Television's depiction of marriage has changed significantly since The Dick Van Dyke Show's Rob and Laura Petrie ruled the small screen. Since you're reading this article, I'll assume your life is as encompassed by television as mine is, so I won't bother explaining what they were like. But in brief, they got along swimmingly. However, today's TV shows don't exactly afford the same luxuries to their wedded couples. Perhaps it's allegorical. Maybe it's a heightened sophistication of art. It could be that we're all just really bitter now. But TV marriages are a lot rockier these days. As such, we've got a few shining (embittered) examples.
The Couple in Question: Walt & Skylar
Relationship Status: Separated
What Went Wrong: I may be just grasping at straws here, but I'd say it was the meth. Beyond that, though, Walter White's Achilles heel is his pride. It's what it's what ruined his friendship with his college roommate Elliot; it's what ate him from the inside out when he had to accept a job at a car wash in order to support his family financially; and it's what kept him from telling anyone about his disease or from pursuing treatment. Further than that, it's what is getting him into a deeper hole with his newest employer. But back to his marriage: Walt seems to place his own self-image above even his love for his family. He refused to accept handouts from in-laws Marie and Hank when they would have been a far saner choice to dealing meth, but he needed to be the man. This has kept him at a distance from Skylar since before the events of the series began. However, it was ultimately his involvement in the drug trade (not to mention his countless lies about it) that broke up his marriage. Although, I'd be remiss if I didn't say how much I truly, adamantly and whole-heartedly hate Skylar.
The Couple in Question: Hank and Marie
Relationship Status: Strained
What Is Going Wrong: Ever since Hank was shot (you can also chalk that one up to Walt), things have turned sour in regard to his relationship with Marie. The recuperating Hank is extremely impatient with his wife's attentive nature, her inability to refer to his prized minerals as such ("Ordering another rock?"), and her zealous encouragement. Marie, at last, seems to be allowing Hank to break her—the final moments of "Thirty-Eight Snub," which aired this past Sunday, showed that her patience with the growling, unkind man her husband has been this season is slipping. I can't predict just yet that their marriage will necessarily face any major catastrophes...but it's not as if Vince Gilligan offers us much in the vein of "light drama."
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Couple in Question: Larry & Cheryl
Relationship Status: Divorced
What Went Wrong: Cheryl David played the impossibly patient Job figure to her husband's endless antics. Devoted boundlessly to their marriage, she even agreed to let Larry have an affair on their tenth wedding anniversary in order to convince him to marry her. So why, after over fifteen years, does their marriage fail? Simply, the same reason it’s difficult to watch more than two episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm in one sitting. From a distance, and in small doses, Larry David is a phenomenon of entertainment. He could even be described as poignant and philosophic. But being married to this individual (and I’m only talking about the character—I reserve none of these presumptions about the man himself, whom I’ve heard is actually quite the gentleman) for fifteen-plus years, as Cheryl was, would be akin to eating sandpaper with every meal.
The Couple in Question: Celia & Dean
Relationship Status: Loveless
What Went Wrong: What went right? It is tradition in comedy to have a secondary married couple that can never stop bickering: Fred and Ethyl Mertz (I Love Lucy), Gladys and Abner Kravitz (Green Acres), Stanley and Helen Roper (Three's Company), Frank and Marie Barone (Everybody Loves Raymond); something common among all of these pairs is that it is made evident that, despite their hostility, they truly do love one another. Celia and Dean, it seems, do not. They're vindictive, manipulative, spiteful, unfaithful... The reasons they got married in the first place are hardly decipherable, beyond the assumption of entirely superficial reasons: presumably, Celia married Dean for the financial luxury, and Dean married Celia for the sexual luxury.
The Walking Dead
The Couple in Question: Rick & Lori
Relationship Status: In trouble (although Rick may not know it yet)
What Is Going Wrong: Although the Grimes' marriage is not over yet (and doesn't necessarily promise to ever be), the trouble began when Lori assumed Rick was dead. She fell into the arms of Rick's best friend Shane for comfort, and the two became romantically entangled. Once Rick shows up, however, Lori cut things off with Shane. But clearly, as of the Season One finale, this whole matter is far from put to bed. Shane is not okay with this new situation, and it's clear that Lori might not be entirely happy with it either.
