Monday, January 4, 2016

Living in the Eighties, I have to push, I have to struggle

Happy New Year! This week's pair of episodes – "God Talks to Johnny" and "A Family Affair" – mark our transition from WKRP episodes aired in the 1970s to those aired in the 1980s. "God Talks to Johnny" was the New Year's Eve episode in 1979, and "A Family Affair" aired in the first week of 1980.

As we mentioned in an earlier podcast, decades don't really start on the stroke of midnight. Even the very concept of organizing cultural movements by decades is essentially arbitrary and ultimately somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like our discussion of generations a few weeks ago, you can definitely hairsplit these things down to an unmanageable degree.

And yet here we are, having spoken again and again about how 1979 was a hinge year (btw, Noah Hawley, we'd love to have you on the podcast, call us), when major events that set up what we now consider "the Eighties" took place. We talk about some of these events this week: the dual crises in Iran and Afghanistan, the subsequent U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and the very slow decline of the moral authority and popularity of Jimmy Carter (a lot of people don't realize that both the Crisis of Confidence speech and Carter's initial handling of the Iran hostage crisis prior to the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw led to some of his highest poll numbers in the last quarter of 1979 and first quarter of 1980) are leading us into what we now recognize and look back on as the Reagan era.

It's fitting that an episode about a modern-day prophet in the person of Johnny Fever is our last 1970s episode; the mysticism and weirdness of the 70s is about to get subsumed under a crushing wave of reactionary conformity. The signposts and turning points of the 1980 election are laid out for us now. All we have to do is wait.

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