Sunday, 30 August 2009
Embrace the Cheese
My Sunday confession: I purchased the season one DVDs for 7th Heaven this week. Yes, I handed over 27 of my hard-earned dollars for twenty two episodes of pure American cheese.
7th Heaven was like a train wreck. It was awful, just awful, and yet I would catch myself watching anyway. The terrible acting, the anvilicious plots, the heavy-handed "morals" such as spying on your children is good parenting, half a beer is equivalent to heroin addiction, and the 'b-word' is an affront to God himself.
The show was never as popular here as it was in the US. Too American, too Christian, too earnest. It was only shown on TV here for the same reason that most bad shows are shown here: it was purchased as a package deal along with more desirable shows, and then stuck on during the non-ratings period. First it was the early afternoon replacement to PG-rated Oprah during school holidays when TV had to be G rated/kid safe all day, then it was stuck on at 6:30 Saturday during the non-football months. We never made it through a full season before football returned, and we were perpetually behind America. Eventually disappeared altogether before resurfacing years later on cable TV. Whenever I spot it on Foxtel it is always the late-season schlock with those horrible Schultz brothers, the less talented Duff sister, and all varieties of non-talent young actors and actresses with old fashioned names like Margaret and Joan spouting lines that no real person would say.
For all its plain awfulness, I found myself heading over to the DVD shop to see if they had any copies, and went home with season one in hand.
I watched all the episodes in a week. Best fun I had in a long time.
There are many reasons for me to love it, including the so-bad-its-good thing. But season one was much less horrible than the coming seasons when the focus shifted off the family and onto even more annoying peripheral characters. Ruthie was kind of cute and not so horribly precocious. The family members seemed to like and care for each other. The children were slightly rebellious and not so preachy, there was foreshadowing, and continuity, and friends that were featured for more than one episode. It was corny, but it knew it was corny.
More importantly, there was something in the show that reminded me of something I can hardly even describe. I grew in a fairly typical family: parents, 2 kids. My parents immigrated with nothing and worked very hard throughout my entire childhood, only really finding stability as I reached my early teens. My sister and I hated each other violently until we reached ages where we could effectively avoid seeing each other. Most of my childhood memories are just of me, alone, taking care of myself. Getting myself ready for school, walking to school alone, coming home alone, taking care of myself. Even when my parents came home they were busy: my mother studied for her Masters in the evening, my father usually worked a second job. There were no family board games or even shared time on the couch together watching TV.
I guess that is why I associate a working life- even my own which I enjoy- with a sense of drudgery. Day in, day out, no time for life while you work. There was no family life while there was a work life. That is, come Christmastime. In the second or third week of December my parents would start taking annual leave, and school would be coming to a close. Finally, my house came alive. There was someone there in the morning, and sometimes we even had a special cooked breakfast before school. There was someone to come home to, and usually family activities waiting. Walks to the park, late night shopping trips, planning recipes for Christmas Day itself. We no longer had anywhere to go, or anyone to be with. We were just us, together.
Season one of 7th Heaven is like a big, cheesey hug.