TV shows of my youth by
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Prompted By What We Watched

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Although I almost never watch television in my current life, it is certainly true that there were TV shows that were an integral part of my childhood. My parents did not allow us to turn on the TV and just watch whatever came on. We had to ask permission to watch, and it had to be for a specific show. There are three, in particular, that stand out in my memory. It was interesting to discover, when I looked up their air dates for this story, that their time periods followed one right after the other, so that I was never watching two shows in the same season, but was never without a show to watch.

The three TV shows that were an important part of my childhood, all of whose theme songs I can still easily sing from memory.

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis was the first show I remember being hooked on. I see from Wikipedia that it was on from Sept. 1959 to June 1963, so that means that I was 8 years old when it started, and 12 when it ended. I can still sing the entire theme song from memory (“Do-o-bie, wants a girl who’s dreamy . . .”). I’m sure that at that age, some of the intricacies of high school life went over my head, but I sure was crazy about that adorable Dobie! And there was Maynard G. Krebs, probably the first television beatnik, who appeared saying “You rang?” whenever anybody said his name. Finally, there was Zelda Gilroy, the brainy girl who sat next to Dobie in class because they were seated alphabetically. She had a crush on Dobie that was as hopeless as mine, because he always went for the gorgeous and unattainable blondes. Maybe this was good preparation for my own later high school experiences.

dobie gillis

Next was the Patty Duke Show, the theme song of which I can also sing, and often do! This show was on from Sept. 1963 to April 1966, so for me it was ages 12, 13, and 14. Patty played identical cousins, Patty and Cathy, who both lived with Patty’s parents in Brooklyn Heights, for reasons that escape me. How they could be identical cousins was never explained, but it didn’t occur to me to question it at the time. The theme song describes many of the ways they are different – my husband and kids are most amused by the lyrics that say that Cathy adores crepes suzette, but for Patty, “a hot dog makes her lose control!” I can laugh at it now, but I took them seriously then. I loved them, and how different they were, and yet how much fun they had tricking people by passing for each other. It made me long to have a twin sister (or cousin) to help me get through all the traumas of that age.

patty-duke show

Finally, The Monkees finished off my high school years. This show aired from Sept. 1966 to March 1968, which coincided with my junior and senior years of high school. I knew they were a fake band, 4 guys who responded to a casting call for a TV show and had never even met each other until they were cast. I knew that all their songs were written by other people. None of that mattered. Although they were created to be an imitation of the Beatles, and the show an imitation of A Hard Day’s Night, I loved them, and it, anyway. Just as every girl had a favorite Beatle (mine was Paul), those of us who watched the Monkees inevitably had a favorite Monkee. Mine was Peter Tork, who was kind of goofy, but definitely had the best hair – long (for that time), straight, and blond. (Peter is second from the right in this picture.)

monkees 2.

Although in later years there have certainly been some shows I enjoyed, nothing will ever replace these three shows in my heart. I don’t know if I would want to watch them again now, I must admit, because I have a feeling that the first two, at least, might seem really stupid to my adult self. I think The Monkees, however, would be enjoyable at any age. In fact I have read that the band is planning a reunion tour (minus Davy, who died), and I’m now thinking it would be great fun to go see them. Wanna come with me?

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Characterizations: been there, funny, well written

Comments

  1. John Zussman says:

    Really takes me back! I loved Dobie too; even at our tender age I thought it was clever, smart, and a bit winsome. I loved the fact that Dobie mooned over Thalia Menninger and his other unattainable flames when it was clear that his soulmate was Zelda. Zelda, you probably know, was played by Sheila Kuhl, who later became the first openly gay member of the California legislature. Despite being an outspoken advocate for LGBT causes, she was praised by conservatives as well as liberals for her ability to reach across the aisle. Great memories.

  2. Wendy Ng says:

    The Monkees were a favorite show of mine. I loved the music. I can still hear it, Daydream Believer…. I think every girl I knew had a crush on one or all of the Monkees.

  3. Susan says:

    And whenever Maynard G. Krebs heard the word, he would always yell “Work?!” like he had put his hand on a hot stove. I remember when Dobie would speak directly to the audience, looking into the camera, and then strike The Thinker pose. An early philosopher. Let’s agitate for a Dobie GIllis Revival! Great story, thanks for putting all the work into a fun memory.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    I also loved the Patty Duke show…Longidyohso! I think I can still sing the theme song too; very entertaining. I had loved her work since seeing The Miracle Worker and was distressed when her autobiography came out years later and she talked about the abuse she suffered from her guardian who was also her manager. Puts it all in a different light now. But thanks for taking me back to the silly fun of that show.

  5. Constance says:

    Sometimes i wonder about the bandwidth in our brains that those early songs are taking up, just homesteading there.

  6. Dobie! Memorable show, particularly thanks to Maynard G. Krebs. He was clearly a beatnik and indicated a departure from the norms of TV casting at a time when, unless you were relating to the morality tales of The Big Men (Gunsmoke, Paladin, and Maverick) and their satellites there weren’t a lot of unholy folks on TV. Sure, Maynard was portrayed as a dope but at least he had a beard!

    Patty Duke and the Monkees I let go by, but your wonderful recounting of your TV influences reminds me of how formative television was — and remains — in all our lives.

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