The Future of Public Television: Saturday in L.A.

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Reminder: I'll be on an interesting (and free!) American Cinema Foundation panel this Saturday debating the glorious future of public television in the Land of the Free.

Details—Saturday, 8 p.m., moderated by occasional Reason contributor Cathy Seipp; other panelists include The Hollywood Reporter's Ray Richmond and Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory director Mel Stuart. Admission is free, seating is limited, RSVPs are a must, and more information (including on the other panels) here.

Speaking of Willy Wonka, I re-watched the original last night for the first time since childhood in preparation for my Mel Stuart handshake, and had one thought too banal to keep to myself—what a great decision it was to cast Charlie, Jack Albertson, and the rest of that beaten family with a bunch of American actors, since this, combined with the usual American self-mythology about how we all belong to the plucky lower-middle class, allowed little Californians like me to totally identify with the pre-pubescent everyman, even though, you know, Dad was still alive, the family didn't depend on my child labor, and the grandparents weren't all ridden to the same filthy bed while sad Ma boiled clothes.

Or maybe it's another data point in my equally banal theory that '70s cinema merely reflected a society that just sucked in ways barely imaginable now.

NEXT: Baby Malcontents Meet Nanny State

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  1. just a plug for the private science channel, which is running an “updated” and somewhat diluted (possibly) version of carl sagan’s very public “cosmos” — one of the ten greatest television projects ever.

    as a kid who, in 1980, was nine years old and just beginning with a chemistry set and star charts, it’s effect was for me (like billions of others) revolutionary and life-changing.

  2. diluted (possibly)

    or perhaps it simply seems so. when i was nine, it was truly colossal — a window on a world i had only begun to imagine.

  3. I believe the “boiled clothes” thing was just part of ueber upper-crust author Roald Dahl’s fantasy of how poor people live.

  4. I believe the “boiled clothes” thing was just part of ueber upper-crust author Roald Dahl’s fantasy of how poor people live.

    When my parents first moved to Australia in the late 1940s a large number of women still washed the families clothes in a large copper pot heated with a wood fire. The rest for the most part had hand wringer type machines. My mother was one of the first women in Tasmania to get an automatic washing machine (ca 1950). None of that household drudgery for a Radcliffe girl, now.

    Since Australia generally aped Britain until WWII I imagine that boiling clothes was quite common in pre-WWII England.

    More to Matt Welch’s point though is the fact that Americans do not really understand class in the lame way as the British do. American actors have a way of playing the British lower class unconvincingly

  5. “in the lame way as the British…”

    should, of course, read:

    “in the same way as the British…”

    although the British class system is certainly lame.

  6. Supporting Public television is one of the few good things the Federal government does and should probably be the full extent of Federal educational expenditures. Bert and Ernie made me proud to be who I am when I was a younger man. And Nova done made me smarter. And we all know that documentaries on the History channel and Discovery are pure crap when compared to PBS. It’s one of the view exceptions to the rule where the government does it better than the private sector.

    That being said, the beauty of PBS is that it’s one channel, it’s not the core of the TV system like the BBC is.

  7. The minority report.

    Just a plug for public TV. Most of it, like most private TV, is schlock. But every now and then, they pull off a huge win. Today’s showing of “Amazon Women Warriors” was one such huge win. One archaelogist followed a story for 20 years, from the steps of the Caucasus of 2500 years ago where she excavated remains of warriors buried with their weapons, male and female alike, to outer Mongolia today, where the progeny of the same tribe still live today. She even found a 9-year old blonde girl whose blood matched perfectly to ancient bone samples. So she even verified the myth that the Amazons–actually the Sarmatians–had blonde hair. Some of them did then, and some-very few-of them do today. It’s like a scientific romance story.

    And they still use some of the same decoration and clothing that appear on Greek pottery.

    The show ends with a sequence of the little pale-haired girl riding a horse with the wind in her hair and a smile on her face. Like a corny Hollywood movie, but it’s actually true.

    Very good stuff. Sometimes PBS pulls off a genuine win. And if it had only been on cable, I’d have never seen it.

  8. Back when you were fighting a constant battle against lice and miscellaneous vermin, boiling clothes was simply common sense. It probably had more to do with overall personal hygiene issues than it did with lack of technology.

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