Tele-Tuesday: The Long Lost Family Drama

Last week, we reminisced about the popular family sitcoms of the 1980s including favorites Who’s the Boss?, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, and The Wonder Years.  The Ooo Factor viewers remembered even more with shows like Alf and The Hogan Family – weren’t these sitcoms great?  These television shows allowed real-life families to join around the living room TV set and watch television families work through the dysfunction in their “make-believe” lives while making us laugh.

But the family oriented thirty minute situational comedy isn’t the only thing missing from television programming today – where’s the one hour family drama?  We touched on Life Goes On and Our House last week – two one hour dramas that focused on family units resolving difficult issues like dealing with a brother’s disability or a father’s death.

The 1980s provided many great honest-to-goodness family dramas that were safe for children of all ages to watch alongside their moms and dads such as:

Highway to Heaven

Quantum Leap

We also cherished the ABC after school special in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Remember those?  Kids learned valuable lessons like: handling the difficulties surrounding blended families after moms and dads remarry; understanding the dangers of drug use, drinking, and unprotected sex; as well as learning how to cope with molestation and rape.

Perhaps one of the most brilliant aspects of the after school special was the network’s casting of young TV heart-throbs like Scott Baio (Charles in Charge), Billy Warlock (Days of our Lives), and Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains) to play vital roles in the made-for-TV movies.

Speaking of the ‘90s, this decade didn’t take a complete detour from family programming and produced multi-year hits like:

 7th Heaven

Party of Five

Once and Again

One of our favorites was the short-lived Get Real starring Jon Tenney (The Closer), Deborah Farrentino, Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries), Eric Christian Olsen (NCIS: LA), and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) as the Green family.

Looking back, what a fantastic cast!

Mom and dad Green had their issues (for example, mom suspected dad of cheating), and the teenagers definitely had their issues (the usual sibling rivalry, secrets, and coping situations).  The Greens resembled what we’d consider a normal family today – they struggled, they loved, and they learned.  The program walked its viewers through the family decisions, as they hoped to reach a positive outcome, but didn’t always succeed. Unfortunately, this series failed after twenty episodes.

But mostly, the ‘90s began what we now know as YA television with dramas appropriate for teenagers, but perhaps not children under the age of twelve with programs including:

Beverly Hills 90210

My So Called Life

Television airs many of these YA programs today such as The Vampire Diaries, The Lying Game, Pretty Little Liars, and The Secret Circle to name a few.  While great TV, watching these shows is a tad risky for the younger audience, mostly due to the high volumes of violence and sex.

In 2010, ABC tried their hand at a family friendly drama similar to those we watched in the ‘80s and ‘90s that was appropriate for all ages, but No Ordinary Family was pulled from the air waves after a short first season.  Why didn’t this show make it?  Apparently it lacked viewers.

Why weren’t families watching No Ordinary Family?  The series started when mom (Julie Benz) and dad (Michael Chiklis) take the kids on a much needed vacation to strengthen their family unit, and they return with superpowers: the mom has super speed, the dad has super strength, the teenage son has a super brain, and the teenage daughter has telepathic abilities.  No Ordinary Family had the ever-important family dynamic, was full of motion-picture-esque action sequences, and taught morals like the importance of not cheating in school no matter the reason, yet this program fell victim to the network’s axe after twenty episodes.

 

Instead, shows like the Secret Life of the American Teenager, a drama that focuses primarily on teenage sex and pregnancy, last for multiple seasons.

Just something to think about…

Obviously, family television has changed over the years – is it for better or worse?  What ’80s and ‘90s family dramas did you enjoy?   Which one-hour drama does your family watch today?  Is it considered a family drama?  I’d love to hear from you!

Friday FabOoolousness – The Titter Factor: Clueless

Comedies took over television in the 1990s with popular sitcoms Seinfeld, Friends, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  Young viewers also found plenty of programs they could relate to in the ‘90s with the hit teen soap operas Beverly Hills, 90210, Dawson’s Creek, and Felicity

So, why be surprised with the 1995 blockbuster success of the now classic film, Clueless

That’s right – classic. 

