Up Pretty Tight

As with every creative endeavor, sometimes we start things here that never get finished. Inspiration vanishes, ideas fail to catch fire, and so on. Now and then I poke through the wreckage and find bits that are worth rescuing. Today is one of those days.

On the challenge of doing free-form radio, where the jock chooses the music:

For a music lover, it seems like free-forming would be easy—just play a variety of songs that you think other people will like. On that basis, it is easy, at first. Most of the people reading this blog could do a four-hour show tonight standing on their heads. But what about tomorrow night? You’d have to do it with a different variety of songs and artists, because you couldn’t just repeat the same ones from tonight. And then you’d have to do it differently yet again the night after that. And you’d still have at least two nights left in the week. Most people have neither tastes broad enough nor knowledge deep enough to free-form well for any length of time. Certainly there are a few of them, but the odds of finding half-a-dozen to staff an entire radio station are pretty steep.

On watching the original Hawaii Five-O:

One of the best episodes of the first season is “Up Tight,” about a Timothy Leary-style college professor who turns young coeds on to drugs. One dies and another nearly does before Five-O catches up with him. Although earlier episodes touch upon 60s youth culture, this is the first to take it on directly. Danno tries going undercover in hopes of catching the professor, but you know going in he’s not fooling anybody. The show’s portrayal of tripping is all colored lights, watery focus, and hallucinations, usually involving faces laughing hysterically. Trips are blamed on “speed” rather than LSD. (Could the producers have been squeamish about mentioning LSD?) Yet “Up Tight” is not hysterically anti-drug. The show blames the professor, not the substances he recommends, yet at the end, when a uniformed cop suggests they should let him jump off the cliff he’s standing on, McGarrett says it’s their job to save the man’s life, not to judge him.

But the show shouldn’t be given more credit for hipness than it deserves. The scene that gives the episode its title comes right at the beginning. Danno is tense in a meeting about the suicide case, so much so that McGarrett says to him, “You’re up pretty tight, Danno”—which may be the only time in history anyone phrased it that way.

(One modern touch in “Up Tight”: the female lead spends most of the episode in extremely tiny bikinis, and the camera frequently lingers over her body in a way we don’t expect to see in a 60s TV series. I noted it only for the purposes of this essay, and I take it purely as evidence that Hawaii Five-O was intended as a show for adults. Nothing else, I swear.)

From one of the gazillion posts about 1976 that I have started and did not make you read.

There are events that leave us changed. Something happens and at a stroke, everything we know is up for grabs, and reality has a new name.

There are seasons that leave us changed as well. Not at a stroke but day by day, everything we know is gradually altered, like the slow bending of a piece of metal. At season’s end, reality has a new shape.

We can usually recognize the events that change us, almost in the moment. Someone dies, you lose your job, you know right then that things are going to be different from now on. It’s harder to see the seasons of change until many seasons later. I did not know at first that the fall of 1976 was one of those seasons. It took five or 10 years before that season started feeling like a line drawn across my life.

It took that long because that’s how long it took. There’s no other explanation.

In memory, I can see it coming. I can hear the signs. They are all over the radio. I heard them then, but I couldn’t hear them then.

And now that we’ve returned this blog to its usual obsession, you may return to your day, already in progress.

One response

  1. barelyawakeinfrogpajamas | Reply

    This is the one episode of Hawaii Five-O that I’ve seen since its original run (and I missed a lot of those as I was was two or three when it went on the air).

    I did have a girlfriend who had grown up in Hawaii and her father was a real-life cop who apparently appeared as an extra in a number of episodes.

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