Tag Archives: sitcom

The Kids Are Alright: Peggy’s Day Out

S01E4

William (Andy Walken) reading science fiction

The Secret of Quaytar by J. Eldon Gutierrez with William (Andy Walken) and Frank (Sawyer Barth)

William (Andy Walken) reads The Secret of Quaytar by J. Eldon Gutierrez to Frank (Sawyer Barth)

In the fourth episode of The Kids Are Alright, Eddie and his no-longer-secret girlfriend Wendi take center stage, as they cope with the fallout of a broken bottle of Detroit’s finest cold duck. Timmy gets roped into Pat’s odd idea of fun, and in a parallel story, mom Peggy tests Wendi’s loyalty with a trip to a fancy beauty salon. William has a captive audience reading his latest sci fi to Frank. All the boys (and dad Mike) had good moments in the episode, and even baby Andy gets a great reaction shot.

Best seventies reference: dad Mike turns on the TV during a report about the Watergate hearings. I well remember how much daytime television was preempted for those endless hearings. As a kid I couldn’t make understand any of it, so mostly I just resented not being able to watch regular TV. Fortunately a neighbor introduced me to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys that summer.

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The Kids Are Alright

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.

Dune by Frank Herbert

High Vacuum by Charles Eric Maine

Anybody’s guess!

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.

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