This was the “golden age” of classic television. The B&W days, dominated by Leave it to Beaver, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Father Knows Best, and The Andy Griffith Show. It was an idyllic time.
Things got a bit more risque and real moving through the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s. Jack Tripper taught us all that pretending to be stereotypically gay was not only fine but hilarious (again...a simpler time). Mary Richards showed us the new working woman. And Welcome Back, Kotter made school and delinquency fun again. Good times (not to be confused with Good Times).
Yes, there’s a lot of classic television out there for your viewing pleasure, although the definition of “classic” is subject to debate. One man’s classic is another man’s crap. There’s no accounting for taste, right? Everything we like is better than what everyone else likes…
But classic television isn’t limited to Netflix, DVD boxsets, and the “retro” channel. You can experience it at work, too. Classic shows abound in the people and situations we experience every day at our jobs. Is your workplace more like The Flintstones, or Bewitched? MacGyver, or The A-Team? Or perhaps one of the four listed below...
1. The Golden Girls
Airing from 1985-1992, The Golden Girls is just as funny and watchable today as it was back then. Each member of the main cast won at least one Emmy Award during their seven seasons, and the characters and quips remain part of pop culture today. It was, and is, classic (albeit not super old) television in every sense of the word. It followed the adventures of four women “of a certain age” sharing a house in Miami, Florida. That’s it. But they were four fantastic characters…
Your job is most like The Golden Girls if you find yourself surrounded by colleagues “of a certain age”. Are you the youngest one in the office? Does everyone else care more about the latest cuts to Medicare than the newest social media platform du jour? Hey, there are worst places to be stuck for eight hours each day. The Golden Girls were super fun to hang out with!
Bonus points if you can identify the following amongst your co-workers: an aging, but still on-the-prowl Blanche (she was a cougar long before cougar was even a thing), a sharp-tongued and quick-witted Dorothy, a so-naive-she’s-adorable Rose, and a says-whatever-she’s-thinking Sophia. Most offices have at least one or two of them, but if you can easily cast them all at your job, it’s Golden Girls all over again.
The Sophia of your office is likely a favourite with the staff...anyone who says what everyone is thinking is always going to be popular. No, no. Thank you for being a friend.
2. I Love Lucy
We all love Lucy. She was the quintessential crazy bestie we all wanted to have, way before Six on Blossom came along. And this sitcom is perhaps the very definition of classic television, the show against which all others are measured. It was a national obsession in the 1950s, and because it predated VCRs and PVRs, you simply had to be home and watching when it was on. Otherwise, you couldn’t rehash the entire episode the next day at work.
The show followed the zany misadventures of Lucy, her husband Ricky, Lucy’s best friend and neighbour Ethel, and Ethel’s husband Fred. And oh, what fun they had (good, clean fun, too!).
At your job, if you’re working in a modern day version of the show, you might be a Lucy, or you might be someone’s Ethel. We’re going to ignore Ricky and Fred for the most part...this was I Love LUCY, after all.
Do you have a partner-in-crime on the staff? Someone you’re constantly pulling (or are constantly pulled by) into harebrained schemes? Have you ever found yourself working a chocolate factory conveyor belt, and unable to keep up, being forced to eat more chocolates than you box (okay, that one is oddly specific, but it could happen)? If so, you’re living in an I Love Lucy marathon.
The thing about Lucy - and you - is no matter how crazy the shenanigans, no matter how ridiculously she messed up, she always went into everything with the best of intentions. And we loved her - and you - for it. The Ethel to your Lucy, or Lucy to your Ethel, is always going to be there for you. You two may not always get it right, but you do try to help. Your ideas and efforts around the office keep everyone entertained and on their toes. Attagirl!
3. Gilligan's Island
Okay, before we go any further, I have to ask: why did the Howells (and almost everyone else to varying degrees) have so many clothes with them for what was supposed to be a three-hour tour? It’s inexplicable! And also, we will not be touching on the whole “Mary Ann vs. Ginger” debate (partly because it’s not a debate...Mary Ann all the way).
The show ran for three seasons in the mid-60s, but it’s impact can still be felt. It’s iconic. Seven castaways stranded on a deserted island: the Skipper, his goofball first mate Gilligan, the wealthy Howells (Thurston and Lovey), Ginger (the movie star), the Professor, and Mary Ann.
I know what you’re thinking...your workplace is most like Gilligan’s Island if you can identify those characters amongst the staff. But no, you’re wrong. That’s not where I was going with this one. So there. You may have a girl-next-door Mary Ann or a clumsy bumbler like Gilligan, but that does not a classic television show at work make.
Your job is most like Gilligan’s Island if, no matter your efforts, you just can’t get ahead...be that promotion, landing that big client, increasing revenue, or whatever.
The seven people stuck on that island just couldn’t get off, despite the fact that the Professor was seemingly able to make virtually anything from materials found in the jungle. A coconut-powered microwave? No problem. A movie projector made out of bamboo? Gimme 5 minutes. He built a lie detector, a roulette wheel for casino night, a washing machine, a Geiger counter, and a battery charger.
But fix a hole in their boat? Nope. That wasn’t possible. No matter what plan or equipment he developed to save them, something always ruined it for them. And it wasn’t from lack of effort or skill (that guy could make anything!).
Ever feel that way at work, like everything is conspiring against you. You’re smart. You’re able. You do everything right...but you just can’t get off that damn island. Frustrating, isn’t it? Welcome to the Professor’s world. You’ll be here for awhile...
4. The Beverly Hillbillies
This classic fish-out-of-water sitcom was the story of Jed Clampett. When he accidentally struck it rich after finding a massive oil reserve on his Ozarks property, he moved his entire family - daughter Ellie May, cousin Jethro, and feisty Granny - to fancy new digs in Beverly Hills. It ran from 1962-1971. What could be funnier than hillbillies rubbing elbows with their hoighty-toighty neighbours!?
You, my friend, work at The Beverly Hillbillies if you have a similarly fish-out-of-water CEO. If your boss went from zero to billionaire, or from unknown to famous before you could say “How friggin’ lucky can one person get?!”, then you are experiencing the show firsthand.
Don’t get me wrong. You’re boss/CEO may be a perfectly wonderful person (the Clampetts were fabulous, albeit uncouth). But anyone that comes into that kind of money instantly is going to stick out like a sore thumb. And it can lead to some hilarious situations. Stories abound of “old money” families looking down at the “nouveau riche” in both fiction and real life. Sometimes it’s not fair, and other times it’s at least understandable.
Does your boss have trouble remembering which fork to use, or how to tell the difference between a merlot and a cabernet, or the name of a single opera singer or orchestra player? Then you’ve got yourself a Clampett.
Do you have to remind them how to dress for high-stakes business meetings, or that caviar is not to be scooped by hand, or that Dom Perignon was not a U.S. president? Clampett.
Clampett CEOs are not bad people; they just don’t fit the traditional mold of rich and powerful. And that’s okay. If the show taught us nothing else, we did discover that the traditional mold is kind of stuffy and antiquated, anyway.
Classic tv shows are classic for a reason: they’re good. So finding yourself stuck in an eternal repeat is not all that bad, really. Unless, of course, your idea of “classic” is Beavis and Butthead. In that case, you’ll probably find the whole thing hellish. Sorry.
Whether you’re stuck on the “island”, or the baby of the office, or constantly assisting your boss’ transition to life as a wealthy adult, or forever causing trouble with your good-intentioned antics, you’re working in a classic television show. Embrace it. Deal with it.
Even the best shows eventually get cancelled. It can’t last forever.
Did we miss any? What classic show most resembles your job? Leave your answers in the comments below...