Saturday, September 25, 2010


It was probably with slight but smug satisfaction that I read through all of the lists submitted by the participants in Alex Cavanaugh's recent TOP TEN TV SHOWS Blogfest and saw so many folks bemoaning the fact that they had stupidly left this show or that show off their own list.
I had been there before, I knew the feeling. Back when we did the 15 FANTASY ISLAND FAVORITES Record Album Blogfest, I had inadvertently left the great Tom Waits soundtrack to the movie 'One From The Heart' off my list, and I was kicking myself for weeks afterwards.
Well, I was determined not to let that happen to me again. This time I would spend weeks thinking about this Top Ten TV List and get it right! I even went so far as to rent from NetFlix some discs of SCTV and DREAM ON, just to see whether or not I could still include those shows in my Top Ten after all these years. Yes, sir, this time I'd do it right!
So, when I saw so many participants kicking themselves because they had forgotten about GET SMART (or some other good show), I just smiled to myself and thought: You shoulda thunk it out mo'.
But then just two days after the Blogfest, something made me think of Charles Kuralt and his old program "On The Road" which I used to wait for with great eagerness on the CBS Sunday Morning program, and I thought to myself: DOH! You've done it again!
There is no question that "On The Road With Charles Kuralt" should have been included on my Top Ten TV Shows list. So, now here I am, kicking myself...again! Oh well. Kick Happens!
Perhaps the reason I didn't think of the program originally is because the memory of it was tarnished slightly by some of the things I learned about Kuralt after his death. Sadly, I came to find that politically, he leaned to the Left. (Well, he was a professional entertainer, after all, and most of them have this strange leftist disease.) But worst of all was that nasty bit of business about him carrying on a 30-year adulterous relationship with some nitwit feminist which didn't come to light until after he had passed away.
But the bottom line is that "On The Road With Charles Kuralt" was really more about the road (and the people he met on it) than it was about Charles Kuralt. And the truth is that "On The Road With Charles Kuralt" should have been included on my list.
The Los Angeles Times once referred to Charles Kuralt as "Television’s Norman Rockwell." Why? Because for decades, Kuralt traveled the country in a motorhome to visit interesting places, usually Small Town America, and to interview interesting people. Not famous people, not movie stars and politicians, but just "everyday people" - people like you and me - but people who had a story to tell. It was a wonderful program, and in a way, it was the first form of meditation I ever dabbled in.
And so now I sit here on my sore butt (I'm still kicking myself!) and post a review that I wrote five years ago for a 3-VHS tape set titled "The Best Of ON THE ROAD With Charles Kuralt". This will give you a better idea of what the program was all about:
[From the STMcC archive; September 12, 2005]


Charles Kuralt was the poet of small town America the way Vin Scully is the poet of Dodger Stadium. Relaxed, warm, folksy and deceptively insightful. He had a way of setting you at ease and somehow convincing you that the entire cosmos could be found in the minutia of this one fleeting moment. His beloved little program, 'ON THE ROAD' (1967-80) in which he traveled the backroads of America in a motorhome to show us the real heart of the country was eagerly anticipated by countless people every weekend - myself included.

Once every couple of years, when I need a little lift, I get out my boxed set of THE BEST OF 'ON THE ROAD WITH CHARLES KURALT' and pop in one of the three 60-minute tapes. I invariably end up watching all three in one sitting. It's as if once I'm on the road, I can't quite convince myself to pull into a rest stop.
Tape 1 - THE AMERICAN HERITAGE: We start out at the beginning (always a good place to start) when Kuralt takes us to the roaring wind-swept dunes on Roanoke Island, North Carolina and the site that John White and the early English settlers of 1587 decided to call "Home." We see where they lived and ponder the great mystery of their disappearance.

Then it's off to Independence Hall in Philadelphia where independence from England was first declared, and where the U.S. Constitution was later hammered out. Kuralt relives those tumultuous times and his sense of awe and admiration is evident. "There were great men in those days. Never from that time to this has so much greatness crowded onto the American stage", he informs us. I for one, agree with him. But then Kuralt nominates his choice for "greatest" and takes us to Monticello, the stately residence of Thomas Jefferson and shows us the very bed that Jefferson passed away on one Fourth of July!

