Today on one of the oldies cable networks, I watched a really old show, The Flying Nun, with Sally Field. I watched it as a kid and remembered enjoying its upbeat but not cloying tone. Of course, being about nuns, it tried to show people doing the right thing and reaching out to others, but it was never syrupy or maudlin. It starred Sally Field in her second series (after Gidget, where she played a California surfer girl), and she had just the right combination of bubbliness and susbtance. The "supporting nuns" included two great character actors, the staid Mother Abbess (played by Madeleine Sherwood) and the salty older nun, Sister Jacqueline (played by Marge Redmond). Sister Bertrille, Field's character, could fly on the trade winds because she was very small and wore a very large "winged" cornette on her head. That fantasy element was reflective of a lot of shows in the sixties, but it was done in a low-key way and added to the perception of Sr. Bertrille's buoyant personality.
One of the neatest elements of the show came back to me as I watched the rerun. It was set on Puerto Rico, so it featured a lot of Latinos and Latinas playing regular and guest roles. Of course, because it was a comedy, many of them weren't always dignified. But the characters were generally positive portrayals and the actors weren't forced to speak as if they were stereotyped illiterates. There was also a bona-fide heartthrob, on whom I had a huge crush for years, the handsome Argentinian actor Alejandro Rey. In those days, a Latino leading man wasn't very common. I can't guarantee that he was the only Latino playing a lead role on TV at that moment, but he was certainly one of the few. So my good feelings about the show turn out to have a positive cause for several reasons.
You can see that Sally Field didn't just become a splendid actress when she turned thirty. She had the spark and believability right off the bat. That's so nice to look back and see.
Does anyone else have a long-vanished TV show that they're equally happy watching today? Some other ones I love (these comedies have a lot more substance than The Flying Nun) include Barney Miller, WKRP in Cincinnati, and MASH.