Julie Lyles Carr: Not So Much...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Not So Much...

Growing up, we didn't watch a lot of television.

Because, let's face it.

There wasn't a lot of television to watch.

My kids listen in horror and fascination as I recount to them that there were only three network channels and then the incidental PBS. They gasp as I tell them that cartoons were only broadcast on Saturday mornings.

It's my version of walking three miles to school uphill in the snow. I can see the pity and appreciation in their young eyes as they come to an understanding of the limited scope of entertainment that was available back in the day.

Now, make no mistake. My brothers and I always watched CHiPs--after all, we were being raised in Southern California. It would have been un-Californian not to have watched the adventures of John and Ponch. I was always a John girl myself. Most of my buddies liked Ponch's braggadocio and machismo, but I appreciated John's quiet strength and depth.

I was mature for my age.

We also watched The Dukes of Hazard because, although we were being raised in California, we were by birth and heritage Southerners and the Duke brothers helped us tap into that legacy.

And we watched some Starsky and Hutch.

But we weren't allowed to watch Three's Company because that had two women and a man living together unmarried. I don't know if we would have been allowed to watch it if they were all married and living in polygamy. I'll have to ask my mom.

Years later, when Three's Company was in syndicated reruns, we did watch, along with reruns of Mash.

But the big television events of my adolescence centered around a creature which has now been lost to the modern tide of programming.

I speak, of course, of The Mini-Series.


The special television event, one shot only, super amazing, four, six, eight part series that would be broadcast in segments over several nights.

I loved the Mini-Series.

When Roots came out, my parents let my brothers and I watch the whole thing, staying up long past our school night bedtimes to experience Alex Haley's family line.

And in early high school, out came The Thorn Birds. I had read the book. In retrospect, I can't remember if that was with my mother's knowledge or not. The book by Colleen McCulllough tells the epic story of an Australian family, centering mainly on the beautiful daughter, Meggie, and the priest, Ralph, who is the family's close friend. The novel chronicles the doomed romance of Meggie and Ralph, from their first introduction when Meggie is a small child all the way through Ralph's ascension to the venerated halls of the Vatican.

When I saw the mini-series, I can remember thinking that the actress playing Meggie, Rachel Ward, was spectacularly beautiful and that Richard Chamberlain, who plays the priest, was ridiculously handsome. The television film was sweeping, amazing locations highlighted. I remember weeping at their plight, reflecting on the unfairness of the society and religion that would condemn their love. And then there was the chemistry between Rachel Ward and Richard Chamberlain. Wowza.

Or so I thought.

I awoke this morning way too early. Way. Too sleepy to read, too awake to fall back asleep. I grabbed the remote and began flipping channels.

Infomercial for skin care products. Infomercial for fitness dvds. Infomercial for making a fortune in real estate. Infomercial. Infomercial. Infomercial.

And with one more click, there it was. On Lifetime.

Of course.

The Thorn Birds.

I couldn't believe my luck. I hadn't seen it in almost thirty years! Twenty-seven, to be exact. I googled it.

And there they were, Rachel Ward and Richard Chamberlain, Meggie and Ralph, hiding away on a remote island, a few days to themselves before he will recommit himself to the church and she will go back to a disastrous marriage.

Hey, Mom? I'm kinda surprised you let me watch this.


After watching for a few minutes, I became aware of something. Painfully aware.

Meggie always looks stricken. And Ralph always looks stricken. And that's about it. And Ralph seems like the worst kisser ever.

Oh dear.

And then there's the whole creepy part that Ralph has known Meggie since she was a child and has always kind of had a thing for her. Ew.


I think I should have left The Thorn Birds untarnished in the mind of my idealist early high school self.

So be warned. There is a mini-series playing on Lifetime. And if you want to remember it the way it was, don't tune in. And if you're one of my chipper little readers who was only just born at the time of the original broadcast, I'm just trying to help you out. You don't need some of these images floating through your mind.

I just want you to learn from my pain.

Because that mini-series that recounted a love story I thought ranked up there with Romeo and Juliet and Tristan and Isolde?

Ah, not so much

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