Here’s the latest page from the “History” (i.e., History Channel) website: an online marketplace for their programs. All about the channel’s latest made-for-TV movie, a remake of the great 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde. There are thus several “filters” or contexts here: “history” as memorabilia and souvenirs (clothing, coffee mugs, fake cash in a bank bag); “history” that’s not really history at all, but rather popular mythology; history as memory, but not the “real” memory of real characters, but rather the memory of a legendary Hollywood production; history focused on sex and violence and the glorification of criminals (as in the Prohibition exhibit); and on and on. The layers here are amazingly rich– all in this one web page.
This is not really a story about history ON television, but it does highlight a historic moment on American television from 1963– the year of the March on Washington, a year in which many white Americans were finally waking up to the existence of racial issues and racial discrimination in their communities. And it comes in a most unlikely place: an episode of the popular “Dick Van Dyke Show,” set in the white suburban town of New Rochelle, New York.
It’s worth noting how radical this must have felt 50 years ago: As the article says:
It’s worth revisiting as a then-and-now study in how television effects transformation.
Today TV seems to push various envelopes with a vengeance, often clumsily so, trying for shock value in a world that is increasingly hard to shock. You have to admire the bravery and the unwillingness to tolerate any barrier, whether it be the one against gay characters or characters with disabilities or unsettling subjects like rape and child abuse. But you also sometimes are left mourning the lack of subtlety and art.
I know some of you might laugh at this, but I’ve recently become a HUGE fan of this show. It’s one of the highest rated shows on the channel and although the new episodes of Season 2 don’t arrive until next year, there are some pretty intense characterizations and historical accuracies that are worth following. Below is the link to the Season 2 trailer….