Monday, December 29, 2014

It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve

Christmas suggests myriad topics for a classic TV post: New Year’s Eve, not so much.

I could offer a tribute to Guy Lombardo and his orchestra, as their New Year’s Eve concerts were an American tradition from the 1920s on radio through the 1970s on television – and the cultural shift that occurred when Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve supplanted them during that decade. 

But I wasn’t a fan of either show. In fact, I am one of those that never found much to celebrate in the flipping of a calendar. Barry Manilow is too, apparently; the title of this piece is taken from a song of his that sums up my sentiments.  

There are New Year’s-themed shows in the Comfort TV canon, but not that many. It’s not surprising – with Christmas episodes a staple of that era, a second consecutive holiday show probably seemed like too much of a good thing, as well as another show that wouldn’t play as well in syndication.

I also don’t find any nostalgic appeal in watching old New Year’s themed shows, as one celebration was much like any other in the 20th century – champagne, funny hats, “Auld Lang Syne” and a kiss at midnight. All that changes is the year on the “Happy New Year” banner. Seeing “Happy 1960" or "Happy 1972” on screen is a reminder only of how much time has passed, and how old you’re starting to get – especially if you watched that episode when it first aired. 

So I’ve started my own tradition. On January 1, as I begin my journey through 2015, I will watch the first episodes of some favorite series, especially those in which the characters also begin a new chapter in their lives.

While the first show is always where viewers are introduced to new TV friends, many shows launch with everyone already living lives that will remain consistent for the duration of the show: I Love Lucy, The Donna Reed Show, The Wild, Wild West, Charlie’s Angels. In fact, more series follow this template than any other – this is who we are, this is what we do, come back and see us again if you like.

But I think it’s more interesting when the characters are setting out on a different path at the same time viewers first meet them – that way we all set sail on a new voyage of discovery together.

For instance, by getting a glimpse of Jed Clampett’s life before that fateful day he struck oil, viewers could better appreciate the culture shock that accompanied his move to Beverly Hills. By learning of the circumstances that led to Bill Davis taking in Buffy and Jody and Cissy, we understand the challenges and separation anxieties evoked throughout their first days as a new family. 

There are plenty more to choose from – and I am already looking forward to choosing episodes for my mini-marathon on New Year’s Eve, while those in a more celebratory mood stand outside in freezing temperatures waiting for balls to drop or fireworks to start.

Perhaps I will begin 2015 with Victoria Winters as she takes the train into Collinsport, or by watching Mike and Carol Brady get married. I could spend part of the day with Mary Richards as she starts a new job and moves into a new apartment, wondering if she can make it on her own, or watch as tennis pro Jaime Summers is rebuilt with bionic technology.

Maybe I’ll go back to school, and watch Coach Reeves meet his Carver High basketball team, or Gabe Kotter meet the Sweathogs. If it’s cold outside I can head for the tropical beach where Major Anthony Nelson finds a strange bottle in the sand. I can watch Jimmy wash ashore on Living Island – or Laura Palmer wash ashore on the coast of Twin Peaks (though that one may not be as festive).

New beginnings. They almost make the endings worthwhile. 


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  2. Speaking of "Charlie's Angels," why isn't the "Charlie's Angels Casebook" available through either Amazon or Kobo anymore? On a lighter note, do you particularly remember any "General Hospital" episodes that had a New Year's theme, Mr. Hofstede?

  3. Long story about the book - hopefully that situation will be rectified sometime in 2015. As for GH, I don't remember any specific episodes, but like most soaps they certainly acknowledge and celebrate the holiday.

  4. On New Year's Day we had the first episode of The Brady Bunch. Not sure if it was planned to run that episode on January 1 or whether the cycle of episodes just saw it land at that point. (It's been on constant re-run rotation for years on this particular channel)

    One of our cable (retro) channels used to commemorate January 1 by screening all the first episodes of classic shows. I don't have cable so I don't know if they still do it but it was an interesting way to kick off the year.

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  6. TV Land used to celebrate Dec. 31 by showing final episodes of its series and Jan. 1 by showing series premieres, and I think that Me-TV did the latter this past New Years Day. This can usually be a fun marathon either way.