I was sitting in an attorney’s office this morning, glancing through a Time magazine from September, when I read about our friends (well, maybe your friends) at the Catholic League succeeding in having a broadcast of the Emmy’s censored, because comedian Kathy Griffin said something they felt was blasphemous.
Then I began thinking about the sort of bullying tactics that so many religious leaders indulge in, and I recalled this humor piece I wrote back in the thrilling days of yesteryear, when a young man from Arkansas took on the first George Bush.
Yes, even then, folks were clamoring for “decent” television. Though the story is fiction, can you really doubt these shows weren't considered?
Well, Maybe not "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice."
The Family Values Network
Written by Richard S. Drake
Space, the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Evangelist. Her eternal mission - to seek out new life, and new forms of corruption - to bring fire and brimstone to a liberal universe. To boldly go where no zealot has gone before! - "Heaven Trek"
A political war is waging across the country at this moment, with potential consequences that would rival any from the so-called Gulf War. It is a war for the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere.
While Bill Clinton courts the Hollywood "intellectuals" (those of dubious intellectual capacity, but with those all-important big bucks), George Bush is busily touting the old traditional "family values" that helped propel Ronald Reagan to the White House so many years ago. This despite the fact that no one seems able to exactly define those values, except that Beaver Cleaver would probably know them when he saw them. The smart money at the moment is on Bill Clinton; George Bush, for all his protestations, is president of an America far removed from reality. Still, Truman did defeat Dewey, and so we should be prepared for anything, come election day.
Thus it was that Booker Blish, whom I let copy from my exams back at Penn State, called me late one night last week, all excited about yet another of his doubtful brain storms.
After reaffirming my suspicions that he wasn't calling to tell me that he had the money he still owed me, he launched into his latest plan, FVTV.
"What's that?" I asked. "Some sort of all-terrain vehicle?"
"No," he laughed. "It stands for Family Values Television. You see, right now the whole country is having a great laugh at Dan Quayle for attacking Murphy Brown the way he did, and then having to admit that he had never watched the program in the first place. But what happens come election day, and the Bush/Quayle ticket comes in with a resounding win?"
"I don't know," I had to admit. "Perhaps Rod Serling will pop out of the woodwork, and confirm what we've all suspected about the last ten years or so, that it has all been an episode of 'The Twilight Zone?'"
"No, but you're not that far wrong. Remember the old Family Hour on television? Well, imagine an entire network with programming based on those old family values?"
"I seem to remember something called The Family Channel, the offshoot of the old Christian Broadcasting Network," I said."Why a new one? Surely their programming is wholesome enough?"
Booker laughed, the demented laugh of a frat rat who had somehow stolen someone else's idea without getting caught. "Wholesome, yes. Exciting, no. What I'm talking about is an entire network of new programs, each and every one touting the traditional values that we all grew up with."
"Nobody really grew up with those," I said. "They were a myth that parents used to frighten their children with." Booker was not amused. "Laugh if you will, but when 'Heaven Trek' comes out, it will leave Captains Kirk and Picard in the space dust."
"Heaven Trek? What's that?"
"Nothing but the most exciting science fiction series ever filmed. The adventures of the USS Evangelist, bringing fire and brimstone to a liberal universe. Captain James T. Falwell and his devout crew of Southern Baptists face death and temptation on a daily basis. Our pilot episode deals with a race patterned after the Klingons, who pillage the universe and leave
elaborate welfare systems in their wake. After chasing them to their home planet, Captain Falwell discovers that they are nothing but a race of unwed mothers and peddlers of pornography. After blowing up the computer that runs their planetary daycare centers, he makes them all honorary Americans."
"And at the end of the episode," I mused, "the Federation signs a free trade pact with them, and transfers jobs from Earth to their Empire?"
Booker's tone became icy. "If you're going to make jokes, I won't tell you about Ben, Hoss, and Joe Blackwood, the gospel singing ranchers who run the largest silver mines in Nevada. They are always facing deadly challenges from organized labor and environmentalists."
"Those scum," I hissed.
"Exactly. Anyway, you see how it will run, I hope. I just called to let you in on the ground floor. We're planning to remake 'Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice," with a modern, value oriented outlook. Like to take a stab at it?"
"I don't know, I'd hate to leave my thriving career here in Arkansas," I said. "Besides, what if Clinton wins? There'll be no market for your shows."
He laughed. "Oh, that's all tight. With a little rewriting, we can always sell them all to the Playboy Channel."
Grapevine, October 2, 1992