May I See Your Worst Show, Please?

“What’s the worst TV program you’ve got?” I got a ‘wait-a-minute’ hand gesture and he walked off to fetch my prize.

The freeze frame used in the Mod Squad open to introduce Peggy Lipton.

Peggy Lipton died today. Cancer, said the LA Times. Early 70s. Too young. Cancer sucks.

Maybe you don’t know Peggy Lipton. In the late 60s she was TV’s embodiment of a flower child/hippie chick. She was the female lead on the Mod Squad.

Peggy Lipton’s name brought me back to the pre-Internet 80s. Even then it was possible to watch archival TV footage. It was all available in the library of the Museum of Television and Radio in Manhattan, next to the 21 Club. I went often.

As I remember you’d be greeted by a librarian who’d fetch the video you wanted. I can’t remember how it played back or who controlled it, but I do remember comfortable seating and two or three could get in front of a set to watch together.

One day I walked in and asked the librarian, “What’s the worst TV program you’ve got?” I got a ‘wait-a-minute’ hand gesture and he walked off to fetch my prize.

The show he brought back lived up to my expectation. It was terrible. It was the pilot for The Mod Squad!

It tried hard to be hip and cool while at the same time remembering it was on Richard Nixon era ABC! There was a co-equal woman and a black man (seemingly the only minority group that existed on 60s TV) and though they were cops they weren’t pigs, man. Ya dig?

It was painful to watch. Actually, it was more painful to hear. The script was full of ‘trying to be hip’ language that seemed very ‘hello fellow kids’ awkward.

Meanwhile, what do I (or the librarian) know. It was a hit! Peggy Lipton was a star. It will always be my worst show ever.

Blogger’s addendum: My museum time was mostly spent watching serious events and programs I remembered as being clever or smart. One day I asked for news footage from the day the Soviet’s launched Sputnik, the world’s first orbiting spacecraft.

We were blindsided.

The year was 1957. America wasn’t TV savvy and the pols interviewed in Washington were totally demoralized and let it be known. They spoke with great candor, something often missing today.

It is probably the single most surprising and memorable piece of history I watched at the museum. It left a mark.

2 thoughts on “May I See Your Worst Show, Please?”

  1. Sorry to hear about Peggy Lipton. I agree that The Mod Squad was pretty bad but I watched it anyway. It was one of the first shows created for us Boomers while in our teens and early 20’s. And of course we only had 3 choices in those days: ABC, NBC, and CBS. I have forgotten the name of the actor who played “the white guy” of the trio. He also played the lead in a movie called “Three In The Attic.” I watched it with my then girlfriend at a drive-in movie theater (remember those?) in the summer of 1969. He played a young guy who was dating 3 girls at the same time – until they found out about each other. Then they lured him into an attic and locked him in. They gave plenty of sex but almost no food or water. The plan was to love him to death. The film was pretty bad but I liked it. Put it in the category of “camp.” I love that stuff. RIP Peggy Lipton.

  2. Oh yeah, the “white guy” was Michael Cole. The “black guy” was Clarence Williams III who did get a few gigs in the 70’s and 80’s.

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