Thursday, June 02, 2005

How Deep Were Our Throats?

It is with mixed pleasure that I am viewing the unmasking of Deep Throat. Ask a member of my generation what Watergate meant to them. If they are truthful they will say something along the lines of "I'm sorry, but I had to give up months of Gilligan's Island, Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons, Bewitched and Speed Racer for endless broadcasts of this boring guy named Sirica just sitting and talking to other guys who were also just sitting and talking? Watergate was a disaster of monumental proportions, the boredom and ennui of those wasted afternoons still haunt me to this day. The only Deep Throat that I cared about was my own - and its vast deepness for crappy sitcoms was not being sated by these televised hearings - isn't this kinda stuff are what newspapers are for? Do not ask me again of this, this, ... Watergate! Begone!"

In those antediluvian days before the deluge of cable channels, there were four TV channels. The three networks and PBS were it. During the day after the soaps were done, it was pure kid bliss. Until the news came on at 5:30 we wallowed in sitcoms and "family programming". Hogan's Heroes and the Flintstones and Looney Tunes and I Love Lucy etc. The only weird show that I can recall right now was Disney's Mickey Mouse Club. There wasn't anything I wanted more than to love the Mickey Mouse Club show. I had been to Disneyland and had subsequently memorized the layout of the park from the 6 foot foldout map I reverently treasured. Disneyland was my country - not this thing called the United States which seemed to intrude on my pre-teen consciousness in very inopportune ways.

The problem with the Mickey Mouse Club show was the enormous amount of bait and switch that happened with the show. Not like the X-Ray specs or Amazing Sea Horses that I saw in my comic book ads that even I knew were probably too good to be true (though I did want to pester my parents into sending away for them, you know, just for sociological research purposes...) The problem of the show was that Disney had the goods and they didn't deliver. They had the cartoons of Mickey and Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck and Goofy and all that. Granted, the cartoons lacked the edge of Warner Brother's delightful lunacy but did we ever see them? I don't recall EVER seeing a cartoon on the Mickey Mouse Club. Instead there was this creepy adult called Jimmie (and don't think I didn't resent having the same name as this moron...) speaking to a bunch of clean-cut kids with their names on their shirts with nothing of interest ever happening. Here is what Wikipedia says about the show: "Each show would have a dramatic portion in which teens faced challenges in everyday situations, often overcome by their common sense or through recourse to the advice of respected elders." Yeah, and gimme another hit of that castor oil, buddy. I remember pleading with my television set: "Please let them go to a cartoon, pleasepleasepleaseplease, I'll mow the lawn the next time Mom asks me, and and and I'll actually swallow the pot roast instead of putting it into my pocket to feed the cat, pleasepleaseplease..." It never worked, but then again I did get to continue procrastinating on mowing the lawn and to continue strengthening our cat's jaw muscles with indestructible tidbits of Mom's Wonder Pot Roast - "You Can Chew it Forever!".

So, I already knew disillusionment and that loss of innocence thing. I didn't need the televised Watergate Hearings to wipe out any idealized faith in my elders that I might have had. As far as I was concerned if they could make the Mickey Mouse Club into a Sunday School lesson, then there is nothing that Nixon and his gang of plumbers could do that would have surprised me. With Bugs Bunny, Wally, Larry Mundello and the Beav, Major Nelson and Lieutenant Schultz as my witnesses, nobody was more ecstatic to see that helicopter lift off from the White House lawn than me. The end of Nixon meant the return of my blissful afternoons and the illusion of my innocence. That is, as long as I avoided the Mickey Mouse Club.