“Ask Me, Don’t Tell Me,” an amazing short film that I learned about through the Bernal Heights History Project, shows a glimpse of San Francisco street life in the late 1950s. (The film was published in 1961, but the aesthetic of its “juvenile delinquents” seems to owe more to the 50s, so let’s call it that. The 60s in San Francisco brings to mind flower children, which these aren’t.) It’s got some dated moments, but sparkles nonetheless as a little historical treasure.
The film is more interesting to me for its poetic pastiche of street scenes (and gritty bongos-infused blues) than it is as a record of the program, Youth For Service, that it was made to promote. I’ve never seen anything like this, nor have I read very much about these scenes in San Francisco. But as I watched the clip, I felt like I knew this world, if obliquely. These young men were the progenitors of the San Franciscans I grew up around. In their gestures, their expressions, their postures, and their voices, they foreshadow the later Bay Area culture with which I’m much more familiar.
Reality Lifestyle Archive
In this age of “peak TV,” when hundreds of intricate and high-quality shows must fight for survival, the success of a milquetoast show like “House Hunters” barely makes sense: The proudly formulaic HGTV series follows random homebuyers as they pat down laminate countertops and calmly discuss closet space.
But to the astonishment of rival networks, “House Hunters” remains one of the most unlikely and unstoppable juggernauts on TV. The show last year aired a staggering 447 new episodes — far more than the typical 12-to-22-episode cable season — and helped HGTV become one of the most-watched cable networks in America.
“House Hunters” serves as a fascinating counter-example to some of the TV business’ biggest anxieties, including the growing costs and competition of scripted dramas and the rise of “cord-cutters” moving their viewing online. “House Hunters” producers spend next to nothing on stars or storylines, do little to groom an Internet audience — and still consistently attract 25 million viewers every month.
“It’s happy television. It’s so safe. It’s like an old sweater,” said Terri Murray, the executive producer of “House Hunters” and its vast array of specials and spin-offs. “You can walk away from it because the storyline is so simple, the structure is so repetitive, that you can come back and already knows what’s missing.”