Clueless combined humor with every teen drama stereotype imaginable: like the stress of training for a driver’s license, dealing with parents and step-siblings, partying and drugs, deciding which cliques to join, trying to keep up with style and dress for success, and, most importantly, awkward relationships.

Unknown at the time, Alicia Silverstone immediately gained star-status with her portrayal of Cher Horowitz.  Cher resembled so many of the girls in my school – exaggerated, of course.  Cher was sweet, but superficial and hailed from an extremely wealthy family.  Some would call her spoiled; she did have a rotating closet the size of most living rooms in her father’s (Mel Horowitz played by Dan Hedaya) mansion.

One of, if not the most attractive and popular girls in school, Cher uses her ability to negotiate her way out of all sticky situations.  But, when she can’t talk her way out of a bad grade, Cher decides to play cupid for the single and miserable teacher standing in her way.  

Feeling that match-making is now her calling, Cher then adopts the new girl in school, and plans to transform her into a beauty.  With help from her best friend, Dionne (played by Stacey Dash), Cher befriends Tai (Brittany Murphy) and immediately begins creating another paper-doll cut-out to follow in her footsteps.  She transforms Tai’s hair, clothes, make-up, and attitude – maybe too well. 

Tai instantly connects with the skater in school (Travis Birkenstock played by Breckin Meyer), but Cher refuses to allow Tai to date Travis; therefore, she hatches a plan to play match-maker with Tai and the popular boy, Elton (Jeremy Sisto), who just so happens to have his eyes set on Cher.

After failing her driving test, failing to successfully pair Tai and Elton, and falling for a gay, Jason Priestly look-a-like hottie (Justin played by Christian Stovitz), Cher crumbles and leans into her older, ex-stepbrother, Josh (played by Paul Rudd). Making matters worse, Tai figuratively slaps her in the face, and Cher decides it’s time to focus on her own life instead of others.  Step one – land Josh. 

Everything of course works its way out in the end, but viewers don’t get there without hysterical laughs along the way.  The movie was such a hit, that television producers attempted to recreate the popularity of Clueless with a television series, and cast many of the movie’s actors in the same roles (Stacey Dash as Dionne, Donald Faison as Dionne’s boyfriend, Murray, and Elisa Donovan as Amber, Cher’s nemesis). 

Conversations in the’90s would have never been the same without Clueless’ coined phrases: “Whatever” and “As If”.   

Can we please bring As If back? I mean, Whatever never left.

In addition to the words most repeated by teenagers across America, the Clueless writers also provided rich-clueless-valley-girl lines that Alicia delivered perfectly.

Dionne: Hello? There was a stop sign.

Cher: I totally paused.

****

Cher: Okay, so you’re probably going, “Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?” But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl.

****

Cher: Isn’t my house classic? The columns date all the way back to 1972.

**** 

Girl: It’s just like Hamlet said, “To thine own self be true.”

Cher: Hamlet didn’t say that.

Girl: I think I remember Hamlet accurately.

Cher: Well, I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn’t say that.  That Polonius guy did.

****

We can’t end the post without discussing the fashion.  High school girls across the country wore plaid mini-skirts with knee-high lace socks and baby doll shoes because of Cher.  What about the white, sheer shirts?  Clogs?  Platforms? C’mon, we all had at least one item in our closets that Cher wore in Clueless

Cher: Do you prefer “fashion victim” or “ensembly challenged”?

**** 

Mel: What the hell is that?

Cher: A dress.

Mel: Says who?

Cher: Calvin Klein

****

Teenage girls in the ‘90s were definitely fashion victims courtesy of Cher, and we spent too much money on our clothes. 

Clueless changed the ‘90s pop culture forever, and launched movie stars Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy (R.I.P.), and Paul Rudd into movie stardom.  Not to mention, Breckin Meyer (Franklin & Bash) and Donald Faison (Scrubs) might not have the television popularity they do today without their supporting roles in Clueless.    

