Last night, Diane and I became so engrossed in Room 222 that we lost track of time – and of Orphan Black (one of our favorite shows), which airs at 10pm. I only realized our oversight just before turning in for the night, when I checked Facebook and found Cosima peering through my iPhone screen as if to say, “where the hell are you?” Really, Cosima, you couldn’t have popped up at, say, 9:30pm?!
it’s not really her fault, of course, nor the algorithm that drives Facebook’s newsfeed. I blame Pete, Liz, Alice and Mr. Kaufman.
The half-hour comedy-drama about the goings on at an L.A. high school originally aired on ABC from September 17th, 1969, to January 11th, 1974. If not for some unexpected Emmy nominations and wins, it likely wouldn’t have lasted that long – it wasn’t a ratings winner. Part of its failure to catch on, I think, is that although ostensibly aimed at kids, it’s actually about the aforementioned adults – history teacher Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes), guidance counselor Liz McIntyre (Denise Nicholas), student teacher-English teacher Alice Johnson (Karen Valentine) and principal Seymour Kaufman (Michael Constantine). One or two (or more) of them, though usually Pete, step in to help a kid solve a problem.
And, too, it was a topical show with a capital T, so I’m sure some viewers – kids and adults alike – turned the channel just because of that. Among the problems tackled: pollution, racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, guns in school, and teen pregnancy. An underlying theme also runs through every episode: respect. To lean on a cliche, it preached that one can disagree without being disagreeable, a lesson that’s (sadly) still applicable today. The result is far more earnest and wry than laugh-out-loud funny, though chuckles are to be had – especially when Alice is involved.
Anyway, I picked up the DVD sets for seasons 1 and 2 years ago only to learn that Shout TV (apparently) has no intention of releasing the final three seasons. As I’ve written before, it’s a show that takes me back – and it does the same for Diane. So when I discovered last week – quite by accident – that it airs every weekday from 9am to 11am on the Aspire cable channel, I did what any self-respecting fan would do: I scheduled all airings to be DVRed. And last night, with some 15 episodes from seasons 4 and 5 on hand, we binged.
Which leads to today’s Top 5: January 11th, 1974, the date of Room 222’s final episode. The songs are drawn from the charts that end on the 12th over at Weekly Top 40.
The 11th was a Friday, I should mention, and all was not great in the land. Here’s the day’s headline from the Chicago Tribune:
Also: unemployment rose to 5.2 percent this month; and the wage-killer known as inflation was 9.4 percent. Super Bowl VIII would be played in two days in Houston, where the Miami Dolphins decimated the Minnesota Vikings 24-7.
Yeah, yeah, yeah: Enough of the intro.
1) Steve Miller – “The Joker.” The No. 2 song in the land, this week, is this staple of today’s classic rock.
2) Jim Croce – “Time in a Bottle.” This song from the South Philly-born singer-songwriter, who died at age 30 in a plane crash on September 20, 1973, dropped from the top spot to No. 2.
3) Al Wilson – “Show and Tell.” Rising to No. 3 (from No. 5) is this smooth soul classic, which would hit No. 1 the following week.
4) Brownsville Station – “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” The Ann Arbor, Mich., rock band scored a multi-platinum hit with this single, which hit No. 4 this week.
5) Gladys Knight and the Pips – “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination.” Gladys & Co. clock in at No. 5 with this killer track, which was written by Gerry Goffin and Barry Goldberg.
And a few bonuses:
6) Stevie Wonder – “Living for the City.” The instant classic, from Stevie’s Innervisions album, hits its chart peak this week – No. 8.
7) Paul McCartney & Wings – “Helen Wheels.” Another instant-classic, written forMcCartney’s Land Rover, also reaches its chart peak – No. 10.
8) Charlie Rich – “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.” And, finally, falling to No. 12 (from No. 4) is this country-flavored hit, which enjoyed a two-week run at No. 1 in December 1973. It’s one of a few songs that I know primarily for its appearance on one of the compilation albums routinely hawked on TV in the mid- and late-1970s.