any of you know that I went through some complex and very invasive surgery over the last week. I’m now at home, getting settled in the new way of things. My belly has six itching incisions and there are all sorts of new changes in my life.
While I can limp through my walks, fly my drone in the back and read, sometimes I just don’t want to do anything. And that’s precisely what TV is good for. Yes, it’s numbed the minds of generations of Americans until they’ve lost the ability of critical thought. But it is great to slump in front of and just heal.
Recently I’ve taken to The Rifleman, an old western from the year I was born (1958), staring Chuck Conners as Lucas McCain, a widower raising his young son on an isolated ranch outside of the town of North Fork. The state might have been given but I missed it (it sure looks like southern California to me). McCain doesn’t wear pistols like other gun slingers; no, his cool thing is a modified Winchester rifle that he can fire just as fast as he works the lever; in the credits, he’s shown pumping off nine or ten shots in possibly two or three seconds, a rate of fire my role players would have loved.
Of course, one could get smarmy about the facts of the matter; that the show starts in 1881 and that particular rifle came from 1892. Whatever. That’s not the point.
What is important is that I can veg out on the couch and enjoy McCain navigate this dangerous place with his tenacity towards principles and his BAR. The writing is good enough – when faced with unruly cowpokes inching for a fight, with one of them saying, “Mister, you’re facing a stacked deck”, McCain just spins out the gun, cocking it in mid-twirl, and replies, “Start dealing”. It’s just comforting fun, without the worries of modern life and actual history to get in the way.
And yes, I do know that it was filmed sixty-three years ago and society changes. In the beginning of each episode, there is a “OC” label, denoting “Outdated Cultural Depictions”. Sure, so women are expected to keep house and Indians are all fierce renegades. Whatever. It’s just all in fun and the mindlessness of the time and situation removes me from my itching skin and my need to constantly pee.
Which is a fine tradeoff, one I’m willing to make.