Who’s singing, “Rollin with my homies,” right this very second (be honest)?   Do you believe or agree that Clueless is now a classic?  Who do/did you relate to more:  Cher, Tai, Travis, or another character? If you could have one movie phrase that was popular back in the day return now – what would it be and why?  What other ‘90s movies have you watched repeatedly that have changed pop culture forever?  I’d love to hear from you!

Tele-Tuesday – Down Memory Lane: 1996

The 1990s – A Decade known for the massive growth and popularity of the Internet, gaming, and cell phones, also saw tumultuous times including The Gulf War and the Oklahoma City bombing, which created two of the most hated men in U.S. history – Saddam Hussein and Timothy McVeigh.

In the ’90s, the world also experienced perhaps one of the most popular scandals involving United States President Bill Clinton and White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

The ‘90s generation watched as music and television took over the fashion world with women flocking to the salons for the “Rachel” cut, while the men raced to the barber asking for the sideburns of Jason Priestly and Luke Perry.  One of our favorite must-have items of the decade were the plaid and flannel shirts we all purchased by the dozen.

Top entertainers in the ‘90s included: the television ensemble casts of Friends, Seinfeld, Beverly Hills, 90210, ER; the popular grunge bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam; the pop-rock acts such as the Spice Girls; and other musicians like The Offspring, Green Day, and No Doubt.

Movie theaters saw great blockbuster success with the films Titanic, Dances with Wolves, The Silence of the Lambs (an upcoming Boo Factor installment), Home Alone, Pulp Fiction, The Matrix, Independence Day, The Lion King, and Pretty Woman.

Now, let’s shift specifically to 1996. What do I remember about that year?

The city of Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, and amidst all of the swimming, gymnastics, and track and field, Eric Robert Rudolph killed two people and injured over a hundred more when he attacked Centennial Olympic Park with homemade pipe bombs filled with shrapnel.

Despite the tragedy in Atlanta, the United States won 44 gold medals, with a grand total of 101 medals – more than any other country.

What else?  Television programs, of course!

Today, let’s take a look back at some of the great crime dramas of 1996.

Nash Bridges (1996-2001)

Nash Bridges follows two of San Francisco’s elite investigators:  Nash Bridges (Don Johnson) and Joe Dominguez (Cheech Marin).   Bridges has a photographic memory, and battles the difficulties of living with his aging father (James Gammon) and daughter (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe).   As far as the police work, Nash and Dominguez team with Harvey Leek, a Grateful Dead fan (known as a “Dead-Head), and  Evan Cortez, Nash’s daughter’s eventual fiancé.

A Don Johnson television show wouldn’t be complete without his character driving a super-charged sports car, and of course, Nash drove a 1971 Barracuda convertible.

Fun Fact: Johnson’s Miami Vice co-star, Philip Michael Thomas, and Marin’s cinematic co-star, Tommy Chong, guest-starred in a 1997 episode, “Wild Card.”

NYPD Blue (1993-2005)

NYPD Blue aired over a decade on television, a feat that’s rarely accomplished anymore.  Perhaps the series lasted because of the story-telling, or perhaps it was because of the fabulous characters.  I’m going with characters.

Who will ever forget New York City Detective Andy Sipowicz, played by the great Dennis Franz?  Sipowicz may have been plagued by the interchanging partners throughout the seasons (John Kelly played by David Caruso, Bobby Simone played by Jimmy Smits, Danny Sorenson played by Rick Schroder, and John Clark, Jr. played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar), but audiences still tuned in on a weekly basis because they loved Andy and his relationships, something that was very difficult for him.

Sipowicz managed to be one of the most intense detectives on the squad, maybe even in television history, while also raising his young son alone following his wife’s death.

Over the years, the precinct consisted of other fine detectives and district attorneys played by Gordon Clapp, Amy Brenneman, Nicholas Turturro, Garcelle Beauvais, Henry Simmons, Charlotte Ross, James McDaniel, Currie Graham, Esai Morales, and Dana Delaney to name a few.  Undoubtedly, after more than ten years on the tele, NYPD Blue survived because of its spectacular ensemble cast with Dennis Franz taking the lead.

