I turned nine in 1972. The early seventies were a traumatic time for my family, so I’ve never been particularly nostalgic about those years. The fashions, decor, and hairstyles were mostly awful. Brown, orange, and avocado are still my least favorite colors. With some trepidation, I checked out the pilot to new ABC sitcom The Kids Are Alright. I’m happy to say, I really love this show and encourage everyone to check it out.
The Kids Are Alright is a 1965 song by The Who, as well as the 1979 documentary that followed. Set in the summer of 1972, the sitcom is about a working class Irish-Catholic family with 8 boys. Show creator Tim Doyle narrates, and the series is centered on middle boy Timmy Cleary (Jack Gore), a redhead with dreams of stardom. All the boys are distinct enough that, after only three episodes, I have a grasp of their personalities.
The oldest son is Lawrence (Sam Straley), a long-haired liberal soon-to-be ex-seminarian. Eddie (Caleb Foote) gets no respect at the second oldest, and he’s usually fighting Frank (Sawyer Barth), an eavesdropping tattletale. Joey (Christopher Paul Richards) is precocious, cunning, and probably amoral; an old soul in an adolescent body with raging hormones. Sweet, smart William (Andy Walken) is a bookworm and the kid I relate to the most. Little Pat (Santino Barnard), in glasses, is timid with a questionable grasp on reality. Baby Andy (Sawyer and Jax Laucius)…well, hopefully we’ll be with the Cleary family long enough for him to walk and talk.
Mary McCormack plays the mom to perfection. Peggy Cleary is tough, acerbic, and an expert at economizing. Dad Mike (Michael Cudlitz) works for a defense contractor and literally brings home the bacon; he’s in charge of the grocery shopping. He wants better things for his boys, even if that doesn’t include fresh vegetables.
The seventies references are fun for us older viewers. These include The Partridge Family, Sonny & Cher, Bob Hope TV specials, the Nixon administration, grape and lettuce boycotts, film developing, and Jiffy Pop. I won’t mind if the heavier stuff from that summer is left out, like the Munich Olympics massacre. So far, the older boys aren’t fretting about the draft versus college, and that’s fine with me.
William is usually reading a book, and he’s clearly a fan of science fiction. I enjoy checking out the titles.
Are there enough people who remember the seventies to keep this show on the air? I have a friend in his 30s who says, “It’s SO GOOD.” I guess you don’t have to understand all the references. Besides, we have Google now. ABC has ordered more episodes, according to Tim Doyle on Twitter, so that’s encouraging. Hopefully The Kids Are Alright will be around long enough for the Bicentennial, dittos pants, satin jackets, clackers, pop rocks, pet rocks, Roots, A Chorus Line, and Star Wars. Oh, geez, even disco.
You can watch the first three episodes streaming online, and new episodes air on Tuesday nights at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.