‘Good Luck Charlie’ Pokes Fun at New Age Pet Therapy

I’m a sucker for an old-fashioned cornball sitcom and Disney Channel specializes in them. What they have done with their line-up is create family viewing with rehashed sitcom plots from the seventies and early eighties when generally most TV comedies  were pretty harmless (exceptions might be All in the Family). Surprisingly, these new sitcoms often improve on many old gags and come up with some new twists. My only criticism to Disney Channel is that some of the show ideas like A.N.T. Farm could actually promote science and freethinking for brighter than average kids instead of catering to too much fluff.

With that said, as I was drawing I had Good Luck Charlie on which is pretty standard fare. An American family with some eccentricities and the usual trouble found in raising kids. This one was episode 11 from Season One (if you’re looking for it on Netflix) and has a storyline about the oldest daughter Teddy babysitting the neighbor’s cat named “Kaboodle.” The cat is determined to not be up to its usual playful self and so it is recommend to Teddy to have the patient examined by a doctor. The cat doctor who makes house calls, named Dr. Tish Tushee, ends up being a new age quack trying to explain the cat’s chakras and other mumbo jumbo while Teddy looks on confused and we hear the laugh track. In the end, Kaboodle just needed to poop. For a Disney episode, it was a nice little jab at new age pet therapy.

Like I said, I don’t expect much from a Disney sitcom, but I am finding bright spots here and there. There is one I want to mention later about A.N.T. Farm, but this episode from Good Luck Charlie would be perfect for freethinking parents to share with their kids. As a bonus, there’s another storyline in the show about honesty and being yourself–a simple moral value which is always good to teach (unless you’re a double agent for the government and you can’t be yourself, then you need to lie your ass off).

3rd Rock From the Sun on Prayer

I’ve been watching the first season of 3rd Rock from the Sun and forgot how good the show was. John Lithgow is wonderfully hilarious with the pompous characterization of The High Commander known as “Dick” and the supporting cast all works well together to create all kinds of observational humor. If for some strange reason you haven’t seen the show it features a troop of aliens sent to earth to gather research on humans. They take on bodily forms and act as a  family in order to fit in.

The alien son named  Tommy Solomon played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt caught my interest in an episode where he joins the basketball team. The coach leads them in prayer as coaches are known for doing and Tommy suddenly chimes in and questions the purpose of the prayer itself, “Do you think we should be bothering God over a basketball game?” The coach looks at Tommy dumbfounded as it is probably the first time he has ever been questioned on this and the coach insists, “This is important.” And Tommy says, “But the other team is praying too?” After a slight pause, Tommy comes to the conclusion, “Oh, so our god is stronger than their god?” The coach replies, “There’s only one god, Solomon.” Tommy says, “Well, then am I the only one seeing the conflict of interest here?” The coach comes back with, “YES!”

It’s a classic skit on an old joke about who does God favor when two teams are praying to win. The idea that any team would pray to God to win a sporting event seems trivial in comparison to the other duties bestowed upon God such as healing the sick, saving sinners and maybe feeding some starving children. But Christians rarely see the conflict of interest. This can be taken further with nationalistic war and we all know that America prays to win while the other side prays to win too, whether it is to Allah or to the German version of God or whoever is the deity at hand. Very few Christians stop to think that if God is a god of peace then praying to win is completely the wrong thing to do. In fact, Christian martyrdom, which was so common in the early days of Christianity, may be more in line with the Bible than not turning the other cheek.

On the other hand, if you’re pragmatic and you believe war is necessary to achieve peace due to someone like Hitler then maybe there’s some sense in it, except why not pray to God to win the war for us instead of us having to sacrifice countless lives? Of course, this is the same God that advocated genocide during the Old Testament Joshua campaigns so maybe war is spectator sport for Him. I’ve never bought into the idea that the Christian god was a god of peace, though it sure seems to be tossed around in Christian circles alot.

