28 December 2012


Friday Night Sitcom: Charles in Charge

Welcome to another Friday Night live blog! I don't have a movie for you, but I do have a great sitcom episode! I hope you brought the popcorn . . . =)

0:04 They kept this theme song and the facade of the house for all five seasons! It's too bad they couldn't have kept the cast, but let me not get into that rant right now.
1:11 I can't be the only one who applauded at that carol! =P And not just because I like how economically the script alone could have set up this episode's time setting.
2:11 "How can you be homesick when you're not going anywhere?" . . . "Because he's home and I'm sick!" As the Mythbusters would say: PLAUSIBLE! I once knew a guy in uni whose younger brother had become so attached to the nanny that their parents let her take him back to her own country for weeks at a time on her holidays.
2:18 "How about your brother?" One thing that did bother me about Season 1 was the way Charles was doing things that members of the family should have been doing for each other . . . but then I remembered that that is what friends are often for.
3:03 "Grandma Irene thinks I'm weird." Oh, Douglas, that's what family members are often for. =P
4:49 I loved the 80s pop culture reference from Douglas and the American literature allusion from Charles, but I had to look up Beany and Cecil. =P Good one, anyway, Buddy! LOL!
5:23 How 80s are those banana yellow socks?!?! I wish I could be fourteen again--but only if I get to be Lila Pembroke!
5:54 If I ever create a Charles in Charge Season 1 Marathon Drinking Game, one rule would be: "Drink whenever Lila mentions popular girl Sally Stephanato"! LOL!
6:36 I'm actually on Buddy's side because Charles deserves a break . . . but I know Charles is going to stay and I love him for it.
7:45 "He'll just call Sally Stephanato--" DRINK!
8:07 Yes, that's Rue McClanahan! But before she was a Golden Girl. =)
9:27 Note that while we think of Grandma Irene as taking over Charles's room, she isn't happy that Charles has taken over her room. LOL!

Well, what do you think so far? As I've said, there have been episodes that made me think that Charles is doing Mr. Pembroke's job of raising the children, and that it is, as Americans would say, "inappropriate." But then I balance it against Mr. Pembroke's own paternal interest in Charles's welfare and realise that quite a complicated dance is unfolding in the former's household. The Pembroke children get some necessary independence from their parents by getting to turn to Charles instead . . . but all the while, Charles is also being solicitously mentored by Mr. and Mrs. Pembroke.

Let me know what you think of this arrangement in the combox, and then come back for what Grandma Irene thinks! =)

0:34 "I would just hate to have to compete with you for their time." See that glare at the end of it? Oh, if looks could kill immobilise and tranquilise . . .
0:47 And what did I just say?! ;-)
1:48 Oooooooh! We know what's coming next!!!
2:40 "This is the first Christmas I ever spent without my family." Oh, the irony!
3:22 Apparently, Grandma Irene doesn't want a surrogate grandson. =P
4:25 I may want to be Lila, but it's Douglas who is my favourite Pembroke!
6:00 Whoa! I didn't expect that! As you can tell, I worried that Charles was taking over Mr. Pembroke's job; it never occurred to me that he was doing Mrs. Pembroke's!
6:13 "You get to be with the people you love!" Cue doorbell! Because the cast we love must be with us, too!
6:63 The Pembrokes adopted Gwendolyn, too, you know. =)
7:39 Awwwwww! It's like The Gift of the Magi, but without the mix-up! Gwendolyn has grown since she met Buddy, too, Charles.
9:41 Yeah, Charles, that's a good save. =P
9:46 "It was Charles who told her that the only opinion that mattered now was Grandma's." Don't you hate that he takes the higher ground, Irene? LOL!!!

Before we go on, what do you think of this latest development? Despite all my nattering about Charles being a subsitute father, I never once thought of him as being a substitute mother! Now, the Pembroke children are all going to school and seem pretty independent. Although I'm very pro-housewife (and pro-homeschooler), I don't think they're suffering from not having their mother around all the time. But is Grandma Irene right that Mrs. Pembroke is only getting to do this because she is passing on the job of stay-at-home adult to a teenage boy?

