In this week's media commentary, MTSU Professor of Journalism Dr. Larry Burris explores family television...
I was talking with a couple of friends the other night, and they were lamenting the sad state of American television, and said they wished we could go back to what they termed the "good-ol'-days" of television. Maybe you remember those days of wholesome programming the entire family could watch. Programs that stressed family and American values.
Programs like, for example, "Gunsmoke." Maybe you remember Matt Dillon. He was the U.S marshal whose only means of solving problems seemed to be to shoot someone. And we won't talk about what kind of relationship he seemed to have with Miss Kitty, but I'm not sure they were really promoting so-called "family values."
Or consider that paragon of family programming, "The Andy Griffith Show." Nice and safe, right? Wrong.
Andy Taylor is a widower, so there's no mother to raise little Opie. Andy dates a series of nice-looking women during the run of the show, but his closest relationship is with his deputy, Barney Fife. And consider this: of all the major male characters in the show -- Andy, Barney, Floyd, Howard, Goober and Gomer -- the only married one is Otis Campbell, the town drunk. What sort of message and family value is this supposed to represent?
Then there were the "Beverly Hillbillies." Again, the major character, Jed, is a widower. This time the lead female character, and we assume role model, is the grandmother, who keeps a still in the backyard, and apparently has a serious substance abuse problem. And try to figure this relationship out: Jed is Jethro's uncle, but Jethro's mother is Jed's cousin Pearl. How's that for family values?
The list could go on and on, but I'm not so sure the "good ol' days" of television and family values ever really existed. So when people talk about a decline in family values, I wonder just what values they're talking about.