A Tale of Two Cities

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A Tale of Two Cities

(Bedrock and Springfield)

I have been studying early TV in my Mass Communication class and we were asked to compare a comedy from the early TV era to a present day show.

I came up with a flood of ideas, but all of them were boring to me. Until, I remembered how much I hate The Flintstones; be forewarned, if you like Fred and Barney, you are probably going to get mad at me; because I don’t have many nice things to say about them, and I always wondered why that show was so popular.

On the other hand, The Simpsons is a brilliant show and even when it hit the doldrums in the late 1990’s it was far more an imaginative and funny commentary on American life, than the Flintstones ever was.

The Simpsons has suffered through many changes in the writing staff through the course of its 25 year run; however, as the show enters its last year of production, it still produces top notch satire.

About the nicest thing I can say about the Flintstones is that the opening song is infectious. That song has wormed its way into the brains of millions, if not billions of people, and still turns up in pop culture references. Watch the video, if you dare, because you’ll likely be humming the song for the next three days.

The Flintstones originally aired between 1960 and 1966 on ABC and featured Fred and Wilma Flintstone, plus their neighbors, Barney and Betty Rubble.

The characters were obviously lifted from the 1950’s Jackie Gleason classic, The Honeymooners and relied heavily upon the gag of setting contemporary life in the Stone Age.

I’ll forgive the show’s creators for adding dinosaurs to the Stone Age, as they needed something to spice up the blatant rehashing of Honeymooners plot lines. However, how many times can a person watch a gag of a Pterodactyl  inside a Polaroid camera chiseling out photographs and think it is funny?

I searched through many Flintstones episodes for something funny, or at least edgy, and all I was able to come up with was something completely unintentional, this advertisement for Winston cigarettes.

By today’s standards, that innocently placed advertisement borders on being horrific; it’s worth clicking on the link to watch. I predict you’ll at least feel creepy watching it.

I remember an older friend of mine telling me, that when Wilma had her baby, Peebles, it was considered controversial. I found a short clip, of their mad rush to the hospital; I dare you to watch the entire clip, without begging for your 3 minutes and 42 seconds back.

This “modernstonic” family was a very unimaginative depiction of a 1950’s working class family, despite the Saber Tooth Cats and Brontosaurs. I know I was very harsh on Fred and the gang, but I’ve always disliked them from my very first encounter with their re-runs in the early 1970’s.

Flash forward to the late 1980’s to Springfield and meet The Simpsons: Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and little Maggie. Not to mention an entire universe of Springfield characters that emerged over the course of the show.

Homer is another working class stiff, like Fred, but he manages to be lovable despite his stupidity and ignorance. Marge, the mother,  is the voice of reason and the glue that holds the Simpson family together, but she is often portrayed as regretting her role in the family.

Lisa is the intellectual leftist leaning vegan daughter, who is often misunderstood and used as the foil to lampoon both the left and the right. Her older brother, Bart, is the hellion and anarchist of the family, plus, little Maggie who, for 25 years, has perpetually been the baby of the family with her trademark pacifier.

What makes me like the Simpsons is that it is clever satire of culture as opposed to a tired and worn out depiction of life inside a household.

The writers of the show reach out into the real world for their story lines; while they often lampoon or spoof classic movies, Broadway musicals, they never blandly copy them. They take pop culture and politics, and twist it into a clever commentary.

Take a look at Homer in the voting booth during the 2012 elections; I guarantee that you’ll have no trouble watching it.

I thought it was funny enough, but when I heard people were mad about it, well, it made me laugh all the more. I guess that I’ve got a little Bart in me.

iPad for Breakfast

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My professor asked me to explain which type of media I rely on for most of my news, and why?

I still love newspapers, even though I seldom buy hard copies of them anymore. There is nothing like going to my favorite diner on a Sunday morning and picking up a copy of the local paper to read while I have sunny-side-up eggs, bacon, and toast.

However, I do find myself pulling out my iPad and accessing a digital copy these days. There is no folding the paper, and no switching from the front page to page A19 to finish a story.

Despite my fond memories of rummaging through my pockets for a fist-full-of-quarters, and then, engaging in a nonstop origami session to get my copy of the Washington Post down to a wieldy size, I must admit, the digital format of the newspaper reigns supreme on my breakfast table, but that is only half the story.

What I like best about the reading the news, as opposed to TV or radio news broadcasts, is that the coverage can be significantly more in-depth.

Plus, if the waitress comes over to refill my coffee, I can always go back and pick up reading from where I left off. If someone starts talking to you while you are watching Scott Pelley announce the CBS Evening News, you are going to miss something, either that, or you are going to have to shush whoever is talking to you, and I never think that is a good idea.

There is even a greater reason to rely on digital editions of newspapers. Let’s say that you are following a long-running story and want some more background. A couple of swipes and jabs at your iPad and you can pull up a previous story, or more importantly, check another source.

Not that I am paranoid, but I do think one needs to be a little suspicious and critical of any news organization’s tone and spin on a particular topic.

Let’s face it, we humans are inherently flawed, and although we sometimes do magnificent things when we band together in groups, we are never immune from moral and ethical failure. Corporations, government agencies, newspapers, activist groups, and even churches can make dreadful decisions and become untrustworthy.

No, I am not claiming that a few swipes and jabs on your iPad will protect you from misinformation, it won’t. However, it is a powerful tool that puts a tremendous amount of information at your fingertips. It is still up to the reader to analyze all of that information in between dabbing your toast into your eggs.

If you use that tool the right way, you can be so much more informed than that guy sitting two stools away, who is constantly folding and unfolding his copy of the New York Times.

The print edition of the newspaper has a lot of charm and I understand those who are nostalgic for it; however, rotary phones are charming too, but we said goodbye to them with much less fuss.