As always, your thoughts are welcome in the combox while I finally complete this live blog! (Yes, I'm doing part of it "live"!)

0:30 But what's going to happen when you grow up, and your shoe is untied, and you hold it out to me, and your wife says, 'Who's this guy?'" LOL! Even Charles knows that there are some things they shouldn't always need him for.
0:41 "How would you like your sneaker tied by the same person who used to tie your daddy's sneaker?" It's a deal, Grandma! But you do know that Charles will be able to use that same line with Jason's kids someday, right? LOL!
1:08 And the gauntlet is down again!
2:08 Gifts like that money can't buy!
2:27 I'd been waiting for them to hug since they sat down together on the stairs.
3:01 Wait a minute. This is wrapping up too neatly. Grandma Irene has called a truce of sorts with Charles, but what about her issue with Mrs. Pembroke?
3:10 Oh, I love that close shot!
3:15 And didn't we all know she was going to do that? LOL!

Well, this seems like one storyline that needs a couple of other episodes to complete its arc. And the good news is . . . I'll be live blogging them, too!!! =D And I won't be live blogging them next week, but tonight!!! This is in honour of the patron saints of this blog, the Holy Innocents. I flubbed their feast last year, but I'm making good this year.

While I get the next two episodes up, you may want to check out previous Holy Innocents Day posts: Top 5 Action Star "Au Pairs" and Twelve Things about Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.

* * * * *

Note that this is not the episode scheduled to air right after the one we just watched together. But it's the one that picks up the new thread dangled before us in the last one: the issue of Mrs. Pembroke's career.

0:41 This is one of the catchiest TV themes ever! You'll have it memorised by the end of this live blog, I swear!
1:07 Unlike its sitcom twin, Who's the Boss?, Charles in Charge doesn't make a motif out of a man doing housework. So it's significant, and not just comical, that Charles is doing it now.
1:33 And if you doubted what I just said about Who's the Boss? and Charles in Charge being twins, just look at Scott Baio trying to be Tony Danza.
2:07 I love it whenever Buddy is cooking up something. Don't you?
3:26 Michelle Harris?!?!?! What happened to Gwendolyn???
3:51 And he thought that waxing the floor, doing the grocery shopping, and taking the clothes to the cleaners was all he needed to do before his big date? Buddy so called it: Charles is Cinderella today.
4:47 "I don't get it. LET'S DANCE!" Oh, I do love Douglas.
5:22 "Nothing!" Translation: You missed it by a few seconds and you will never get it now.
5:54 "Something happened to my boss that made it necessary for me to get an immediate promotion." Run, Charles! It's foreshadowing!!!
6:39 Even when I don't like Lila's outfits . . . I love Lila's outfits.
7:17 There's something both very right and very wrong about Charles bringing the boys with him on a date.
7:27 Wait a minute. Mr. Pembroke didn't give him extra money for the boys? =(
7:37 "Throw in a couple of dance steps and you've got a deal!" You've got to love Douglas's single-minded dedication to his goal! I'll be very upset if we don't get any dancing in this episode.
9:11 Not to overanalyse the orders or anything, but why didn't Charles order a grown-up drink for himself?
9:42 They're on Team Gwendolyn. She got them Christmas presents, remember?

As you can see, Mrs. Pembroke is currently overworked and now so is Charles. But do we see this case as that of an employee doing more than he was contracted to do or as that of a Mother's Helper doing what the Mother should be doing?

Your thoughts, in "real time," in the combox please, as I get started on the next ten minutes of this episode!

