20th Century Fox.
20th Century Fox.
I had a subscription to Boys’ Life magazine for a couple of years when I was a Cub Scout in the early 1980’s. My parents canceled it after a year or two, and I can’t blame them — I just wasn’t reading it. Boys’ Life was the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America, and it was pretty wholesome stuff … it just didn’t offer the excitement of my comic books or the occasional copy of Fangoria that I manged to get my hands on.
But there was one feature of Boys’ Life that I followed religiously — the serialized comic strip adaptation of John Christopher’s The Tripods book trilogy. (Christopher published the first three of his books in the late 1960’s; he added a prequel novel in 1988, but that was long after the Boy Scouts and Boys’ Life was behind me.)
The Tripods was cool, dark dystopian stuff. The story opened with the first book, The White Mountains, to find humanity settled into an agrarian, pre-industrial age in which their overlords were the titular “tripods” — massive three-legged vehicles piloted by unknown beings. Humans were ritualistically “capped” with a brain-altering device when they reached age 14 — thereafter becoming docile and conformist and easier for the mysterious machines to subjugate.
The White Mountains followed a trio of 13-year-old boys who escaped the “capping” to seek out a human resistance movement; the second book, The City of Gold and Lead, shows two of these protagonists infiltrate the city of the tripods’ operators. (Spoiler — they’re grotesque aliens.) The third book, The Pool of Fire, presumably picks up from there, but my Boys’ Life subscription ran out before the magazine got to that.
I recently, however, used this Interwebs thingamajig to discover what looks like a real gem of a find — a 1984 BBC mini-series adaptation of the books. I started the first episode and it looks quite good. If I get around to watching the whole thing, I’ll review it here.
“The past was alterable. The past never had been altered.
“Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. A large part of the political literature of five years was now completely obsolete. Reports and records of all kinds, newspapers, books, pamphlets, films, sound-tracks, photographs — all had to be rectified at lightning speed. Although no directive was ever issued, it was known that the chiefs of the Department intended that within one week no reference to the war with Eurasia, or the alliance with Eastasia, should remain in existence anywhere. ”
— from George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”
Rest in Peace, Penny Marshall.
This is one of only a handful of TV shows that I can remember watching as a tot in the late 1970’s. “Laverne and Shirley” (1976-1983) was the kind of of thing I’d see in my older sisters’ room. My Dad and older brother watched war movies, westerns and monster movies, but my two sisters preferred considerably lighter fare. Two that they watched a lot at the time, if I recall, were this show and “Donnie & Marie” (1976-1979) — about the scariest thing you could find playing on their black-and-white TV was “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries” (1977-1979). (One of my sisters had a crush on actor Shaun Cassidy; I think there was a poster of him in their room.)
I loved “Laverne and Shirley” when I was that young. Lenny and Squiggy were my favorite highlight of any episode, even if I was sometimes confused about whether they were meant to be “good guys” or “bad guys.” I was in kindergarten, and not altogether bright, and I thought that men who wore black leather jackets (Fonzie notwithstanding) were usually “bad guys.” I also remember thinking that hippies and motorcyclists were the same group of “bad guys” because they disobeyed God or something … my confusion at the time resulted from some vaguely moraled born-again Christian comic books I’d happened across somewhere.
I also remember recognizing “Laverne and Shirley” as being related to another show that a lot of kids back then loved — “Happy Days” (1974-1984), of which it was a spin-off. This might have been the first time in my life that I was aware of two live-action television properties occupying the same fictional universe; I’d already seen it happen in the movies with the various incarnations of “King Kong” and “Godzilla.”
Here’s what makes me feel old — for both “Laverne and Shirley” and “Happy Days,” I probably watched a lot of the episodes when they were first broadcast, and not just in re-runs (although “Happy Days” was also played in syndication endlessly throughout the 1980’s — it remained a fixture of daytime television).
And I only just realized writing this that Lenny was played by the priceless Michael McKean. As an adult, I know him primarily from his brilliant turns in “This Is Spinal Tap” (1984) and “The X-Files” (1998-2018). He’s 71 now. Wow.
House on the island of Jura occupied by George Orwell when writing the novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”