Law & Order (1990-2010)

“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”

Sound familiar? Television viewers heard this narration by Steven Zirnkilton for twenty years on NBC during the opening credits of Law & Order.

Reigning as television royalty for two decades, Law & Order ranks as one of the best police procedural and legal dramas in television history.  The series, now turned into a franchise, has spawned four spinoffs: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, and Law & Order: LA.

The format of Law & Order focused the first thirty minutes of the hour-long program on the detectives solving the crime, and the final thirty minutes on the district attorneys taking their case to court.  Many television and big screen greats have called Law & Order their home at one time or another, including Chris Noth, Richard Brooks, Jerry Orbach, S. Epatha Merkerson, Benjamin Bratt, Jill Hennessy, Sam Waterston, Jesse L. Martin, Angie Harmon, Dianne Wiest, Fred Thompson, Jeremy Sisto, Dennis Farina, and Anthony Anderson.

Abruptly cancelled in 2010, the Law & Order fans can only hope that some network out there in the television universe will one day grant the closure the dedicated fans deserve, with maybe a two-hour made for television movie?

Profiler (1996-2000)

Perhaps the success of Profiler was due to the fact that Dr. Samantha Waters (Ally Walker) was one of the first forensic psychologists on network television.  Up to this point, viewers met a ton of cops, detectives, and private investigators on their favorite TV shows, but Profiler introduced a team of FBI agents that focused on criminal behaviors to find their suspects.

Samantha is haunted throughout the series by “Jack of all Trades”, the serial killer who took the life of her husband.  Her team consists of a detective (Julian McMahon), a computer hacker (Peter Frechette), and a forensic pathologist (Roma Maffia), and is led by Sam’s longtime friend and mentor (played by the great, Robert Davi).

Ally Walker’s character eventually retired, and Jamie Luner joined the cast as a new forensic psychologist in the fourth and final season of the show.

Fun Fact Trivia – What television hit did Julian McMahon and Roma Maffia star in, together again, from 2003-2010?

What do you remember from the 1990s – the politics, the entertainment, or the technology?  What are some of your favorite crime shows from the ‘90s? Did you enjoy any of these 1996 television series? I’d love to hear from you!

Stop by #teletuesday in Twitter so we can chat about these shows and many more!

Friday FaBOOolousness – The “Boo” Factor

Who doesn’t like scary movies?  Jumping in their seats?  Covering their eyes?

 

Growing up in the 1980s, I remember staying up late with my girlfriends and watching Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween.  Here we are twenty years later, and we still have late-night watch-a-thons at least once a year and we watch those very same movies.  A few of the sequels lost the original’s “Boo” factor, but that didn’t stop us from catching as many as possible.  Maybe we simply like nostalgia, or maybe we simply love a great scary movie!

 

The scary movie genre fell a bit silent in the early 1990s, but in December of 1996, a new era began with the screenplay magnificence of Kevin Williamson, and the directing brilliance of Wes Craven with Scream.

The intensity of Scream opened immediately with Drew Barrymore’s scene, and continued throughout the entire movie – the piercing ring of the telephone, the horrifying sound of the digitized voice, the mystery behind the long, black cloak, and that creepy mask.

The mask — That Ghostface mask still frightens me to this very day.  I absolutely love Halloween, and opening the door to see all the creative children; but not Ghostface!  I have to force a smile while I hesitantly place yummy candy in Ghostface’s pillow case.  Anyone else notice that?  Ghostface always has a pillow case at Halloween, not a jack-o-lantern — why a pillow case?  What’s in the pillow case?  Would I be so afraid of that pillow case if Ghostface wasn’t so spooky?

What’s another of the most impressive aspects of Scream?  The whodunit mystery — Billy did it!  No, Principal Himbry did it!  No, is Gale doing it?  No, maybe it’s Cotton? It’s Randy!  No, who is the killer?  It’s Billy!  Oh, and Stu?  And, cue the Ah-Ha moment — Brilliant!

