It's amazing how a half-century old TV sitcom can shed light on today's problems.
The show is Father Knows Best, the comedy starring Robert Young which first aired from 1954 to 1960, and in reruns for several years afterward. Despite it's popularity at the time, it often has been dismissed in the post-All In The Family era as naive, over-simplistic, preachy, or a little bit of each.
But a 1960 episode I saw recently, from a TV Land marathon I recorded several years ago, has a very contemporary lesson.
Young's character, Jim Anderson, tells his family to gather together for a big announcement. The children immediately believe he's about to tell them he's made a big purchase. The guesses are: a new car for oldest son Bud, a Hawaiian vacation and a swimming pool.
It turns out to be none of those. Dad tells them he's won a "father of the year" award. Instead of being thrilled, as he expected, the kids, who had had loftier expectations, are instead disappointed. After a scolding from mom, they try to apologize. Instead, the children remind their father of the luxury items the neighbors have.
And here's the lesson: Dad tries to explain to them that, instead of buying those luxuries now, he's tried to save for their future; namely their college education, casting doubt on those who live, as he puts it, "Dollar Down, Dollar a Week".
"When you live like that, day to day," he tells his children, "you're gambling on everything going perfectly. If something goes wrong...you lose everything."
(Maybe a disclaimer is needed here: in the series, Jim Anderson was an insurance agent.)
The lesson may have been overlooked in the "comfortable" 1950's, but it has been ringing loud and clear in the past year and a half, with the mortgage and credit crisis and the recession we're still trying to get out of today.
It also proves those supposedly-irrelevant TV shows of 50 years ago still have an important message we can take to heart, even in the 21st Century.
Happy Father's Day!