Since everything old is new again, Judge Cynthia Boris is looking forward to the new CW series, "Love, Brataslavian Style."
Love, Love, Love…
It was the start of the sexual revolution and a turning point for TV. We went from married couples in separate beds and censorship on the word "pregnant" to swinging, the pill and maybe even a little pre-marital sex. So it was tame by today's standards, but in 1969 Love American Style was doing something no one else was doing—admitting that sex was for more than just procreation.
Facts of the Case
Love American Style is an anthology series with an entirely new all-star cast in each episode. It was the precursor to shows like Fantasy Island and Love Boat, but it's different in that the three weekly stories aren't strung together by a common place or thread. Each story is self-contained and in between the stories are even shorter vignettes, mostly Laugh-in style sight gags that you wouldn't miss if they were left out. Love, dating, marriage and the sexual revolution—it's Love American Style: Season One, Vol. One.
I was a fan of this show when I was a child because it gave me a chance to see my favorite TV actors performing different roles. David Hedison, Bill Bixby, Christopher Connelly and Michael Anderson Jr. were recognizable faces to me. Looking back now, I realize that the talent employed on this series went far beyond those popular actors of the era. Try Sid Caesar, Ozzie and Harriet, Marjorie Lord and Denis Day. Wonderful character actors such as Hans Conried, Jackie Joseph, Avery Schreiber and Richard Deacon. And look close at "Love and the Former Marriage," and you'll see a very young Harrison Ford. If you were a TV watcher in the sixties and seventies, you'll recognize almost every one of the 100 plus stars in this volume alone.
Right here, I must admit that I popped in that first DVD disc with some trepidation. I had fond memories of this series but like many, I was afraid it wouldn't hold up after all these years. Times have changed and TV has become so much more liberal. Would a comedy about love in the late sixties still pack the same punch? The answer is, yes. The clothing may be a bit dated and the colors a tad bright but the stories here still ring true. Many of these stories could have come right out of an episode of any current sitcom which really makes me wonder about how ahead of their time they must have been back then.
In "Love and the Former Marriage," a wife, her current husband and her ex, are all called in to deal with a daughter about to elope. That's a long way away from Donna Reed's happy home life.
In "Love and the Pill," Jane Wyatt considers how to slip her teenage daughter a birth control pill before she goes away with her boyfriend on her first overnight trip. "She could go out unexpecting and come back expecting!" Take that, Marcia Brady!
Yes, many of the characters are stereotypical for the time, but to me, that's part of the charm of the show. Watching Mary Ann Mobley timidly suggest that her husband teach her how to drive his new sports car, so she can share his hobby, reminds me of how far we've come.
And no review would be complete without a mention of that terrific theme song sung by The Cowsills, which was only used on the first season and was later rerecorded. "Love American Style, truer than the red, white and blue, ooh, ooh, ooh…"
Turning to the DVD itself, I found the audio and video to be better than expected for a show this old. Because of the era it was made it, there are plenty of vibrant colors in the costumes and set design and they held up well. There's some graininess but nothing that took away from my enjoyment of the series. The audio is a standard mono track but the voices are clear and the volume is fine.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I only have two complaints. First, the packaging. This 3-disc set comes in a cheap snapcase with a double flipper panel in the middle. I hate those. Second, the episode listings are printed on the back of the cover insert so the right side is hidden by disc 3 and the plastic molding of the case. To read it properly, you'd have to remove the cover from the plastic sleeve. Also, I would have liked to see a synopsis of each episode but that would have meant printing a booklet to go along with the set and we couldn't have that, could we?
Second, is the strange numbering. There are 12 episodes on three discs, but if you look at the menu, you'll see that the final episode is 17 and episode 11 is between five and seven! This is because they're listed in the order they were produced, not the order they aired. It's not a big deal but it adds a layer of confusion that just wasn't necessary.
Love American Style is like watching a series Neil Simon one-acts. They're not laugh-out-loud funny, but they're an amusing look at life's little complications. Not every story is a gem but there are enough of them to keep you coming back for more if only to play, 'where do I know him from' with the huge cast of recognizable actors.
This court finds Love American Style: Season One, Volume One to be far from innocent. And that's what makes it so much fun to watch.
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