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Monday, July 12, 2010

Back in Room 222

On YouTube the other day, I was watching intro clips and theme songs from TV shows of the 1960s. It’s an interesting way to spend an hour. When I ran across the intro clip for Room 222 – a very strong and unmistakably clear message in cinematography and music from the get-go, without a word of dialog -- I had to stop and think.

Do you remember Room 222? It was a sometimes light-hearted, sometimes serious drama about a mythical high school in Los Angeles – and not just any high school, but one with an integrated faculty and an integrated student body. The acting was great, and the script writing was even better. It was created by James L. Brooks, who went on to create The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, The Simpsons, and so on.

Shows like All in the Family attacked bigotry with ridicule and sarcasm. Room 222 took a very different road to the same destination. It premiered in September 1969, when I entered high school. The faculty was being integrated that year, and the student body would be integrated the following year. I wondered, what would that be like? Room 222 provided some clues: people are people. Faculty, black and white, share problems. Students, black and white, share problems.

In Room 222, these problems were aired graciously but realistically. Folks didn’t always get along or trust one another, and problems were not always resolved in 60 minutes, but the characters dealt with tough topics and serious issues in a respectful and forward-looking way.

It was a good metaphor to keep in mind when I went to high school that year. It’s been a good metaphor to keep in mind ever since.

By the way, what does Pink Floyd’s Money have in common with the theme song from Room 222? Post a comment, musicians, if you know the answer.