Lemmy Kilmister, the lead singer/songwriter/bassist of the group Motörhead, passed away the other day at age 70. I am a fan, and I will miss him. One of the tributes I saw on-line was a clip from the British sit-com The Young Ones from the early ’80s, which included a performance from Lemmy and the boys of “Ace of Spades,” one of their signature songs. This brought back memories.
I remember seeing this episode of The Young Ones around that time, on PBS, of all places. Lemmy’s passing led me–as way leads to way–to some deep thinking about television. Specifically, about PBS.
Nothing makes you look older than beginning a sentence with “When I was a young man…”
However, when I was a young man, our television at home picked up the big three networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC, at the time), plus a couple of grainy networks on the UHF dial (kids, do a Google search on that one if you really want to know more). One of these was PBS, and we would only get a clear signal late at night, usually after my parents were in bed asleep. Cable television was in its infancy and wasn’t even offered where we lived yet, but we did have a snazzy outside antenna that we could rotate by turning a large dial on a device inside the house. Viewing choices were limited, so PBS was always a viable option.
It was on PBS that I discovered The Young Ones, as I mentioned. More importantly, I discovered The Twilight Zone and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, both of which influenced my later preferences in reading and viewing matter, and certainly Python stoked my love of British humor. PBS also broadcasted the television series Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I had enjoyed reading because it reminded me of Python. There was also Benny Hill, which was more corny and slapstick than the others, but had the advantage of occasionally showing a naked breast or two if you were patient and didn’t blink much.
If there’s a point to this particular entry, it’s this. I am grateful for PBS, because it contributed to my education far beyond my Sesame Street years. Now that the viewing public is offered so much choice on television, I wonder how many people actually get to experience the joy of actually discovering new shows the way I did.
And, second point: Rest in Peace, Lemmy Kilmister.