This might be hard to believe, but not everything on TV is as wonderful as it's cracked up to be.
The word "overrated" comes to mind in regard to the programs and personalities on the following list.1. "Wiseguy" - This trendy cop show can be interesting and imaginative. It is too bad that the star, Ken Wahl, isn't awake to see it.
Wahl's simian charisma reminds me of all the great ones - King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, Cheetah and J. Fred Muggs.
The so-called "arc" style - over several episodes, stories with a beginning, middle and end - seems new, but it isn't. In one of them, Wahl was temporarily out of the show thanks to a real-life injury, but Jerry Lewis as a garment industry mogul more than made up for it.
Sorry, but any show where the star can be replaced by Jerry Lewis and not miss a beat is a few furlongs short of the hall of fame.
2. David Letterman - The guy's act is getting old and he doesn't have one to replace it. The so-what attitude that was once so fresh is as stale as last year's cupcake.
Letterman was always smug. He's rarely been anything else. But that smirking, self-satisfied grin is wearing thin. If he's as bored as he looks, he ought to get out of the business because pretty soon viewers are going to be as bored as he looks, too.
3. "All in the Family" - I know all the adjectives . . . pioneering, groundbreaking, trendsetting etc.
All true, if exaggerated. It was bound to happen, for one thing. The world had changed, and sooner or later TV was going to reflect those changes. If not this show, then another.
When I think of "All in the Family," I think of unpleasant, stupid people standing around a shabby living room insulting each other at the top of their lungs. It was a shrill and angry show, and reruns only prove how shrill and angry it was.
If it broke new ground, that's because the ground was ready to be broken.
4. Westerns - Memory has a way of playing tricks, and it's never trickier than in that place where seldom is heard a discouraging word.
With one exception - "Maverick" - those great old westerns like "Wagon Train," "Gunsmoke" and "Bonanza" are more old than great. "Bonanza" is a hoot today. Watch a few episodes and count how many people Little Joe blows away. "The Rifleman" was downright sanctimonious.
Lots of great actors, too - people like Robert Horton, James Arness and Chuck Connors. They probably taught Ken Wahl everything he knows.
5. "St. Elsewhere" - The thing was a mess.
I don't deny that there were good things in it. But the show was so overwhelmed by the cutes you could practically see it preen itself. I got the impression there was nobody around to say no and the slightest whimsy would spill out on screen.
And any show with the extremely self-satisfied Howie Mandel has enough trouble.
6. Tom Brokaw - I can understand Peter Jennings. He's a showoff, but he's so bright that he does it without seeming to show off.
I understand Dan Rather, too. He's been almost everywhere and done almost everything there is to do in his business. Plus, it's always entertaining to see what trouble he'll get into next. Kidnapped by a Chicago cab driver? Pummeled on the streets of New York City? Walk off the show in a snit, which results in CBS going dark? Who knows where Rather will strike next?
But Tom Brokaw? What's he got, how did he get it, and why is it invisible? Is Tom Brokaw really necessary?
7. The Golden Age of TV - Yes, there was all that drama and some of the best comedies ever.
But there was also Arthur Murray; Renzo Cesana, a twirp who pitched woo to the camera on "The Continental"; deliriously stupid game shows without end, many of them crooked; Snooky Lanson; Gorgeous George; William Bendix; and "Queen For a Day."
Golden age? Not anything with Julius LaRosa in it.
8. Ernie Kovacs - When he hit, there was nothing like it. But when he missed, there was nothing like THAT either.
Kovacs liked to fiddle around with the medium. The resulting sight gags, schtick and foolishness looked like what they were, a lot of fiddling around.
He had talent. But his vast reputation is a sympathy vote. TV treated him badly because it didn't know what to do with him. Who can blame it? Then he died suddenly - a car crash at age 42 - and assured his reputation.
9. "The MacNeil-Lehrer News-hour" - A good argument in favor of half-hour news shows.
Is there anything more deadly dull than listening to MacNeil drone on in that incredible hypnotic voice about something no one cares about but it's there because the show has twice as much time to kill?
10. "Saturday Night Live" - The irony is that by the time it became genuinely popular, it had already peaked.
If "Saturday Night Live" hit once per show that was enough. Of course, there were entire years when it didn't hit.
The first few seasons were exceptionally overrated. They still are. "Saturday Night Live" was really just a new version of Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows," updated for the drug culture by the drug culture. Take away the cocaine and marijuana, and I'm not sure there'd have been a show at all.
Look what Belushi, Aykroyd, Curtin, Radner and Murray have done since, those who are still alive. Before our very eyes, they've turned into what they used to parody. If would be sad if their movies weren't so rotten.