Then we go "on the road" again to the survey site of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. It's funny to hear Kuralt close the segment with the statement that "the French don't talk about it much."
In The American Heritage we also get to visit Wyoming's "Register Cliff" on the Oregon Trail; the place of Custer's Last Stand at Little Bighorn, Montana; the old Spanish Missions of California; horseback cowboys in Texas; Dearborn, Michigan and the Henry Ford museum; Tuskegee University and the inspiring story of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver; and then to the annual Town Meeting in tiny Stamford, Vermont, where pure Democracy is practiced.

Kuralt closes tape one with the comment: "All these places that we have visited are waiting for you to visit them, too. You'll feel prouder of the country afterwards. We do."

Most of these segments were originally filmed for television in the 1970's and so the picture clarity is not all that we've come to expect, and once or twice a trace of political correctness may seep in (after all, this was a CBS-sponsored program), but these are small prices to pay for such richness that can be enjoyed again and again.

Tape 2 - SEASONS OF AMERICA: This time we go on the road with Charles Kuralt to experience the seasons. In Spring, it's the "romance" of tapping maple syrup from trees in Vermont; harvesting daffodils in Virginia; at Appomattox Courthouse, where Lee surrendered to Grant, we find the blooming of the pink and white Dogwoods and learn that this is "the most American of trees being native to 40 of our states and native nowhere else on Earth."; then there's the indescribably heartwarming story of the old man of Surry County, Virginia, and his 13-acre garden planted simply for the pleasure of others, and the surprising twist at the story's conclusion.

In Summer we go tubing on a river in Wisconsin; we participate in the funny, but heartfelt 4th of July activities in the small towns of the midwest, and in the Tom Sawyer Days celebration in Mark Twain's, Hannibal, Missouri. It just doesn't get more "American" than this!

Autumn finds us in Pacific Grove, California for the mysterious butterfly migration; Colorado Springs for the pumpkin harvesting by countless school kids at the Venetucci Brothers farm; and of course, Kuralt takes us to New England for the "shower of scarlet, lemon and gold leaves" and wood pile constructing in preparation for Winter.

In Winter, the horse, "Babe" takes us for a ride in an 1890 sleigh in Connecticut; in Miller's Mills, New York, we follow the honored tradition of generations past in cutting and storing pond ice for next July's ice cream social; and we finish the year with the inspiring story of the miraculous Juniper tree in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and its yearly Christmas message to everyone "on the road."

Tape 3 - UNFORGETTABLE PEOPLE: Kuralt introduces us to many types of people here, like Bill Patch, who converted his old Nash Rambler to run on corn cobs - gets 3 miles to the bushel. With the price of gas, I'm ready to buy one!
But my favorites were from the Carolinas: Jethro Mann, an old black man in Belmont, North Carolina, and Agatha Burgess, an old white woman in Buffalo, South Carolina. Mann, entirely at his own expense, restores old bicycles and loans them out daily to the poor kids in town so that they can all experience the pleasure of having a bike and being on the road. Burgess spends all day, every day, cooking in her small kitchen so that anybody who wants to, can have a hot home-cooked meal at a nominal price, and gets to eat it in her own home. It's what she wants to do, and she tells us that she always gets what she wants, and then sagely adds, "But I know what to want."

And then there's the wonderful story of the formerly dirt-poor and cotton-picking Chandler family of Mississippi. There's parents Alex and Mary and their nine children, all who helped one another to graduate from college. We join them for their Thanksgiving celebration and watch as they are all reduced to tears in thanking God for His goodness.

THE BEST OF 'ON THE ROAD WITH CHARLES KURALT' is a great set. It should be enjoyed by any viewer, and I think it would make an excellent addition to a homeschooler's library. If you can watch all 3 of these tapes and never once feel the moisture of joy welling up a little in your eyes, then there is simply no warmth left in you. This doesn't just mean that you're dead, of course, but that you've likely been dead for a good long while.

Ukulelely Yours . . .

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.


