In 2013, a survey of one thousand Americans indicated that 9% of them would have sex with a robot. A similar survey in 2014 of Britons reported that 17% would have sex with a robot. The same British survey reported that almost half of people thought the idea of robot sex was “creepy.” Of course, when we talk about human-robot sex, we are really talking about sex with an android–a robot in the likeness of a human.
In a way, the sitcoms of the eighties were a reaction to the social consciousness of TV in the 70’s. Eighties’ shows were lighter and featured more ensemble casts and family style comedies.
The Wonder Years that ran from 1988 to 1993 showed how far 80s comedies had come from the 70s. Designed for the aging “Baby Boomer” generation the show, in a fun, light-hearted and nostalgic way, dealt with some of the social issues of the late 60s and early 70s. In one memorable episode Kevin Arnold, the main character, inadvertently started a school walk out to protest against the Vietnam War.
Cheers was on from 1982 to 1993. Cheers was set in a Boston sports bar owned by washed-up ballplayer and aging Lothario named Sam “Mayday” Malone (Ted Danson). The bar was inhabited by a cast of odd ball characters; know-it-all mail man, Cliff (John Ratzenberger), acerbic waitress Carla (Rhea Perlman) and Coach (Nicholas Colosanto), the loveable ex ballplayer who had taken one too many balls to the noggin. The real appeal of the show was the obvious chemistry between the cast.
Alf was on from 1986 to 1990 and starred a puppet named Gordon Shumway. Gordon was an alien from the planet Melmac, who escaped the destruction of his planet only to crash into the average American family’s garage. The Tanner family called Gordon, “Alf” short for “alien life form”. Gently snarky in tone, Alf observed and commented on contemporary American life, while trying to avoid capture by the government.
The Cosby Show ran for eight years from 1984 to 1992. Cosby demonstrates the other main theme of 80s TV. No more characters with dirt on their hands, instead the upper middle class ruled. In The Cosby Show, the Huxtable family father was a medical doctor and the mother was a lawyer. The parents rarely argued and the kids never talked back.
Night Court was on from 1984 to 1992, another great cast that featured comedian Harry Anderson as Judge Harry T. Stone. Night Court showed the comic goings-on in the Manhattan City court during the night shift. Odd situations and quirk characters were the bread and butter of this show.
Newhart ran for eight years from 1982 to 1990. “Newhart” starred TV veteran Bob Newhart as Dick Louden, writer of “Do It Yourself Help” books and owner of the Stratford Inn, in Connecticut. Dick, with lots of dry humor and low key reactions dealt with the daily odd happenings in the town. The show was full of wit and charm with great writing and memorable characters. Also, the series finale is a true classic of TV.
The Seventies were a tumultuous time in America. The Vietnam War finally came to an end, the Women’s Liberation Movement and Civil Rights Movement both changed the fabric of American society and TV reflected these transitions and changes.
All in the Family was on from 1971 to 1979. It was a controversial show and the writers and producers did not shy away from the highly charged social topics of the day such as racism, abortion and women’s rights. Carroll O’ Connor as the “loveable bigot”, Archie Bunker, was the focus of the show as that character tried to deal with all the changes society was undergoing.
Maude ran from 1972 to 1978 and was another breakout show from Norman Lear, the same producer of All in the Family. Maude was a spin-off show of All in the Family. Maude was the liberal cousin of the long suffering Edith Bunker. Maude was the flipside of All in the Family dealing with many of the same issues, but from the middle-class, liberal point of view.
Stanford and Son was one of the first Black (African-American) comedies. Running from 1972 to 1977 Stanford and Son featured Redd Foxx, a fine comic performer, as well as many other talented African American actors getting the chance for the first time to really work on TV. Like many of the comedies from the early 70s, Stanford and Son dealt with real issues, such as aging, race and economics.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was on from 1970 to 1977. Mary Tyler Moore who played Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke Show did a great job as Mary Richards. Mary Richards was a single woman in her late 20s looking to make her own way in the world. It was created by the team of producers, James L. Brooks and Allen Burns, who dominated late 70s TV in the same way that Lear dominated the early 70s.
Happy Days ran for ten years from 1974 to 1984 and represents the other side of TV during that time. Instead of dealing with serious social issues, it played on the nostalgia of a supposedly simpler time: the 1950s. Happy Days was always light, fun and funny.
M*A*S*H ran for over eleven years from 1972. No other show demonstrates the translational nature of TV in the 70’s. Starting out as a satiric commentary on the war in Vietnam, it grew and changed as the characters changed. It finally ended as more of a situation and ensemble comedy than a dark satire.
Call the Midwife is another one of those rich and textured dramas that the BBC does so well. Much like its more sumptuous cousin Downton Abbey and the seemingly immortal Upstairs, Downstairs, Call the Midwife transports the viewer to a time and place both unknown and somehow familiar to its viewers.
Based on the best-selling memoirs of midwife Jennifer Worth and set in the 1950s post-World War II East End of London (one of the nastiest slums in a country still under wartime food rationing and with a housing shortage). The story follows newly qualified nurse midwife Jenny Lee and her fellow nurse midwives and the nuns at Nonnatus House, a convent hospital, primarily concerned with child birth and the care of newborns.
The cast is both stellar and spot-on in their performances. Vanessa Redgrave provided the voice over as the older Nurse Jenny. Jenny Agutter as the serene and understanding Sister Julianne, Pam Ferris as the plain-spoken and no-nonsense Sister Evangeline and Judy Parfitt as the eccentric and willful Sister Monica Joan, are all excellent. The stand outs are so far, Jessica Raine as the wide-eyed newcomer Jenny and Miranda Hart, better known for her comedy, as the awkward Camilla Fortescue Cholmondeley Browne (just call her “Chummy” for short).
The drama in Call the Midwife comes both from its time and place, but also the interactions of the characters with it and with each other. The look and feel of the show is both nostalgic and somehow unflinching at the same time. Girls go to dances and the police have time to sip tea, but the show also deals with some adult themes that were known to exist in the 50s, but few people discussed. Prostitution, venereal diseases, and unwanted pregnancies in the age before the birth control pill and safe abortions are faced up to and dealt with in a honest and forthright manner.
Also the show is not for the squeamish. In the course of the series so far viewers have seen lots of women screaming in pain (as only childbirth before the advent of epidurals could be painful), including a breach birth. Blood is thrown about at will and seems to land on everything. Also shown was a nasty case of syphilis and a truly horrifying back-alley abortion.
Broadcast on Public Broadcasting System (PBS) stations in America in a Sunday night timeslot, Call the Midwife is the perfect antidote for grown-up TV watchers to shallow melodramas and cartoon families.