Tommy Solomon tried to get through to us on prayer, will we listen?

Sanford and Son’s Bible Thumping Aunt

Fred Sanford’s arch-nemesis in the classic TV series Sanford and Son was Esther Anderson, sister to dear departed Elizabeth. Elizabeth was of course Sanford’s wife before passing on and the recurring gag of him faking a heart attack would have him bewailing, “You hear that, Elizabeth? I’m coming to join ya, honey!” And she more than just disapproved of Fred marrying her sister, she knew God disapproved of Fred too.

I’m kind of hooked on this new channel Antenna TV as I sit here and draw. There’s no doubt many of the old shows were devoid of laughs and tried too hard for character humor such as Too Close for Comfort with Ted Knight as a cartoonist (that’s a cartoonist?!), but when you get to All in the Family and Sanford and Son then you start laughing. Maybe that’s because they were born of British counterparts or maybe because they always were breaking the boring mold set by the time period’s TV standards.

One of the funniest characters has to be Aunt Esther, played with comedic genius by LaWanda Page, because where else would you see a Baptist Bible thumper parodied in such a manner? Especially one who is a stereotype of all the little old ladies from the American black church. Certainly, not on any prime time sitcoms I know of today?

The episode I watched last night was sans Sanford (he was off on a trip) and so Grady Wilson was filling in and making Fred’s son Lamont’s life miserable. Finally, Lamont tricks Grady into going to a skin-flick downtown somewhere with a free ticket and then invites his friends over to party. Grady figures out he’s been had, tries to get back in but is locked out. So who does he go to? Aunt Esther and and her Bible study club. They break in under the false pretense that Grady will let them use Sanford’s place for prayer and worship, but find Lamont and his best friend are getting “hot and heavy” with two girls. Esther starts yelling, “Jezebels” and swinging her purse and all the Bible thumping ladies go on the attack until the poor, helpless girls run for their lives.

I find it all hilarious. Now to be fair to Christians, the parody is warm-hearted. I’m sure within the black church it is not uncommon to have a little old lady who could kick the devil’s ass herself. BUT you wouldn’t want her after you! Fred Sanford is hardly innocent but he more closely represents the rest of us then Aunt Esther. We want to be free of the drag of church and judgments on our lifestyle. Humor is wrapped up in pain and therefore the haughty behavior of little old lady Bible thumpers range from annoyance to sorrow as they tear apart families with an exaggeration of sin and the need for repentance.

Bible thumping Esther is yet another example in our pop culture which we amuse ourselves with because we don’t want to be her. She’s crazy and fanatical, even if everything she is saying is straight from God’s lips or quoted from the Bible. Why is that? Maybe we just don’t like to be told what to do or think, especially when we’re just having a good time–like making out (use birth control if it gets too hot!)? Or perhaps, deep down inside, we think a good portion of the Bible doesn’t apply to us and that, generally speaking, we’re good people.

Either way, here’s to LaWanda Page for her depiction of Bible thumping Esther. Thanks for the laughter.

Three’s Company – Reverend Takes a Bribe

The elderly church patron feeling welcomed at Jack's Bistro

If you start reading my articles regularly you will realize I have an eclectic combination of bad taste and highbrow sensibilities. In the same evening I might watch an absorbing PBS documentary on evolution and then settle down to relax with a collection of poorly scripted sitcom reruns.

Which is why I have Three’s Company in my DVD collection. Being a fan of old vaudeville routines and slapstick, I appreciate the nonsense of this series as lighthearted and without malice–even when it is offensive it still feels inoffensive. The sexual innuendo that some conservative viewers might have a problem with I view as really charming in contrast to the blunt fashion of sexual humor in many other movies and series in the recent past. I would say Three’s Company with all of its blunders is appropriate for kids in general and should be watched as a family so Mom and Dad can either explain the jokes or just laugh at them as the kids trying to figure out what is so funny. Lucille Ball, the queen of classic blunder comedy and wholesome entertainment loved the show so much she guest hosted a best-of special of all the classic moments.

