Thursday, May 22, 2008

Here's A Story

A few weeks ago my children were watching an episode of "Life With Derek," the Disney channel's half hour comedy about a blended family. It was the last time they'll ever watch it, not because of something particularly offensive in that episode,* but because we've found something better.

The opening credits of LWD feature members of the family in boxes with a blue background. "Oh, this is an homage to 'The Brady Bunch,' I said to the kids."

"What's 'The Brady Bunch'?" they asked. I felt sort of like my mother must have when I was reading a review of "What's Love Got To Do With It?" and asked her "What's Banlon?" She laughed hysterically, and said it sounded like the beginning of an earnest article: "The other day, my daughter asked me, 'What is polio?' and I reflected on the changes in the world since my youth..."

But I digress. And I must continue to digress in another direction to note that as a child I loved "The Brady Bunch" very, very much. As I've mentioned before, I spent a portion of my childhood (a few months? a year?) eating dinner on a tray in front of the television because TBB was on at 6 o'clock, and this being pre-DVR, pre-VHS, I was not about to miss it.

Now, thank goodness, we have the DVR. So I taped an episode of TBB at 4:30 am for my children's edification, and we all watched it together a few days later.

I have been burned trying to share my childhood TV and movie faves before. Some succeed, but others fail miserably. This one was a home run. All three children were riveted, laughing hysterically, clutching each other, gasping, sighing. They were completely drawn into the problem of Cindy's only having one ticket to the class play.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed watching the portrayal of a happy family that speaks to each other in loving kindness and respect. "Our Cindy doesn't need wings for her costume," Greg says to his siblings at one point, "She always looks like a fairy princess." Unrealistic? Perhaps. Although my children are kind to each other in that innocent and earnest way, more often than not. Yes, they fight--so do the Bradys. I'm having a hard time putting my finger on it, but there's something ugly about the attempts at realism in today's TV for children.** I think I prefer this candy-coated version. And, miracle of miracles, so do R, S and M. So we are loading up on Brady Bunches.

*Although there are vaguely offensive things in every episode of that show. There's always a moral, and it pays lip service to doing the right thing, but here's a throwaway line: Casey tells Derek, "Girls and boys are not the same," and he says, "I know. I learned that on our old couch." I glanced at my kids with alarm when I heard that, but they were in the usual Disney Channel open-mouthed stupor and it didn't seem to register.

**In relatively recent memory, "Arthur" on PBS also portrayed a kind of family that I recognize. Is "Arthur" still on, I wonder?


Jay said...

The attempts at realism today aren't real; they turn kids into fantasy adults instead of fantasy kids. So instead of saccharine sweet Cindy Brady and cute-as-a-button Tracy Partridge, we get wiseacre kids everywhere with dialogue that, as you point out, hints at a level of sexual awareness that is really distasteful.

When I think of "realism" in kid's literature or TV, I think of something like DeGrassi High or Family on TV or Judy Blume's books, which show real kids reacting to situations that aren't all-sweetnes-and-light. So it's the real world - or at least some piece of the real world - and it doesn't always end happily, but it's populated with real kids, not miniature Jerry Seinfelds.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

When my brother first got his own place, I bought him a framed portrait of the Brady family. It looks so much like an actual portrait that sometimes people don't realize at a glance what it is and remark on his big family -- which is kind of cool, because in a way, they are part of our family.

Allison Slater Tate said...

I'm happy to report that Arthur is still on, daily, repeatedly even. So is Clifford. And I am enjoying their continued presence on my TV set as long as possible.