(Spoiler Alert- name the three -non-news division- television shows that have broadcast 500 episodes?)
When it comes to accomplishments, the number 500 can represent a special milestone in various areas of life. There are several associated with Sports:
Any basketball coach who has piloted at least 500 victories is applauded not only for his success but for his endurance as well. To be able to stay around coaching in the NBA for 15 to 20 years is a remarkable achievement and to regularly win at it is to be especially appreciated.
One baseball pitcher ever won 500 or more games- Cy Young. Even if the rules were much different 125 years ago, it is still remarkable that a pitcher could dominate his rivals with such frequency.
An NFL quarterback who can pass for 500 yards in one game is a very rare bird.
The most known and talked about 500 club is reserved for baseball players who hit 500 or more home runs in a career. Or, at least it used to be. Until about fifteen years ago, no more than a dozen or so achieved this feat of strength over the span of the Twentieth Century. Skinny guys like Ernie Banks did it on hand-to-eye coordination and quick wrists. With the introduction of steroid usage into the mix, it not only became common to see hitters easily getting 50 or more home runs in a season, but a handful even jumped into the 600 and 700 lifetime achievement stratosphere.
This brings us to two other recent entries into the 500 club that have nothing to do with Sports. The Simpsons television show is about to celebrate airing its 500th episode and in the world of high finance, Apple recently has been trading in the $500 per share range.
Baby Boomers smile with the mention of the two other television shows that share the 500 episode accomplishment. Lassie and Gunsmoke both aired on television for more than 500 first-run presentations. Those of us who were smitten with the canine show waited each Sunday early evening for the latest in the saga of the dog and his human companions. Several different sets of casts shared their lives with the collie. The most famous actress was June Lockhart who played Timmy’s mother. After many years, the show went into independent syndication which is why it was able to last so long after the major network decided it was time to let the dog out.
It seemed like my sisters and I fought over which show to watch on the solitary black and white set sitting in my mother’s parents family room every time we went to visit on an early Sunday evening in the late 1950’s. In those days, there was an extra half hour of prime time network broadcasting. Lassie came on during supper time. No true American kid would think of eating dinner without a tv show in front of him or her.
It’s not that we had more tv sets at our own apartment so the same fighting went on in our home arena. If I recall, Lassie’s competition on the three other channels was not that significant. It was as if the other networks and the powerful independent WGN station in Chicago conceded the time slot knowing you couldn’t compete with a dog and a child in a television cast.
Gunsmoke went through a few changes of co-stars coming and going as well. The most famous person to saddle up along side lead actor James Arness’ Marshal Matt Dillon was Dennis Weaver who played Chester, his ever faithful handicapped deputy. As kids, we used to imitate Chester as he would limp after Marshal Dillon calling out his name in exasperation. Others who passed through for a while were Burt Reynolds playing a half-breed Indian blacksmith and much later the character Festus played by Ken Curtis. Most people are not aware Ken was a gifted country western singer and a member of the famous Sons of the Pioneer singing group. Ken had a few famous scenes in John Ford movies- maybe because he was his son-in-law as well. At one point, James Arness had left the show and the lead character was Doc Adams, played by Milburn Stone.
This makes the animated Simpsons show that much more special. It is using the same cast of voice-overs other than guests since its inception in the late 1980s. Another interesting thing about longevity and television is that nowadays most shows air about 22 times a year. In the 1950s until the mid-60’s it was common for some shows to air more than 30 times a year only taking off for summer reruns or replacement.
Getting back to Apple, there is a dark side to its climb to $500 per share. Much of their current success is attributed to marketing the Iphone. Cell phone service providers such as AT&T and Verizon have taken a big hit on their stock value because of the large up front payment they have to make to Apple in order to buy Iphones for resale. Supposedly an Iphones costs about $600. Obviously no one will pay such a high price for a phone that is subject to abuse by its very nature of being mobile. Most cell phones have a lifespan of a couple of years.
Verizon, ATT and others are forced to heavily discount the phone to as little as $200 each, hoping to make it up by forcing the buyer into two year contracts. Apple does not discount the sale price to the cell phone companies nor do they let them pay over time. The money is paid all up front.
ATT and Verizon then get caught in the middle a second time when the customer comes back after eight or nine months and wants the latest, greatest Iphone model. The customer balks at paying another two hundred dollars for a trade-in. It may soon come out that cell phone service providers will get together and refuse to let Apple take advantage of them. Of course, Apple can then go into the business of providing cell phone service directly. But, do they really want that aggravation?
This is one instance where reaching 500 does not deserve a pat on the back and maybe the bubble has to burst as it has done in the real estate market. Hey, I’m ready to go back to rotary phones that we used to rent from the phone company. Maybe it will stop all those annoying text messages I didn’t ask to receive.