Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

TV: then, now

How delightful to come across an episode of RHODA on YouTube (thanks, Colin) - and there are several others too, AND they are on dvd, so I have ordered the first series (only 720 minutes long, for a good price), I could only manage one series of THE GOLDEN GIRLS, but may want to see lots more of RHODA! It seems there were 110 episodes between 1974-1978. I had forgotten how much we enjoyed them.

It was a different world then: in the UK we only had 3 television channels, but we did not feel deprived - shows like these got huge audiences, before the advent of video, internet, cable channels. Not only RHODA, but also STARSKY & HUTCH, CAGNEY &  LACEY, ALIAS SMITH & JONES etc before DALLAS and DYNASTY in the '80s. I never saw much of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW though, where Rhoda (and Cloris Leachman as PHYLLIS) began. (On a higher plane it was also the era of great quality television like those series CIVILIZATION and THE ASCENT OF MAN which also got huge audiences and were very influential).

Rhoda Morgenstern was born in the Bronx in December 1941. She's always felt responsible for World War II. She had a bad puberty. It lasted 17 years. She's a college graduate, she went to art school. Her entrance exam was on a book of matches. She decided to move out of the house at the age of 24. Her mother still refers to this as the time she ran away from home. Eventually, she ran to Minneapolis where it's colder, and she figured she'd keep better. Now she's back in Manhattan. New York, this is your last chance!
RHODA remains a delightful time capsule of that '70s era: the fashions, the headscarfes, the New York-Jewish humour, and the cast worked so well together - Valerie Harper (still working) as our loveable lead, Julie Kavner as sister Brenda (before she became the voice of Marge Simpson), and best of all, Nancy Walker (how odd she directed the disco musical CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC in 1980, which was the death knell for those kind of movies...) as Ida, their mother, and Harold Stone as their father, plus David Groh (1939-2008) as Joe, Rhoda's husband. Who can forget that wedding scene with Rhoda running down the street in her wedding dress? (we didn't need the gross-outs of BRIDESMAIDS then!).  Then there is Lorenzo Music as Carlton the doorman, whom we never saw but was quitely hilarious - until one, maybe the final?, episode. I still vividly remember it: they are having a fancy dress party and we only see Carlton's back, someone says "I'll take off my mask if you take off yours" and Carlton replies "I'm not wearing a mask" .. I remember a delicious episode too where Rhoda and Brenda have to return home temporarily and Ida treats them as her little girls all over again.  I think we shall enjoy watching RHODA episodes this winter ....

Possible DOWNTON Spoilers in case you have not seen Series 3 (which has already been broadcast in the UK and the dvd is available...), seems it does not air in USA until January!

and Now: DOWNTON ABBEY is still getting huge audiences in this multi-channel age, as the third series nicely would up with the annual cricket match, where everything tied in nicely. The odd thing about this series is that it began in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic, but it is now the early '20s and everyone looks the same (well apart from the deceased Lady Sybil...). There were a few cliches but they were nicely burnished by Lord Fellowes. I half expected the Earl, when told about Thomas the footman, to say the cliched "I thought men like that shot themselves" but instead he delivered the fruity "If I screamed blue murder every time someone tried to kiss me (at Eton) I would be hoarse within a month".  Bates the valet was back after his prison stint and he was able to see how the twisted malicious O'Brien was scheming to get rid of Thomas whose gay kiss on Jimmy the new footman backfired, after O'Brien suggesting otherwise ...

The family seem to have got over the death of Lady Sybil - Lady Mary now though seems rather tiresome, it is Lady Edith who is the interesting one. A bitch no more (as in Series 1) after being jilted at the altar she seemed to be embracing her spinsterhood, but now has a new admirer, her newspaper editor in London but he is married to - I can't say it - a madwoman in an asylum! - shades of JANE EYRE ! How will this develop in Series 4 (there will presumably be one?). Mrs Crawley too has been doing wonders with Ethel, the ex-prostitute. Mrs Hughes survived her cancer scare, and was more tolerant of Thomas than Carson the butler who thought him "foul" initially ... Mrs Patmore and Daisy continue their spats. It seems Dan Stevens may not be returning, but we will see. There is another Christmas special to look forward to next month - and perhaps another baby? Branson too, the Irish firebrand, seems to be settling in to his new status nicely.
Series 2 got bogged down in The Great War and the changes it meant to the family and society in general - now we are moving on to the '20s. There was one amusing scene set in a jazzy speakeasy: "one of the outer circles of Dante's Inferno" according to Matthew, when they tracked down Lucy, the Dowager's new relative, there. Shirley McLaine was only in 2 episodes, but bickered nicely with Dame Maggie ... how will they survive as the '20s unfold ... and can the estate be managed right? It is all high class hokum of course, a house that big would require a lot of cleaning staff and surely more than one cook? - and the benevolent attitude of the toffs to the domestic staff seems rather wishful thinking too, but, as in GOSFORD PARK, Fellowes certainly knows how to deliver succinct dramas and quotable lines.

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