Originally written July 14, 2011
I was saddened to learn this week that television legend Sherwood Schwartz died Tuesday at the old age of 94. For those of you under 40, Schwartz was a television producer and writer who had some extremely successful endeavors, with Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch at the top of his list. I’m sure the both shows were panned by critics back then. After all, the storylines were silly, at least in the case of Gilligan’s Island, but it’s clear that both shows have stood the test of time and left an indelible mark in American pop-culture. Indeed, they were popular culture that had some underlying themes which arguably could be applicable today.
You see, each of the shows was inspired by some concepts worth contemplating.
Concept 1 – it’s much better if people learn to get along.
According to Schwartz, Gilligan’s Island was created because he wanted to place seven different personalities in a setting where there was no escape. In Schwartz’s own words,
So the net result was a storyline that began with three-hour boat tour followed by stormy seas and the ensuing shipwreck on a small deserted island. The new community of seven included a leader, a follower, a rich couple, a professor, a Hollywood actress and a farm girl. If you’re over 50 years old, then you already know their names. It was a model of “diversity” several decades before diversity became a politically correct cliché. And this diverse set of people had to learn how to survive, live, trust and depend upon each other. So despite the shows superficial characters and silly plots, there was a touching reality which states that learning to get along is one of the most important lessons in life.
Concept 2 – close ties with family and friends are important.
The Brady Bunch was another one of Schwartz’s stories with a
consistent theme, diversity, but this time within the context of a
blended family. Both adults were on their second marriage, each
bringing three of their own children for a total of six under one roof.
ABC executives envisioned this as a television version of the 1968
feature film “Yours, Mine and Ours”, although Sherwood Schwartz had
nothing to do with that film. But it was enough to give the project the
green light. So the story was told of a remarried couple who took the
brave step of creating a new family with all the responsibilities,
adjustments, conflicts and sometimes pain that goes with it. But it was
a family. A family that depended upon each other for support. The importance of family. Again, an important lesson in life.
Concept 3 – In some cases, people in charge are idiots, but in all cases, they are temporary.
The studio executives at NBC originally thought that the first script for the Brady Bunch was ridiculous. The wanted to ignore the pitch and pass on the project. But in retrospect, it’s difficult to imagine the Brady Bunch series relegated to a trash can. And fortunately, Sherwood Schwartz didn’t put much stock in studio executives. He fought for the series and for the storyline. And he won. In Schwartz’s words
So Schwartz again taught us an important life lesson - Don't let others with limited vision or perspective, no matter how influential they may be, stop you from following your heart or silencing your message. They are temporary.
So what does any of this have to do with politics? Well, I couldn’t help thinking about these concepts this morning as I watched Stuart Varney & Co. discuss Obama’s budget negotiations. Our Community Organizer in Chief apparently stormed out of the proceedings, unwilling to sit at the table with those who believe that government is too big and too wasteful. Unwilling to sit at the table with people who reject the notion that the government is automatically entitled to the “excess income” of American citizens simply because Obama has made his personal, unilateral assessment that we are not entitle to money “we don’t need”.
So let’s review.
Concept 1 is something we should contemplate as a nation. A nation on this island called America. We are stuck here. There’s nowhere else to go. So perhaps we should learn to get along. Perhaps those who can should pull their own weight. Perhaps as a nation, we should learn how to listen and work with each other. That includes Obama staying seated at the negotiation table.
Concept 2 is also worth contemplating. We should depend upon each other, but look first at those around us who are closest to us. Bureaucrats in Washington DC are a poor substitute for family and friends, and politicians should never be the first ones we turn to in times of personal adversity. The truth is, most politicians don’t know us and many don’t care about us. Government programs and dependency upon politicians should always be our last recourse. And those who have an entitlement mentality should come to the realization that, for all of us, life is full of adversity. Personal adversity that needs to be recognized and overcome. It’s a process which makes living rich and meaningful. Becoming dependent upon a federal bureaucracy robs people of that process and simply makes lives worse.
And finally, concept 3 is something that every liberal politician in Washington should take heed. Their power is temporary. The November 2012 elections will soon be here and many will be on their way out the screen door. Hopefully, that will also include Obama.
Thank you, Sherwood Schwartz, for reminding me of these timeless concepts. They serve us well.