Sunday, June 24, 2007

Oh, where have you gone, Michael Landon?

Michael Landon has been one of my idols since childhood. It started when I discovered Little House on the Prairie reruns when I was quite little, and grew when I moved from New York City to the suburbs. I developed a severe case of insomnia, since I wasn't used to sleeping in peace and quiet. I stayed up all night and watched TV. Highway to Heaven would come on at 3 or 4 AM. Charles Ingalls and Mr. Edwards...playing ANGELS!

(It is a wonder I didn't fail out of the fourth grade.)

Michael Landon taught me that it was possible to become famous and beloved and rich by being a sentimental cornball of a writer. I still strive to be that.

My mom and I watched an E! True Hollywood Story special on Mr. Landon one night. An old friend spoke of the time when young Michael (or Eugene, as he was known then) had to do an oral book report. He had forgotten that it was due, and got up and made up a book and did the report on this made-up book. My mother looked over at me and said, "That sounds like something you would do...wait, that IS something you have done, isn't it?"

I always thought Michael Landon a kindred spirit...and I think that he would be heartbroken to see what television has turned into.

Where are the days of quality television shows? Good writing, strong characters and intriguing storylines??? Shows the whole family could watch, that would be just as meaningful in 30 years as they are today?

I recently heard of this new show:

My mother always told my sister and I that she wanted us to bring home guys like Scott Baio...probably because she, like many others, believe he was really just like his character on Charles in Charge. And now look at him...he has his own reality show...why?

When I was in college, we watched a movie called Raise the Red Lantern in my women's studies course. In this movie, a rich man in 1920's China has three wives. Each night, he decides which one he'll sleep with that night by raising the red lantern over her part of the home. The women stand in a row each night. If he chooses them, they gloat. If he doesn't, they pout. The women become manipulative and competitive, all the while being treated like property.

While many watched this movie and were horrified at the barbaric views these men had towards women, all I could think was that things haven't changed much.

The television show The Bachelor is the same exact plotline. Watch a "rose ceremony" from any season of The Bachelor and compare it to the lantern scenes from this movie. It's truly the same situation. This show just illustrates that women have not come as far as we'd like to believe they have and that America isn't really much more advanced than 1920's China. It's really just complete trash, and if I watch as much as ten minutes of that show, I start feeling ashamed of my gender as a whole.

Today, I took my "church kids" (the kids in the youth group at my church which I volunteer with) to a local baseball game. The National Anthem was sung by a certain American Idol contestant, who, when on the show, was criticized for her voice, praised for her beauty, and became very controversial for...some other stuff she did. I don't even think she made it to the top ten.

However, for a couple of weeks, her picture was everywhere, she was discussed on The View and suddenly became a celebrity.

My church kids were very excited to meet her, and lined up for pictures and autographs.

I wondered...WHY was this girl a "celebrity"? For any talent she might have, for being pretty or for having controversy?

Does reality television have that much of an impact on our society? Will it be the death of us all?

Had this been 25 years ago, I bet those kids would have been just as excited to meet Melissa Gilbert of Little House on the Prairie fame! That girl earned her fame legitimately!

As a writer, I would love to create something substantial one day. When I think about the money that was used to produce this Scott Baio show, or Joe Millionaire or Who Wants to be a Freaking Princess, it makes me sad to know that there is one less shot for Michael Landon-like vehicle to be produced instead.

"Half-Pint" has stood the test of time...this other junk won't.

We miss you, Michael Landon.

Diana Rissetto