Thursday, March 5, 2020

Flipper and Lassie

As you know, I'm a fan of old TV shows. They are comfort food to me. Maybe this is true of everyone, I don't know -- but my brother and I grew up in a fairly isolated place and television played a huge role in my daily life. Watching these shows -- many of which are much older than I am -- is like reconnecting with my childhood.

One of our channels has recently started reruns of "Perry Mason," and I've been subjecting Dave to those. It's a really good show, even now -- Dave isn't crazy about the fact that they're black and white, and he'd prefer "Law & Order," but sometimes you need a change and I've been impressed at how well "Perry Mason" has aged.

The other day we began talking about "Flipper," the show featuring a clever dolphin who always managed to save the day. That's the poster from the first "Flipper" movie, above -- from 1963. It led to another movie and a half-hour TV show that ran from 1964-67. I was born in late 1966, so I know it from reruns. My brother and I used to watch it as we ate breakfast before school around 1980. As I recall, the show would end at 7 a.m. and we had to catch the school bus at about 7:10, so it was always a challenge to see the ending of Flipper and then race out to the bus stop in time. (Thus stressing out my mom.)

It wasn't the greatest show, to be honest, but I loved it. First of all, it took place in Florida, and in those days, almost all the TV shows were set in California or the northeast. A Florida show was unusual. Porter Ricks, the adult character, was a park ranger, and he lived with his sons in a modest house with jalousie windows and a shell marl driveway, like old south Florida houses I knew. The show celebrated the Florida environment and ecology.

Ricks had two sons, Sandy and Bud. I simultaneously identified with Sandy, being the older son in my own family, and nurtured a crush on him. He was played by the handsome blond heartthrob Luke Halpin, who was actually 20 by the time the series came to an end.

Anyway, I've showed Dave some "Flipper" episodes, and as I said, they're only OK. A little simplistic, a little sappy. "Lassie in a wetsuit," as someone wrote on YouTube.

And then there's "Lassie," a show I definitely watched in its final years on television in the early '70s. I used to have a lot of "Lassie" paraphernalia, mostly books. That's one of them at left -- I don't have it any more but the minute I saw the picture online I recognized the cover.

Something about both "Flipper" and "Lassie" makes me sad. They were good-hearted shows that now seem hopelessly old-fashioned. And I read the other day that Halpin, who's about to turn 73 (!), has had both cancer and Alzheimer's Disease in recent years, which just depresses the hell out of me.

Anyway, I'm not sure Dave understands my nostalgic attachment to "Flipper" -- or to "Gilligan's Island" or "That Girl" or "The Brady Bunch" or any of the other old shows that are so deeply ingrained in my mind. (At least he gets "Star Trek"!) Weirdly, I'm less attached to shows that were more contemporary to my childhood, like "Happy Days" or "Mork & Mindy." Something about the reruns made them special. I guess I was nostalgic even then.


  1. I loved Lassie, Flipper, Hazel, Family Affair, The Addams Family and Robin and Batman when I could see them. I also watched cartoons in Spanish. There was also Cat Woman and Honey West, Perry Mason and a bunch of old movies from the thirties and forties, including the Blondie and Dagwood series. I may have your nostalgia gene.

  2. I understand how you feel about those shows you were too young to see originally and instead grew up watching the reruns. As for Flipper and crushes: I was old enough to watch the original (yeah, the stories were awfully simplistic) and I had a major crush on Sandy and Bud’s dad. Oh, Porter Ricks! (And how he always sucked in his gut for pictures!)

  3. Jalousie windows? Most of the English speaking world calls them louvre windows but "jalousie" is a nice word. In the 1960's there was no daytime TV in Great Britain but programmes came on in the late afternoon or early evening. Of course there were several American imports and my personal favourite was "The Beverly Hillbillies" with its theme music - "The Ballad of Jed Clampett":-
    Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Jed
    Poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed
    Then one day he was shooting for some food,
    And up through the ground come a bubbling crude
    (Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea)

  4. I was more into the Million Dollar Movie which came on at 3:30 PM after school and when I was younger it was the Tarzan, Sinbad, Aladdin movies on Saturday mornings. I didn't watch much TV at night growing up and besides, in the evenings, my parents chose what to watch. Star Trek was a favorite. I've seen episodes of all those shows you mention but I never watched any of them regularly.

  5. Just saying the word "Flipper" brings that damn theme song back to my mind. Those shows all had theme songs that were complete ear worms although some weren't bad. The Addams Family, for example.
    I'm older than you so my TV memories go back even farther. I especially loved the cowboy shows. The Rifleman, Cheyenne. And then there were Rin, Tin, Tin, and Sky King, Roy Rogers, and so forth. TV was a pretty big deal for us too. I don't have much desire to revisit them, however. When I do, all I see is how cheesy they really were, how bad the acting, generally, how crude the sets were.
    But I understand the nostalgia. It's real.

