Me TVby Brandon Edmonds / 03.12.2010
I’m big and sedentary. Television has always been the reward for sitting still. If you could accurately map the impact of behavior on sensibility, my readout would indicate a dominating splodge of boob tube man hours. It shaped me. So what a retro, nostalgic delight it is to come across the Wiki List of SA TV series. My formative viewing was pretty much slap bang in the 1980s and 90s. It’s a lapsed era of super solid TV. What’s charming about it now is how shared the shows were. Truly collective social experiences, since we had no alternative. Demographics weren’t segmented, chopped and fragmented. The whole family settled in. The SABC was it. This is pre-Windows. No torrenting, streaming or Youtube. Just regular programming. Going through the show-list is like flipping through a diary uncovered moving house. I’m instantly time-traveled back to the boy I was when these shows aired. A dreamy, soft-bellied kid with a fanciful imagination and a penchant for hot dogs. God, I loved these shows. Each and every one.
In alphabetical, if not biographical, order then.
The A-Team (1980s)
Hannibal’s paternal insouciance got to me. My step-father was an abusive jerk. The plan always came together. Peril meant ingenuity and team-work. An Emersonian lesson for a boy. And that music. I still hum it on the crapper.
Stringfellow Hawk is an even cooler handle than Han Solo. Jan Michael Vincent has since devolved into a broken wreck in his personal life, but back then, in a leather jacket, with a military do, and that Eastwood glare, I was so fucking gay for him.
Whip smart dialogue. High brow movie lampoons. Propulsive energy. It opened up cultural space for the deluge of animation today.
Kid’s show. I had the lamp. They were blobby molecules. Benign ectoplasm in primary colours. I’d listen to my ‘parents’ fighting late into the night, staring into the lamp’s purple glow.
I did gender studies. It didn’t get me laid. The male gaze, the stiltedness, the regressive breast mania. Pamela Anderson in slow motion. Our Gen X Kennedy moment. Touch yourself TV.
Subversion is a black butler who’s the smartest, most humane, and capable person in a room of well-to-do-whites. In South Africa in the 1980s.
Charlie’s Angels (1970s)
The sunny grin of Farrah. Women used to look like this. Libido melting.
Chips (late 1970s)
Motorcycle emptiness. Buddy dynamics. Mexican teeth. I loved it so much I’d straddle the loo backwards and pretend it was a police bike.
American gothic. Dysfunction. The moral vacuity of ultra-wealth. Pamela Ewing’s porno face. Sue-Ellen’s drunk mouth. JR’s nihilism. It mapped bleakness like Balzac.
Family Ties (1980s)
Michael J. Fox’s Alex P. Keaton is running Lehman brothers surely. He was a money-driven, morally uptight, go-getting right-wing douche. And he’s everywhere now.
This shit can’t be good for you. He was blonde and rippling. Aryan ubermenschen aesthetics. Totally awesome.
They were always pouring milk into a bowl and eating cheese. A lactose culture. Cheesy. It was in Afrikaans so I could only guess at what she was laughing about with Peter. Sheep fucking?
Knight Rider (1980s)
It was Spock the ride basically. I never missed it. My mom’s Mazda 323 never said a freaking thing.
Liewe Heksie (1981)
The Nazi’s were also into the occult. Just saying.
Little House on the Prairie (1970s/80s)
Voortrekkers. They had to make their own butter. It looked so hard. I just thought…have something else on your bread.
Magnum P.I (1980s)
I grew up in Durban. Hawaii-lite. My uncle looked like him. My uncle was a selfish prick. Dobermans, paddle-skiing and a Ferrari. Alpha masculinity. A lesson in what I’m not.
Man From Atlantis (1980s)
I practiced his spastic undulating style in many swimming pools in the year of the Laingsburg floods. It was a weird country. We were already drowning.
Man van Staal (1980s)
Simulcast. That sound when he ran fast. Dadadadda. $6 million dollars wouldn’t get you much of a man today. Bieber for the weekend. Beckham for brunch.
Maya the Bee (1980s)
Maya is the veil of illusion in Hindu belief. It’s what traps you in your own limits. Stops you seeing the larger harmony. Who better to express this than a worker bee in a busy colony? I loved this show.
Patron Saint of DIY. White trash ingenuity. We’ll all need to be him soon enough with this economy. I always hoped he’d fuck up. Just once. To humanize him.
Miami Vice (1980s)
Undercover work takes acting chops. Neither of them had any. Just exposed forearms and shades. Unwatchable.
Murder She Wrote (1980s)
My gran got her hair done like her. Old people are the future. Not children. They’ve got savings. And real estate.
Pinky & the Brain (1990s)
Outsized ambition in a tiny body. Anticipating Berlusconi. “The same thing we do every night, Pinky…”.
Pop Shop (1980s)
VCR timing. As soon as the host stops talking, push play and record simultaneously. Duran Duran. Depeche Mode. Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Life long images.
Postman Pat (1980s)
Competent bachelor. Kind to animals. Company car. What did he do at night?
Redding Internasionaal (1980s)
Puppet sex in “Team America World Police” reminded me how much I wanted it to happen back then. Puppet hotties in couture. Phallic rockets. Ruined in Afrikaans.
Santa Barbara (1990s)
For Kelly. Who owes me 700 pairs of soiled gym socks.
Shaka Zulu (1980s)
Mighty Henry Cele. Bayete! Nkosi. Heights local TV doesn’t even glance at now.
Sha Na Na (1980s)
Bowser. Leather jackets. Dumbness.
Silver Spoons (1980s)
The episode where Ricky Schroeder dines out then slips away without paying was electrifying to me. I learned criminality from Ricky Schroeder.
The Simpsons (1990s)
You had to sit up and stay alert. Writing good enough to shoot into space on behalf of humanity. Top Ten ever.
It’s debased Romanticism. The Romantics turned Nature into a laboratory of feeling. Survivor turns it into Virgin Active. The best of these shows. By far.
This show mattered to me. I lived it. Michael and Hope. It was so wrenching and satisfying I feel like I’ve already been through married life.
The Thorn Birds (1985)
I got that it was a priest fucking a hottie. I didn’t get why it made my mother cry.
Trompie en die Boksembende (1980)
I knew I didn’t want to be friends with Trompie. He was so lonely, or was it self-reliant? Afrikaans boys looked half-wild. More African. Ironically.
Twin Peaks (1990s)
How do you dream American dreams once they’re sour? Turn them into a riddle, a puzzle and a nightmare. Norman Rockwell eats Francis Bacon. So fucking intense.
Still the most indelible moment in 80s TV. A woman goes to her room and locks the door. Then locates a mouse and swallows it. Whole. In close up. Slowly.
Vetkoek Paleis (1990s)
In John Waters colours. Headache bright. Unattractive locals serve…vetkoek.
Who’s the Boss? (1980s)
The proto-Guido Tony does the housework. Angela’s in advertising. Who’s the boss? A question neatly resolved if we saw her get into bed with a nice long dildo. Angela!
The X Files (1990s)
The whole thing was a search engine. Punch in crop circles see what you get. Join the dots for a conspiracy theory. Everyone who programs the things you love to use loves this show. And Sculley.
Yizo Yizo (1990s)
Gorgeous to look at. Convincingly desperate. Kwaito-laden and street smart. This show was as good as almost everything else back then. It’s a resource.
Shit, that’s a lot of wasted time. No wonder I’m unmarried, unemployed and unhappy. Great. What’s on tonight?