What’s amazing is that 2 of the 4 popular television series in this post appeared on the screen AFTER I had made major life choices. Yes, the two careers I chose were more common than being an astronaut or an architect–to name a few. But it was pretty darn cool to become a teacher at Bloom Township High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois in 1969, only to discover that Room 222 began a few weeks after I did. It aired on September 17, 1969 and ran until January, 1974–pretty close to the time I spent as a high school English teacher. In her role as the new teacher who had trouble even getting off her bus, Karen Valentine echoed the same joys and pains that I experienced. Bloom helped me learn about diversity, waking me from a simpler life to plunge into the complexity and challenges my students faced every day. I wrote about it in my post What Do Teacher’s Really Do?
The late 70s and the 80s were devoted to raising our two daughters and enjoying every aspect of family life. Yes, I wrote and published short stories and plotted a novel, but being a mom was my vocation and Family Ties the show that we all looked forward to. Laughter filled the family room as Michael J. Fox (Alex P. Keaton) worked his way through high school, the dating game and adjusted to the arrival of his baby brother, Andrew. There’s a scene when Alex realizes that Andrew just might mirror his proclivities and he turns to his parents saying, “Thank you for having him.” Like the Keatons, my husband and I decided to have one more. Our Andrew arrived in 1989 and we often heard the same Thank You line, but the name, Andrew, was mine, chosen for that hoped-for-son when I was in high school. But I must confess the show’s theme song, though dated, still makes me smile. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7H3JuQUQTLQ
I went back to school in 1991 and graduated with an RN in 1993. My first job was working as a labor and delivery nurse in a tertiary care center in downtown Chicago. Wow! And then in 1994 ER began, a medical drama taking place at a fictional hospital (like Cook Country) in Chicago. I was hooked. If I worked on a Thursday night, I would tape the show, drive the Dan Ryan home and stay up to watch. It was hard to sleep anyway, especially if you knew your friends Kerry and Carol, Doug and John Carter were waiting for you. Thanks to an amazing writer, Michael Crichton, for the show and other medical writing ie Five Patients.
Recently my husband retired and we left the Midwest. It’s amazing in California and we are now close to my brother and our daughter and her family. But dear friends are still back in Chicago and Iowa, our son in Chicago, our daughter in Boston, and once in a while I wouldn’t mind seeing some snow–like on Christmas. And I would change driving the 405 for the Dan Ryan any day. But wherever we live, family will always be our first concern and the show Parenthood is now my go-to series. It could never replace ER, and yet ironically reflects present concerns: how to downsize, where to live, how a couple can share the remaining years in a fruitful and fulfilling way. That’s what Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and Camille Braverman (Bonnie Bedelia) are immersed in after 46 years of marriage to our 44.
So much has changed in TV viewing. We like The Goodwife, but the networks are jammed with reality television that will never reflect my life choices. There is definitely great dialogue and fascinating characters in works like Mad Men, The Newsroom and Turn—our current go-to shows. And Cosmos should not be missed. But when there’s a lack of good television, there’s always reading, which is the best choice. You can always find a book that takes you away from your own life, helps you understand your life or reflects some of the choices you have made. Readers, If you have a suggestion for either a television program or a book, please share. And thanks for reading.