Monday, July 24, 2017

Comfort TV Coast to Coast: 50 States, 50 Classic Moments (Part 5)

Like all summer trips, our state-by-state classic TV tour of America must come to an end. But at least we’re finishing up strong with visits to Mount Rushmore, Southfork Ranch and the Double R Diner, where they make some damn fine coffee.

South Dakota
Did you know there was a secret base inside Mount Rushmore, where the President can hold clandestine meetings away from the fake news-generating media? This national security secret was leaked not by the Deep State, but in a 1981 episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century called “Testimony of a Traitor.” Somehow the republic survived. 

The choice here is between two iconic shows from the 1950s. From Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Fess Parker starred in a series of telefilms as the legendary Tennessee frontiersman Davy Crockett. 

They launched a Crockett craze that had millions of school kids wearing coonskin caps. 

Classic family entertainment, but I’m going to instead select “Tennessee Bound,” a 1955 episode of I Love Lucy. En route to Hollywood, Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel get caught in a speed trap in Bent Fork, Tennessee and wind up in jail. Fortunately there’s an old friend nearby in Lucy’s cousin Ernie, played by Tennessee Ernie Ford. The episode also features Aaron Spelling before he became one of TV’s top producers, and the unforgettable Borden Twins as Teensy and Weensy. 

Like New York, Texas is a state with many choices but one clear winner. Dallas captured the cowboy roots, oil-fueled opulence and outsized swagger of its namesake. 

And it earns bonus points for authenticity as the Ewing homestead of Southfork Ranch is actually located in the Lone Star State and not on some Southern California backlot. It’s still a popular tourist attraction. 

We haven’t cited a musical variety show yet, so Utah goes to Donny & Marie, which debuted in 1976 and moved production to the Osmond Studios in Orem, Utah the following year. As with most variety shows from the 1970s it’s a mix of sometimes cringe-worthy comedy segments, wonderful guest stars and nostalgic musical moments. I know more than a few guys my age who were in high school then and crushing hard on Marie, though they were too cool to admit it. 

After playing a character perfectly suited to his talents on a sitcom considered a classic in its own time, I had my doubts about Bob Newhart’s next series attempt. But Newhart surrounded the actor with another memorable cast and even more outrageous situations than he faced on The Bob Newhart Show

Wonderful Henry Mancini theme song, too. The show was set at Vermont’s Stratford Inn. The hotel used for the exteriors is called the Waybury Inn and is indeed located in East Middlebury, Vermont. 

I think we’ll have to go with The Waltons here, which is not to say it’s a choice I made reluctantly. It was a wonderful show but it ran at least two seasons too long, after many of the core cast members either left or passed away. Plus, it ruins a little of the magic to find out Walton’s Mountain is actually in Burbank. 

“Comfort TV” are two words that will never be associated with Twin Peaks

And we do have a more wholesome alternative for Washington in Here Come the Brides with David Soul and Bobby Sherman. 

But here we’ll let authenticity and excellence carry the day. Many of Peaks’ most iconic locations are in Snoqualmie, Washington, including the Double R Diner, the Great Northern Hotel and the Reinig Bridge, where we first saw Ronette Pulaski in the show’s stunning pilot. 

West Virginia
With no viable option we will once again return to The Fugitive. In the series’ third episode, “The Other Side of the Mountain,” Dr. Kimble barely eludes Lt. Gerard inside a long-abandoned coalmine shaft. This is one of the best Gerard episodes in the run, though it won’t stop viewers from hating him. 

Happy Days is the obvious choice (unless you were partial to Laverne & Shirley). 

But I don’t think of it as a Milwaukee show the way I associate The Mary Tyler Moore Show with Minneapolis, or other classics with their settings. Maybe that’s just me. Either way, the series did make its mark on its adopted hometown, most notably with a truly ghastly bronze statue of The Fonz on the Milwaukee Riverwalk. 

The challenge for western fans with Wyoming is choosing from an impressive field of genre series set there, including Cheyenne, Laramie, Lawman and The Virginian

Rather than face such a difficult selection, let’s instead celebrate one of the most memorably fragrant slices of 1970s cheese that also took place in Wyoming: “Death Probe” was a two-part episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, in which Steve Austin squared off against a “fearsome” evil Russian space probe. 

The probe looks like the offspring of a Dalek and an igloo, but it made enough of an impression to inspire a home version by Kenner. 

 And that's it - 50 states and we all made it back safely. Thanks for taking the journey.


  1. Should that Milwaukee statue be known as "Scary Fonzie"? :)

    Thanks for the cross-country trip. I've enjoyed it.

  2. This post is great. It is so interesting to know what the most loved tv show of each state is. Watching tv shows together as a family can be so much fun.