Pop Culture
Pop Culture: Articles for the Scripps Howard News Service & "Seen, Heard, Said"

Why the top-365-songs list isn't a stupid idea

Actors sink their teeth into vampire roles

Gregory Corso: My encounter with a Beat legend

Golden Globes: Sleazy and proud of it

In the offing, Clinton continent looms

"NYPD Blue" opener: The misery continues

 New movie genre: Reclusive authors anonymous

"West Wing," "Ally," et al.: Words, words, words

When TV shows outstay their welcome

Film critics dig their own graves with "Angels" review

Great Robert Altman films you never
heard of

Famous folk, next week in the arts, show business briefs

"Time regained": Proust in the multiplex

Glitterati is dead, long live Popfocus

Carl Barks: The man who put the ducks in Duckburg

"Almost Famous": Lester Bangs rises from the dead

Liz Hurley wins in war of words with Jane mag

Douglas poses with Zeta-Jones, and baby-makes three

Weddings that aren't: Douglas, Zeta-Jones, Madonna, Ritchie

The Emmy War: A half-century of coast-to-coast feuding

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the Iglesias odds

It's raining books by and about Trumps

What's in a mane? Blond woman in the news

Liz Hurley denies dissing ex-beau

Rock Hall of Infamy: Anti-heroes from Elvis to Eminem

Barbra tix bankrupt fans

Laurels for Kathie Lee to rest on

Hillary "In bed" with De Niro, Cruise, Kidman

How "Sopranos," "West Wing" will divvy up awards

This just in: Donald Trump is not a dope

Walter Matthau: A rumpled old dog in the heart of the city

Sampras to take a stroke at wedding bells

Who wants to host "Monday Night Football"?

Queen rewards Tina Brown for demoralizing American readers

How the Korean War cane to TV land 20 years late

Ivanka Trump: From catwalk to commencement line

Lester Bangs: The troublesome punk who wouldn't die

Rags clash over Ted Turner "romance"

With straight face, Trump deems Marla's move "tacky"

"Friends" re-up for another season of top ratings, top money

Madonna in denial, and rightly so

"Suburbia": The continental subdivide

Howard Stern, Sly Stallone in bizarre, apocryphal triangle

Easter video viewing: "Spartacus" to "Harvey"

Billy’s in the news: Bob, Joel in love but not with other

"Charles's Angels" movie: Dispiriting news for old-time fans

Innovative career move for 'NYPD Blue' co-star

Top model: Why I gave oldish rocker husband the heave-ho

Unpleasantville: The awful truth about old-time TV families

Tina Brown held captive in desert by demanding children

Anybody's Oscar: Unusually suspenseful awards show looms

Oscar telecast: Looking for a few good hosts

"Lambs," "Beauty": Oscar's love affair with unacceptable behavior

Brad Pitt, Oscar to be in same room at same time

Letterman bites guest-host bullet: Andrew "Dice" Clay, call your agent

Seinfeld eyes East Hampton manse: Where's the welcome wagon?

"Mod Squad" Immortal dishes couple du jour

Brad Pitt's second thoughts about Oscar

Mike McCurry praises "West Wing": It's not entirely demeaning,,,"

Memo to "Hannibal" producers: Get Najimy while the getting's good

Don't Invite Gwyneth and Oscar to the same party

True or false: Douglas, Zeta-Jones don't even know each other

Ex-Clinton honcho linked to ex-"Cheers" costar

Third party cited in Trump-Knauss breakup

 Gossip queen goes to bat for Talk mag

20th century's No. 1 hit: "Satisfaction" hits the spot

Statement: Spice girl's marital problems insoluble

Charlie Brown, Pogo and me

From Howdy to Charlie Brown, we hate to say goodbye

The Beatle George: While his guitar gently weeps

Jodie Foster's people in mild tiff with CBS

A Peanuts trivia Q&A

Publicist: Boyle still joined at hip

There's video in your future and future in your video

"The future is now": Hit rewind

Whitney Houston presides over confluence of talent

Jim Carrey's flack earns A "D," Cher's A "B-minus"

