Television was once the conveyor of virginal imagery, the bringer of the Norman Rockwell version of America as beamed to homes from coast-to-coast by the gods of television on a daily basis. During those days long past there was a security in television that’s all but extinct today. Censors and sponsors combined to make TV a sterile landscape devoid of most forms of offensive behavior, sexual innuendos and expressions of thought contrary to the perceived norms of American society. Those were the days when “men were men and women were women”, when homosexuality was ignored and heterosexuality was limited to platonic hugs and closed-mouth kisses. War was a bloodless display of valor and manliness according to shows such as “The Rat Patrol” and “Combat”, while the American West was a place of brave, noble men who tamed fierce savages and felled outlaws with equally bloodless gunshots as evidenced by shows such as “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke”. Women were seen as aspirants to domestic perfection and personified by such fictional pre-Martha Stewart domestic divas as June Cleaver in “Leave it to Beaver” and Margaret Anderson in “Father Knows Best”. As to displays or the mere mentioning of the sex act, it was avoided at all costs even if it meant depicting a bedroom as surreal as the one containing the separate beds of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on “I Love Lucy” or as unseen as Ralph and Alice Kramden’s bedroom on “The Honeymooners”. Such is how it was prior to January 29th, 1968 – the date of the Viet Cong’s bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War – as television was, to that date, used as the great sanitizer of American life. Afterwards, it was a whole new ballgame.
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