'Sha Na Na' was fantastically popular televised entertainment

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/10/26/sha-na-na-was-fantasticall.html

It’s kind of amazing, some of the shows that stayed on the air even in the pre-cable days of scarcity. Cheesy variety shows spiced up with jokes that even vaudeville would have found corny were a staple of late 1970s TV.

I can imagine the pitch: “the kids love ‘Donnie and Marie’, right? And they love ‘Happy Days’, right? So…‘Sha Na Na’! [snorts a line] Huh? Huh?! It’s a sure thing, I tell ya!”


Weren’t they on the bill at Woodstock, however oddly?

(edit: beaten by an old man…)


I always think of the past popularity of things like Hee Haw and third-rate game shows, whenever people talk about culture “degrading”.

People like to compare past highs with current lows, but I also like to see a good low-vs-low match-up.


At least those of us who were kids back then could say, there were only a few channels in the 1970s, you watched what was on during primetime, even if it was a cheesy variety show hosted by two mimes. No-one has that excuse for watching reality TV.

The past highs really do hold up. It wasn’t all “Battle of the Network Stars”, but also “All in the Family” and “MASH”. But if anyone wants to talk about “degraded culture”, I’d take “Hee Haw” over “The Bachelor” any time.


Sha Na Na was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. To this day, “Goodnight Sweetheart” starts playing in my head whenever I hear or say the phrase, “it’s time to go.”

That said, I haven’t seen any episodes or clips of the show since probably the early '80s. I’m shocked by how young these guys look. I think in my young mind they were actual '50s greasers and I did not yet have the mental chops to be able to figure out they were 20-something actors who were still in diapers in the '50s.


I can’t tell if they’re playing live or not. It looks like we’re actually hearing Joey, but the guitar and bass aren’t plugged in. Is he singing over a prerecorded instrumental mix? Weird.

But not as weird as the fact that this exists at all. I was a regular viewer - I wonder what 12-year-old me thought of this. I hope I liked it!


I showed it to my 7 year old and she was really into it, she said, “they… they look like girls!”


In the mid-70s into the 80s we had shows like Sha Na Na and Happy Days and movies like American Graffiti, all based on nostalgia for the mid-50, just 20 some years before. It’d be like if today we had multiple shows glorifying those innocent, fun-filled days of 1999.


That’s because the mid 60s to mid 70s were a super turbulent time, and it was easy to manufacture sentiment for an idealized past that never really existed.

Given how fucked things are right now, I’m expecting a wave of idealized and sugar coated 90s/pre-9/11 nostalgia any time now.


I think it might re-loop, like the 1950s wilding out over the 1880s. That was people being nostalgic about an earlier nostalgic bump, not the original.


I think Sha Na Na was targeted as more of a nostalgia thing at Boomers remembering their childhood.


Instead, the streaming services are re-running series like “Friends” and “Seinfeld” both set and produced in those (comparatively) carefree days that are still popular. It’s almost pointless to do a 1990s or early 2000s version of “That 70s” show (as I recall, the producers tried a “That 80s Show” follow-up that flopped).

I can see that figuring into it as well, although the nostalgia would have been more aimed at “Silents” who were in HS or college during the “doo-wop” era.


Or the '80s – Stranger Things, IT, Final Girls, Ready Player One, etc., etc.


Is it too late to mention that one of my mom’s cousins was in Sha Na Na? Not on television, alas, but in Grease and on tour as Guitar Glen. Also a soundtrack composer for kids television. My only tie to celebrity.


My dad (b. 1938) loved it, and we’d watch together.

(Also anything with stock cars and/or truckers.)


Do you think they’re going to do a gritty Netflix remake of Teletubbies and Barney?


80’s nostalgia has been going on for quite some time now. (At least as far back as the late 90s with films like The Wedding Singer.) I don’t really get it and I freaking grew up in the 1980s. Who wants to go back to the days of the Reagan, Cold War escalations, hair metal, AIDS, mullets, and so on.