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'Miami' Stooges

September 14, 1986

The Tube of Waste Pregnant with glowing meaning of maladjusted vertical hold from the Cosmic test pattern of banal entertainment that swept the world in waves of comic nausea.

Thus Voltaire described a common fallacy prevalent in France in the 16th Century that ascribed apocalyptic meaning to things otherwise meaningless.

Koenenn and Derway are to be commended for their critical analysis of that previously misunderstood "Miami Vice" as demonstrative of the sadness that underlies the show's "hip-hop veneer."

It is indeed "a series for our times," although the theme that underlies its production, that of the failure of the "myth of the real man," follows by some 30 years that of another much-maligned and misunderstood TV offering--"The Three Stooges" of the 1950s.

While many at the time were unable to grasp the subtle message of the producers of the Stooges, the prescient symbolism, the carefully crafted scripts, and even the musical scoring (universally accepted now as years ahead of its time) portrayed a gentle but persistent angst sweeping the land in the days when Tricia Nixon played second fiddle to Checkers.

These Stooges also had no delusions of masculine infallibility, but bravely faced each new adventure knowing full well that, by the time the credits rolled, they must hold their heads high, regardless of their failures as "Real Men."

The Stooges insisted that we look behind the Ozian curtain and see our old notions of Omniscience exposed: Larry as the androgynous Victim, Curly as the innocent Child, and Moe as the putatively male but unabashedly bumbling Prime Deity. Even the "Three Blind Mice" theme evoked images of the soon-to-be-blurred lines between mice and men, vision and blindness, threeness and oneness.

The message, of course, differed in its portrayal of American Society: The "raw emptiness" of today's Western culture referred to by Koenenn and Derway was in the 1950s a comic buffoonery that overlay the stuffed-shirtedness of the first half of the century.

It was an era of contrasts: Hula Hoops and bellicose Soviets, Edsels and Elvis, the Dulles brothers and bongo drums.

But television, as the authors point out, is and was "our closest guide to what we are as a nation." There can be no question that the sort of telesociological analysis demonstrated by Koenenn and Derway so well in their article can only teach us more about who we are and why television stars in designer clothes say what they say on the screen.

I only hope that the authors don't bust a gut when they find somebody took them seriously, and that your business office didn't cut too big a check for it.

On the other hand, that may be the way Larry, Moe and Curly would have liked it.



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