Appearing on Fridays, This Was Television Asked & Answered is a chance for the writers of TWTV to answer questions about TV history. Questions can range from the personal to the critical about historical television.
While we came up the question for this installment, we’d love for you, our readers, to submit questions for us to answer in the future. Feel free to leave them in the comments, tweet them to us, ask on Facebook, or email them to us.
This week’s question is: If you could visit the world of any show which aired before you were born, which would it be?
Emma Fraser: The movie reboot might have been terrible, but I’m choosing the world of The Avengers—the 1960s British spy show, not to be confused with Marvel’s The Avengers, which would also be fun—because spy work has always been appealing. Spy shows are a TV staple as espionage looks exciting and dangerous, but the ’60s are when they looked the most fun. Who wouldn’t want to wear a bowler hat to work like Patrick Macnee’s Mr. Steed? The costuming is another reason why I’d like to visit the world of The Avengers, particularly the mod clothes that Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel wore. Plus, the women of this show aren’t just pretty faces who need to be rescued; they’re smart and are just as likely to be doing the rescuing as the male characters. Basically I want to run around in the English countryside catching bad guys in awesome outfits (and not having to play the damsel-in-distress card).
Noel Kirkpatrick: I have to pick a 1960s show, too! It’s got to be ABC’s Batman series (1966–1968). While some may not like it for its pop art and campy style (“some” being those who think Batman should always be grim, gritty, and brooding), I find it delightful. Why wouldn’t you want to hang out with any of these villains in their groovy hideouts, or with Bruce and Dick in the Batcave? Plus it’s a world where puns are acceptable and where, when I trip over things, BAM! flashes up over me. It’s like a dream.
Sabienna Bowman: It would have to be M*A*S*H. In fact, there was a three month period during my last year of college where I more or less did live in the world of M*A*S*H because I was watching it morning, noon, and night on TV Land and the Hallmark Channel. I was particularly obsessed with the B.J. years, which I know isn’t cool to admit because they coincided with Hawkeye’s descent into political speechifying, but the dynamic between Alan Alda and Mike Farrell will always be one of my favorite aspects of the series.
Visiting a world where the Korean War went on for more than a decade sounds depressing on the surface, but who wouldn’t want to hang out with the members of the 4077th MASH? The show did an excellent job of driving home the point that war is hell, but thanks to Hawkeye and company, the world they inhabited was appealing too. For maximum shenanigans, I’d aim to visit during the season seven episode “A Night at Rosie’s,” where the entire camp slowly makes their way to Rosie’s bar for a night of drunken debauchery.
Even more than I want to visit the world of the show, I want to visit the actual night of the finale, Feb. 28, 1983. In our current age of television, where 10 million viewers is considered impressive, the idea that 106 million people watched the series finale of a sitcom as it aired blows my mind. (Also, I want to know if that toilet thing really happened.)
Anthony Strand: The first thing to come to mind was The Muppet Show, but I gave a Muppet-related answer last week, so I’ll pass on doing so again. The second was The Andy Griffith Show, but I grew up in a small town, so I’m not sure how excited I’d really be about visiting Mayberry (although it might be interesting to see what Mayberry’s like circa 2012). So, in conclusion, I’ll say Soap. I wouldn’t want to live with the Campbells or the Tates, but I’d love to spend a week standing around, Benson-style, watching the families’ double-crossing and back-stabbing get increasingly absurd. Then there’d be a cliffhanger, nothing would be wrapped up, and I’d graciously make my exit.
Cameron White: If we’re talking world as in within the show itself, there’s no question: Star Trek: The Original Series. If we’re talking world as in “the world in which this show aired,” well, I’ll also go with Star Trek: TOS, because how cool would it be to be engaged in the discourse surrounding that show and the parallels to real world politics?
Andy Daglas: For a TV Land vacation that serves up excitement and intrigue with minimal actual danger, I’ll tag along on one of the goofball spy missions of Get Smart. Semi-competent, sorta funny guys everywhere have plenty to learn from Don Adams’s bumbling Maxwell Smart, and hanging out with Barbara Feldon’s impossibly cool Agent 99 in some exotic location (okay, even a soundstage-faked one) is not the worst idea in the world.
Les Chappell: I toyed with some of the more iconic period dramas (the Prohibition-era Chicago of The Untouchables, the epic Western landscape of Gunsmoke) but I think for a relaxing visit, I’d opt for the three-hour tour to Gilligan’s Island. Sunshine, an abundance of fresh fruit, enough coconut-powered devices to earn a legion of patents, a lovely film star and pretty young farm girl, and lively visits by gangsters/robots/young Kurt Russell make it ideal for a vacation destination. True, there’s the risk of never making it off the island, but if the show’s logic proved anything it’s that everyone who winds up on the island other than its seven permanent residents is always gone by the next week.
J. Walker: If it’s a question of living there, then it’d have to be the original Star Trek, no question: Gene Roddenberry’s utopia would be a nice place to settle down. But if it’s just a visit? I would love to spend some in the Gotham City of the 1960s Batman series. Costumed heroes, wacky villains, go-go girls, choreographed fistfights, and so very much colorful knockout gas. It always felt fun and exciting, but never all that dangerous, even with all of those madmen running around in goofy outfits trying to steal the Bank of Gotham. I’d be good there for a little while.