0:03 I love these two Pembroke boys!
0:49 Oh, no. That answer is so beautiful that it is shattering Team Gwendolyn. =(
1:28 "This will give me a chance to play with the boys!" Hmmmmm. I think Julie Cobb is going to turn into Judith Light for this . . .
1:33 And I was right! =P
2:22 "Comes with the job!" Nice cut to Charles, for whom the implications are just sinking in. There are times when professional obligations take precedence over family and friends (and dates!)--but what's fair for the working mother is fair for the working student, right? (At least that's what we're trying to figure out.)
3:39 Cheer up, Lila! They didn't even do that much for me when I was your age. They just benched me
4:08 It's exchanges like this that make chuck my Team Gwendolyn T-shirt and ship Charles and Lila. Seriously. LOL!
4:43 It just figures that that that TV theme would be on the soundtrack of Buddy's love life, aye?
6:13 As you can see, Buddy was reasonably intelligent in Season 1.
7:48 "Can't we do it now?" Remember what happened earlier, Mrs. Pembroke? When children are growing up, your only choices are often "Now" and "Nothing". I'm not saying it's fair or anything . . .
8:15 ROFLMAO!!!
9:10 What song is that on the radio?
9:26 "The legend lives, cha-cha-cha!" LOL!!! And I'm glad Mr. Pembroke is doing this, and not Charles.
9:46 Don't you love that both Charles and Buddy can be right about computer dating? =)

Twenty minutes in and the night is looking good! Charles has a gourmet dinner all ready to serve, Lila is happy to save the softball practice for another day, Mr. Pembroke has taken charge of Douglas's dance lessons, and Jason is being very sweet and understanding about Mrs. Pembroke's new responsibilities at work. This isn't a "Blame the Mother" episode; it's a "Families Must Stick Together" episode . . . as they all are in Charles in Charge Season 1. =)

If you've only met the Powells before, are the Pembrokes surprising you? Let me know in the combox while I get the last three minutes of this episode up!

0:05 I see I spoke too soon about Lila. =S And is anyone else nervous about a softball in the kitchen before Charles's big date?
0:21 And the gang's all here! I guess it wasn't going to be that easy, after all, Charles. ;-)
0:47 I love you, Douglas!!!
1:37 What even Charles forgets sometimes is that he doesn't have to do everything Mr. and Mrs. Pembroke can't do. The siblings can also learn to help each other.
2:09 LOL! Now all we need is Lila.
2:11 BINGO!
3:28 WHOA! =D I honestly didn't expect that compromise! But then again, this episode is pre-Oprah. LOL!
3:30 Would you just look at their faces???
3:50 And a happy ending is had by all!

I do like this ending, but even I can see how utterly unrealistic it was even in the simpler time that was 1984. (Well, relatively simpler!) Notice the rosy assumption that Mrs. Pembroke will have this golden career opportunity open to her again five years in the future. But we all know that's not very likely. Mothers may find that it's often "Now" or "Nothing" when it comes to their careers as well. =S

So do you think this episode of Charles in Charge, while seeming to give us a great compromise, is actually choosing sides? Let me know in the combox while I get started on the third and last episode of the night: the return of Grandma Irene! =D

* * * * *

Charles in Charge Season 1 has been excellent about continuity, so I'm betting that the next episode will give us some more great angles from which to look at the issue of "women's work." And when I say "betting," I mean it: I haven't seen this episode yet! But how I've come to trust producer Michael Jacobs!

1:19 A business trip! That means more work for Charles . . . and more controversy for this liveblog! Yay! ;-)
1:41 And it's not just Charles who will be, uh, in charge. Grandma Irene will be there, too. What could possibly go wrong? (Heh-heh.)
1:50 See what I mean about continuity? =)
2:19 So it's more than just a business trip! But really, it's only right for parents to have a little alone time. There's more than one reason to have a Charles around!
3:30 "Or maybe we should think of it as our room!" NO, Charles! Fight! Fight for your room!
4:17 YES! I love Enid! (Maybe I should make another drinking game rule for her, too . . .)
4:47 Nice one, Charles! LOL!
5:37 I had to sell stuff for fundraisers, too. I was such a bad hustler that my family members ended up buying everything. But I never had Douglas's confidence.
6:07 And they can all spontaneously anticipate each other's dance moves! There's family for you!
6:48 Don't ever say that Douglas's character isn't consistently written!
7:24 "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous!" Now there's some cheesy 80s pop culture for you!
7:44 How weird that Charles is also planning meals. Anyone else think that Mrs. Pembroke should have already left a meal plan for the week? Or delegated the cooking to Grandma Irene? Or am I in the grip of more stereotypes about "women's work"?
8:34 Beware of Greeks grandmothers bearing gifts!
9:21 And beware the (fake) cheese industry!!! Have we learned nothing from the Laura Ingalls Wilder readalong?!?!