Geraldo: bye-bye, doghouse

Michael Douglas does nothing much, reporters go wild

Ricky Martin on Menudo: Look back in anger

How to outsmart Halloween crowds at the video store

Tom Cruise puts himself in harm's way, only not really

1800-1900: Steaming towards revolution

1700-1800: Liberty, equality and bloodshed

1600-1700: The earth moves; North America is settled

Trump mulls travel plans, from altar to White House

"Faces of Impressionism" Time machine made of canvas, paint

Major quakes aren't personal unless they happen to you

Brad Pitt gracious about character assassination

Director insists Harrison Ford is not a brainless hulk

Costner, Willis, Douglas. Branagh, Sting_ in that order

Streisand: Color her ready to plug her new album

Julia and Benjamin's rings devoid of significance, flack says

Literary mud wrestling, featuring Geri and The Spice Girls

Urgent news: Ford to replace Gibson on "GMA" eventually

She married a monster from outer space

Never mind Godzilla VS. Mothra, Here's Trump VS. Cronkite

Spurned by Pitt, Redford pays court to Damon

Celebrity coyness is bustin' out all over

"Detroit Rock City": Kiss of death

Talk is cheap? Not with Tina Brown at the helm

The Beats: Remembered, Lionized and Unread

Real estate beat, starring Woody Allen and Donald Trump

Mood Music, or how we learned to stop worrying

Sex in the cinema: From "Last Tango" to "Eyes Wide Shut"

Two easy steps to looking exactly like Ricky Martin

Close encounters of the Muppet kind

Upcoming Brad Pitt movie not garbage, insiders say

Kathie Lee's eyewear excites Islanders' ire

Back to the future, continued

"Wild Wild West": Buck Rogers in the 19th century

Sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein: Fun, Fun, Fun

An expert's verdict:" Austin Powers" is pretty neat

Click here for pointless celebrity gossip

P. Dempsey Tabler of the jungle: The many faces of Tarzan

Kirk Douglas' Ex tells all about Errol Flynn fling

New twist in TV programming: Ax profitable shows

Private jet fees spell the end for another celebrity union

Killer serials: "Flash," "Buck" and a boy named George Lucas

Top nonfiction books: A message from two old men

Celebrity Dream dreams: Monica, Donald, Barbara, Georgette

Two divas, publicist form bizarre show-biz triangle

Johnny Cash tribute: Ring of fire, ring of friends

Streisand employee really upset about rumors

Grande Dame Eyes MGM Grand Gig

Secretive celebs? Not by a long shot

NBC honcho bristles at notion that Brokaw is not a saint

Barbara Walters not keen on daily dose of Monica

"Seen, Heard, Said"

David Letterman, Donald Trump, Eddie Murphy, Elton John

Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Prince Charles, Maj, Ronald Ferguson, Fergie, Miranda Richardson, Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, Axl Rose, Stephanie Seymour

March 28, 2000

Unpleasantville: The awful truth about old-time TV families

By ROGER ANDERSON Scripps Howard News Service

They live in grinding squalor, unable even to afford a refrigerator and barely making the rent each month. He is grossly overweight and lies obsessively to his wife, forever hatching shady plans with his upstairs pal to make a million dollars - plans that always blow up in his face.

He often threatens his wife with physical violence.

We're obviously talking about one of those men on one of those alarming new TV sitcoms, right? Shows where the American family is held up as a kind of germ smear in which every sort of sickness thrives - "The Simpsons," "Malcolm In the Middle," or, a few years back, "Married ... With Children." Right?

Wrong. We're talking "The Honeymooners," one of the most beloved relics of TV's first golden age, often cited as an example of pre-Vietnam War innocence and optimism, like "Leave it to Beaver" and "The Andy Griffith Show."

Critics and pundits make much of the recent TV trend toward showing the American family - warts and all - in programs like the new "Titus," in which a comedian reminisces about his drunken, intimidating father, and 'Malcolm," in which the eternal TV Mom is presented as an overbearing, neurotic harridan whose family lives in fear of her.

