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Poster: Mr. Television
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Pictured are Megan Follows, Judith Marie-Bergan, Martin Mull and Christian Brackett-Zika.
For a review of Domestic Life go to the Domestic Life Mini-Page right here at Sitcoms Online.
A Review From The New York Times
by John J. O'Connor
January 4, 1984
''Domestic Life,'' at 8 P.M., lists Steve Martin as executive producer, and the comedian's special brand of straight-faced lunacy can be detected throughout the half hour. Martin Mull, whose past credits include playing the bizarre talk-show host on ''Fernwood 2-Night,'' portrays Martin Crane, a television-news personality on a Seattle station. At home, Martin and his wife, Candy (Judith-Marie Bergan), nervously watch the budding romance between their 10-year- old son Harold (Christian Brackett- Zika) and confident Sally (''Here's my number - use it!''). What did the two kids do on their first date? Explains Harold: ''We talked, we laughed, we shared.'' The episode manages to skewer the entire contemporary phenomenon of ludicrous child romances. The tone is right, the cast is about perfect and the result is often quite funny.
At the time Domestic Life premiered the state of the sitcom was in a state of decline. Some insiders were calling it the death of the sitcom. This article from Time Magazine was printed at that time...
Unhappy Days for the Sitcom
Monday, Jun. 04, 1984
By RICHARD ZOGLIN Article
After thriving for years, the genre has fallen on hard times
These have been tearful days in televisionland. Earlier this month, the Cunningham family sobbed and even Fonzie got a little misty-eyed at the wedding of Joanie and Chachi, as Happy Days bade farewell after eleven seasons on the air. Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) said an equally weepy goodbye to family, friends and Indianapolis apartment as she left for a new job in London, bringing to a close nine seasons of One Day at a Time. But the most heartfelt lamentations may be taking place offscreen, in the executive suites at ABC, CBS and NBC. The demise of those two long-running shows is the latest evidence that hard times have hit one of TV's most durable genres, the half-hour situation comedy.
The state of the sitcom is no laughing matter. Though half-hour comedies still make up a considerable chunk of the network schedules—22 will be on next fall, compared with 24 last fall— the attrition rate has become alarming. Of the 20 sitcoms introduced by the three networks in the past year, only four—CBS' Kate & Allie and After MASH, ABC's Webster and NBC's Night Court—were renewed for next season. In the ratings for the 1983-84 season, the genre made its worst showing in 30 years: not a single sitcom that ran all season was ranked among the top ten. In 1974-75, by contrast, the seven top-rated shows were all sitcoms.
Nearly every one of the hit comedies from the boom days of the 1970s is gone. ABC's Three's Company, which fell to 34th place in the ratings after years in the top ten, will mutate next fall into a new show, Three's a Crowd, in which Star John Ritter acquires a new girlfriend with a cantankerous father. Only The Jeffersons (ten seasons on the air) and Alice (eight seasons) remain, and they seem to be running on sheer inertia.
What has happened? For one thing, most of the formative creative figures from the 1970s have either left the field or lost their touch. Norman Lear, who revitalized the sitcom in 1971 with All in the Family, flopped with his comeback series earlier this year, a.k.a. Pablo. Alan Alda's The Four Seasons, his first effort since M*A*S*H (which he helped shape as a sometime writer and director), also failed to catch on, and has been canceled.
MTM Enterprises, once a trend setter with such sitcoms as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, has largely turned its attention to dramas like Hill Street Blues. Garry Marshall, the creator of Happy Days and Mork & Mindy, has forsaken TV for feature films.
At the same time, the situation comedy seems to have lost the central place it once held in the nation's cultural consciousness. In the early 1970s, a bracing dose of social realism was injected into a genre previously dominated by white picket fences, pipe-smoking fathers, mischievous genies and flying nuns. Sitcoms began to tackle controversial issues, from racial bigotry to abortion, and to portray, often with biting candor, the way contemporary adults interact with one another at home and in the workplace. Sitcoms kept people home nights, inspired fads and catch phrases and created stars. No more. Today the genre is filled with impossibly precocious children, bubble-headed blonds and wisecracking oddballs who, all too often, work at wacky TV stations. Lest we forget, one of this season's protagonists was a talking chimpanzee (Mr. Smith). Yet the "human" characters were scarcely more believable. When eight-year-old Webster, played by pint-sized Emmanuel Lewis, was ordered by his adoptive father to go to his room, he replied with caustic resignation: "Right. I'm the kid." One had to be reminded.
Not that topicality has disappeared altogether from prime-time comedy. Such shows as Family Ties, Diff'rent Strokes and Gimme a Break still make occasional stabs at issues like drug abuse and teen-age sex. But Archie Bunker's righteous outrage has been replaced by Gary Coleman's jokebook, and the conflicts are resolved with a pat 1950s-style sentimentality that seems phonier than ever. Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver at least believed in their inspirational messages.
Even the few sitcoms written for adults seem to have burned themselves out. The ensemble shows that have tried to pick up where Mary Tyler Moore left off, from Taxi and Barney Miller to this season's Duck Factory and Night Court, have been marred by an overreliance on rat-a-tat gag lines and quirky characters assembled like the bomber crews in old World War II movies. A couple of outstanding performers (Shelley Long and Ted Danson on Cheers, for example) can bring the illusion of humanity and depth to these jerry-built structures. But one still senses an overheated air, the desperation of writers huffing and puffing to fill dead spaces with laughs.
Given the cyclical nature of television, it would be foolish to write the sitcom's obituary. A few shows have tried to revitalize the form this season, though with only mixed success. Buffalo Bill, starring Dabney Coleman as an egotistical TV talk-show host, provided a few weeks of inspired nastiness before it hit a dead end. The Four Seasons tried earnestly to deal with the problems of contemporary married couples but seemed oddly glum and enervated. Kate & Allie offers moments of wit and truth in its portrayal of two divorced mothers, but founders on Jane Curtin's strained and self-conscious acting.
On the other hand, the season's best new comedy came disguised in utterly conventional garb. Domestic Life, a CBS mid-season entry, starred Martin Mull as that most familiar of sitcom clichés, the harried husband and father of two. But the show (co-created by Steve Martin) managed the difficult feat of using the conventions and satirizing them at the same time. When Mull was forced to ask his son, a 12-year-old financial wizard, for a $4,000 loan to pay the mortgage, the deadpan role reversal was acidly on target. Dismayed son: "I just wish you'd asked my advice before agreeing to a balloon payment." Contrite father: "I would've, but you were seven." Domestic Life, alas, has not been renewed for the fall, but it proved that there may be life in the old form yet. —By Richard Zoglin
To go back in time to January 11, 1984 go to http://eightiesclub.tripod.com/id165.htm
To watch a promo of Domestic Life go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sS2HzpQoL5E
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Keywords: The Cast of Domestic Life