I saw this series, pretty much all of it, on TeeVee when I was a kid. I can speak from the remembered experience then as well as my reaction on seeing the series again now.
The role we expect film to take now is rather complex, but fifty years ago on TeeVee the very best one could hope for was to be transported to an unfamiliar place. Some TeeVee shows did this, “Twilight Zone,” “Have Gun Will Travel” and this. For a white kid in the suburbs in the near south, watching urban blacks really was transporting.
There is a dummy involved, but no dumber than the typical TeeVee foil. There is a running gag — the primary one — where words are misunderstood and mispronounced. This was also typical, though I suppose one could argue that it meant something more venal in the context of an oppressed people.
But I knew none of that as a kid, and certainly knew nothing of the radio predecessor which was (I’ve read) overtly racist. But this kid saw a stable society of working folks, married and with good sense. This context was all the stronger with the one or two buffoons in contrast.
And many of the episodes were funny and clever to boot.
I think this is worth watching today simply because of the controversy surrounding it. Now the viewers gets to confront themselves and examine one corner of this dark phenomenon. I still think on the surface that is vastly more ennobling than most of the black-created material of today. But I wonder about the women…
Posted in 2005
Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.