Over against these latter-day examples of family, psychopathology pundits hold up your "Beavers," your "Donna Reeds," your "Fathers Know Best" and other programs in which the family, they say, was extolled and idealized.

Maybe in some cases. But if you spend any time looking back into the kinescope past, you'll discern some family dynamics that were never anything to write home about.


While Ralph Kramden and his wife, Alice, are eking out a childless New York existence one notch above poverty level, across town a nightclub performer and his delusional wife are having their own problems.

An interracial couple, they apparently have a hard time forming social bonds. The only friends they have are completely unsuitable - their elderly landlord and his dowdy wife. All the four of them do together is play cards, gossip and engage in petty feuds.

The performer's wife, exceedingly dissatisfied with her lot as a hausfrau, is always trying to break into show business despite her manifest lack of talent. These efforts necessitate that she lie to her husband constantly. She vents her frustrations and resentments by mocking his foreign accent; he treats her as though she were a mentally retarded child.


We bid Lucy and Ricky Ricardo adieu and travel from Manhattan to Anytown, U.S.A., where we find a middle-aged couple and their two rapidly growing boys.

Everything looks pretty idyllic here - the boys do well in school, the younger son plays the guitar, the mom is capable and sane, and dinner is always on time.

The problem is Dad. Perhaps older than he looks at first glance, he seems to have retired early - at least, he's always hanging around the house with nothing much to do. He appears to be very much at loose ends. Also, he - like Ralph and Lucy - is always getting involved in harebrained schemes that don't work out.

But the biggest problem is his obvious lack of self-esteem. Many of his schemes are designed to win the respect of his family, which he seems to feel is lacking. At the end of each show it is borne in upon him that his wife and sons love him no matter how lame he is, but the next week he's right back acting out on the same old insecurities.


What's that again? Well, OK, it's not about an unmarried man raising his out-of-wedlock child - it's about an unmarried man raising his deceased relative's perfectly legitimate orphan daughter. But he's not much of a role model for the poor girl, always gadding from one attractive lady to another, and with a positive phobia for commitment of any kind.


You know perfectly well what it means to be a handsome, successful fashion photographer, and this show bears that out.

With scarcely a thought for the impression he'd making on the nephew who lives with him, the lensman spends every episode dealing with a dizzying array of well-favored women, the unmistakable implication being that he enjoys sexual relations with every single one of them.

Meantime, his homely Gal Friday carries a torch for him while doing all the dirty work his carefree bachelor life requires.


Here, the nephew from "Love That Bob" turns up as a 25-year ­old high school student (he looks at least that old) who obsesses out loud before a hallucinatory audience about the trouble he has forming connections with girls.

Small wonder that his father, proprietor of a grocery store, is perpetually at his wit's end with frustration and anger over the boy's aimless, irresponsible ways, to say nothing of the company he keeps - a scruffy beatnik, the only bearded, 35-year-old high school student in America, with a marked aversion to gainful occupation in any form.

Indeed, the father is so disturbed by his son's lack of character that he often talks to himself out loud about killing him.


But as we fly over the hills to rural Mayberry, we've finally come home - or, at least, so it appears. What could be healthier, mentally and socially? Dad is a widowed sheriff living with his kitchen-savvy aunt and his adorable young son, who will likely go far in the movie business. The barber and other townsfolk are always ready to lend moral support in an emergency.

But wait. Really, the entire milieu might have been crafted by William Faulkner or some other Gothic Southerner, not so much because of town drunk Otis, whose alcohol addiction is so incorrigible that he is permanently assigned a cell at the jallhouse, but because of Dad's cousin.

What's wrong with this guy? Is it a glandular disease, or an anxiety disorder, or both?

He imagines himself a legendary police officer as opposed to what he is, a lowly deputy sheriff who is only issued one bullet at a time and must carry it in his shirt pocket and whose job clearly is the fruit of nepotism. His dreams of grandiosity are almost frightening in their persistence and intensity. Best thing will be never to leave him alone with the aunt and the boy. You never know when he's going to snap.

Roger Anderson is arts and entertainment editor at Scripps Howard News Service.

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