Who remembers Randy’s rules?

1) Never have sex

2) Never drink or do drugs

3) Never, ever say “I’ll be right back”

Having watched scary movie after scary movie, I absolutely loved the obvious, satirical, slap-in-the-face cliché moments in Scream.  Combining the terror of the anticipation of Ghostface with the laugh-out-loud comedy, Scream left its mark in movie FaBOOolousness.

Sequels usually don’t carry the same power as the originals; however, Scream 2 sure didn’t fail Scream in terms of the whodunitmystery.  It’s definitely not Billy & Stu….or is it?  Is it Gale?  No, is it Randy?  No, it’s Derek.  Nope!  It is…. and Scream 3, the only installment not written by Kevin Williamson, took a different approach.  While it wasn’t nearly as successful with the whodunitmystery, I still had the killer pegged wrong.

Scream paved the way for scary movies, and luckily, today the scary movie industry is still going strong.  Now, here’s to you, Scream 4:  Sidney’s back, Dewey’s back, and Gale’s back.  I can’t wait!  We’re going Saturday…are you?

What’s your favorite scary movie & why?  I’d love to hear from you!

My First Post

For as long as I can remember, I’ve nearly centered my social life around the nightly television schedule.  As a small girl, I vividly remember rushing home from Friday night high school football games to watch Miami Vice.  Not the normal play-date for an eight-year old.    In high school, I looked forward to Thursday night when my parents were out and I had the TV to myself.  To this day, Thursday is still my favorite day of the week because of the television lineup in the 90s.  Plus, Thursday means only one more day until the weekend.  In college, I made my friends wait until the series finale of 90210 wrapped before I’d join them at our favorite bar, and then asked them to wait longer so I could repaint my face from all the crying.  I have the best girl friends a woman could ask for – love you, you know who you are. 

The past decade, I worked in a very crazy environment serving as a multi-business owner’s Executive Assistant.  He was always out of the office leaving me behind to handle all the b-s.  Don’t get me wrong, I adored working for him but I wasn’t really a fan of all my co-workers.  Come six o’clock, I used television as my outlet to relieve my stress.  Maybe it’s not the healthiest habit but definitely enjoyable.

Today, I stay home and write fiction not leaving much time for my beloved pastime.  My minor case of OCD (well, I say minor but my friends and family insist I have more of a problem than I recognize) nags at me because I have over 130 recordings on my DVR, but I’m battling those demons one day at a time.  For the first time in my life, I’ve found something I enjoy more that curling up on the couch with my blanket and remote control: writing. 

Last month, I attended DFWCon and I can honestly say it’s the best investment that I’ve made in a long time.  At the conference, I signed up for a Social Media Workshop led by the great Kristen Lamb.  Until then I didn’t Facebook, Tweet, or Blog.  I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with long-lost friends via FB and this week, I successfully launched my new twitter account: @Tiffany_A_White.  I’ve met some wonderful writers’ online suffering through the same struggles I battle daily and it helps to know that I’m not alone.    

I dedicate my inaugural blog to Kristen and my fellow classmates.  Thank you for the inspiration!

Kristen Lamb – http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/

Damian Trasler – http://dtrasler.com/

Amy Shojai – http://amyshojai.com/

Danielle Meitiv – http://daniellemeitiv.com/

Pamela Mason – http://www.writermason.blogspot.com/

Jen Greyson – http://www.thesurvivalmama.com/

Shellie Sakai – http://shelliesakai.wordpress.com/

Jenny Hansen – http://jennyhansenauthor.wordpress.com/

PJ Kaiser – http://pjkaiser.com/

Grace H. Lewis – http://sweetdreamsflyingmachines.wordpress.com/

Michele Blaker – http://micheleblaker.wordpress.com/

Tune in Tuesday for my first edition of Tiffany’s Tele-Tuesday!  Please feel free to leave comments.  I would love to hear from you!

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