The reason I bring up Three’s Companyon this site is that the show got away with satirizing the more prude elements of American Society without being meanspirited. To give due credit to the premise, the show was originally based on a British sitcom Man About the House and then turned into an American hit quite by accident (nobody thought the show would do as well as it did. Even if you haven’t watched the show, you are probably aware that it starred the late John Ritter as Jack, who lives with two other girls in the same apartment–and they never “get it on.” A very innocent, but naughty show that tweaked what was polite and then seemed to apologize for going too far with a sheepish smile, only to do it again and again on each episode.

One episode I’d like to draw your attention to is called “The Brunch,” collected on the DVD set  for Season 7 where Jack has started his own restaurant called “Jack’s Bistro.” He is about to lose his liquor license because a certain Reverend Gilmore shut down the previous restaurant in the same building. The offending establishment was a tavern of sorts that attracted hookers. Jack has to prove he runs a clean joint suitable for the church public (hookers are a big no-no with the church unless it is behind closed doors). In that manner he will be allowed to serve wine.

SIDENOTE: How ridiculous it is that we are still under religious constraints on alcohol. Moderation in all things, is definitely my motto, but why is Sunday off limits for selling liquor? Because of the Christian religion! Of course wine can still be bought at any grocery store because I guess it is acceptable due to Jesus turning water into wine?

To be sophisticated you have to wear glasses

In order to prove he is an upright restaurant owner, Jack rigs the place with Janet and Terri dressed in their Sunday best as well as Larry bringing a sophisticated date(which means a hot blonde wearing glasses, see the picture on the left). As usual the situation is controlled until an unforeseen element is introduced. In this case, newlyweds. The good Reverend is seated and served and eventually warms up to the bistro as being godly enough to “allow” it to do business. Off to the side, one of his church patrons, an elderly woman is seated with Janet and Terri who do their best to make her feel welcome–which as an apparent widow she appreciates.

But damn those newlyweds, they start going at it and Jack has his hands full trying to keep Reverend Gilmore’s judgmental eyes away from their passionate kissing (aw hell, they’re married anyways). Add to that Mr. Furley, played by the hilarious Don Knotts, who starts drinking the champagne he’s serving and Larry’s date who likes to seductively dance once she has a couple sips of champagne herself and Jack’s Bistro is a sexy, happening spot. The Reverend finally turns around to see all the inappropriate behavior, which is none of Jack’s fault, and his wrath is restored. Fortunately, the elderly church patron steps in and defends Jack because he made her feel welcome and accepted. The Reverend is not swayed until she reminds him of her upcoming contribution to the church and then he suddenly kowtows like all good politicians–because churches are more political than holy, aren’t they? They have to meet the demands of their “paying’ pew members and can’t stand on principal alone, which is one of the reasons I got fed up with the mainstream church.  Three’s Company gets away with exposing this hypocrisy using a neatly wrapped ending to a series of sight gags. This is one of the better episodes from Season 7, not to mention Terri appearing in a bikini (yowza).

The uptight Reverend Gilmore wants no nonsense from Jack

With Freethunk, I probably am reading too much into this episode, but again the idea is to find these tidbits and give them notice as a nice escape from religious sensitivities. I don’t think anyone would have a problem with friends like Jack, Janet and Terri and yet they certainly don’t seem to be church attending Christians–far from it. They’re just good people, much like many Americans who find it is better to sleep in on Sundays than to be stressed out by a guilt-filled sermon followed by a gluttonous afternoon potluck (bad for the heart).

With services like Netflix, you can use your que to build a playlist similar to your music, and therefore I’m hoping some of my recommendations will get into the mix. I don’t believe Netflix allows for user playlists yet because they are probably scared of categories like “Best Atheist Movies” or “Best Skeptical TV Episodes.” I think it may come about somehow though.