Monday, July 17, 2017

Comfort TV Coast to Coast: 50 States, 50 Classic Moments (Part 4)

Four weeks in and our state-by-state Comfort TV tour rolls on. If this were a real tour we’d be racking up frequent flyer miles this time around, with trips from New Mexico to New York, and from Oregon to Pennsylvania. But I’d still rather visit all ten states without getting off the couch.

New Mexico
We begin this week’s trip in North Fork, New Mexico, where widower Lucas McCain is raising his son and taking down outlaws that the inept local law enforcement can’t handle. The Rifleman is a western show that appeals to people who don’t care for westerns, because it’s as much about family as fast draws. 

New York
Next to California, New York offers the most options as a setting for television classics. Even if we consider only those series filmed in New York, the list of contenders is formidable. Actually I’m just artificially inflating the suspense because the choice is easy. It’s Naked City, because it features not one New York location but just about all of them. From the skyscrapers to the sewers, Broadway to the bowery, Wall Street to Madison Ave., there isn’t a Big Apple locale that didn’t provide a backdrop for one of its eight million compelling crime stories. 

North Carolina
The most beloved town in North Carolina can be found in TV Land but not on Mapquest. Mayberry, the setting for The Andy Griffith Show (and Mayberry R.F.D.) was inspired by Griffith’s actual hometown of Mount Airy, where you can still attend the annual Mayberry Days celebration. 

North Dakota
Our first challenge for this list, as no classic TV era options exist for a full series. So once again we’ll turn to The Fugitive. The episode “When the Bough Breaks” finds Kimble in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where he gets mixed up with a mentally disturbed young woman (Diana Hyland) who is also on the run after kidnapping a baby.

Two very obvious and deserving choices emerge: WKRP in Cincinnati and Family Ties. But there are two other options that feature on-location footage in Ohio’s King’s Island amusement part – The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family

As we already used the Bradys for Hawaii, we’ll go with the Partridges here, in the delightful episode “I Left My Heart in Cincinnati.” 

Thursdays in 1967 proved too tough a trail for Cimarron Strip, a short-lived but impressively mounted western set in the border region between Oklahoma and Kansas. Viewers who opted for Batman and Bewitched missed an epic opening credits sequence, brilliantly underscored by a stirring Aaron Copland-esque theme. Everything about Cimarron Strip was grand and cinematic, from its 90-minute running time to Stuart Whitman’s rugged, self-assured portrayal of Marshal Jim Crown. 

With no better options we are left with Hello Larry. Sorry about that, but as its theme song acknowledges Portland is a long way from L.A.. The show limped through two seasons which still comprise the most successful of McLean Stevenson’s post-MASH work. And it has Kim Richards before she became one of those Real (obnoxious) Housewives.  Sometimes you can go back and look at these older shows and appreciate them more in retrospect. Sometimes. Not here. But I’d still rather watch Hello Larry than Portlandia

It’s between Thirtysomething and Angie for me, two ABC shows set in Philadelphia but not filmed there. But you do get to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell in the opening credits of Angie, and any time I have a chance to play "Different Worlds" I am not going to pass it up. 

Rhode Island
Why don’t more people remember Doctor Doctor with Matt Frewer? It was a very smart sitcom about physicians at a group medical practice in Providence, Rhode Island. It debuted in 1989, the same year as Seinfeld, and had the same freshness and edginess about it, but lasted just 40 episodes. TV, like life, isn’t always fair. 

South Carolina
Sometimes it’s worth stretching the limits of the Comfort TV timeline, when a quality TV series provides an especially unique and insightful look at the state in which it is set. For South Carolina, such a series was Gullah Gullah Island, which debuted in 1994. 

I took AP History in high school and never learned about the Gullah language and culture, or the African-American communities on the Sea Islands off South Carolina that are home to descendants of former slaves. This award-winning Nickelodeon children’s show also featured some of the best original music for a kid’s show since The Wiggles. 

Next week: The final ten states of our tour!

1 comment:

  1. THE RIFLEMAN has been my favorite Western as long as I've had a favorite, pretty much for the reason you give. BONANZA, a similar family-oriented Western, comes in second for me.
    I finally got around to watching THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY at Kings Island, and I love what Reuben got to do to Danny at the end. ;)