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Don't Know Why It's So Compelling, But Damned If It Ain't
There really isn't anything obviously good about "Matlock." It's kind of corny. It's awfully predictable (Matlock ALWAYS represents innocent clients and ALWAYS unmasks the real culprits in getting said innocents off). Some of the characters are pretty lame (Billy and Cliff Lewis are not personal favorites). And yet, somehow, I really enjoy this program. It really says something for Andy Griffith that I, a Yankee boy born probably 15 years after he left Mayberry, find him so charming as an ol' coot of a southern lawyer in a funny-looking suit. Can't really say why or how it comes through, but he must be one hell of an actor. (It also doesn't hurt to have Don Knotts, if only for Mr. Ferley-related nostalgia value).
Incidentally, if for no other reason than the episode in which Tyler infiltrates a circus, Keene Holiday has it all over Clarence Gilyard (who I hold in large part responsible for the reprehensible "Walker Texas Ranger"). And I won't even begin to discuss that female investigator they brought in towards the end. Blech.
Overall, then, despite the not inconsiderable problems with "Matlock," I love it. Andy Griffith playing a ukelele will always be a fond memory for me (It also helps to counteract the memory of those vaguely creepy commercials for Andy's gospel album that they run on TBS at off hours).
Walker, Texas Ranger (1993)
Chuck Norris is like an Oak, but not in a good way
This is one really bad program.
I don't know which is stiffer: Chuck Norris' martial arts or his verbal delivery. He may once have been a great fighter (in the 70s), but he moves almost robotically now. Jet Li would take him apart.
As for the show itself, it tries to be a "message" show, outlining clear good guys and bad guys, but it does so in such a heavy-handed fashion that it's just condescendingly insulting. Even the derivative "Martial Law" was better, in that it had more of a sense of humour about itself. I'm not sure if the fault lies with the acting or the writing (probably both), but the result is a stiflingly straight-laced, humourless, and genuinely wooden product. "Walker" makes "VIP" look like a masterpiece of the small screen.
Saved by the Bell (1989)
A Sacrament of Our Generation
If you were born between 1977 and 1983 and raised in the United States with access to a television, "Saved By The Bell" quite likely played a major role in your formative years, and rightfully so. Few programs better represented the potential of television for providing the filthy pleasure of willfully wasting your intellectual potential than this show. Besides, what else would an eleven-year old have on the schedule for noon on Saturday.
"Saved By The Bell" had it all: huge, white hightops in abundance; acid-washed denim by the mile (Slater, wearing his jeans all the way up to his navel, no less); hot pink or lime-green skirt-vest outfits. And that's just the clothes.
There were also the musical numbers: Lisa, Kelly, and Jessie making like the Pointer Sisters in the caffeine pill episode; the horrors of the Zack Attack dream sequence; Screech and a crippled Lisa winning the dance competition with their innovative "Sprain" (it's been at least five years since I last saw that episode and I still remember that tune). Suffice to say, these were some startlingly untalented kids.
The acting, of course, was an unmitigated disaster: Dennis Haskins as the cool-guy rebel (his hip line: Bel-b-b-bel-d-ding-d-ding-ding, Bel-b-b-bel-d-ding-d-dong-ding, Belding) turned ultra-square principal, Mr. Belding; the inexplicable appearance of Tori spelling as Screech's nerdy love interest Violet (a short-lived experiment); Dustin Diamond, whose prodigious acting career has seen him play everything from Screech the student to ... Screech the assistant principal.
My Pops used to mock me for watching "Saved By The Bell" when I was a kid, derisively referring to it as "mind improvement." He was missing the point.Even at nine or ten, I knew that "Saved By The Bell" was ridiculous and grotesque. However, instinctively I knew that it was a grotesquerie so pure as to approach the beautiful, if not the sublime. "Saved By The Bell" stands an example of the beauty of the Platonic Ideal, which is beautiful in his purity, even when it is pure drivel.