Archive for ‘TV’

January 26, 2011

home sweet

by Megan Abbott

A few weeks ago, the fabulous Miss Gran and I were talking about our childhood daytime hours lost to television shows, and one of my favorites was old reruns of A Family Affair, which I remember distinctly as being a central touchstone in my early childhood–so much so I can picture the color palette, the thickness of its bright colors, like coils of oil paint.

The show’s premise was that architect-and-man-about-town  has “family” thrust upon him when he must raise his brother’s orphaned children–the red-haired twins, Jody and Buffy, and teen sister Cissy. Sebastian Cabot famously played Mr. French, the butler (later replaced by John Williams as Mr. French’s brother).

The show had so many of the common fantasy elements of children’s books/movies: beautiful orphans living in a palace (in this case, a sleek urban bachelor’s apartment, which was always my idea of a palace as a kid), cherubic twins and a gorgeous and caring older sister, gruff but kindly caretakers. Everything was yours.

Funnily enough, when I told Sara about it, I think I was framing it as one of those “sexy dad” shows–in large part because Brian Keith was the male lead and Brian Keith has a strong place in my Ralph Meeker-Sterling Hayden-William Holden pantheon. But, of course, I later remembered he wasn’t the dad at all but “Uncle Bill,” which is even better.  All of this is sort of summed in this picture, rather perfectly.

One of the reasons, I will admit, that I think the show absorbed me so much is that it had the tinge of tragedy. I remember learning that the real-life Buffy, Anissa Jones had died in her teens from a drug overdose. (Brian Keith had a sad end of his own.)  To me, it seemed impossible even to believe she’d grown up at all, much less died. So doll-like was she, with what one TV critic calls the “saddest eyes on television, even at age eight.”

Like so many childhood fixations, the things that have stuck with me are kind of random, but the physical space of Uncle Bill’s apartment looms very large. I’m not the only one, as this post on TV party references the interiors, even directing me to a House Beautiful spread from 1970 that showed rooms “inspired” by the show.

It’s so interesting, these shows we watched as kids. I don’t actually remember any of the plots now and had even forgotten the name of Buffy’s famous doll (thank you, Alison Gaylin, for reminding me: Mrs. Beasley).

Yet I am sure I could walk through the family’s whole apartment and feel utterly at home. In some ways, I feel as close to it as to the house I grew up in. The candy-colored children’s rooms, the warm, Eames-style wooden paneling, the modernist sleekness of Uncle Bill’s den, which announced “man” to me.  It was mine.

December 6, 2010

Twin Peaks Alert!

by Sara Gran

I am obsessed with the new(ish) Twin-Peaks-themed Psych! As many of you know, Twin Peaks is basically the most important thing in my life. Pretty much every book, photo, or work of art I’ve created since 1989 is entirely derivative of (from?) Twin Peaks. I know an embarrassing amount about the show*–I was watching the Psych episode with my boyfriend and just about every minute I was all, “Oh, that’s a reference to when Mr. Palmer’s hair went wait overnight!” or “That’s like Nadine’s silent drape runners!” So it was a joy to see that this was done with a lot of love and respect, with tons of tiny little nods to the original, lots of original cast members (Bobby looks so good with his gray hair!) and even a theme song by Julie Cruise.


* This reminds me of another thing I know way too much about–I finally saw the dreadful, incest-free, Flowers in The Attic made-for-TV-movie with my friend M. a few weeks ago.  And like every two minutes I was nudging him saying, “See that guy? In the second or third book Cathy has an affair with him and he becomes the father of her second child, Bart. In book four little Bart kidnaps and almost murders Cathy.” “In the very last book, which is really a prequel, we find out that Cathy’s parents weren’t just half-uncle and half-niece–they were much more closely related! That’s why the grandmother is so upset!” “In the real story, what happens is it turns out Corrine was bringing them the doughnuts and it’s never revealed if the grandmother knew or not. Later, Carrie kills herself by giving herself the same arsenic-sprinkled doughnuts after Cathy’s husband molests her.” This may not impress people the way you would hope.