Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks - Television Edition: Family

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join our lovely little blogging family by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them.

Well, it's that time of year again, the High Holidays, busy times spent with family celebrating and eating and singing and eating and fasting and eating... and on top of that, I'M MOVING! So to say I've been busy as all hell this past month would be an understatement.

All of which is to say, this will be a bit of a double week here, because last week, I would have picked the following Just Not Funny Comedies:

Old School (Todd Phillips, 2003)

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004)

Step Brothers (Adam McKay, 2008)

Sorry, guys. I could barely do Will Ferrell on SNL.

And now that that's out of the way and I feel all caught up, let's get to the task at hand: TV Families. I'm going back in time a bit for my first pick, but if you haven't seen any of this classic sitcom, you owe it to yourself to watch. As for the others, if you're not watching... why the heck not?

All in the Family (1971-1979) The Bunkers are the most well-drawn sitcom family in TV history. everyone can see themselves and their family members in them, which is one of the reasons why the show was able to tackle so many social issues so effectively. Personally, my grandparents are practically dead ringers for Archie and Edith - he a loud-mouthed casual bigot of the working class, she a doting, slightly dotty near-martyr who just wants everyone to be happy. Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton brilliantly make both characters so much more than stereotypes, and Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner match them perfectly as their modern daughter and her "meathead" of a husband. Nearly every episode is a perfect one-act play, but none is better, or more famous, than the one where Sammy Davis, Jr. drops in and plants one on Archie.

Jane the Virgin (2014-Present) The Villanueva women are my favorite current TV family, for how grounded they are despite all the crazy going on around them. What crazy, you ask? Well, for starters, young Jane - the virgin of the title - gets accidentally artificially inseminated with her doctor's brother's sperm, and decides to have the baby. And things only get more telenovelistic from there, with ruthless crime lords, mistaken identities, secret twins, forced comas, love triangles, baby snatching, fantasy sequences, and marriages both fake and real becoming plot points. But through it all, Jane, her mother Xiomara, and abuela Alba (and her biological father, telenovela superstar and perfect comic creation Rogelio de la Vega) are always there for each other, to provide support and remind of what is truly important in life. Jane the Virgin balances wildly divergent tones better than any show currently on the air, with wacky comedy, soapy plot developments, and heartfelt tear-jerking all living side by side in perfect harmony. Gina Rodriguez is absolutely luminous as Jane, and deservedly won the Golden Globe for her performance in the first season, giving a beautifully memorable speech in the process.

One Day at a Time (2017-Present) I just started watching this VERY loose remake of the classic Norman Lear sitcom on Netflix, and totally fell in love with the Alvarez family. Nurse and Army vet Penelope is newly divorced and raising her two teenage children with her very Catholic Cuban mother (Rita Moreno, proving that Betty White isn't the only octogenarian legend who's still got it) while dealing with a little bit of PTSD (and other timely issues). While the situation only bears the slightest resemblance to the show on which it's based, the scripts all feel like they are from that era of socially-conscious Norman Lear megahits (like All in the Family), equal parts humor and heart.


My other favorite TV family, but I couldn't pick the show because it was really just a recurring sketch on the Carol Burnett Show (yes, there was Mama's Family, but that was NOT the same).


  1. Nooo I love Step Brothers and Anchorman! lol

    I haven't seen any of your TV picks though I'm aware of them.

    I hope you're moving some place fun!

  2. Good luck with the move!
    So glad to see Jane the Virgin here - I'm so behind it's unreal but I love that show so much.

  3. Gotta say, the Jane the Virgin wave passed me by and I haven't seen the other two shows.

  4. I liked but didn't love the original One Day at a Time but do remember Mackenzie Phillips full on meltdown during the show's run and was delighted when Valerie Bertinelli who was always my favorite on the show reemerged on Hot in Cleveland. I've never seen any of the reboot though and I haven't seen Jane the Virgin.

    However The Family sketches on Carol Burnett's show were gold. You're right Mama's Family is absolutely not the same thing without the delicate balance of Carol, Harvey and Vicki working together it lost it's focus plus the characters were really too dark to survive in a week to week form.

    We match!! While it's not my favorite of my three choices I vaguely recall the shock waves All in the Family sent through America when the show was at its height. The Sammy Davis ep was memorable but the one I always recall is when Edith was going through menopause and was off the hook for most of the show.

    Because of the vast quantity of shows to pick from this week I decided to find a hook that all three shared. So a sort of mini theme within the theme.

    Family (1976-1980)-Gentle family drama of the problems big and small of an upper middle class family, lawyer dad Doug Lawrence (James Broderick-Matthew’s father) wife Kate (Sada Thompson) and their three children Nancy (Meredith Baxter again), Willie (Gary Frank) and sensitive Letitia “Buddy” (Kristy McNicol), living in a small California town. Much of the power of the series came from its refusal to go for big showy emotions rather taking a naturalistic approach to the various issues that present themselves. Very well-acted.

    Family Ties (1982-1989)-Former liberal flower children of the 60’s Steven and Elyse Keaton (Michael Gross & Meredith Baxter) are now middle class parents raising their three (eventually four) very different children in the Reagan 80’s. There’s the youngest, tomboy Jennifer (Tina Yothers), middle child acquisitive somewhat ditzy Mallory (Justine Bateman) and oldest son strongly conservative money hungry Alex (the series breakout star Michael J. Fox). The series looks with gentle humor and insight at the culture clashes that constantly erupt within the household through the years.

    All in the Family (1971-1979)-Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) who Archie semi affectionately calls “Dingbat” their daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) and her husband Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner) who Archie far less affectionately calls “Meathead” live together often disharmoniously in Queens, New York. Archie is a firmly opinionated bigot and his daughter and especially his son-in-law equally fierce liberals so their exchanges are often incendiary. When this debuted in ’71 it caused a revolution in how TV comedy was seen, to this point it had been dominated by shows similar to Father Knows Best and even more progressive ones such as Julia with Diahann Carroll dealt with gently humorous situations. But All in the Family took aim at the hot topics of the time in a more realistic way.

  5. I only saw the Original One Day At A Time and remember all the drama behind the scenes. You are the second one to choose Jane the Virgin and now, seeing this clip, I want to see it. Love This horrible dysfunctional family created on the Carol Burnett was brilliant and some of the best ever on tv

  6. I don't mind Eill Ferrell and I like Old School but I agree with you on the other 2

  7. Jane the Virgin is such a brilliant show! Why didn't I think of that?

  8. No love for Will Ferrell, eh? He's hit or miss with me, but I am a big fan of Anchorman.

    I love All in the Family. That's a great show for the reasons you give. Not least of these is Carroll O'Connor who was just perfect.

    I've seen about 5 minutes here and there of Jane the Virgin. The premise sounded a bit too much so I'll admit I didn't give it an honest chance. I might have to.

    I used to watch the original One Day at a Time as a kid. I had a serious crush on Valerie Bertinelli. Hell, I still have it. As for the remake, whenever I scroll passed it on Netflix I scoff at the notion of yet another "updating" of an old show. Honestly speaking, not sure I'll be able to get beyond that hangup.

  9. Jane the Virgin - I agree, despite the craziness, they seem the most all the talks the three women often have with each other.