I’m a little late so this is really a Top 5 Saturday Morning. You’ll be happy to know that I got out of work early yesterday and literally watched television for 7 hours so while I don’t have an excuse for not writing this, at least I was watching TV so I’m staying on-brand. That’s all that matters.
(Comments for Beal’s T5 list: I am shocked that anyone our age actually enjoyed watching Dragnet. I despised Dragnet. When it would creep onto Nick-at-Nite, I was one furious 11-year-old TV nerd. Your description of the show made me think I haven’t given it a fair shake. I mean, I talk like I’m in His Girl Friday at least once a week as it is. Also, I would argue that Black Mirror is not a bad Twilight Zone equivalent, just putting that out there.)
Facts of Life
This is pretty much a no-brainer for me. A group of girls from different backgrounds, forced to live together and learn from each other at school and slowly, eventually, becoming a real family. It is entirely plausible that one of our heroes (cough- Natalie- cough) has now assumed Mrs. Garrett’s role as den mother and pop-ins from the rest of the cast would be natural and welcome (you owe us, George!) Give me young girls navigating a hostile (now, more than ever) male-dominated world, in a setting that feels closer to realism than what we’ve gotten in the last decade (soapy, stylized dramas like Riverdale, The Fosters or Pretty Little Liars which honestly might outlive us all). And give us the right story… I’d love to see network TV invert the usual trope by giving us girls of color and one or two white girls, for one thing. Let’s see where that can take us.
(Side-note… Charlotte Rae is 91 and announced she has bone cancer a month ago. Have we not been through enough, universe? Leave the OG Mrs. Garrett in peace please.)
Freaks & Geeks
There are a few ways this could work. My favorite scenario is a high school reunion. A 20 year reunion would be about right, age-wise for the cast and it would set us in the year 2000, give or take. And how much do we really need to tell the story this cast and creators deserve? A short-run series, maybe 8 episodes, could be really interesting if Judd Apatow and Paul Feig have retained their appetite for telling the story. Plus it fulfills my need to have Busy Philipps on my television at all times. Come on, Netflix. Make this happen already.
The older I get, the more complicated my relationship with Aaron Sorkin becomes. My feeling of late is that the man, as a show-runner, is very much a man of his time- a decent guy who doesn’t want to think too much about his privilege, thanks for asking. At first glance, his female characters in West Wing and Sports Night are a ball-busting, feminist wet dream- but get a closer look and, to quote Cher from Clueless, it’s just a big old mess.
Try watching the first season of West Wing now and you’ll likely experience what I went through last year when I attempted the same- mainly, every woman on the show is used as an object of explanation, of desire or physical appreciation, or set up for absolute failure, with very few outright moral or professional victories. Which I think is an accurate portrayal of a 90s/2000s workplace but Sorkin is not Joss Whedon- he’s not setting it up as an obstacle for these women to overcome because he doesn’t think it’s a problem. The subtle misogyny in his work is almost always ignored, implying that the public at large is satisfied with this status-quo which drives me insane. But I want to love his work so, so much. As I said. It’s complicated.
That’s a long-winded way to say that I have hope for Sorkin. He seemed to have been genuinely affected by the outcome of the election and I’ve always loved Sports Night. It’s a format that could still very much work today, the actors remain stellar and active, and it was gone too soon.
The Adventures of Pete & Pete
Kids shows aren’t as genuinely surreal as they used to be and it’s such a loss. Surreality on television has gotten darker and more adult and of all the things I lament from my childhood that kids today just don’t have, at the top of the list (underneath “life without cell phones” because I’m old) is supremely quality programming that was created by adults, for other adults, that just happened to be packaged up for kids. Pete & Pete is works because it’s so genuinely strange and extraterrestrial but still completely PG. As I grew older, I appreciated it more and more and am still thunderstruck by the personalities dotting this bizarre suburban landscape (Iggy Pop, Adam West, Steve Buscemi, Debbie Harry to name a few). Thanks to the older Pete (and Eric Stoltz), I still fall too easily in love with redheads. And I still might get a tattoo named Petunia.
One of the best comedies in the last decade, Happy Endings suffered an early death because of poor ratings but has developed a cult following. People know magic when they see it- the comedic chemistry here is unlike any other show I’ve ever seen and episodes are packed with triple the jokes of shows with similar ensembles like Friends. A recent reunion, courtesy of Vulture, proved that the humor still stands up. My desire for this reboot is simple- I miss these people.