Paramount // 1970 // 622 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // March 31st, 2008
Tonight, you will see three separate views of love, American style.
If you have hang-ups about the modern state of relationships, including breaking the ice with a hot chick or getting that blond babe into the sack, then Love American Style is your haven of self-help. Look, times have changed, baby, and there's no need to get all freaked out about things as natural as love and lovemaking. Just do what comes natural and do it as often as you can. Dig?
So goes the mentality of this Aaron Spelling production introduced to the sexually awakening generation of the 1970s. After the Woodstock hippies took a bath and realized they were gonna need some bread to get by, they nonetheless continued to thumb their nose at the Establishment, not with peacemaking nor pot smoking but, rather, with similarly no-guilt attitudes about getting it on. Broadcast television, eager to provide escape from the dire news of the day and, more importantly, appeal to the "mod" crowd, quickly updated its programming lineups to feature this emerging sensibility to the masses. Love American Style became a top draw for the ABC network and was presented at 10:00pm as sort of an "ABC After Dark" dalliance. The show was a quick hit and moved from its initial Monday night slot to the coveted Friday night lineup, the nightcap to the stream of The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Room 222, and The Odd Couple.
As dated as the show now appears, Love American Style still emotes an unmistakable verve for its bawdy content. Clearly, the program was built upon a "naughtiness" that, for its day, attracted adult viewers who were happy to engage in open relationships or ensure their devotion to a single partner was buoyed by plenty of playful sexuality. Of course, the free love mentality that pervades the majority of the storylines might seem rather tame by today's sexually excessive entertainment (admittedly, modern commercials go far beyond what Love American Style could ever hope to pull off). Certainly, the naivete of the times is unmistakable and yet there's still a sly, secretive sensibility that makes the show seem, well, naughty. Moreover, there is a sort of unapologetic nature to the laissez faire lustiness on display, one that still packs a bit of a punch as the characters and situations are confidently aloof in their shrugging of moral doctrines.
"Your morals are so prehistoric," one enlightened young blond asserts to her suspicious boyfriend.
You needn't be prudish to detect that Love American Style is still rather challenging in its apparent promotion of short-term relationships or, at the least, new age advocacy of bending the traditions of coupling. The various vignettes that make up each hour-long show (about 52 minutes, actually, broadcast during an hour time slot) deals with time-tested situations of dating complications, relationship woes, personal insecurities, and sexual exploration and experimentation. And although current entertainment forces its sexual content in an aggressive sort of manner, Love American Style is more evocative by nature of its unaffected flippancy, the sort that says, "c'mon, baby, everyone's doing it." From casual introductions of, "wow, you're really a hot chick," to evening outings that include an all-nude performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the consciousness at work here is one that behaves as if a moral code had never been written, unlike modern day hi-jinks that knowingly stages "wardrobe malfunctions" to offend the social mores. Clearly, the former is far more sensational.
Each show was presented in anthology format, usually with three unrelated vignettes presented to expose and explore matters of love and loving in the sexually enlightened Seventies. To look at it today is to witness a cavalcade of recognizable stars and starlettes, some from days gone by and others as yet to have fully blossomed. Accomplished comedians including George Gobel, Steve Allen, Imogene Coca, and Vivian Vance are juxtaposed by up-and-comers including Burt Reynolds, Kurt Russell, and Penny Marshall. The acting was unspectacular, to say the least, yet it is indicative of the production style of the time. Inarguably, the players seem to enjoy their turns on the show and were likely happy to be included as "hipsters" of the moment. Short bumper skits were squeezed in between the main stories, usually featuring show regulars Stuart Margolin (The Rockford Files) and Barbara Minkus (How to Break Up a Happy Divorce), two of the recurring Love American Style Players. One of the most recognizable "characters" featured in the majority of the vignettes, of course, was the ornate brass bed.
This three-disc DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment wraps up the first season of Love American Style with the remaining 12 episodes that originally aired in 1969 and 1970. If you're familiar with the show (perhaps only by the shortened syndication reruns), you'll recognize the familiar opening theme song though you might wonder why it doesn't sound precisely as you remember it. During the first season, popular family band The Cowsills (of "Hair" fame) laid down the track, proclaiming the patriotic uprightness of easy loving in the new age. Successive seasons utilized a re-recording of the theme, that being performed by The Charles Fox Singers. Charles Fox, of course, was responsible for the hip yet light "love score" for the show. The episodes presented here seem to appear in a randomized order, episode numbers varying non-sequentially across the discs. Each, however, is presented in original production order rather than as broadcast. The original 1.33:1 full frame format is preserved and the image quality is surprisingly solid. Although you would expect the vibrant harvest gold and avocado green to spurt and spill across the viewing pane, the fact is that the wild '70s colors are well controlled. There is some graininess at times but, honestly, this is one of the better DVD presentations of the decades' programming. Audio is presented in an appropriate Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that represents the vintage of the program yet is properly calibrated to prevent high end dissonance. There are no extras.
If you love the Seventies and are looking for a nostalgic romp into the adult mindset of the day, you can't go wrong with Love American Style: Season One, Volume Two.
Try it -- you'll like it!
Review content copyright © 2008 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 622 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Verdict Review - Season 1.1