Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! As the first post of 2020, I want to use this space to transition us away from, specifically, our turn-of-the-century Sitcom Tuesday subjects by telling you what to expect as we return to the 1950s and cover some of the series we skipped when featuring that era back when this blog first began in 2013.
For starters, I have to preface all this by noting just how far this website has come in the past six-and-a-half years. Not only have we gone on to discuss more series and subjects than I ever could have dreamed, but I’ve also grown as a person and as a writer. In fact, as I’ve expressed here before, it’s been tough for me to thumb through and look at old posts, for the depth of analysis and even my skills as a wordsmith have improved considerably since we started. And just as Sitcom Tuesdays have been a journey through the genre’s history, they’ve also seen the evolution of yours truly. Accordingly, going back and revisiting the ’50s and ’60s is a difficult prospect for my pride, for next week when we start discussing The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show, it’s going to encourage more traffic to some of my earliest coverage, like I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners, which are two of my favorite shows — heck, they are my two favorite shows of the 1950s — and I worry that the discrepancy in my work, which has long been obvious to me, will be highlighted to you as well. (Please be gentle with me, kids!)
More importantly, because it’s mostly true that I’ve already covered my favorites from the ’50s and ’60s — not just Lucy and The Honeymooners, but also Dick Van Dyke, Bewitched, and Gilligan’s Island, as well — a part of me is saddened that these stellar classics won’t get the kind of treatment afforded to some of the more recent, but lesser efforts we discussed, like, well… like Will & Grace and That ’70s Show. And, oh, yes, I DO intend to end this blog by going back and reanalyzing I Love Lucy as a way of officially closing up shop, but that’s not the only great show I wish I could “do over.” Seeing as I simply won’t get the chance to do so (there’s no time!), I’m more conscious now about what I’m adding to those eras’ catalogues. That is, I don’t want readers to look at our old Bewitched posts and come to the conclusion that, based on how it was discussed in 2013 when I was much younger, that I like it less than something covered more astutely in 2020, like perhaps I Dream Of Jeannie (which I’m still not committed to featuring, by the way, since I consider it little more than a second-rate Bewitched).
That’s why I’m writing this post, for I want to let you know now that the way I write Sitcom Tuesday posts is going to change. What does that mean? Well, you’re right if you think I’ll be doing “less” because, yes, I absolutely intend to scale back both the individual episodic notes and the seasonal commentaries, which I’ve already tried to reduce a bit over the last six months. No longer will I be writing a 2000-word SAT-level essay about a single season of a good-but-not-great sitcom. That was always a little bit insane… then and now. One healthy paragraph will suffice. Furthermore, while these changes are intended to make it so that our upcoming ’50s and ’60s posts more closely resemble those decades’ prior coverage — thus keeping the earlier classics from getting the figurative shaft simply because of when they were featured here — they’re also a response to the shows we will be discussing, for you see, prior to the MTM-revolution of the ’70s, when it became possible to ask sitcoms to provide great character-driven comedy on a regular basis, earlier shows did not have that as their standard.
In other words, while I’ll always prize well-defined characters and celebrate when they’re used to motivate story — which is essentially the rubric maintained over the past few years on Sitcom Tuesdays — it’s simply not feasible (or fair) to make that the primary system of episode-picking with ’50s and ’60s shows. Sure, I want to see clearly established personalities who are able to deliver big and consistent laughs, but it’s often going to be the comedic idea, chiefly those that reinforce the central premise (whether it be high-concept or low-concept), guiding value. That means, a good episodic idea — a memorable, series-specific story — is often going to be the ideal. And, as a result of that, just as I don’t need to spend too much time talking seasonal fluctuations, I don’t need to say very much about why each installment is being selected. Often times, my reasoning will be simple, repetitive, and fairly easy to explain.
That noted, don’t expect the quality of my commentary to change. I’ve grown so much since 2013 that it’s impossible for me to take back what I’ve learned about television and my own tastes. Now I’m just setting up a new challenge: saying everything that needs to be said, but with fewer words. That’s only going to make me a better writer. (And I think you’ll prefer this, too!) As for Musical Theatre Mondays and Wildcard Wednesdays, I’m still committed to sharing the things I love. And while I maybe can’t redo past Sitcom Tuesday posts, I think it’s possible you’ll see supplemental Wildcard entries that sate my need to maintain a connection with the greats that we’ve already discussed. For instance, I’ve already picked my favorite Our Miss Brooks episodes by season — and revisited them in a later “Rerun” post — but you might see a bonus list where I pick a top 15, or top 20. In this way, I’m able to engage with the series in a fresh way, without negating what came before… As for our recurring subjects, Jack Benny will be back soon, and I hope to have Pre-Code efforts sprinkled sporadically throughout the year (although a monthly commitment might not be doable at this time).
I have to make a special note of Xena though, since I’ve gotten a lot of questions about it. Some of you may be disappointed, but I’ve deiced to abandon the comic series, for the post-2001 books are harder to reconcile with the actual TV show, and because that’s always my frame of reference for these tangential and non-canon narrative efforts, I no longer find it fruitful to examine them in this context. Similarly, while I hoped to discuss some of the series’ unproduced episodes, I’ve realized that none of what’s available to read in outline or script form is preferable to what was produced. (The Socrates episode has no action and would have been a huge dud, both of Melissa Good’s late Season Six efforts are more contrived and emotionally overwrought than the simple and Golden-Age reminiscent “Many Happy Returns” that replaced them, and the idea of Xena and Gabrielle as cavewomen is farcical — the final year didn’t need any more alternate universe/time-jumping shenanigans.) However, Xena turns 25 in September and I absolutely intend to honor it here with a NEW monthly series of posts. I won’t say what I have planned just yet, but look for that to begin in the summer, following a brief hiatus.
So, I think that’s everything that I want you all to know about 2020… Well, everything except how grateful I am to everyone who’s reading. Thanks to those who’ve stuck with me from the beginning and to those who’ve found me along the way! I’m so glad you’re here and I wish you nothing but the best as we all go forward into this whole new era!
Stay tuned next week for another Wildcard! And come back Tuesday for Burns & Allen!