Wednesday, September 13, 2023

WACKY WEDNESDAY: The Punk Rock Crisis on Network TV


There's no panic like a moral panic.

Back in the late '60s, the hippies with their long hair and marijuana inspired Jack Webb to try to warn the nation of the dangers of peace and love and their threatening new music on Dragnet. In the' 70s and '80s, punk rock inspired overwrought television episodes trying to shock Mr. Marvin Middleclass about the unhealthy phenomenon destroying the nation's youth.

Actually on sitcoms, punk-rock generally was treated as weird but essentially harmless fun for the kids. The humor came not only from  the stereotypical Mohawks and slam dancing, but from the squares' reactions to it. 

This was the case with case with Don Rickles in CPO Sharkey. A 1978 episode titled "Punk Rock Sharkey" actually featured The Dickies. This video of the band's song "Hideous" features clips from that show:

On WKRP in Cincinnati, in a 1978 episode there's a British punk band called Scum of the Earth (which featured musician/actor Michael Des Barres) dress all spiffy, but that's only a guise. Under those 3-piece suits there are rascally punk-rock hearts who like to spray their audiences with fire extinguishers, much to the dismay of Mr. Carlson, who prefers Benny Goodman, and Andy, who yearns for Crosby, Stills & Nash: 

But on television dramas, things got serious. 

Punk rock became a backdrop for murderous violence and destruction.

On CHiPs, for instance, a band called Pain, in a 1982 episode called "Battle of the Bands" thinks it's funny to throw an electric bass off a rooftop causing traffic mayhem. (I was sympathetic though, because one band member is named "Potatohead"!)

All the way up to 1987 -- long after the heyday of actual punk rock -- an ABC After School Special called "The Day My Kid Went Punk" warned of the danger of "Punk Syndrome," which apparently is even worse than the Woke Mind Virus! Here, a meek, soft-spoken high school orchestra nerd transforms himself into a punk rocker to try to win the heart of a cute blonde girl in the orchestra. Here's an abbreviated version of that episode:

But perhaps the craziest punk rock depiction of all time was on Quincy ME, that Jack Klugman vehicle about the crime-solving medical examiner. In one episode called  “Next Stop, Nowhere,” a kid is stabbed to death at a punk rock show and Quincy is convinced that the evil music was at least partially to blame. “Whoever killed that boy was listening to words that literally cried out for blood,” he says at one point during the episode. Here are some clips from this infamous episode:

But I'll let Jack Webb have the last word:

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