The Couple in Question: Louie & Louie's unseen ex-wife
Relationship Status: Divorced
What Went Wrong: It is never made clear; so little do we know about Louie's life that we cannot be sure whether his insuperably negative attitude contributed to his divorce, or if it the ex inspired said bitterness. But we know that Louie is not on particularly good terms with her; we know that Louie's sister Gretchen despised her; and we know—because she told us, and him—that Louie's younger daughter prefers her.
The Big C
The Couple in Question: Cathy and Paul
Relationship Status: All patched up
What Went Wrong: After being diagnosed with cancer, Cathy went nuts. She threw Paul out of the house and started burning furniture. Paul, having no idea why his wife was acting this way, took the opportunity to cheat on her with the Rugby Slut (a former schoolmate who likes to sleep with amateur rugby players: a category into which Paul just makes it). Cathy has her own affair with an alluring-accented painter in the form of Idris Elba. Their affairs and separation don't last a second longer than Cathy's secrecy about her disease, however. Once she reveals that she has cancer, Paul immediately forgives her and vows to make up his own misdeeds to her. Since then, he has been obsessively devoted to Cathy, their marriage, and her illness. So, this is one story that actually ends happily! ...Except for the melanoma.
Parks and Recreation
The Couples in Question: Ron & Tammies
Relationship Status: Divorced, three times total (once from Tammy 1, twice from Tammy 2)
What Went Wrong: Ron Swanson has two ex-wives, which, straight from the moustachioed horse's mouth, are "both named Tammy, both bitches." Ron Swanson enjoys a "strong, salt-of-the-earth, self-possessed woman at the top of her field." One could see how this led him to fall for Tammy 2, who is nothing if not empowered. However, she's also a psychopath. She manipulates Ron even after their marriage...although, it seems as though Ron's second divorce with Tammy 2 (after a week-long, if it even reached that, explosion of passion that involved a wedding ceremony, breaking-and-entering, and a vicious affront to Ron's Swanson Pyramid of Greatness-approved haircut) might have cemented the idea in his head that she is unadulterated evil. She does, after all, work for the library. Tammy 1 is an even scarier situation: we have yet to meet her, but the mere mention that she was in the building sent the seemingly fearless sociopath Tammy 2 running for her life. So what went wrong? Ron married the devil incarnate. Three times.
The Couples in Question: Shirley, Chang, Pierce (sevenfold), and the parents of Jeff, Abed, Annie and possibly Troy
Relationship Statuses: All divorced, though Shirley and her husband have rekindled
What Went Wrong: Either Dan Harmon harbors some kind of resentment towards the institution of marriage, or this is some kind of carefully woven and ingenious interconnecting story point that will eventually encompass each of the characters (I assume the latter, as Community always impresses me beyond my wildest expectations). In any event, here are the specifics:
Shirley's ex-ex was unfaithful, so she left him. However, Christians forgive.Chang was unfaithful to his wife (with Shirley...see? Already there's interconnectivity!); the two were already having problems due to a diminished frequency of salsa dancing.Pierce is a bigoted, narcissistic buffoon (who I really hope rejoins the study group in Season 3 after an immaculately ironic coming-of-age arc).Now for the parents...Jeff's dad was a physical an emotionally abusive "two-bit conman" who ran out on the family when Jeff was still young.Abed's father "has an angry energy, but not like angry at America—just angry at [Abed's] mom for leaving him, although she did leave because he was angry, and he is angry because she's American."It's unknown what caused the divorce between Annie's parents. However, from her anecdotal interjections, one can surmise that neither one was a particularly supportive parent, and therefore they were probably both pretty crappy spouses, too.What happened with Troy's parents is ambiguous. He has never explicitly made mention of a divorce, even when Abed and Annie were sharing stories of their own parents splitting in Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas, but he has spoken about his dad having a girlfriend in the present. Tragically, this could mean that his mother has passed, but Troy does sporadically refer to his mother with a tone suggesting that she is still alive. Let's stay optimistic.
These are just scraping the surface; for better or worse, there are plenty of other examples on TV today. Let's hear what you can come up with, so we can all lament and wallow together.
