BOSTON — Turn on your set, and you are likely to find a favorite classic TV show from your childhood.
Two of the best family sitcoms were "Good Times" (1974-1979) and "Family Ties" (1982-1989). Well-written, often politically astute, these programs showed familial differences as strengths rather than weaknesses.
Good Times did a good job portraying a working-class African-American family as dignified, smart, industrious, and witty. It's good to see it again - especially since the issues it explored are still relevant. Esther Rolle and John Amos were amazing together. Jimmie Walker was, of course, dyn-o-mite!
It might be stretching it a bit to call Family Ties classic TV, since it ran in the '80s. But it's innocent, sweet, and profoundly funny, compared with today's prime-time drivel. Michael J. Fox's neo-conservative living in a liberal household made room for different perspectives while maintaining a loving disposition.
Remember how American GIs in Hogan's Heroes (1965-1971) passed along intelligence to the Allies from within a POW camp run by the incompetent Colonel Klink? The show plays well today because the jokes are still clever enough to be funny. The Dick Van Dyke Show, with its inspired manic clowning, may seem dated in the family-relations department, but there is distinct intelligence behind the jokes.
Rawhide (1959-1966) made Clint Eastwood (as cowboy Rowdy Yates) a household name, launching the ruggedly handsome young man into a complex career of tough cowboys, cops, and gunslingers. It also gave us the best theme song in TV history: "Keep rollin', rollin', rollin', though the streams are swollen, keep those doggies rollin', rawhide!"
*For those who collect videos and want to own their own classic TV - check out www.amazon.com or Columbia House Re-TV Video Library Series (800-638-2922).