THE LOVEBOAT TAUGHT ME everything I needed to know about social life. That’s because my best Saturday nights were spent watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show and eating cake at my grandmother’s big Victorian house in Cold Spring, along with my little brother. There was a lot of “screen time” involved but it was quality screen time. First up was “All in the Family,” followed by “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (is there anyone over 45 who doesn’t get choked up when you hear that theme song?), and the Bob Newhart Show (“No way, Mom, you mean Poppa Elf had his own TV show??”)
Later on, All in the Family was replaced by “The Jeffersons” (yes, I am doing this from memory). Soon thereafter, “Rhoda” got her spinoff and “Good Times” came on the air. Then in middle school, the Loveboat, possibly my favorite show of all time, came on the air, which was followed by Fantasy Island (if you don’t know who said, “De Plane, De Plane,” we probably can’t be friends). We switched between Fantasy Island and Dallas, since there was no way to record shows back then (“Jeez, Mom, did you guys make pictures of cows on the walls of your cave too?”)
“Prime Time” on ABC in the 70’s really was prime time. As kids, we lived for Saturday nights. Because it wasn’t just TV (or even great TV), it was time that we spent with our grandmother. (Who wasn’t actually our grandmother, she was our great aunt but we didn’t know that for a long time -- and by then it didn’t matter). And she didn’t so much spend Saturday nights with us as spoil the heck out of us. Which was great because our parents both worked and liked to have a night off. And Nellen (our grandma), also a former principal in Harlem, knew that “school can be stressful” and we needed a night where we could relax and unwind and be the stars of our own show.
We started off with trip to her library. Yes, she had a full on real library with floor to ceiling shelves built into her home. We absolutely loved it, it’s where I developed my love of books. We could take out any book we wanted (she had tons of children’s books) and even take it home, as long as we brought it back because it was, after all, a library. Then we could have whatever we wanted for dinner. We generally chose steak and potatoes with jello or pudding. The catch was we had to go into the kitchen and help her make it, which is where I developed my love of cooking. Then we took tiny little cake pans and made tiny little cakes with frosting, which is where I developed my love of baked goods.
Finally, after eating and cleaning the kitchen, we headed upstairs to the big recliners where we tuned in for the first of our many shows. We were allowed to watch until we fell asleep, something we were NOT allowed to do at home. If 11 pm came and somehow we still weren’t asleep, we got to read a book until we fell asleep.
Saturday nights at Nellen’s were the most wonderful, magical evenings ever. Those were the original “binge watching” sprees. But we didn’t just watch, we talked about the shows and the commercials and laughed together. Growing up, my ideas about marriage came from the Bunkers (each spouse must have their own armchair) and the Jeffersons (marry a man with a great mom so you can have a great mother in law, you don’t want to end up like Weezy). My ideas about teen romance came from the Loveboat (you never know, the right fella could be in the next stateroom!). Mary Tyler Moore gave me self confidence and taught me that I could be a reporter or anything else I wanted to be. And I could turn the world on with a smile.
There weren’t really any families I wanted to emulate. But that was okay because I had my own family. And on Saturday nights we had our own super special family ritual. I learned that all you need for a great family night was a steak, tiny frosted cakes, and a really great TV lineup. Hey, ABC, isn’t it time to bring back the Loveboat?
Until then, have a great day everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo