Misty Rowe: “Junior, I saw you whittlin’ that big log earlier. What was it you was makin’?”
Junior Samples: “A small log.”
Now if you ever watched the famed television series Hee Haw, then you know the prior exchange took place between a scantily clad blonde beauty and a pudgy redneck in overalls in the midst of a cornfield. Indeed this was the age when babes could be corny.
I remember sitting in my grandparents’ living room around the age of 9 or 10, along with my parents and cousins, watching this wacky show with maximal anticipation. Other than Transformers and Three Stooges I can’t think of another show that I cared about as much. Recurring characters such as the Culhanes, the ironing housewife, and Grandpa Jones were always good for a laugh (or at least a good-natured shake of the head).
Recently I’ve been able to catch a few reruns on the obscure Rural TV channel, and viewing it through the lens of a culture 40 years in the future has me feeling delighted and dejected all at once. It’s been fun singing along with that classic pity-party refrain, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me,” but it’s been even more enjoyable just to see a bunch of bodacious babes tell dumb jokes in front of a clothesline or a butt-bopping fence.
All of us are aware by now that we live in an era of entrenched irony, image consciousness, and political correctness. Sometimes it feels like we might be inching our way out of this mire, but watching Hee Haw is a stark reminder of how far we still have to climb. And I think the loudest signal it sends to our broken society is that sexiness can be lighthearted and frivolous.
This same truth is evident in even earlier TV shows like I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island, and the one and only Benny Hill Show. A woman’s beauty was something to be ogled endearingly, and its effect on the male psyche was to be acknowledged openly with laughs and gaffes.
So when did things get so serious? I don’t claim to have an answer, but by the time Friends unleashed its tedium on the airwaves, that innocent simplicity seemed lost. Even Seinfeld, though I enthusiastically consider it one of the top three sitcoms of all time, embodied the overtly analytical phase our culture had entered. Beauty and sexuality weren’t fun anymore. They were chores to be dealt with.
I can’t think of any sources of entertainment nowadays that provide anything like the whimsical offerings of Hee Haw. Our appreciation of beauty seems confined to Instagram selfies, forced “reality” shows, and internet porn, all of which seem painfully self-serious. Cheerfulness has been replaced with an insistence upon cleverness or craziness.
I guess we will emerge from this stunted condition at some point, and I can only hope it happens soon. Perhaps the upcoming Broadway musical of Hee Haw shall provide the catalyst. Until then, we suffer from a sickness only Nurse Goodbody can cure.