TVLand has a particularly groovy way of finishing off the calender year, with the Last Things/First Things shows.
On the first day of the year, they will show first episodes of tv series, including the Brady Bunch, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and Sanford and Son. It’s interesting to see where some of these shows started out compared to their full glory. The differences are particularly interesting with shows featuring children. I just happened to see the first episode of Malcolm in the Middle on Fox, and the difference in the boys was actually startling.
Of the scheduled TVLand first episodes that I’ve seen, the first Andy Griffith show is one in particular to watch or record. It’s really more dramatic than comedic, with Aunt Bea moving in, desperate for Opie’s acceptance.
More interesting even than the first shows on January 1st, the Last Things final episodes on December 31 are most intriguing. Some of them come to big event endings, some have nice clip shows, some didn’t know that this was the end when they were making them. They tend to have some interesting weight of sentiments built up from years of production, and they get last shots at weddings and big events of all kinds.
The final Gunsmoke “Manolo” episode was a particularly nice piece of dramatic writing, guest starring a young Robert Urich. Yet Matt Dillon was in it for maybe a minute or two, in a very perfunctory role. Festus has maybe a minute, and a couple from Doc. They made a really good product, but it’s like the producers kept the show going for a couple of years after the cast were all pretty much retired. Very curious.
Interestingly, the final episode of Leave It to Beaver has stuck with me since last New Year’s eve. That in itself seems like a fairly significant recommendation- particularly for such a white bread show that I never really cared about or had any emotional investment in. It’s largely a clips show, but the current-time frame was beautifully, simply effective.
There was a bit of a wistful sentiment from Ward and June looking through the old pictures: Our boys are growing up. Then they ended up with the boys playing with an old toy from the attic that had been in the very first show. We’re left with a beautifully stated idea of the folks positively cherishing the lingering last days of the boys’ childhoods.
Lordy, I feel silly talking so seriously about Leave It To Beaver, but this was a really good send-off.
First and last episodes tend to be pretty interesting, even for shows that mostly weren’t that good.