Top Story: Duff and Disney Part Ways
'Tween girls everywhere are going to be bummed. Hilary Duff, star of the Disney Channel's hit show Lizzie McGuire and the recent movie of the same name, has decided to take her leave from the company that helped launch her career. A spokeswoman for the Walt Disney Co. told Reuters the studio and the 15-year-old actress were "going their separate ways," after contract negotiations between Disney and Duff's representatives broke down. Reports say Duff was asking for $5 million for a Lizzie McGuire sequel and $100,000 per episode of the show. "We gave them a very generous offer and unfortunately they passed. Hilary is a great girl and we truly wish her the best of luck," the spokeswoman said. A Disney Channel spokesman told Reuters there were no plans to produce new episodes of the Lizzie McGuire show, but said the cable network plans to continue broadcasting the program.
Minnelli Show Must Go On
Liza Minnelli broke her right kneecap in a fall in Italy Sunday but continued her plans to sing in a charity concert for Iraqi refugees, doing a duet with opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti Monday. "She will leave hospital [Monday] evening to sing 'New York, New York' in a duet with Pavarotti. After the concert, she will return to hospital to undergo a knee operation," Pavarotti's spokeswoman told Reuters. The "Pavarotti and Friends Annual Charity Show" in Modena, northern Italy, aims to raise money to help Iraqi refugees return home after the war.
Simpsons' Groening Named Best Cartoonist
Matt Groening, the mad genius behind The Simpsons, was awarded the Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year at the 2003 Reuben Awards, The Associated Press reports. The 57th annual award ceremony was held Saturday at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, with presenters and past Reuben winners such as "Dilbert" creator Scott Adams, "Doonesbury" creator Gary Trudeau, and Cathy Guisewite, creator of "Cathy," AP reports.
Gay Reality Show Gets a Shot
Cable network Bravo, owned by NBC, will air the first primetime gay-themed reality dating series called Boy Meets Boy. As usual, an eligible bachelor will choose among 15 potential mates--the twist is some of the men are actually heterosexual who have been paid to pretend to be gay. "I think this will be truly groundbreaking television," series executive producer and co-creator Douglas Ross told The Hollywood Reporter. "Several of the straight men have very intense experiences," he said, declining to divulge specific behavior. "We anticipate a lot of both gay and straight viewers will have their assumptions challenged about what it means to be gay and what it means to be straight."
Mighty Wind Singers Give Free Concert
They enjoyed it so much on-screen they decided to do it for real. The cast of the mockumentary A Mighty Wind, which follows three sets of folk singing icons as they come together for a memorial concert, gave their own free concert at the Getty Center museum in Los Angeles Friday, AP reports. Performing were Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean as the Folksmen; Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara as Mitch & Mickey; and John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch and Parker Posey as young members of the nine-person New Main Street Singers.
Once-Blacklisted Actress Gets Star
Betty Garrett, best known for her role as Edna Babish on the TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley, got her own Hollywood Walk of Fame star Friday. Garrett, 84, and her late husband, Larry Parks, were both briefly blacklisted in the early 1950s during the McCarthy era.
Role Call: Curtis Hanson Turns Crimson, Old School's Boys Go Back to Class, Miramax Lands Barbarian
Director Curtis Hanson (8 Mile) is in final negotiations to direct The Crimson Petal and the White. Based on Michael Farber's Victorian novel, the story focuses on a 19-year-old prostitute living in 1860s London who becomes the secret mistress to a member of a powerful London family…meanwhile, the trio of funny guys--Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn--who made Old School a hit will likely return to make the sequel, currently in development, Variety reports…and also in Variety news, Miramax picked up the distribution rights to director Denys Arcand's French-Canadian film The Barbarian Invasions, which recently won awards at the Cannes Film Festival for best screenplay and best actress (Marie-Josee Croze). The story follows an estranged son who reunites with his divorced parents when his father faces a life-threatening illness.
Undoubtedly motivated by a record-breaking box office weekend take of $114 million, Sony Pictures has set the opening date for its Spider-Man sequel. Spider-Man 2 will swing its way into theaters May 7, 2004 with stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst reprising their roles as Spider-Man and Mary Jane, The Associated Press reports. The film, which is based on Stan Lee's popular comic-book series, broke several box office records since its release Friday, including best single day gross and biggest per-screen average in history for a wide release.
High-powered multimedia mogul David Geffen is donating $200 million to the medical school at University of California, Los Angeles, which will now be called the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, according to AP. Geffen, the "G" in DreamWorks SKG, has donated to medical-related causes before: He gave $2.5 million to AIDS Project Los Angeles, $2.5 million to the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York and $1.4 million to AIDS Action in Washington.
