television and the passing of time

chinabeachI have just watched the final episodes of a TV series that, from time to time, has reached into my life and grabbed me – China Beach. I bought the series on dvd a few years ago, but have only dipped into the episodes periodically.

China Beach, starring the then-most-beautiful woman on television, Dana Delaney, aired in Australia between 1989 and 1992 and fielded some pretty awful episodes. But when it was good, it was very, very good. 

The series was inspired by the book Home Before Morning, Lynda Van Devanter’s harrowing account of her tour as a US Army surgical nurse in Vietnam in 1969 and subsequent years wrestling with the devastating effects of post traumatic stress disorder. I have a copy of the book, and it is a compelling read. (Unfortunately, Ms. Van Devanter was killed in Vietnam but didn’t know it ’til years later – she died in 2002 of a disease attributed to her exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange. She was 55.)

Thanks to the Whitlam Government, Australia’s military involvement in Vietnam was all over by the time I was old enough to be called-up, but I well remember watching bits and pieces on the news and Four Corners, and shuddering when those TV announcements came on requiring  “those turning 18 between the months of…and…to report to the nearest recruiting office”.

The passage of time…40 years since 1969; almost 20 years since China Beach was made. It has left me pondering.

Funny how memories can transport you into several time zones at once. A bit disorientating, too. I’m a young teenager again in the lounge room watching a war on television and wondering if I am going to have to go and join in. (I even remember thinking about the avenue of service I would choose and had made up my mind to elect for non-combatant duty – field ambulance, that sort of thing. Why would I want to point a rifle at anyone?) Simultaneously, I am in 1989 watching China Beach on TV, finding the pathos, heroism and drama somehow therapeutic as I turn 30 and negotiate the personal crisis of a divorce. Now I’m entering my 50th year and just now finally catching up with the final episode and time is warping all around me.


~ by Garry on January 10, 2009.

2 Responses to “television and the passing of time”

  1. Thanks for sharing your time-warping recollection. I, at times, have had similar experiences on an international level when decades and continents get mixed up and I get a little disoriented. Your CHINA BEACH story is a classic time/space warp!

  2. thanks, yes, I suppose it has something to do with adding decades worth of new experience to your memories and wondering where the time went when they feel so present and immediate.

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