Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TV Timewarp with "Leave It to Beaver"

As I scrolled through my Netflix queue the other day, considering a new TV show to watch, I was reminded of something I hadn't thought about in years: I adore "Leave It to Beaver."

I remember when I was 7 years old, watching the old Nick at Nite line up, before the TV Land channel became a thing. My family would squat in front of the TV every night for "I Dream of Jeannie," "Bewitched," "I Love Lucy," "The Munsters," and "Get Smart," always to switch the OFF button when the theme song for "Dragnet" started. It was like clockwork. Some nights there was Mary, other nights some Dick Van Dyke, but never once was there "Leave It to Beaver." And I figured that was alright, because it seemed like a silly show anyways.

When I was in college, my dad felt it was time I was educated on the ways of the Beav (it shouldn't be a coincidence that he looked eerily like Jerry Mathers in 1959). I was 21 years old, and definitely not a little kid. I hummed and hawed, declaring how uninterested I was, but he popped in his newly received Season 1 DVDs anyways, and the rest was history.

On the surface, "Beaver" looks like a glossy, untainted view of life in the 50's—a mother vacuuming in pearls, a father peering over a newspaper, and a couple of rowdy kids with nothing better to do than get into mischief. The stakes are never too high and no one is ever too unhappy. But as you watch, you realize it's not nostalgic. It's not filmed with any sense of criticism or ironic hind-sight. It's not making an overt comment about progressiveness within a conservative system. It just is. The messages are subtle, but they're effortless.

We see it all as quaint and naive now. That doesn't diminish these truths, though: Wally is the world's best big brother to Beaver. June and Ward Cleaver may just be TV's most sympathetic, understanding, and patient parents. And seeing the show as an adult, I connected with it in a way I wouldn't have as a child. Where once I would have noticed only the trials of boyhood, I now see parents navigating parenthood, ending the cycle of corporal punishment, and the development of brotherhood.

All this rambling is just to say that I want to share my love of this show with you all. Netflix has all six seasons (which originally ran from 1957 to 1963), and I recommend you give it a try, if you haven't already. Watch it with your kids—especially if you have young boys.

Has anyone else watched the entire series? Were you a kid when you watched it, or were you an adult? What are your thoughts?

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