Be still, my heart . . . The Monkees are back!
Last week, KHNL2 (digital channel 541) began carrying the Antenna TV network, featuring classic television shows and movies. I hadn't noticed it before Saturday, because I don't really watch much TV these days. Years ago, my husband and I, news junkies both, would have it on constantly, set to CNN or MSNBC. But at some point during the Dubya administration, my concern for Barry's health outweighed his need to know. An outspoken liberal and self-proclaimed curmudgeon, he became increasingly agitated by the news out of Washington, snarling and shouting at the president and the pundits onscreen. I had to insist that he stop watching the news and he agreed. He's gone now, but I'm convinced the switch to Comedy Central extended his life by several years.
I am a child of the vast wasteland. I grew up with Gilligan and Gidget and Mr. Ed. The antics of Beaver Cleaver and Dennis the Menace were a little before my time, but I joined them both in reruns. "Father Knows Best," "My Three Sons," "The Patty Duke Show" . . . I don't think I logged more hours in front of the television than the average child back then, but I must admit that many of my childhood memories are of families other than mine. I'm not saying that I can't distinguish between real life and fantasy, just that I spent a lot of time in the gray area in between.
The classic TV families of the 1950s and '60s might have represented the average household of middle America; to me, they were as unconventional as the Beverly Hillbillies or the Addams Family. Well, maybe not as kooky, but certainly nothing like the typical local family. I mean, you'd never see Sheriff Andy Taylor lounging around the house in an old undershirt. Everyone wore shoes, indoors and out! And nobody, except for Bruce Lee's Kato on "The Green Hornet" and Mrs. Livingston on "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," looked like anyone I knew. I was fascinated. Hollywood's portrayal of everyday life made the Mainland seem as surreal and enchanting as Disney's Fantasyland. Strangely enough, I began to associate certain TV characters with people in my life, as if they were fairy tale versions of real folks. I loved Lucy because she reminded me of my Auntie Sachan, which was a little weird because Ricky Ricardo made me think of my dad.
When the Monkees burst into my preteen world, my fantasies took a decidedly different turn. Later heartthrobs included David Cassidy as Keith Partridge, Lyle Waggoner on "The Carol Burnett Show," and of course, John Travolta's Vinnie Barbarino on "Welcome Back, Kotter." Actually, I thought all of the Sweathogs were cute, even Horshack.
Marriage and motherhood changed my viewing habits drastically. For a while, Kermit the Frog and He-Man were my favorite leading men, at least during the day. At night, my husband ruled the remote control, and I half-watched crime dramas and sci-fi shows while crocheting blankets.
Then came "The Wonder Years." I felt like that show was created specifically for me. Set in the late '60s to early '70s, it was a masterfully written coming of age story. When the show debuted in 1988, Kevin Arnold was a 1968 7th-grader, just as I had been, and my son was a 7th-grader in (then) real time. It was a weekly visit to a Twilight Zone time warp, where both my fondness for nostalgia and my maternal instincts were indulged. Kevin reminded me of my son and my first junior high crush, simultaneously. Which is even weirder than imagining your favorite aunt and your dad as a zany married couple. At least I found it easier to relate to the Arnolds than to any of their predecessors. Even if they never took off their shoes either.
The passing of Davy Jones last February rekindled the spark of puppy love in this middle-aged dog. I got out my old Monkees albums and wistfully longed for one more chance to watch the boys monkey around. I watched a couple of YouTube clips of Davy, but it wasn't the same.
Last Saturday, I was amazed to find "The Monkees" listed on the TV Guide Network, along with "Hazel," "The Flying Nun," "Soap," and others I haven't seen since their original airings. KHNL2 even carries the really old shows like "Jack Benny" and "Burns and Allen." Unfortunately, I didn't see the listing until the episode was nearly over. So this Saturday at 3 p.m., I'll be taking the "Last Train to Clarksville," hoping for a happy reunion with my fave four. It's silly, I know, but I am, after all these years, still a "Daydream Believer" and a lover of sentimental journeys. All aboard?!
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose Sharing Mana'o column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.