“I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I spoke nothing in secret” (John 18:20).
Something happened this week to remind me of why, as a young teen, I hated the typical television sitcom. I could never say “I Love Lucy.” And here’s why.
I was listening to the replay of a 1950’s radio program “The Life of Riley.” William Bendix’ character, the husband and father of the Riley household and namesake of the program, was a bumbling, stumbling embarrassment to the males in the audience, always jumping to conclusions and misunderstanding what the normal people around him were up to. He needed a good whupping, I always thought. As a nine-year-old as well as today, I find that hard to listen to.
In the early 1950s, we had no television. To watch anything, we had to walk down the country road either to my grandmother’s or to Uncle Cecil’s. Now, Granny would watch whatever you wished–she was just glad to have the company–but at my uncle’s, you sat there and watched whatever they chose. And the one program they loved above all others was “I Love Lucy.” They even named their youngest child after the baby in the show.
The plot was almost always based on a misunderstanding or deceit, something Lucy was keeping from her husband Rick. She might take a job to earn money to buy Rick an anniversary present, but for some unknown reason did not want him to know about it. Then, he phones to say he’s bringing the boss home for dinner tonight. The problem is she’s on her way out the door headed to her afternoon job. But does she tell her husband? No. Doing so would be the normal thing, of course, but there would be no program. The deceit may have formed the basis of the plot, but it also made the story contrived and unreal.
“Normal people do not act this way,” I would mutter to no one but myself, and would often leave the house and walk home.
The few times I made myself sit there and watch a complete “I Love Lucy,” I recall feeling actual pain. It was terrible. Why do people watch this stuff, I wondered.
“Why doesn’t she just tell her husband she is taking a part-time job?” I would say. And someone in the darkened room would answer, although in a nice tone, “Shut up and watch the program.”
Tell the truth.
Some of my longtime friends would say to you, “Joe has just told you a great deal about himself.”
I hate subterfuge. Deceit. Hiding things from those you love, people you should trust. I hate dishonesty.