[18 June 2007]
Although this ‘70s animated sitcom takes on highly charged topics, such as left wing political positions, it is still much closer to Happy Days than All In The Family.
Ironically, Tom Bosley plays the primary patriarch in both Happy Days and (the voice) in Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. And like Mr. Cunningham in Happy Days, Bosley’s Harry Boyle in Wait Till Your Father Gets Home is just an Average Joe, merely trying to keep his fracturing family glued together. But instead of the far more (purportedly) innocent ‘50s era backdrop for Happy Days, Boyle is treading water during the days of hippies, women’s lib, “free” sexuality, and the Me Decade on Wait Till Your Father Gets Home.
Whereas the fatherly Archie Bunker in All In The Family is a man predisposed to hate everything and anyone even the wee bit unlike himself, Boyle is a fairly reasonable man. He’s certainly not the racist, chauvinist, and stupidly conservative man Bunker is. Rather, he’s like most men, as we presume them to be: relatively reasonable until he’s pushed too far. For example, when his daughter threatens to wear a see-through dress top, her revealing coming-out party unfortunately coincides with Boyle being honored as man of the year at his local lodge. Boyle puts the shoe on the other foot, however, by vowing to also dress foolishly at this big event. Many of Alice’s friends will also be attending the dinner and she certainly doesn’t want to be embarrassed by her dad. It’s only after she imagines what it would like to have a family member embarrass her that she decides to dress more conservatively.
This “Alice’s Dress” episode illustrates how Wait Till Your Father Gets Home fits into established family sitcom practices. Like many other sitcoms before and after it, family shows are mainly about families trying to work things out, against difficult odds. In other words, everything is rendered alright at the conclusion of 22 minutes of programming.
There are many similarities and dissimilarities between Wait Till Your Father Gets Home and All In the Family. For instance, the rotund Alice (who even wears a bikini in one episode, yikes!) is a lot like Gloria of All In The Family, in that she is also overweight. The Boyle’s oldest son, Chet, is quite similar to Gloria’s husband, Michael, because he has extra long hair and can’t seem to / or doesn’t seem to want to hold down a job. But Harry’s wife Alice is not at all dippy like Edith in All In The Family, and The Boyles also have a young son named Jamie, whereas The Bunkers have no such young one left at home.
My favorite character is not a Boyle at all, but Ralph Kane, the Boyle’s paranoid neighbor. He’s an obvious precursor to Dale of King Of The Hill. Dale exists in a post-Cold War era, whereas Kane was right in the thick of it. He’s forever scouring this innocent neighborhood in search of secret communists that don’t actually exist. He’s the kind of guy that would have fit perfectly in the era of and even the office of the Nixon administration—quick to get rid of all the president’s enemies.
Nevertheless, a problem I have with this program is its persistent laugh track. With live action programs, such tracks are meant to give you the impression others are there in-person laughing at the actors. But what’s happening here? Are we expected to believe animated audiences are chuckling at animated figures? I think this laugh track was just symptomatic of the times. You can hardly imagine The Simpsons or Family Guy with laugh tracks, can you?
And speaking of The Simpsons and Family Guy the straight fact is that Wait Till Your Father Gets Home is just not nearly as funny as these animated masterpieces that came after it. In the case of The Simpsons, the characters just have much greater depth for such one-dimensional characters, if you will. And Family Guy is just so much more edgy.
Furthermore, the animation on Wait Till Your Father Gets Home is too pedestrian. It has the bland look of a Sunday paper comic strip instead of a hip cartoon. Even South Park does a better job of letting its intentionally amateur visual approach work in its favor.
Although Wait Till Your Father Gets Home will not go down as one of the great American animated sitcoms, it’s still hard to imagine the hip Fox shows we have now without it, so it serves as a worthy predecessor.