Influences Part 1

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Everyone is influenced by the people in their lives, by the things they enjoy; movies, books, tv shows – you name it. I’m no different.

If you’ve read this blog for a bit, you probably have a sense of what my humor is like and what my writing voice tends to be.  I’ve been influenced by a great many things in my life and I wanted to share just a bit of that with you this week.

In no particular order, let’s dive in.

Television as a Babysitter.

I’m of that generation whose parents used the old boob tube as a babysitter; plop your kid down and let The Muppets take care of the rest.

I was born in ’72, so that means I watched a lot of tv growing up. I mean, a lot.  I learned my ABC’s from PBS, watching Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Reading Rainbow (With LeVar Burton), Mister Rogers and 3-2-1 Contact, among others. I had Muppets in the morning and Muppets at night (The Muppet Show).

It didn’t end there, though. Thanks to WGN in Chicago, I went on many an adventure with The Lone Ranger and Tonto, swashed a little buckle with Zorro and learned a couple words of Spanish thanks to The Cisco Kid.

On weekends I would watch old movies with my grandmother, stuff like: Topper (1937 movie about a pair of ghosts ( Constance Bennett as Marion Kerby & Cary Grant as George Kerby ) who haunt a stuffy man named Cosmo Topper ( played by Roland Young ) and teach him to have a little fun), Harvey (1950 movie starring Jimmy Stewart as a mild mannered man, Elwood P. Dowd, with his head in the clouds. His sister, Veta Louise Simmons, and niece, Myrtle Mae, thinks he should be institutionalized because he’s nuts – no sane man walks around talking to a 6’3.5″ tall, invisible rabbit named Harvey, after all…), The Charlie Chan flicks (the series began in 1931 with a white guy ( stupid, I know – but Hollywood was stupid back in the day. Wait… ‘was stupid’…? Um… ) playing the detective created by Earl Derr Biggers in 1923 for a novel published in 1925. He and his ‘Number One Son’ ( I wonder if Roddenberry was influenced by this series? ), would run around solving crimes. Grams loved these. She was also a massive fan of Agatha Christie), Agatha Christie (tons of stuff appeared based on her characters. Masterpiece Theater often ran series or movies featuring Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple and even though these were probably more adult orientated, I often watched with Grams or my mom).

In addition to all of that, I was often left alone to search the dial for whatever was on, and I’d come across things like: The Three Stooges ( my aunt forbid my cousin and I from watching these shorts because she said they were too violent, so we always made a point of watching them whenever we could… ), The Bowery Boys, The Honeymooners, The Little Rascals, I Love Lucy, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, My Three Sons, Gidget, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Scooby Doo, The Waltons, The Monkees, The Land of the Lost, Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel.

A lot of tv, I know – but that was the way it was done back then. When you had parents who both worked or stuff going on, setting your kid down in front of the tv for a couple hours so you could get stuff done just worked.

And it didn’t stop there.  Very young, I was exposed to things like: Spider-Man (both the animated series from the 60’s and the live action show from the 70’s), The Super Friends, The Incredible Hulk, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Space: 1999, UFO, Batman, Wonder Woman, Shazam!, Buck Rogers, Whiz Kids (spin-off of Simon & Simon?), Automan, The Greatest American Hero, The Avengers, Doctor Who ( Saturday nights on PBS ), Captain America, Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, Battlestar Galactica and The Saint, to name just a few.

All of these shows and movies had a hand in forming certain parts of me including; my sense of humor, my love of adventure stories and mysteries and, of course, science fiction and the incredible.

I wasn’t always left alone with the tv, a lot of shows I watched with my mom, my grams, my older brother, my dad or my uncle, who lived with us for a time.  The things that they liked to watch, I ended up watching with them.  Memories can be tricky things, colored by our own emotions and thinking. Part of me remembers not always being treated like a kid – almost like I was older than I was and, therefore, it was okay to expose me to stuff other kids weren’t watching/exposed to. Another part of me thinks that’s probably stupid and it was more likely that I was just in the room and they (adults) weren’t thinking that I was paying any attention.

My mom likes to tell the story of her watching a movie about babies being switched in the hospital. She didn’t think I was paying any attention at all when I suddenly got up, walked over to the front door, grabbed the knob, looked at her and said, “You tell me right now who my REAL mother is!”  So, apparently, I WAS paying attention and intended to leave right then and there to find my ‘real mom’…

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression and think that my life was filled with television, I had a lot of other stuff going on too (usual stuff like soccer, baseball, basketball, boy scouts), but it’s important to give you an idea of the kinds of things I was exposed to early on because they did have an impact.

Other things came along as well, and we’ll talk about those tomorrow.

~P

2 comments for “Influences Part 1

  1. Caroline
    January 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Ah, Muppets.

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