When Television Combined Entertainment, Drama and Decency
No, it's not sufficient to say "well, that was another time".
A television show that so many of us used to watch, like Bonanza, which ran from 1959 to 1973, was not pietistic, but it taught civic values even as it entertained. And I am always amazed to recall when I have caught reruns at how much drama was packed into just one hour! It was seriously entertaining. There was serious talent in the writing departments in those days. There was no compensating for the lack of talent (or just plain decency) with Junior High School mentality sex talk mixed with vile scenes.
Ben Cartwright, the father played by Lorne Greene, may have worn his gun on his hip, as did his sons, but they stood above all for justice. Ben, like his sons, was the kind of man who would save you at the threat of the loss of his own reputation or life (!) if you were wrongly accused; and he'd sadly see you hanged if you were a murderer. But the Cartwright's never gloated at crime or its consequences, and never took the law into their own hands. It was unthinkable.
They believed in stable law, the common law, justice; family; not an evolving wax nose 'justice' which is today always changing under pressure from freak interest groups, but real justice, plain right and wrong, which does not change.
Television showed in those days that it could be used for good, inspiring young and old alike about what a human being should and could strive for. It was about the common good, not about the moral incontinence and dissipation that was shortly to follow in the 70's, even faster in the 80's, galloping by the 90's...when bad, greedy men started to show us all their corrupt minds and souls at the expense of the common good. Men who would lead us straightway into nihilism.
Few realize that Lorne Greene, Ben, was Jewish in real life, that the show's creator, David Dortort, was son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. That Michael Landon ('Little Joe' and 'Charles' of 'Little House on the Prarie') was half-Jewish, half Catholic. Landon, few realize, took a lot of flack from the Hollywood NY_LA establishment for his kind of family-oriented entertainment. Many of the moguls and critics accused him of being an anachronism, out of step with the times in the 1970's, and the like. But the American people by and large were very grateful for him and his work which inspired ideals.
It wasn't religion per se that was determinative, it was the decision to be decent. And it was real and thoughtful talent, from producers to writers to actors. And did it deliver!
How we hope someone(s) will see how millions of Americans long for decent programming again, how there is a huge untapped market 'out there' which will reap not only spiritual but financial rewards for those who decide we've had enough of decadence. We need more Lorne Greene's, Michael Landon's and David Dortort's, and to send narcissist's like Lorne Michaels (SNL), Howard Stern and their evil muses packing.
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