Like most of us, then or now, Binkley and Portnoy in the cartoon below are looking back at the previous year and pondering the year to come. Nineteen eighty-four had been on the way, ominously, since 1948 when Orwell published the book and, for lack of a better title, transposed ’48 into ’84. It worked for a while, seemingly far into the future, but the title lost its impact when the year finally came and nothing much happened except for Reagan getting re-elected. The book remains however one of the best prophecies against totalitarian government because what lurks within its pages can certainly happen—and already has in various countries.
The final line in the cartoon, “Let’s…be careful out there,” refers to Sgt. Phil Esterhaus’s daily benediction to his cops on Hill Street after he’d brief them and give assignments at the beginning of each episode. The actor, Michael Conrad, died mid-season 1983 and was written out of the show in a death that made his character’s legend live on bravely in the hearts of his cops.
But the “Let’s be careful out there” can also refer to the oncoming of 1984, a year of foreboding and altogether too much hype. As it turned out, it could have been a lot worse.
Let’s be careful out there anyway.