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What happened?

Peter Falk as Columbo

Peter Falk as Columbo

Today I was having a conversation with a friend about it doesn’t matter what, when I made a reference to something bothering me, touching my forehead the way Peter Falk always did in Columbo. I quickly realized that the person I was speaking with had no idea about the 70s popular TV show. I asked someone else in the room. Columbo? I know what it is. I was forced to watch it when I was a little kid. OK, I’m not all that old, but for that one moment, I felt as if I were oh so deeply lodged in crusty old fart-hood.

I hadn’t thought of Columbo as being from my generation because back then, my parents as well as people younger than me, shared some of the same frame of reference. We sat in front of the tube and watched McCloud as a family. What happened? How many other pop culture references, which to me are so obvious, are all used up when I’m in the company of people ten or twenty years younger than me?

It sometimes scares me how much I can remember about bad television from my past. With Columbo, for instance, sometimes it only takes me seconds to know…oh…oh…I know, it’s the episode with Johnny Cash as guest bad guy. He plays a singer who commits a murder. Um, Mister Anchovy, who’s this Johnny Cash character? ARRRGGGGHHHH. I said to my friend, I guess if you don’t know Columbo, you don’t know McCloud either? Dennis Weaver? No? Rats.


  1. CQ

    And yet Columbo is still being aired every week on TV – this decade, if only during late night and/or weekends. So have a number of other mystery series; Rockford Files, Kojak, Ironside, McCloud, Sherlock Holmes (Granada), Beretta…

  2. zeusiswatching

    The “Rockford Files” were our show. I don’t think it was “bad tv”, but it and “Sanford and Son” (our favorite TV show ever) were two we never missed in our home “back in the day.” I do remember some “McCloud” episodes and “Columbo” episodes too.

    “Beretta,” “Kojack,” “Cannon,” “Ironsides” (Perry Mason was our parent’s memory lane show), “Barnaby Jones” were just some of the other stuff that kept our minds gooey back then.

    Now I can kick back and talk about them with my brother and a few others between complaints of hair loss and back problems. Life is good, especially knowing that all the great junk on TV was back in our analog years.

    • Wow, I forgot about Beretta and Cannon. Last year, we watched the first season of Ironside. It was pretty good for its time, but some things seem dated and formulaic now. It has been many years since I’ve seen a Kojak episode. I think his tag line was “who loves you baby”. Har! I really liked the Rockford Files too, back in the day.

  3. I found out the other day that one of the channels I can get here in English is showing The Avengers – with Mrs Peel! – every afternoon. Man, they are seriously taking me back.

    I’ve still never seen an episode of Seinfeld. Any good?

  4. Anthony candy

    No one ever has known what I talk about. Heh heh.

    Meanwhile…I love Columbo. In fact, if I was a fictional character, I’d be Columbo because I annoy people and always ask questions.
    “Just one more thing”…

    Not only is what is “happened” one thing to you…it’s also that we now have so many good tv shows and so many channels that peopleeven if they are savvy in pop culture…most of all watch different shows.

    We all used to go to the movie theatres too. It was quite common to go to a movie, go out for coffee discuss the movie and then at school or work…most others had seen the same movies too within a week or two of each other. This fed into a vibrant film discussion or communial experience. In the very movie house…people would clap and cheer depending ont he story arc …all together. In the dark, quietly all together…like a ritual. A hushard communal experience.

    Tv was like that too for families because everyone watched a variety show together all ages. We only had a couple of channels. Michael Pollan in his review of Julia dn aJulie said how he watched cooking shows becuase that was what HIS MUM watched and she was the boss of the tv in the daytime etc.

    There are many things I love about the return of dance to tv…and it is that it is like that old time variety show that the whole family watched. One, it is the body returned to the format of art making again and two…it is intergenerational and appeals to a broad fan base. The competitors come from all grades of ecomomic history…with their own unique narratives that attract an emotional bond for the audience.

    We also have a society and culture that promotes the ego and individual tastes brackets. Instead of people embracing all kinds of genres and forms…they have been segregating art and content as “good or bad” compulsively for the last couple of decades. Some people are purists and use the art for their own projection of ego…rather than surrendering to all the interconnectedness of music, film and contents. People often get trapped into associating themselves with one form of “culture” or cultural products over another as some kind of consumerism. So we have people who only listen to Bob Marly, or only listen to pop or listen to traditional or only rock etc etc.

    Many people are so influcenced byindivisual ego they don;t see how everything is connected and this separation is an ultimately unhealthy psychotic attitude.

    Just one more thing…

    • For sure many people I know watched the same tv programs “back in the day”, and moreover, we all watched tv. As you know, later, I didn’t even have a television for several years, so there is a huge gap in my knowledge of television in the 80s. Now, for many years we have enjoyed a 13 inch set with rabbit ears, but since channels are going digital, we’re getting to see less and less of the available programing. I don’t really feel as if I’m missing a lot though. I manage to catch up on the shows that interest me on DVD later, like The Wire, Cracker, Prime Suspect, Deadwood and so on. Curiously, I didn’t see a single episode of Seinfeld while it was in its first run, and I still haven’t seen a whole episode of The Simpsons.

      I don’t think I follow your last paragraphs. Are you saying that people who like all kinds of different genres and forms of entertainment and culture are mentally balanced but those who like fewer suffer from a psychotic attitude? If you’re saying that our culture is unhealthy, I’d be hard pressed to disagree. Just look at the balloon-boy saga that has been all over the news in the past few days.

      Personally though, I don’t see it as a health requirement to embrace any particular art or music or literature or whatever, or to embrace the interconnectedness of all of them. There are lots of ways to live. There’s room in my world for purists too. I admire that kind of focus.

      • zeusiswatching

        We haven’t had a TV in nearly a decade. We’ve never really missed it. We can always look at or some other place on the net anyway.

        I do think our tastes and outlooks influence us profoundly and that it is best to explore and enjoy what is new to us. As big a fan (ok, as huge a fan) of Baroque music as I am, I still listen to other genres too.

  5. Bloggerboy

    Get used to that feeling Mr. A. It only gets worse. With me, it started when I was still in my late twenties. I went to a party and ended up chatting with a group of very young college kids. We’re only talking eight to ten years’ age difference. At one point I mentioned Bob Marley in connection with a discussion of music to a cute, hip-looking girl across from me. I received a blank stare. She thought I was referring to a joint. In her crowd, that’s what they called joints. She didn’t know he was a musician. Of course, even though I understood the connection immediately, I’d never heard of a joint being referred to by Bob’s – may he rest in peace – name. The poor guy hadn’t been dead five years, but at least his name lives on, er, somehow.

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