Our (Little) House is a Very, Very, Very Fine House
Mark Daniels Mark Daniels's Weblog
- 2005 Sep 20
There was such a stark contrast available for those watching television on Sunday night. And forgive me for sounding a bit “sappy”…but it really made me long for those so-called “good old days” of just 30 or so years ago.
Now, I realize that--for the current generation of young people—the only things worthwhile in the rearview mirror are cultural; that’s why the hairstyles, the music, and the clothing of my generation are, once again, "high fashion." But today’s prevailing ideals are constant innovation and up-to-the-minute knowledge; “turning back the clock” for lessons in morality and civility is akin to asking cavemen for advice on WiFi broadband access.
But, as I switched back and forth Sunday between TV Land and CBS…I couldn’t help but notice the incredible difference between the two programs being offered. On one, a frontier family struggled to deal with the tragedy of a stillborn child…an experience that would tear at the fabric of their faith…and compel one sibling on a life-changing journey alone. But the love of a grief-stricken father would drive him to pull his family together again, drawing them even closer together than they were before.
On the other channel, the program began with an irreverent rant by a gay comedienne. Then, the cast of another show--one based on the premise that bored, spoiled housewives somehow deserved the opportunity to sleep around with neighborhood teens—lined up onstage to the hearty approval of their peers. By the time that program had ended, there were a few heartfelt moments of tribute, a couple of references to the victims of a hurricane, and a lot of under-dressed and under-talented celebrities congratulating themselves on another 12 months of—in Robert Bork’s words—“slouching towards Gomorrah.”
OK, OK. I know that I’ve compared and contrasted one of the sappiest episodes in television history—Little House on the Prairie’s epic “The Lord is My Shepherd”—with this year's edition of the always self-absorbed Emmyâ Awards. And, yes…I realize that there is a tiny bit of uplifting programming out there, like ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” But that “Little House” episode was more the rule than the exception, some 25 or 30 years ago, on primetime TV. And today, its equal is nowhere to be found.
But this diatribe is not about crappy television, or my growing penchant for reminiscing. It’s about what we choose as the goals of our entertainment and creativity. And our media are the primary vehicles for communicating those goals. You know, Walnut Grove had its share of real problems each week. Michael Landon’s vision of the Ingalls experience wasn’t that of some prairie ideal, where everyone lived in sentimental reverie. Life was hard; people died, and treated each other poorly sometimes. But families stuck together. Married people toughed it out. The little community church was a place where simple belief had to, quite often, withstand the most difficult tests of life. But from that first French horn note of the overture, to the closing credits, the focus of each episode of “Little House on the Prairie” was to prove that faith and love can overcome a lot…and God’s love conquers all. Heaven forbid we should ever again “turn back the clock” that far, on primetime TV.