Saturday, June 15, 2019

The magnificent Andersons

Caution: Antenna TV is running a Father Knows Best marathon tomorrow, from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (Eastern). Having seen the entire run, I feel no compulsion to watch. But other people — who knows?

What I know is that there’s more to Father Knows Best than the twenty-first-century viewer might expect to find. I’ll quote from one of my posts about the show:

Yes, Father Knows Best presents a colorless (that is, all-white) world — at least in its first two seasons. And yes, Father Knows Best presents a world in which tradespeople and members of the working class are predictably quaint or wise or deferential or gruff. But Pleasantville it ain’t. Nor is it Leave It to Beaver. The Andersons — Jim (Robert Young), Margaret (Jane Wyatt), Betty (Elinor Donahue), Bud (Billy Gray), and Kathy (Lauren Chapin) — are smart and witty people. They say things that are genuinely funny, often at one another’s expense. They are far from simple and cheerful: Jim is a deeply fallible, poetry-loving father; Margaret, like Jim, is a college graduate, and she struggles with the limitations of life as a “housewife.” The kids are a handful: Betty, histrionically critical; Bud, moody and resentful; Kathy, maniacally energetic and, sometimes, destructive. The Anderson house is filled with books; its residents never (at least in the show’s first two seasons) go to church. I suspect that if Jim and Margaret’s makers had let these characters think about politics, they’d have voted for Adlai Stevenson.
I’m not embarrassed to say it: I like Father Knows Best.

Other FKB posts
“Betty’s Graduation” : A conversation from another world : FKB pencil sharpener : Flowers knows best : “Languages, economics, philosophy, the humanities” : “Margaret Disowns Her Family” : Scene-stealing card-file : “A Woman in the House” : “Your dinner jacket just arrived”

comments: 8

zzi said...

. . . its residents never (at least in the show’s first two seasons) go to church. To the left that's mana from heaven. I like the show especially when the boy gets into a mix up and the father has to fix things in :30 min.. I think their house is The Blondie house or is it the Hazel house?

Michael Leddy said...

So Father Knows Best appeals to “the left”? I think “the left” would be surprised about that. Would that be the left that includes people like Dorothy Day? Why not read my post In terms of the contrast it was making, between FKB and other television shows?

Anonymous said...

I used to watch "Father Knows Best" in the mornings getting ready for work a few years ago and rather enjoyed it. Betty was a kick as she seemed to me to be pretty independent and a free thinker if I remember her right. Kathy to me was the annoying one of all of them. Bud was always the one in trouble.

Robert Young in the show always reminded me of my dad mainly because they wore their hair the same complete with the use of Brylcreem to keep it in place!

I always found "leave it to Beaver" very annoying but FKB not so much so.


Michael Leddy said...

There’s a lot of free thinking in this series. There’s even a female beatnik who reads Kafka (“A Woman in the House”). But no free thinking when it comes to men’s hair. :)

Fresca said...

Well, for heaven's sake! I have never seen one single episode of FKB! In fact, I had assumed (oh, for sin) that is was insipid. Will give it a try now.

Related? I LOVE the early "Andy Griffith Show"--with little Opie and Barney Fife. Not usually very complex, but I've been moved by Andy's ability to change his mind, and, especially, his ability to apologize.
The first time I saw Andy sit on the edge of his little son Opie's bed and apologize for misjudging him, I claimed him as my "real" father.

Your Catholic leftie friend, Fresca

Michael Leddy said...

I love Andy Griffith too, though the show’s sexual politics are sometimes horrifying, as when a farmer’s daughter, dolled up, becomes bait for the young men one farm over. Also amazing is the absence of people of color. I know I’m not telling you things you don’t already know.

A weird connection: Elinor Donahue played Ellie Walker, pharmacist and Andy’s first “girlfriend” in the series. Her character is rather blank compared to that of Betty Anderson.

I should’ve said in my reply to that earlier comment, “What about Fresca?” :)

zzi said...

Finding out that sweet Betty ended up marring a man 25 years older than her a few years after the show, does give new meaning to "Father Knows Best".

Michael Leddy said...

Yeah, some complications there.