KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (13)
May 12, 2022
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite TV shows of the Seventies (1974–1983).
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE | 1974–1983
When I was six years old, my mother told me I’d be staying after school with my grandparents. I cried. The year before I’d stayed with Aunt Marie, and we played games and baked cookies and did all the things you imagined you’d do with your grandparents. But Marie had moved across the Verrazano to Brooklyn, and Grandma and Pop were now my baby-sitters.
Grandma was funny but Pop was difficult. An actor whose career was cut short by WWII — his draft notice made Variety — Pop burst into song a lot. He had a flair for the dramatic. He would not be ignored. Pop did attempt a return to the stage in the ’70s, when he tried to audition for Daddy Warbucks in Annie. But the best headshots he could get were Polaroids my grandmother took of him in the living room, standing in front of their government-issued landscape painting. It’s a shame, he would’ve made a fantastic Daddy Warbucks.
But I cried because Pop had rules. Strange, arbitrary rules that only made sense to him, and that you would always break, especially if you were a kid. Even a bookish kid. “Tap the screen door before you come in to get the bugs off, but… Stop! You’re tapping too hard, you’ll rip the screen.” “Always be six feet away from the TV set or you’ll get cancer.” I didn’t know this at the time, but Pop was the only child of an alcoholic dad who couldn’t keep a job and a codependent mom who chose her husband over her son. So being a control freak was his way of dealing with the world, even by the time he was a grandfather. (Which at 52 was too young for him, so that’s why he was “Pop” and not “Grandpa” — my truck-driving grandfather from the Bronx, however, was perfectly fine with “Grandpa.”)
Pop played the stock market — he was good at it. Utilities, mostly. Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser was his jam. Mine was Little House on the Prairie. As an actor, Pop resented Michael Landon for being so famous. “All that guy does is cry,” he told me. As a first grader I resented Louis Rukeyser. I didn’t want to be a child who knew about Wall Street Week. At the time I was Pop’s only grandkid, so I strongly believed he was supposed to let me watch Pa and Ma and Laura and Manly and Nellie Oleson. Those were the rules.
But suddenly one day it happened. I don’t know if Pop was feeling particularly generous, or the market was tumbling, but I was finally given the chance to catch up on the adventures of the Ingalls family. Pop even watched. 1800s Minnesota. Wholesome entertainment. What could go wrong?
Little House viewers now know there were certain episodes that today would be called triggering. Sexual assault, drug abuse — Little House went there. Oh, did it go there. But the one I’m talking about, the one that I finally got to watch, involved Ma, home alone for the weekend while everyone went to Mankato or whatever town they went to when they left Walnut Grove. She cut her leg on a wire, it got infected, and as I recall, she went on some kind of bacterial acid trip that climaxed with her reading a biblical passage that said, “Cut it off,” butcher knife in hand, about to chop off her diseased leg.
It was months until I finally learned that the Ingalls returned home just in time to save Ma: Pop had been so horrified that he broke the six-foot rule and ran across the room to change the channel before any self-mutilation occurred, so I was left with a cliffhanger that lasted longer than “Who shot JR?” It would be ages before I was allowed to watch Little House again. But since I had to sit through it, I wish I’d paid more attention to Wall Street Week.
KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Lynn Peril on ONE DAY AT A TIME | Dan Reines on THE WHITE SHADOW | Carlo Rotella on BARNEY MILLER | Lucy Sante on POLICE WOMAN | Douglas Wolk on WHEW! | Susan Roe on THE LOVE BOAT | Peggy Nelson on THE BIONIC WOMAN | Michael Grasso on WKRP IN CINCINNATI | Josh Glenn on SHAZAM! | Vanessa Berry on IN SEARCH OF… | Mark Kingwell on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA | Tom Nealon on BUCK ROGERS | Heather Quinlan on LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE | Adam McGovern on FAWLTY TOWERS | Gordon Dahlquist on THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO | David Smay on LAVERNE & SHIRLEY | Miranda Mellis on WELCOME BACK, KOTTER | Rick Pinchera on THE MUPPET SHOW | Kio Stark on WONDER WOMAN | Marc Weidenbaum on ARK II | Carl Wilson on LOU GRANT | Greg Rowland on STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES | Dave Boerger on DOCTOR WHO | William Nericcio on CHICO AND THE MAN | Erin M. Routson on HAPPY DAYS. Plus: David Cantwell on THE WALTONS.
JACK KIRBY PANELS | CAPTAIN KIRK SCENES | OLD-SCHOOL HIP HOP | TYPEFACES | NEW WAVE | SQUADS | PUNK | NEO-NOIR MOVIES | COMICS | SCI-FI MOVIES | SIDEKICKS | CARTOONS | TV DEATHS | COUNTRY | PROTO-PUNK | METAL | & more enthusiasms!