26 December 2012


Wednesday Night Theme Song: "New boy in the neighbourhood . . ."

You may be familiar with the syndicated 80s sitcom Charles in Charge, which is about a young man in uni who has a job as an au pair to three children, but you might not recognise most of the cast in the Season 1 opening . . .

Until this year, I had never seen any episodes from the first season, which was the only one to feature Charles's first family, the Pembrokes. And now that I have, I feel deprived and downright cheated, because they are so much better than his second family, the Powells.

Heck, the whole show was better in Season 1: the characters, the plots, the writing, the styling, the twist on the Top Secret December Theme . . . Charles in Charge became a completely new show after it switched families on set and switched producers behind the scenes.


When I realised I wanted to feature Charles in Charge as a Friday Night Sitcom, I considered doing a kind of double-feature face-off: a Pembroke episode vs. a Powell episode, so that everyone could see the enormous difference between them. But then I realised that even the best Powell episode isn't worthy to share a post with the most mediocre Pembroke episode.

In the lone Pembroke season, Charles is a trusted and trustworthy young man who becomes like an older brother to fourteen year old Lila, twelve year old Douglas, and ten year old Jason, and like a surrogate son to their parents. Sometimes they get along so well that I wonder why he couldn't have just been the oldest brother. But then it would have lost the edgy conceit that a male "governess" was in the mid-1980s. 

In all the Powell seasons (save for the lone episode written by someone who had worked on Season 1), Charles becomes . . . well, he becomes like a bad sitcom dad. Which is to say that he bumbles a lot and is underappreciated and blamed for everything that the kids don't like about their lives. I think the producers could have taken the scripts for those shows, rewritten them slightly for an older lead actor, and had another forgettable family sitcom on their hands. (Something like, you know, See Dad Run--Scott Baio's current show.)

This Friday, expect a Season 1 episode which will show that an intelligent, caring young man can be very good at what we might consider "women's work"--not because of some feminine side, but because of strong masculine virtue.

Image Sources: a) Charles with the Pembrokes, b) Charles with the Powells


Angie Tusa said...

I can't remember specifically if I've ever seen a season 1 episode. I think I have, though obviously no where near as much as the rest of the series. I remember watching it in syndication far more then as it aired. But honestly I mostly only watched for Buddy anyway. :)

Jenny said...

I used to watch this show...I was too young to really see or care about the change in families. I should watch them again and see what I think now.

Enbrethiliel said...


Angie -- Buddy made me laugh a lot more than anyone else in the cast did, too! =) I think you'd be surprised at the huge difference between the way he is written in Season 1 and in the succeeding seasons. It's a pity to me that the writers decided to dumb Buddy down more and more because Willie Aames was perfectly funny playing Buddy as a goofy (but smart enough) foil to straightlaced Charles.

Jenny -- You are very welcome to join the live blog on Friday night (Friday morning for you, I guess?) to see what you think! =)

Jenny said...

If only I didn't have a job I would. :-(

Enbrethiliel said...


I understand. =) It's only because I took an extended holiday leave (unpaid, unfortunately) from my own job that I was able to do another live blog. Maybe my next one will catch you at a good time!