Herbie J Pilato: Classic TV & Self-Esteem


by Herbie J Pilato

“We celebrate the integrity of classic television.”

That’s the motto of The Classic TV Preservation Society (CTVPS), a nonprofit organization that offers TV & Self-Esteem Seminars to schools, colleges, community, senior and business centers or organizations.

The mission?

To educate individuals, community, arts/media, business and academic organizations and institutions on the social significance and positive influence of classic television programming, with specific regard to family values, diversity in the work place, and mutual respect for all people of every cultural background and heritage, gender, race and creed.

The inspiration?

The increasing popularity of nostalgic television programming as seen on TV Land, Antenna TV, ME-TV, and the Hallmark Channel, among other retro-geared and family-oriented networks that are a hit with the viewers. The generation that worshipped The Brady Bunch and lived The Wonder Years is fast increasing as the prevalent consumer. With productions of large screen adaptations of small screen classics (Gidget and Gilligan’s Island) on the rise, and with television itself remaking its original shows (Ironside, Hawaii Five-0), the big TV picture is expanding – as is our consciousness of its social ties.

Programs like The Bob Newhart Show and I Love Lucy continually find new generations of fans in prime-time through syndication and release on DVD. Time and again, archetypal comedies, dramas, action-adventures, mysteries – and even musical-variety shows (The Carol Burnett Show, The Dean Martin Show) have become historic learning canals for today’s viewer. While the influence of classic TV programs can no longer be denied, questions abound:

Have programs from the past affected the way we live in the present? Have we learned “what love’s got to do with it” from good-witch Samantha and her mortal husband Darrin on Bewitched? Are we more tolerant of those who happened to be different because Star Trek inspires to “make us so”? Channels switch and signals cross, but the focus is clear: We have indeed learned a great deal from watching classic television – and continue to do so.

Maybe yesterday’s young television viewers have developed into today’s hip parents because they screened the strong results of classic TV parentage, the kind played so entertainingly and effectively by Nancy Walker as Mrs. Ida Morgenstern on Rhoda.

In this case, the pressure was off because such a performance outweighed the quirkiness of what could have become an unlikable character. The viewer was better prepared to acquire lessons on how not to be a mother from a funny, non-preaching fictional personality, and walk away with an inspirational thought and explicit positive reinforcement in the process.

The contemporary Mom and Dad may view a troubled child reference or recall the compassion presented on Family Affair or My Three Sons, and ask, “Do you want to talk about it?”

Classic shows like Father Knows Best, Marcus Welby, M.D. and Route 66 cater to the highest common denominator in each of us. Such programming encourages family values, scientific and medical education, strong work ethics, observational skills, spiritual support and true friendships. The Odd Couple, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Golden Girls have it down on how to entertain viewers, while presenting characters in a psychologically-nutritious manner for the viewer.

Beloved TV programs from the past may not necessarily or directly create good behavior in the audience. But with series like The Waltons a significant number of viewers may be affected in a positive way. How much of an effect past TV favorites have on society depends on the amount of power and suggestion that the audience is willing to grant such and which shows they choose to watch. Yet one fact remains: Today’s central demographic patron is yesterday’s child, long-hungry for a TV era gone-by.

Consequently, the CTVPS is here to embrace, document and help spread the word that classic television is an untapped resource for education; to prove that classic TV shows in particular are not only entertaining, but informative, socially substantial, and sometimes, life-changing – for the better.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Want to know more about The Classic TV Preservation Society? Get in touch with Herbie J by clicking on the “Contact” link at his website. 

Author: Herbie J Pilato

Writer, Author, Producer, Actor, Singer/Songwriter, Lover of Life