Ali director Michael Mann wants Tom Hanks to star in his next film about the Roman invasion of Britain. According to Ananova.com, Mann wants Hanks to play Julius Caesar. Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Colin Firth are also tipped to feature in the film.
Robert De Niro is set to reprise his role in Warner Bros.' sequel to the 1999 crime comedy Analyze This, aptly titled Analyze That. The film will reunite De Niro with Raging Bull co-star Cathy Moriarty-Gentile, who will play a mob widow who takes over her late husband's business, Variety reports. De Niro will resume his role as the emotionally troubled Paul Vitti.
In the Biz
Director David Fincher (Panic Room) is in discussions to helm a remake of the 1975 supernatural thriller The Reincarnation of Peter Proud for Paramount Pictures. According to Variety, the project got off the ground last year when studio-based producer Scott Rudin optioned the rights for the remake.
Real-life heroine Erin Brockovich has settled a libel lawsuit by her ex-husband, Reno, Nev., stockbroker Steven Michael Brockovich, the AP reports. In the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in March 2001, Brockovich accused his ex-wife of libel, slander, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress for stating in two publications that he didn't pay child support for their daughter.
The World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. has dropped its WWF name for a new moniker. The company will now be known as World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., or WWE, Reuters reports. WWF officials cited the company's losing battle with the World Wildlife Fund over the infamous initials as a factor for the switch, Reuters reports.
MTV has ordered eight half-hour episodes of a musical sketch/comedy show from the Bomb-itty boys--GQ, Jordan Allen-Dutton, Erik Weiner (aka Red Dragon) and J.A.Q.--the writing/performing team of the Off Broadway hit The Bomb-itty of Errors, Variety reports. The show is slated to air this fall.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, schlemiel, schlimazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated! Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams will reunite for Laverne & Shirley Together Again. The show will air at 8 p.m. tonight on ABC.
Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, the TV production company behind That '70s Show, will cut up to 25 percent of its staff over the next few weeks, according to Variety. A spokesman for CWM said the cuts are part of an effort to keep the company a lean, profitable operation in a competitive TV environment.
Michael Jackson, Tonos Entertainment and AOL have launched a songwriting contest offering fans a chance to collaborate with the self-proclaimed King of Pop, the AP reports. Jackson will record the winning submission, possibly including it on an upcoming album. All proceeds will go to children's charities. The contest runs through June 10.
The family of an Argentinean pop star who was killed in a rollover accident while driving his 1998 Ford Explorer on June 24, 2000, is suing Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. The family filed the suit in the U.S. District Court in Miami after a Buenos Aires court ruled that the singer, Rodrigo Bueno, was at fault.
Norwegian director Even Benestad's documentary on his transvestite doctor father, Alt om min far (All About My Father) has won top honors at the 9th annual HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Variety reports. Montreal's Andre-Line Beauparlant took home the director's honor.
Comedian/writer Judy Toll died Thursday at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., after a long battle with melanoma. She was 44. Toll most recently served as a consultant on HBO's Sex and the City, Variety reports.
Time to get out the yearbooks and take a trip down memory lane.
As the television season heads into the all-important May sweeps this Thursday, be prepared for an onslaught of TV show reunions--whether you like it or not.
The reawakening of nostalgia TV started last November when The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers hit pay dirt, bringing back Burnett and her hilarious co-stars and highlighting the show's best clips.
Now, it's time to jump on the bandwagon. Here's a short list of what we can look forward to over the next month:
That's Incredible!: The Reunion airs on ABC May 21 with John Davidson, Cathy Lee Crosby and Fran Tarkenton rehashing their hit 1980s show that truly was a pioneer in reality television.
Laverne & Shirley Together Again airs on ABC May 7 with Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams talking about the good times they had in the factory with Squiggy and Lenny. Funny, there was a reunion show seven years ago as well. It's just one of those shows that we need to keep remembering.
The best of bunch will most likely be The Mary Tyler Moore Show reunion, which airs on CBS May 13, bringing together Mary and the gang. Those should be some funny clips.
There will also be tributes to American Bandstand (ABC, May 3), Jay Leno's 10th anniversary on The Tonight Show (NBC, April 30) and the all-star extravaganza The NBC 75th Anniversary Special, celebrating the peacock network's 75 years on the air (May 5).