Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Love and the Television Comedy


Tonight, as we were watching Two Broke Girls, my husband made the same comment he makes every week when we tune in to that show (and probably Two and a Half Men as well, though I’m never home when he watches that anymore, so I couldn’t say for sure if that tradition continues): “I can’t believe they can get away with saying that on TV”.   As you might guess, it’s invariably some thinly veiled sexual innuendo that’s been slipped into seemingly casual conversation that prompts this comment, as he’s long since gotten used to the actual language that can be used on television these days. 

Sex 10-15-12                                                              Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The problem is not that he’s particularly prudish (trust me; that’s definitely not it), but that we grew up in a different era of television.  You see, we are from a time when the standards and practices folks seemed to believe that a great many people were unaware of sex, and that the very idea should either be ignored completely or glossed over so that maybe viewers wouldn’t recognize what was actually being discussed.  Back then, you would never have seen a male character walk into the apartment of two female characters with a video camera, glibly talking about getting topless and spreading plastic to keep the oil from getting everywhere.  And that’s the mild stuff.

So that got me to thinking about sexual humor back in my childhood and how it was portrayed, which led me to the one and only Love, American Style.  I was young when this show debuted, and still a pre-teen even when it left the air, and I can remember that my mom had some qualms about letting me watch it, though my guess is that her ultimate deciding factor was that I was probably too young to understand the more “adult” jokes, anyway.  And she was probably right.  Still, even as a kid, I could understand that in this context, “love” often went hand in hand with “sex”.  But I digress.  What I really wanted to say is that I look back with some fondness for this cute program, tame by today’s standards, but sometimes considered racy back in the day. 

For those too young to remember, Love, American Style was a weekly anthology program concerning a wide variety of characters and whatever love scenario they happened to be in—singles looking for love, couples working at love, people of all sorts pondering love.  Of course, it was a comedy, so we might have been treated to some universal truths about relationships, but it was all done with humorous touch, and things most always worked out in the end.

Each week presented multiple short stories, so we got to meet many new characters with each episode.  This led to a long line of weekly stars, and it seemed like just about everybody who was anybody made an appearance, sometimes multiple times.  It really was like a Who’s Who of 70s character actors.  You had folks like Milton Berle, Bert Convy, Ruth Buzzi, Davy Jones, Bill Bixby, Stephanie Powers, Soupy Sales . . . the list goes on and on.  I think it must have been some sort of badge of honor or something, to land that gig.  And, as an interesting tidbit, Happy Days was originally an episode of Love, American Style before it was picked up and given a long life of its own.  That should give you some idea of the type of “adult” comedy you’d expect to see on the program.

Yeah, I remember really enjoying this show, and though I also am amused by things like Two Broke Girls, there are definitely times I wouldn’t mind going back to a simpler time.

31 Days of TV