Ten minutes in and I see we have a new antagonist . . . and its name is Fake Cheese. But seriously--and I hope I'm not overanalysing this (What? Too late?)--the food is getting to me. I'm a big fan of ground meat myself, but it looks as if the children will be eating takeaway and microwave pizza (and candy bars?--LOL!) while Charles and Grandma Irene are taking over from their parents, and it's not an encouraging sign. Substitute parental figures are one thing; substitute food is something else!

If you like reading my questions, here's another one for you! For all this show's support for parents having a life beyond their children, do you sense a critical undercurrent, too? If also like answering my questions, the combox is all yours while I get the next ten minutes up! =)

1:09 "What else do you have to do this afternoon . . ." You should know, Irene! You were a very hands-on mother and Charles is doing your old job while you're trying to get him to help you with your new one.
1:11 ". . . while I try to decide if you're going to get to stay in my room?" I take back what I said, Charles. Let her have the room. This isn't worth it.
1:44 Here's another drinking game rule: "Drink whenever Charles can't go on a proper date because of the Pembrokes!"
2:04 I know it's kind of chauvnistic, but I'm ROFL anyway. =P It's a Buddy-Charles thing.
4:10 Marry me, Douglas. It's 2012 and we're both legal now.
4:22 Jason is consistently written, too! He's distressed when anyone in the family leaves. =)
4:33 Oh, dear. =S
4:38 And how 80s is that???
5:28 Finally, Gwendolyn!
6:09 He's not always silver tongued, I guess. =P
7:16 Hmmmmmm . . .
7:52 I know some really serious Pick Up Artists who try to read women exactly in that way.
8:15 "Making that much money makes you think about things like . . . making money . . . and your future . . . and making more money." Career vs. children for you, too, aye, Charles?
9:23 "Mrs. Pembroke, I just don't think you need me." Nor does she need you out of the house! We went over this last time, Irene: it's not a competition!
9:44 The irony is dripping off the screen . . .

Watching Grandma Irene play Charles like a fiddle is almost painful. He should be helping Douglas with the candy bars, not Grandma Irene with the pizzas! But my bigger issue is with her shooing him out of the house after Mr. and Mrs. Pembroke left him in charge. She may be the children's grandmother, and blood may indeed be thicker than water, but I think she was wrong to overstep the parents' decision in this case . . . and even more wrong in getting him to work for her while she's at it.

What do you think? Who has more authority while the Pembrokes are gone: Charles or Grandma Irene? Who should have more authority? Hurry and get your answers in! The live blog is almost over!

0:15 "Charles lets us get a lot noisier!" I'll bet he does! LOL!
0:17 "Well, Charles is not going to be around so much anymore!" Oh, so you did plan it to get him away from them!!!
1:03 Don't worry, Charles. Now that your surrogate parents are home, everything will be all right again!
1:24 That's a great shot of an eager Irene, a confused Charles, and a perturbed Mr. Pembroke! It's acting and direction serving the script well!
2:23 Jason's on it. That's the way to get Charles to stay! You think an au pair this good is primarily motivated by money?
2:44 I love the way the shot snaps back so that we see the whole family "on the one hand," outweighing Grandma Irene's offer "on the other hand."
3:22 You have to believe in yourself a little more, Irene!
3:39 LOL!!!
3:54 And all is settled! Don't you wish life could be as neat as an early 80s sitcom? =P

And that's it, kids! We're done for this Friday night! I hope you had as much fun as I did! =) What we didn't do was complete our analysis of "women's work" . . . or perfectly fulfill last Wednesday's objective to prove that Charles is good at his job not because he can tap a "feminine side" but because his masculine qualities are allowed to shine . . . but I guess that those can wait another time. Live blogging this was fun for me--and I hope you enjoyed it, too. =)

Now I have one last question . . . Should I bring Friday Night live blogs back as a regular (say, monthly) feature? Let me know in the combox!


