Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Coot TV

The days of Tiddlywinks and lawn bowling at the old folks home are a thing of the past at one retirement home. It has gone Hollywood.


Photo Credit: Tony Chiu/MPTF

If you find what’s on TV boring and aimed at a different demographic, fine, create your own program on your own channel, Coot TV.

Pshaw, you say. Then you haven’t been tuning in to Channel 22, the in-house TV station of the Wasserman Campus of the Motion Pictures and  Television Fund in Los Angeles.

Granted the inmates of this retirement home have some special talents as actors, producers, screenwriters and editors. Several aren’t actually retired. They still appear on mainstream TV or write scripts for shows you and I may watch.

In the past, retirement homes for the elite of motion pictures and television were reduced to staring at old posters, reading late-deivered fan mail and watching scratchy replays of their old films. Legends like Bud Abbott, James Cagney and Mae Clarke were put out to pasture, signing a few pictures and enduring boring Canasta games, without exploring their mature talents as actors.

Most of Coot TV’s 200-person talent pool isn’t satisfied to rest on their laurels. Their creative energies now surge just for fun and the amusement of others in their 70s, 80s and 90s who are turned off by Big Bang Theory and The Vampire Diaries. They figure that even with declining skills, they couldn’t do worse than shows like that.

But critical tastes aside, these reborn TV stars are their own story. The Channel 22 station manager told NPR’s Gideon Brower that the seniors have generated 1,000 hours of original broadcasting since they started in 2006. These retreads even have their own re-runs.

And the stuff they produce isn’t fluff and feathers. There is a comedy series called Law and Disorder and a talk show titled The Roaring 90s, which features a round-the-table discussion by women who are in their 90s.

The station is assisted by a small full-time staff and a cadre of student volunteers, who are there perhaps to learn from old masters. In addition to making sure the lighting is right and the props are in the right place, staff members have to make sure the talent takes their meds and are given time for an afternoon nap.

public enemy posterJust like any other TV station, there are egos and divas and passionate pleas for script changes. And  just like commercial TV stations, they hear praise and pans. Evidently, the crew takes it in stride. I guess you could say they’ve heard it all before.

Seeing their names in lights is what still energizes them. It is a creative outlet for people to create new memories without forgetting old ones. It is certainly an activity that spices up the evening dinner table conversation.

As people live longer, the chances increase that younger people will pay attention to some of them. They have experiences to share, press clippings to view and credits to envy.

Best of all, this band of merry retirees have a reason to live longer. Now their work on Coot TV can live on past late-night TV into the unfathomable depths of YouTube.

It is an opportunity for people long of tooth to hear the words, “You’re cool,” and not fear the worst.


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