Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Cosby Show

I've been watching The Cosby Show the last few days and the difference between the recent and current crop of family sitcoms is a giant trench of quality. The Cosby Show holds up even if the series had its debut in the early '80s. Do you think anyone will remember Full House or Family Matters or Home Improvement in another ten years? I really think they won't.

But the biggest difference I've seen with The Cosby Show -- and this is a perspective that almost 14 years of marriage and 5 kids have provided -- is that the father, Cliff Huxtable, is no wimp. He's not afraid of disciplining his children. And while he exhibits a certain amount of playfulness with and understanding for his children, he's also not afraid to smack them back into line (in the figurative sense, because he doesn't actually beat any of the kids). He cares about his kids. He wants them to grow up and be successful -- not only with a career but as responsible human beings.

In the very first episode, his son explains why he "just wants to be regular people" in a long speech to defend his poor grades and why he doesn't actually need to try that hard. The audience claps in reaction -- as if the kid has upstaged and out-witted his father.

"Theo," Cliff says, briefest of pauses, "That is the DUMBEST thing I have ever heard!"

Cliff Huxtable is no dummy. Can the same be said of Carl Winslow, Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, Danny Tanner (and the insipid Joey and Uncle Jesse), or hell even the dad from ALF, Willie Tanner? No. These other TV dads are simply brow beaten and continually out-witted by the children they're supposed to be raising. (And in one case, by his children and an alien.) Creating a strong father role wouldn't float on television today for the simple reason that smart-ass kids are the norm and parental guidance goes about as far as instructing their kids not to smoke marijuana in the house because for some reason it seems that a lot of parents today would rather be friends with their kids rather than an authority with the responsibility of getting their kids to a stage in their life where (hopefully) they use the life lessons you've taught them to take care of themselves. And not only them, but their spouse, kids, friends, co-workers, humanity at large, etc. Give them the tools; teach them how to use them!

It's astounding to me that it was re-watching a 1980's sitcom that got me on this rant.

And Mom and Dad, thanks! Raising kids is rough business and that's not something I understood when I was growing up. But now that I am where I am, I think I'm beginning to understand it.

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