TV Parent Deaths: Farewell Barbara Billingsley And Tom Bosley
In the past few days we have said farewell to Barbara Billingsley and Tom Bosley who both died this week.
It has been a rough few days for iconic TV parents. First we lost Barbara Billingsley on Saturday. She played June Cleaver on the show Leave it to Beaver. Today saw the death of Tom Bosley who was best known as Howard Cunningham on Happy Days.
Both of these stars played many different roles over their careers, but as they leave us we remember them as that role of parent in the near perfect world of the shows they inhabited. In a way the sitcom and even the family drama that actors like Tom Bosley and Barbara Billingsley starred in were a reflection of what we as a country desired to be. They were easy fits and straight forward answers to all of life’s problems. No matter how difficult the situation or how hard the road ahead they taught us if you just tell the truth and do the right thing then everything will work out fine in the end. Perhaps for many of us they symbolize what we perceive as a simpler time in our lives. I am not old enough to have really watched Leave it to Beaver, but I did grow up watching Happy Days. It is easy for me to look back on those days of my youth and see them a time of innocence, a time before there were cell phones, internet, or for that matter even cable TV in most homes. Of course now I know otherwise. While it seemed simple to me as a child I know it was a complex time in its own right for others. Still, Mr. Cunningham represents that era of innocence for me when all I cared about was fishing, rafting, hanging with my friends and impressing the girl next door’s cute best friend.
It seems that the rule of thumb to celebrity deaths is that they always come in threes. So it begs the question, who is next? Florence Henderson is on Dancing With the Stars right now and she seems to be doing just fine. As does Betty White who is getting up their in age, but appears in good health. I have a feeling if the rule of thumb holds true and we do lose a third celebrity parent it will be someone we all pretty much forgot. Someone who effected our lives in some way shape or form – most likely for the better – then just faded into the ether and out of our lives.
While it is macabre to speculate about who may die next I will say this much: I think this world is a little bit of a better place with Tom Bosley and Barbara Billingsley having been in it. I know my childhood most certainly was. Even in times when my interests were shifting and I was struggling to become my own person, my family always had Happy Days to connect with. It was one of the common threads that held us together because back then TV shows that we liked were events that you dared not miss. There was no VCR or Tivo or DVR or On Demand. If you missed an episode, it was gone. Today most shows seem to be background noise that fill in the spaces left vacant by Facebook, Twitter, texting and 200 channels of TV. With the press of a button you can record a show and watch it whenever or you can jump online and either download it or watch it on the network’s website. There is no missing out these days and I have this slight feeling in my gut that maybe our society is a little worse off because of it. It makes me a little bit sad that it seems like TV shows like that are no longer made and that the children of today will never have that experience, but it makes me thankful that I did.
Goodnight Tom and Barbara, you will be missed.
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