Jessica Carmen Bell said...

haha, see, and you thought you'd been really clever, huh? Thinking it out mo' ;o) Long time no rant. How's you been?

welcome to my world of poetry said...

When I compiled the Top 10 TV favourites I only wrote about the currant programmes I now watch,
There were so many I could have wrote about from the US and here but I would have still been writting. I enjoyed the blogfest and I got through all of them but not so with Yesterdays which had over 180 even for me that was impossible.There is always something that comes along and you say "Oh yes I could have wrote about that" It will happen again no doubt.

Enjoy your week-end.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Hey, Ho, Howdy, AlliAllo ~
How've I been? I dunno, I wasn't here. I've been outta my mind for years now. You'll need to ask someone who's seen me.

Yeah, I fouled it up again. That'll learn me 'bout "smug satisfaction", eh? What can I say, but that I'm a doofus in the first degree.

Hey, I (or someone who felt like me) stopped by your place the other day and was going to leave a comment but I was pressed for time (the cops were closin' in), but I'm-a go back and do it now.

It will happen again no doubt.

Yup. No doubt.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting. And you have a lovely weekend, too!

~ Stephen
"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11

arlee bird said...

I always liked "On the Road..." as well, but I thought it was just a segment of a longer morning show and not a separate show. For that matter if it was on Sunday morning I probably didn't watch it religiously (yuk, yuk). I do recall one of my ex-wives buying me an "On the Road.." book that Kuralt had put out, so they must have recognized that I liked the show. I should look to see if I still have that book somewhere. But you probably know by now that I'm a sucker for "On the Road..)TV shows, books, movies, or whatever.

Tossing It Out

Angela M. said...

Really this oversight of yours only happened because you were sure you thunk it out this time :) Personally, I can't come up with a forever top ten. I did well enough for the 'fest, but the list will change from day to day. I could never enter a music version. It'd drive me nuts trying to pick my favs. I'd be like a mutt chasing it's tail!

DiscConnected said...

I thought you were bemoaning the fact that you failed to include "Space Ghost Coast To Coast"

Or "Gilligan's Island..."

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

You're right, 'On The Road' was just a segment within a larger show. So maybe that doesn't count then? Maybe I didn't screw up after all? Maybe this is just a "Bonus Track"? OK, works for me!

The music list Blogfests we did earlier I found to be REALLY difficult - much tougher for me to select than was the TV shows. I definitely like mo' music than I do TV, so, yeah, those lists were a killer. (Anything that makes me think THAT hard, I ought to be getting paid for doing!)

Hey, I saw your Top Ten TV list, and you had "The Greatest American Hero" on it. You score points for originality because I don't think I encountered that show on any other person's list.

Doh! How did I forget 'Gilligan's Island'? (Easy.) The world's longest, dumbest "three hour tour".

~ Stephen
"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11

Mr. Paulboy #VI said...

I am always surprised at how much you think like me (or am I thinking like you???.

I loved "On the Road", too, big time. It strikes at that same chord as does Roy Rogers, Hoppy, Andy Griffith, and Bob and Ray. Bob and Ray actually have one of their gentle spoofs of "On The Road" with a recurring bit called "Down the Byways with Farley Garrard". Look for this bit in a package soon to be arriving at your doorstep.

And Arlee: I have the book too! I think MY ex-wife gave me my copy also. It is called Charles Kuralt's America, and it is a very relaxing and pleasurable read.

Say... WHO were you married to before? Any chance?... Naw.


Stephen T. McCarthy said...

I think it's just two great minds thinking alike...I think.

>>It strikes at that same chord as does Roy Rogers, Hoppy, Andy Griffith, and Bob and Ray.

Yes! I get what you're saying here and it is SPOT ON!

There weren't any installments of "Down the Byways with Farley Garrard" on those cassettes you gave me previously, so I didn't know about this. But I surely would have figured out who and what Bob and Ray were spoofing. Looking forward to hearing that, Brother. Thanks!

Just last week I discovered that there are now two sets of OTR W/ Charles Kuralt released on DVD and I ordered both. A 3rd set is coming soon and I'm planning to get that one also.

~ D-FensDogg
"On The Road And Lost But Making Good Time"