Family Movie Night
By Karyn Bowman
When Mary Tyler Moore died a few weeks ago, it made me want to see videos of The Dick Van Dyke Show.
It was a show I watched over and over again in reruns as a kid. I loved how Rob and Laura interacted. As a couple it appeared that they really loved each other. They were graceful together even while trying to apear to be clumsey. Some of their fights felt real even though the show would only depict these two sleeping in twin beds. Couple who don’t like each other sleep in twin beds, not a couple who still kiss and touch and are happy to be together. Rob and Laura taught me what to expect of life as someone who was socially mobile, a lesson I did not realize I was learning at the time.
I found a DVD collection of the show through the library catalog and order it so I could once again hear their laughter and fights. I have fond memories of them singing and dancing and destroying family heirloom jewelry. I loved the haunted cabin episode. From lovable goofy neighbors to co-workers who don’t always get along to a family that sometimes expect unreasonable things there is never a dull moment. It is a picture of the 1960s that we enjoy looking at again and again.
It makes me think about Mad Men, the TV show that lasted on the AMC network for seven seasons. The setting of the show began in 1960 in New York City at a premier ad agency. Everything feels glamorous and exciting. And it should as we are seeing this world through the eyes of Peggy who is entering this thrilling world. She is the secretary to the most fascinating and success ad man in the business.
But under that veneer is something darker. Our lead hero is Don Draper, a man with a dark secret. But he is driven to sucess, driven to be more than he was ever expected to become. His life is complete with a beautiful wife, three kids, and the lifestyle of a professional man of that age complete with infidelity, alcoholism, and an incredible amount of cigarette smoking.
This is not the happy world of the Petries. Co-workers are fierce competitors willing to do anything to succeed. Wives are not happy partners. And there always seems to be someone digging a little deeper than anyone wants for the secrets to a past well hidden.
Both shows are a window to a world that is far behind us. The Dick Van Dyke Show was made in the moment of the 1960s, choosing to show what we thought was the best parts of the era. It also pushed boundaries of what women wore and what black people ‘looked like.’ Mad Men, on the other hand, is a reflection on that age. It features the beautiful fashions and designs of the era along with the larger than life characters of the ad world. But you can’t get away from the inherent social ills of the day – of sexism and classism. Of the change from Camelot in the White House to the eventual counter-culture of the late 1960s.
All of it, that is both shows, make for DVD watching that is fascinating.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.