“Ok, Grandpa, I want to show you this new show I found. It is so funny! It’s about an alien that crashes on earth, and he lives with this family, but he has to hide because he’s an alien, and the family has to pretend he doesn’t live there, because he’s an alien, and he’s always trying to eat the cat!”
My daughter exploded into laughter as she unpaused the tv show, ALF. My dad smiled at her sweetly, pretending he hadn’t watched this show the first time it aired, in 1986. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and cable, she can watch almost any television show or movie that has ever been created. She can see all the neon leg-warmers and artistically paint-spattered sweatshirts the 1980s have to offer. And she can hear all the corny jokes that passed for comedy during that decade. And it is all better the second time around.
I hate to admit this, but I have turned into that person who says that things were better back in the day. Not everything- DVRs are way better than VCRs, and penicillon is awesome- but TV for kids has gone down hill. Everything is so… sassy. Kids on tv are constantly being smarty pants to their friends, their teachers, their parent, everyone. I know this is not a new thing, but the sassiness has intensified. Or maybe it just isn’t as cool, now that my 7 year old is figuring out how to be sassy to me.
TV filters offer a little bit of help, but not enough. G-rated or PG-rated is a good start, but I want more. How about “no mouthy or disrespectful language” filter? Or a “that’s rude, don’t copy what she said” filter? Or maybe a “dumb secret identity as a rock star so I can sell you albums after you turn off the television” filter?
When we watch movies and tv from the 70s and 80s, they are just a little bit more gentle. Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are sweet. ALF and Wonder Woman are fun and campy. The jokes and gags are all really dumb, but my daughter thinks they are hilarious every time. Which makes sense, because I thought they were hilarious the first time I watched them, too. And seeing her laugh as a three foot tall, furry alien runs away from a giant space cockroach makes it all funny again as I watch it the second time around.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t give up my Parks and Recreation or New Girl in favor of something stale from three decades ago- the stuff out there today is hilarious. But have you seen this new show about an alien that crashed on earth and has to hide with a family? He is always trying to eat their cat! And that is pretty darn funny, too.