Angie Tusa said...

While I have no memories of the first episode, for whatever reason seeing Charles with that mop and the spray in the second one immediately sparked something in my memory. Though I don't remember the date plot at all.

There are ways in which you could say that Charles is replacing both parents, and that's something we see show up a lot in fiction, where rich children tend to feel more like they were raised by their nannies than they were by their parents. I'm not sure it applies as much in real life though.

This show is firmly set in the 80s, and I'm not just talking about the pop culture references they make. It was the time when a lot of women had to start working full time and a lot of people reacted in the negative fashion that Grandma Irene does here.

It's interesting to me that in this day and age society tends to look down at stay at home moms as "do nothings" instead. That's not a fair judgement, but I think it does at least prove that Grandma Irene's argument doesn't hold water: Women today are perfectly capable of working a job and raising their adolescent children. No Charles required. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


I really like "Governess Fiction", so there's a sense in which I don't mind children being raised by outlanders and interlopers. ;-) (Ahem!) But even in the sunniest of stories--and I'm thinking Baby-sitters Club here--there's the implication that the parents are getting someone else to do their job for them . . . and letting someone else take their place in their children's heart. (I'm not saying it's a fair appraisal of what happens in real life, but it's a solid convention in fiction!)

The modern equivalent of Charles, I guess, would be all the coaches and teachers at extracurricular activities. Something else that dates this show is Charles being the only one responsible for three kids at those ages. If Grandma Irene were to complain about a modern daughter-in-law, she wouldn't have a single Charles to pick on; she'd say that the kids themselves are out of the house (or on their electronic gadgets) as much as their parents!

I think that society has become much less judgmental about mothers who work outside the home, but I don't think that kids have become any less work. We've just found ways to share the load as the proverbial "village." And to be perfectly honest, I'm not too crazy about that. Given the two extremes of Charles and a village, I'm going with Charles. And I suspect quite a few modern parents would, too. But good luck to them finding a Charles this far away from 1984! As the working mother lost her stigma, so did the market for someone to be in the home at all times. For every gain, a loss . . .

Angie Tusa said...

Of the families I know, the reason they can't find a replacement is that it's simply not feasible to do so. In fact the stay at home moms that I know do so primarily because paying for childcare of any kind completely wipes out the income the lady would be making at her job, so she may as well stay home.

And when both parents do work, it's usually a case of grandparents helping in those small hours between when school is out until work is out. Of course there are exceptions and not every situation is ideal. But my point is that those evening hours and weekends that you are together with your parents are the important ones, and most parents I know are parents first when they are home and leave all work behind. So I'm just not seeing where anything is being lost.

And I guess that's why I can't see "governess fiction" as anything other than a fantasy world, or perhaps a relic of the past or something for the opulent and rich. It's just far too removed from the reality I've witnessed. I'm not saying it's bad, just that I have a hard time making real world comparisons. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


When I referred to a loss, I meant an economic situation in which it was feasible for someone to be with the children all the time, whether it was a stay-at-home mother or an au pair hired by two working parents. And I'm not looking at it from just the parents' perspective, but from the au pair's.

As you've said, these days, only the very rich are currently able to afford this kind of live-in help--and they probably won't hire kids from uni, because they'll get to pay a lower rate for "professional" domestic help. On the other hand, from what I can see, students can find themselves juggling as many as three part-time jobs, along with their schoolwork, because just one job won't do the trick any longer.

I'd have to ask some people who were grown up in the late 70s and early 80s, to be certain, but I think that the arrangement Charles has with the Pembrokes was both attractive and fair to both of them, if still relatively uncommon. And I do think a lot of people--whether parents or working students--would kill for something like that today.

I may start watching 80s sitcoms for the economics after this! LOL! What huge changes there have been since then!