HONEY, I'M HOME! by Gerard Jones

HONEY, I'M HOME!

Selling Sitcoms, Buying the American Dream

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An I Love Lucy to Cheers run-through of sitcom as both product and ``foggy'' mirror of our corporate culture, by the coauthor of The Beaver Papers and The Comic Book Heroes (neither reviewed). Jones considers situation comedies over the past four decades against a broad-brushed cultural setting, arguing that sitcom ``ideals''--particularly the ``consensual solution''--are those ``on which modern bureaucratic business and government are founded.'' ``The most successful,'' he claims, possess ``a particularly shrewd insight into the concerns of the vast American public.'' Jones champions the pioneering 1951 Lucy and its ``theater of battle'' (``the mad housewife,'' he says, ``never favored the `corporate' resolutions''), and rails against the artificial, sugary, suburban moral lesson of Father Knows Best. That show and some of its many imitators (e.g., Bachelor Father, Leave it to Beaver, and The Dick Van Dyke Show) he calls ``strangely seductive horrors,'' ``products of profound national confusion masquerading as confidence.'' As Jones analyzes the premises and plots of Dobie Gillis, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, Maude, etc., he also offers such interesting TV facts as that, in both 1968 and 1969, the networks passed up All in the Family--which, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, abandoned ``postwar optimism.'' Jones is at his best when homing in on what makes particular shows and characters tick--pinpointing The Honeymooners' ``venom of a frustrated Brooklyn blue-collar marriage,'' or Leave It To Beaver's ``funniest and sharpest creation'': the ``pathetically ridiculous'' Eddie Haskell. But the author is less convincing when he sees ``the rebellious currents....hinted at'' by Eddie as forerunners to SDS and a ``nascent women's liberation movement.'' In early 1991, Jones notes, Cheers, that clubhouse ``for the alienated,'' still held its own against the ``feel-good'' Cosby show. Competent but uneven, and perhaps overly demanding of the most popular form of American TV as sociological oracle. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-8021-1308-7
Page count: 278pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1991