Recently, I was watching a popular sitcom about a family doing their best to get by in life without driving each other crazy. The clan included a good-looking but dim older sibling who was more interested in socializing than school, a smart, bookish middle child who could be counted on to help solve problems, and the youngest sibling: cute, sassy and charmingly offbeat.
It was entertaining, and yet somehow very familiar…
“Wait a second!” I cried. (I yell at the TV a lot. You probably don’t want to watch reality shows with me.) “Haven’t I seen this family before – back when they were called The Brady Bunch? No, wait – it was Eight Is Enough! No, Growing Pains! …Or was it Roseanne? …The Cosby Show? …Home Improvement?…Malcolm in the Middle?”
Actually, all those shows – and many, many more – are populated by the same tired old stereotypes we’ve seen on TV since the first black-and-white Motorola entered the American living room. The premise, location and plots may vary from program to program, but the kids in them are pretty much the same, with slight variations to keep viewers from catching on too quickly.
That’s not to say that these shows aren’t well-acted or enjoyable. Some of them are even an important part of television history (Cosby was the first show to feature an upper-class black family; The Brady Bunch addressed stepfamilies; Roseanne presented the blue-collar point of view).
Still, it would be nice for once to see small-screen children break free from the mold. How about a group of siblings who are all into academics? A plus-sized cast member who doesn’t crack jokes every two minutes? A privileged kid who also happens to be nice?
Here are some of the kid-types I’d be happy to see fade into TV history. Any more you’d like to add to the list?
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