with an astounding novel of adventure and redemption. And then share it with a friend - it’s that good.

And what does The Postman have in common with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Well, like The Postman, I eagerly awaited the film version of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel.

Did I actually buy this movie? Ah well, I’ll give it away to somebody - anybody - as soon as I can.

I realize that there are folks who quite like this film - just as there are folks given to high colonics - but I just felt like the whole thing was a wretched mess.

Well, at least it didn’t say, “Inspired by a true story” at the beginning.


Quote of the Day

If every day a man takes orders in silence from an incompetent superior, if every day he solemnly performs ritual acts which he privately finds ridiculous, if he unhesitatingly gives answers to questionnaires which are contrary to his real opinions and is prepared to deny his own self in public, if he sees no difficulty in feigning sympathy or even affection where, in fact, he feels only indifference or aversion, it still does not mean that he has entirely lost the use of one of the basic human senses, namely, the sense of humiliation. — Vaclav Havel


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