Saturday, September 4, 2021

Collegial Chaos and the Ways that 1970's TV Schooled Us

I was sad to hear of the death of Ed Asner a few days ago.  But it's a sadness mixed with gratitude for his long life and his fine acting.  I was first aware of him as Lou Grant, the boss of Mary Tyler Moore.  But I also loved his spin off show, where he's part of a newspaper outfit.  Many of my contemporaries wanted to be journalists because of Woodward and Bernstein, but I may have first felt that spark of longing when I watched both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant.  This article gives a wonderful tribute to Ed Asner and the character of Lou Grant that he created and the world of newspaper journalism.

I did not follow Lou Grant into the news business, but instead the college world, which bears some resemblance to those 1970's workplaces.  We've been wrestling with a different kind of work issue each day this week:  mi fi hotspot out, elevator buttons not lighting up, mail gone to a different floor while graduation regalia needs to be returned to a different campus, getting our new LMS less than a week before classes start for Fall 2021 quarter, on and on I could go.  I've been thinking of the great TV shows of my youth that were set in a work place and how we don't see that much these days; work is tangential in most weekly TV shows.  The work place TV shows of my youth prepared me for collegial chaos.

At one point, as my writer friend-colleague and I were trying to solve an issue at school, she suggested that our conversation would make brilliant dialogue for a TV show, like The West Wing, only set in a shrinking school.  I said, "Like The Chair, only it's a realistic look at a campus."  She later created this post on Facebook:

"Have you seen The Chair? Is that us now?"
"You know I have an ongoing Netflix trailer in my head of everything that happens on a daily basis."
"Maybe we could be the other end of the spectrum in Netflix shows. Like here's this Ivy League school and its quirky English department and ALL THE WAY OVER HERE is our little gritty-mostly female-70s-style workplace situation comedy about a tiny struggling college with no internet and a variety of other issues."
"Would part of this trailer be me curled up in front of your desk?"

To which I replied, 

"It's like Barney Miller meets WKRP in Cincinnati meets Taxi--but with better cake and less groovy music and a mostly female staff which means no sexualizing of the one lone woman. As workplaces go, it could be worse . . ."

It was the kind of week where we learned that the mi fi hot spot at the Gainesville campus and at our Hollywood campus were registered to the same phone number, so when they used theirs, ours went out, and vice versa.  I don't know enough about wi fi hot spots to understand that, but at this point in our campus tech crisis, I wasn't surprised.

I also wasn't surprised that the people on our campus reacted with grace and the determination to create a work around so that our students' progress can continue.  The TV shows of my youth schooled us in how to do just that.

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