Love, American Style: Season 1 Volume 1
One traditional form of television series may have fallen out of popularity but it still remains a fresh way of presenting entertainment to the audience, the anthology series. Usually there are short stories bound together only by their genre. For the writers this is a much easier job; they don’t have to worry about continuity or story arcs from one episode to another. Each little segment is complete in itself. Many genres have gone this route especially horror and science fiction. In 1969 ABC decided to give it a try with the romantic comedy and ‘Love American Style’ was born. In the late sixties and early seventies the culture was changing. The peace and love generation were much more up front with sex than the previous generation. Topics that were once taboo where beginning to become mainstream. In film this meant you could start to show a personal relationship that lead to the bedroom before the altar. On television things had to be more restrained but the trend was there and this series was in the front lines. While many people who remember it might think this was just a little fluff series it actually was ground breaking in it’s own right. Each vignettes had to do with love and more often than not sex. Only a few years before television series had to show married couples in separate beds. I guess when the cameras were off Rick made that 5 foot trek across the bedroom to his Lucy’s bed or there wouldn’t have been a little Ricky. Television just didn’t focus on sex as part of love that is until this series. The series had a regular group of actors, writers and directors who provided light hearted and slightly naughty humor on Friday nights. For those out there who grew up with the more modern take on show it all this may seem tame. Just remember that many of the series today owe a debt of gratitude to this one for making sex funny.
The series was know for their little often silent bits that typical opened each episode and ran between vignettes. For example a man sits in front of his girlfriend. He holds out both hands in fists so she can choose one. She chooses the empty hand, He reveals that the engagement ring was in the other and walks off. Like the Love Boat which would sail into our homes later on the cast was mostly ‘B’ level television celebrities. If you were around back then you would recognize almost all of them. Today you may have to go to Google or IMDB to figure out who they were. For example if you know who Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, Gail Fisher, Robert Cummings and Flip Wilson were then you must likely remember ‘I Like Ike’ buttons. For the youngest out there, ask your parents. Each of these people was on televisions series either as the star or a regular cast member. Here they take their roles with the feel of a little community theater troupe putting on a series of short plays.
In ‘Love and the Couple of Couples’ a man is getting ready for an evening with his girlfriend. He takes out a small box showing the audience that this is the night he is going to propose. There is a knock on the door and woman, Aggie, comes in. She wants to see the bed, a big brass bed that is used in a lot of these segments. It turns out that they are divorced for two years. She seems shocked when he tells her he is getting engaged tonight. She helps her ex-husband finish setting up for the big question fixing the burnt roast, setting the table romantically and even trying the ring on when he isn’t looking. Of course, it gets stuck, she can’t get it off. Since Aggie can’t leave with the ring the three have to have dinner together. Seems innocent enough but in 1969 this was something else. Divorce was not something often explored in television. Sure you can have a divorcee in a murder mystery but for a comedy; not really done. There is a little line about the bed making noises that infers the man and his girlfriend are already having sex. Having sex before marriage, which will be something to sell to the sponsors and the network’s standards and practices people. Of course there is a happy ending to this tale with the man getting back together with his ex.
Another example is ‘Love and the Pill’. A man and his wife discover that the tour to Europe their daughter is taking is called the ‘Swinger Tour’. Dad initially wants to believe that is just the name of the man running the tour, Sidney Swinger or something like that. Mom is much more pragmatic. She reads the description of the tour which promises a fun filled no holds bared romp through the sin capitals of the world where anything goes. Dad isn’t worried, he daughter is almost 18 and her boyfriend will be with her. Mom points out that this is even more a reason for concern. Mom breaks the news to Dad, their daughter may be planning to have sex. She reminds him about a little girl down the block. Dad remembers her as a girl on a tricycle but Mom informs him she is now 16 and her boyfriend has a car. The girl’s mother mashes up a birth control pill in her breakfast every morning. Mom also informs Dad that their daughter will turn eighteen in Paris. French wine, a romantic city and no parents can mean only one thing, sex. They decide the best way is to have the boyfriend slip the pill to the daughter ever day. For a comedy to talk about ‘The Pill’ as it was known back then was daring. The though that a 17 girl was thinking about sex was another topic not explored on any series let alone a comedy hour show. There is also a little touch of reality here, needed for true comedy. Dad is initially not able to think of his daughter as a sexual being. It takes Mom to open his eyes. Personally I can relate. I told my daughter the best time to start having sex is on your 25th wedding anniversary. The thought that teens are ‘doing it’ and that there is a pill to make it okay was still something Middle America wanted to avoid thinking about. There was no mention of the possibility of disease. This was 1969 after all and way before AIDS.
I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Paramount was going to release the first episodes of this series. When it was first on it was something fun to watch. There was always a laugh to have and it helped to wind down on Friday night and forget the chores of the week. Paramount has an amazing catalogue of little classic television series and thankfully they are sharing on DVD. This was light comedy with a then saucy touch. While mild by current standards it is still funny. The first 13 episodes are fully contained here complete with the between scene bits. Whether you want to recapture some of your favorite television actors or you just want something that will entertain this is a set to have.