One night in the summer of 1991, I woke up around 3 AM, couldn’t get back to sleep, and went out to the den and turned on the television. The only thing on was some bizarre cowboy movie. I’d come in about 15 or 20 minutes into the show and missed the set-up, so it took me a while to realize that I was being had.
Am I crazy, or is this really funny? That’s what I was asking myself, knowing all too well that things I’d taken for satire in the past (e.g., Sixty Minutes, The Poseidon Adventure, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos) had turned out to be schmaltz instead.
It was a send-up of the old western serials, the funniest horse opera spoof I’d ever seen — ten times funnier than Blazing Saddles. I was laughing so loud in the darkness in the den that I woke up my wife in the bedroom down the hall. She thought I’d gone mad.
Later, I told my younger brother about Rustlers’ Rhapsody and urged him to watch it. Eventually, he did and was nonplussed. I was stunned.
“But it’s a perfect parody of all the old cowboy shows,” I protested.
“I don’t remember a whole lot of cowboy shows,” he responded.
“But that’s all we watched when we were kids,” I insisted. “That’s all that was on.”
“You’re older than me,” he replied. “I remember cop shows mostly.”
He was right, of course. I was older than him, and still am. I was born in 1956, he in ’59. There were only three years between us, but three years in Television Time is a generation. By the time he’d reached the age of reason and maximum TV impact, the sheriffs had surrendered their six-shooters to the shamuses, and they in turn would pass the heat they were packing on to the spies, and the spies to the spacemen.
It’s not his fault. My poor brother is culturally deprived. He missed out on all the great old TV westerns. That’s why he can’t appreciate Rustlers’ Rhapsody.