  6. My brother and I grew up with Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and The Lone Ranger - to name a few. Of course, there was Uncle Miltie (Milton Berle) and The Ed Sullivan Show. TV and movies were clean and endearing back then. I love all the oldies, especially Perry Mason. Enjoy them! You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  7. My whole family would gather to watch shows like The Donna Reed Show, My Three Sons, Leave it to Beaver, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show. When my older brother left for college in 1966 that pretty much disrupted our family gatherings and TV watchings. I became a rebellious teenager that year and music overtook TV.

  8. Wow, this was a trip down memory lane. You named quite a few shows that I watched all the time. I did watch Flipper and Lassie but, I wouldn't miss an episode of Gilligan's Island or That Girl. I'd also never miss an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show. I loved that one. As a teenager my favorite shows were Route 66 and 77 Sunset Strip.
    When I was very young, maybe 7 or 8, I remember my grandfather listening to shows on the radio. As I grew up, I thought of radio shows as old fashioned and quaint. Now we have podcasts and isn't that close to the same thing?
    Thanks for all the memories!

  9. safety first, the theme of hose old shows. Nothing that will bonk you in the eye! I loved Lassie when Timmy was Lassie's boy. Timmy was adorable. In the middle of nowhere Wyoming we did not have a television until I was about twelve - so I pretty much missed out. Went to a neighbor's house to watch, American bandstand, mickey mouse club and Timmy's Lassie. When we finally did get a tv, I loved Perry Mason and Della! Still love black and white, shadows and light! They seem more artistically shot.

  10. The older one gets the more one lives in the past. At least that's what I've found. I'd love to see some of those old "Boston Blackie" shows again.

  11. I never saw Flipper; it wasn't available on the two (snowy) TV channels we got. But I do remember encountering the Flipper theme music in a piano book I had. I had a few - very few - basic music lessons, and could fairly easily figure out songs I already knew, but Flipper was a mystery to me and I never ever did get the rhythm right.

    I agree that young Rick was a dish. I'd have had a crush on him too if I'd ever had the chance to see him! Instead I had to settle for Donny Osmond and David Cassidy. lol

  12. My Mom used to play bridge on Friday nights so my Dad watched his 3 little girls I remember watching The Flintstones and Rawhide and having Jiffy Pop popcorn and grape Fizzies. This was in the early 60's. One of my favorite memories!

  13. I get it. I feel incredible nostalgia for some tv shows and the movies we'd see in movie theaters and all the books. It makes us sad, I think, because it's all so ephemeral -- this life -- and because we just had NO IDEA of that.

  14. E: Hazel! I forgot about Hazel. I loved that show too.

    Mitchell: That was kind of the style for actors back then, to suck in their stomachs for shirtless photos. There wasn't the expectation for everyone to have washboard abs like there is now!

    YP: Have you surveyed "most of the English speaking world" on this subject? We also called them Miami windows.

    Ellen: We used to get Tarzan movies on Sunday mornings, along with Little Rascals and Big Blue Marble.

    Ms Moon: Yeah, the production values were pretty slack on some of those old shows. No one ever imagined we'd eventually have high-definition screens that reveal every flaw! By the time I was young a lot of those cowboy shows had diminished in popularity. My dad used to watch "Gunsmoke," which I thought was incredibly boring. And YES -- that Flipper song has been stuck in my head for DAYS.

    Edna: It must have been nice for parents to be able to turn on the TV and let kids watch whatever they wanted, with no fear that they'd stumble across something inappropriate.

    Robin: We watched evening shows together too, though for us it was stuff like "The Waltons," and "Little House on the Prairie," and the aforementioned "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley" and "Alice."

    Sharon: It IS funny how audio storytelling is popular once again. I don't think I've ever seen an episode of either "77 Sunset Strip" or "Route 66." I don't think those shows made it into syndication.

    Linda Sue: Della was the best on Perry Mason! Always so sensible and put-together.

    Catalyst: OK, you've reached beyond the limits of my cultural knowledge with this one. I'm going to have to look up "Boston Blackie." I have no idea what that is.

    Jenny-O: I can see how the Flipper theme music would be hard rhythmically. It has a sort of "swaying" sound and I'm not sure how you'd reproduce that on the piano!

    John: They were great too! Someone made a horror movie a few years ago featuring evil murderous versions of the Banana Splits. I never saw it but it was a funny idea. They WERE sort of creepy, with their gigantic bodies and big distorted faces.

    Sue: Awesome! My mom would never buy Jiffy Pop. She always got the boring popcorn in a bag. She didn't appreciate the THEATER involved in popping the corn in that pan and watching the foil swell up!

    Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly. Everything seemed so permanent and solid and none of it was. (And isn't now!)

  15. So true, Steve. Bob Wagner of Wild Wild West was unusual.