Room 222: Boomers Fixed the World Before, So It’s Totally all Your Fault for not Listening
When fictional teachers cared and had workable budgets
There’s nothing more cringe to me than people my age (boomer/GenXer cusp) posting nostalgic bullshit on Facebook (some of these people actually miss TV shows like Petticoat Junction and The Andy Griffith Show), but if they really wanted to horrify all their friends, they’d post about the TV show Room 222. I obsessed over that show for a few days last week for some reason, mostly because I’m desperately searching for any last-minute distraction that will prevent me from starting the grunt work on my next book, but also because I felt like I needed to “look back” on it because I don’t really know anything about it: to my working-culture-critic’s mindset, it was a media-consumptive equivalent of “Godammit, I know I’m forgetting something.” Fact is, I never watched it when I was a kid. I mean, who did?
The show was about the goings-on inside a high school in the late 60s and early 70s. All the episodes are free to stream on YouTube now, because no one really cared about that show in the first place and thus YouTube couldn’t worry less about copyright infringement lawsuits being thrown at them over it. You see, it was kind of a sitcom but also kind of edgy, but in a hilariously stupid way. It was aimed at the “old people” of our day, who were trying to understand us boomer kids, because we were way out and groovy. Imagine a cross between HBO’s The Wire and an episode of Sesame Street in which Grover explains the basics of idiot-cruelty to kids who have two dads (“their loss!”).
I could only deal with the first three episodes. No matter how old you are, you never watched it either, so here’s the CSI.
Episode 1: The faculty discovers that a really smart black kid lives in another district and shouldn’t be in their school. No, not because he’s a homeless teenager, which would have opened a can of actual worms unfit for commercial TV of the era, but because he fucking hates the other school. Ending: the faculty finds a loophole and lets him stay if he chooses a class the other school doesn’t offer. He picks Hebrew. Obligato “Shalom” joke, end credits powered by brain-freezing theme song written in 7/4 time.
Episode 2: Judy Strangis, the cute but painfully shy girl who sits in the back of the class, wants the school play to feature random, mindless nudity at the end, like at the end of the first act of Hair, because if there was anything typical about shy girls of the 70s, it’s that they all wanted to take off their clothes in front of their entire worlds. No, you shut up, I was THERE, man.
Episode 3: Chunky bespectacled class-clown wiseass kid is going to get expelled from school unless awesome/hip history teacher Mr. Dixon (Lloyd Haynes, who went on to die of lung cancer in 1987; a trooper, he was still sneaking butts on the set of General Hospital, where he played Mayor Ken Morgan, until he was finally ambulanced off to hospice care and priests at the last minute) can straighten his ass out. Ending: the kid breaks down after confessing that he just can’t get a date, even with the unattractive bit-part girl. Mr. Dixon consoles the boy by placing a comforting hand on the kid’s shoulder and encouraging him to be himself, to accept who he is, blah blah blah, slow thoughtful version of brain-freezing theme song written in 7/4 time.
Guys, this shit really happened. All of society’s complexities — from weight-challenged kids to LGBTQIAP kids to kids on Wacky Weed who were totally going to kill their little brother because Pot Kills — were completely solved, once and for all, in half-hour snatches of commercial television. You just weren’t there. So, what needs to happen is all you young Coolios or whatever you call yourselves need to go absorb this show and make the scene and don’t be square, so we can get out of this fucking old mess once and for all. Peace, homies!
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