Monday, May 22, 2006

Does "Medium" Show the Best Marriage on Television?

The Washington Post had a story this week on the upcoming television season, which is almost devoid of functional families. I have noticed that there have been almost no competent fathers on television in the past decade, and one of them, Steven Camden on "Seventh Heaven," wrapped up the series last week (though another network may bring them back one more time).

The Gruntleds watch quite a range of shows, driven in part by the disparate interests of the kids as well as the parents. Still, I may have missed a few good family portrayals. But a look at the list of most popular shows reveals just about zero strong marriages.

My nominee for the best marriage on television: the DuBoises of "Medium." The main gimmick of the show is that Alison DuBois can communicate with the dead. The best part of the show, from my perspective, is the portrayal of their marriage and the ordinary travails of a two-career couple raising three kids. Even if one of the careers involves ghosts.

I would welcome other nominees for strong marriages on television today. And let me say that I don't think the Sopranos are anyone's role models.

11 comments:

Brendan said...

Keith from UPN's Veronica Mars is a competent single father, if not exactly part of a functional family.

Brendan said...

Oh, and yes, Seventh Heaven will return (along with Veronica Mars) as part of new network The CW in the fall.

KLG said...

We've followed The West Wing for the past seven years (sad to see it go), and have always enjoyed the healthy give and take between the Bartlets, and most recently between the Santos' - both the 'strong important dad' and the mom who is not one whit impressed by his power or position.

Gruntled said...

I will have a look at "Veronica Mars" if CW is picked up by our cable company in the fall. Still, a single dad, not matter how competent, is not really the marriage model I was looking for.

I, too, have enjoyed the Bartlet's marriage, though their relationship with their children is clearly dysfunctional. The Santoses, on the other hand, have a great marriage and a great relationship with their kids. Naturally, that show ended.

Ed McLeod said...

Call me crazy, but the best marriage on TV might be Marge and Homer Simpson. It is built largely on Marge's patience and capacity to forgive (the basis for all good relationships), they are in church regularly, though Homer would rather be somewhere else, they have endured the challenges placed before them by a very willful child, and there is no question that they love and appreciate each other. They get my vote.

Gruntled said...

Ed, I am afraid I will have to call you crazy. Homer Simpson is the poster boy for the incompetent TV father. He is almost completely inconsiderate as a husband, and usually incompetent when he is trying to be considerate. Marge is a good wife, but I don't think they have a good marriage.

Paul Jolly said...

Gotta disagree with you on the Simpson Gruntled. Marge and Homer genuinely love each other and care about one another. Sometimes Homer doesn’t care as much about Marge and hi-jinks ensue, but by the end Homer always realizes that Marge and the kids really are the most important thing in his life.

As posted they are in church every Sunday, Homer maintains steady employment (good enough that Marge can stay home with Maggie), they’ve been married for a long time (since high school), and they have a moderately healthy sex life. The only real issue is that Homer is stupid. Not a bad father, just really, really dumb.

Jim said...

I think there are two different questions here. Is Homer a competent father? And, Do the Simpson's have a good marriage?

They might have a good marriage. They certainly love each other, and have stayed together through many crises. Is that enough to qualify as a "good" marriage? Homer seldom shows any respect for his wife until the last five minutes of every episode, when he suddenly realizes that she means everything to him and he's terribly sorry about everything he did wrong this week, and last week, and the week before, etc. Not exactly an equal partnership in my book.

But is he a competent father? I don't know exactly how we are going to define competent, but it seems hard to forge a definition which can include someone who frequently forgets his children's names, or even how many of them he has. The image of Homer's hands wrapped around Bart's throat is a cultural icon. It's true that he loves his kids. He even shows it once in a while. But almost every week, the children are placed in physical or financial jeopardy because of a foolish, selfish choice made by Homer.

I love the show. I think it's a more honest look at the typical American family (allowing for comical exaggeration) than Leave it to Beaver ever was. But I don't think I could call either the marriage or the fathering "good".

My vote would go to Joan of Arcadia, but it was cancelled.

Gruntled said...

Thanks for reminding me of "Joan of Arcadia." I wish some other network would pick that one up, at least for one more season, to complete the story. They did have a good marriage, and were competent parents.

cynthia m. said...

How about the dad on the UPN's "Everybody Hates Chris"? The show is based upon Chris Rock's childhood in Brooklyn in the 80s....

Gruntled said...

I have not seen the "Everybody Hates Chris," though it was the talk of the Smartmarriage list when if first came out. Wasn't it cancelled.