Wow Place #182: Paley Center for Media, New York City

If you’re a certain age and grew up in the States, you probably (like me) watched a lot of television as a kid. While young people these days have a lot more ways to distract themselves, ie. video games, social media, YouTube and Tiktok, for my generation – the late Boomers — TV was THE form of entertainment. I watched the Saturday morning cartoons. I watched old reruns in the afternoon. And in the evening, I joined my parents in the family room to watch sitcoms and variety shows, with the odd drama (like The Waltons) thrown in. I was so obsessed with television, in fact, that for years, I saved a bunch of TV guides in a drawer of my desk, thinking they might be worth something someday, perhaps as a cultural artifact. Needless to say, I’ve become quite nostalgic about my TV shows. Folks from earlier generations might look back fondly on their first time camping, their first time riding a bike, their first time milking a cow, whatever – but for me, I sometimes find myself wishing I could re-capture the feeling of watching that episode from the 70s when Marcia Brady gets hit in the nose with a football. Or the one where Hawkeye on M*A*S*H manages to pull strings and get his favorite ribs from Chicago delivered to him in Korea. Or that episode when Mary Tyler Moore starts laughing, inappropriately, at the funeral of Chuckles the Clown. These days, you can sleuth out most of this stuff on the internet, but for years, there was only one place to relive your TV past – the Museum of Broadcasting in New York City.

Well, times and places change, but happily some things endure; the Museum of Broadcasting still exists, happily, albeit under a different guise: the Paley Center for Media. As an unrepentant TV lover, I really love this museum! You can attend lectures and panel discussions here. You can watch special movie retrospectives, like the one I enjoyed about Lucille Ball. But best of all, the Paley Center has an extensive TV archive where you can rewatch pretty much anything that has ever aired on the “boob tube.” During my day at the center, I watch 1) Joe Montana’s last-second drive vs. the Bengals in Superbowl XXII (1989), the one where he looked in the stands and observed, deadpan, “Isn’t that John Candy over there?” 2) “The Point,” a beloved animated movie from 1971 narrated by Ringo Starr and Dustin Hoffman, featuring the music of Harry Nilsson 3) An episode of the Carol Burnett Show (1976), where the cast plays up Gone with the Wind and Carol creates a dress out of a drape, curtain rod and all. Best of all, I viewed the amazing 1975 “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show, which I would argue is the funniest bit of television hilarity ever to grace the small screen. Google it sometime and prepare to roll on the floor laughing.

(In 1940, Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel called “You Can’t Go Home Again,” a sentiment I’ve found to be pretty much true. You can rarely if ever go back to a place from your childhood and recapture the same emotions. And how could you, really? You were such a different a person then. But what a delight when you revisit a place (or a relationship) and discover that, although no longer the same wonderful, it’s delicious in a different way. What great taste you had back then! Although I doubt it’s worth chasing nostalgia to recapture something lost, I think it can still be a fun endeavor – if only to measure who you were back then and who you are TODAY.)