Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Sunday Afternoons With Abbott & Costello

I've mentioned before, how, growing up, television played a strong role in my early exposure to (and education of) films. The 4:30 Movie theme weeks... The Late Movie...The Late Late Movie...all exposed me to films I might have otherwise never known. Looking back -- in the pre-VHS, pre-Pay-Per-View days -- I think the fact that we were (in a sense) forced to watch what television programmers programmed was, in a way, a great thing in that it exposed us to a plethora of film genres, acting styles, and director's works, we might not have chosen for ourselves at the local Blockbuster, given the choice. Perhaps my most fond memory of "films I first saw on TV" are the Sunday afternoon Bud Abbott & Lou Costello films on Channel 11, in New York. These films were as much a part of my Sunday experience as Grandma's homemade tomato sauce, listening to Italian music, and going to mass. Abbott & Costello films on Sundays were a constant -- something I counted on. And each week, I was glued to Bud and Lou's film (mis)adventures -- watching time and again as the duo ran through their famous (and always funny) "Who's on First?" routine, or simply ran -- from the Mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Invisible Man, or Boris Karloff himself! I watched them become Buck Privates (in two films which also exposed me to the "Boogie Woogie" singing style of the Andrew Sisters). I even watched Bud and Lou go to Venus (though the title said they were going to Mars). Point is, these Sunday afternoon programming decisions by local station WPIX in New York, turned into a multi-year, crash course on the films of Abbott & Costello for me. I know these films now as well as I know anything in my life. They're part of my make-up, and certainly an early reason for my love of film.

Today's kids don't have the same benefits we did in being forced to watch A&C movies over and over again. They have nonstop activities arranged for them, play dates and other types of mental and physical distractions lined up from morning till night. Quiet time is about IMs, emails and all manner of stimulation on the net. And when they want to see a movie they pop it in the DVD player or maybe add it to the Netflix queue or (soon) download it.
Poor kids just don't know what it's like to watch The Naughty Nineties or Little Giant (with commercials) every three months.
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