The Amazing Adventures of Superman, Have Gun Will Travel, Wanted Dead or Alive, Rawhide, Wagon Train; so much violence and so many memories; amazing that we are at all adjusted.
Look, up in the sky; Paladin Paladin Where Do You Roam?; Get Those Doggies Rolling; Wagons Ho! These and so many others were the words of our childhood. Our pre-teen and early teen years were enhanced by the work of Rod Serling and others.
I look back now and find comfort in owning some of these series’ and in accessing them on streaming services. These rough and tumble westerns and fear invoking shows are warm now, not horrifying or scary. Message laden, not just entertaining, they have a purpose I’d like to pass on. These characters stood for fairness and fought evil. I believe they truly influenced the person I have become.
I can still watch episodes of The Amazing Adventures of Superman over and over (I own them all) and say many of the lines before the characters do. The comic book which inspired the show was a stalwart of my life. I have a firm image in my mind of Jon* and me sitting on someone’s bed reading comics, Superman probably among them. Although the early TV series did not feature “LL” girlfriends other than Lois Lane we knew the others too: Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, and Lyla Lerrol.
Paladin was the black clad gun fighter who helped others and Josh Randall, the bounty hunter with ethics and heart. We talked about these characters incessantly. While these shows flavored my early years, my late teens were overtaken with Star Trek. In CCNY, every morning after a new episode, there were discussions about what was possible, what was crazy, what was new and what was downright crazy.
TV was so influential and these series’ carried much weight. The most important (from ages 10-15) was The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling, rarely seen without a cigarette, was a story spinner with superb talents. He brought many younger actors as well as accomplished ones to the small screen. When I learned a few years ago that I could not see season four on streaming services, I ordered the complete set which includes the season of one hour episodes. I can, and do, watch these shows over and over. There is often something I did not notice before or after reading one of the companion books I own, some message I did not get.
Of the many memorable episodes was Deaths Head Revisited, the one about the concentration camp guard who goes to visit the old site and is placed on trial by the ghosts of some of those he helped imprison and torture. Serling brought it home, if it wasn’t already there.
And who can forget the man who later becomes Captain James Tiberius Kirk looking out that airplane window in terror in 1963 in episode 123?
TV was and remains an important medium for the transmission of culture and belief systems all along the spectrum. I do believe that at least some of the me I became was learned from that little box that soon became 19” and is now 55”.
*Jon is a regular reader of this blog with whom I grew up and went to camp. His wonderful stories can be found at KatzTales.com