Ed Driscoll

Off To The Great Talk Show In The Sky

Found via Big Hollywood, another name from the mid-20th century glory days of mass media moves on: the Tonight Show’s Ed McMahon is dead at age 86.

As Jeff Jarvis wrote four years ago when Ed’s longtime boss passed away:

Carson also represented the golden age of America’s shared experience in media. That era lasted about three decades, from the late ’50s to the late ’80s, when the three networks turned most cities into one-newspaper towns and we all watched the same thing. I don’t regret that era dying; it means we now have more choice and choice equals control. But it was a unique time in our culture, when popular culture became a common platform, a common touchstone for Americans. We all got Johnny’s jokes.

And we all chuckled at the big man who introduced him and set many of those jokes up. On the other hand, as inviting as that culture and its shared collective experience seems, would you want to return to that era? That’s the push-pull dynamic that AMC’s Mad Men traffics in, and as James Lileks wrote last night:

Nothing cures inordinate nostalgia like the realization that kids today think the seventies were cool. Every time I think I want to go back – to anywhere, any time – I look around and ask what I’d want to give up for the sake of fonts and graphics. Not much. Put me in a time machine, send me back, I’d be miserable. It would only take a few months before I ruined a tiki party by saying that I enjoyed the chance to wear a floral-patterned shirt and black-frame glasses without manifest irony, but I missed having a UNIVAC on my lap and a computer in my pocket and robots on Mars and no Commies, okay? Punch my ticket, I’m heading back.

Oh, you kidder! Here, have another hot dog.

No seriously. I’m heading back. It’s where I belong. Rather feel out of joint there on occasion than sit here with mildewed sci-fi mags and dream of the future, y’know?