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American Dreams premierd last night on NBC.
September 30, 2002 11:06 AM   Subscribe

American Dreams premierd last night on NBC. "This evocative drama -- set against the memorable, upbeat sounds of the 1960s -- depicts a more innocent America as seen through the youthful Pryor family of Philadelphia as they brace for cultural turbulence ahead that still resonates in this contemporary era." Several things along those lines in the show caught my attention. One being the way the 1960's mother role is portrayed. Is she content or is she oppressed? What happend to the everyday sit-down family dinner, where some things are not appropriate to say at the dinner table? Why did it seem like such a simpler place and time? Would America today feel the same pain if we lost our president? The show is not a whole lot different from the concept of the Wonder Years but it seems fresh compared to some of the other NBC dramas.
posted by Recockulous (53 comments total)

 
Would America today feel the same pain if we lost our president?

eh boi... here we go.
posted by Witty at 11:18 AM on September 30, 2002


Ugh! I really, really hated American Dreams. IMO, it was a blatant ploy to tug at the heartstrings of boomers with cliched nostalgia and tired plotlines. It didn't present anything new in terms of character (they were all such cardboard cutouts), and I'm surprised anyone buys that "simpler time" garbage these days. Give me a break! American Dreams was a far cry from The Wonder Years (a good show), and hopefully will be the first crappy series on the chopping block. Television doesn't have to be so mediocre—it can, in fact, be fabulous (see: Six Feet Under, The Bernie Mac Show, Buffy, even Firefly is promising). So bring on the mid-season replacement!
posted by meowmix at 11:21 AM on September 30, 2002


Why did it seem like such a simpler place and time?

no internet.
posted by jaded at 11:22 AM on September 30, 2002


Why did it seem like such a simpler place and time?

Because we tend to romanticize the past?

I wouldn't know anyway. I never started the fire.
posted by tittergrrl at 11:30 AM on September 30, 2002


Why did it seem like such a simpler place and time?

I just read an essay by Joan Didion called the "White Album" and for some reason the 60s come across as a more dangerous and divided time then this patch of history. In the 60s, people were scared of the growing counterculture movement, psychedelic drugs, the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, Communism, the Manson family, Vietnam, etc. It seemed to me that at the time, America's place in the world was a lot less secure than it is now.

Also, the weed wasn't as strong back then.
posted by rks404 at 11:35 AM on September 30, 2002


And the links were better.
posted by rocketman at 11:38 AM on September 30, 2002


Wouldn't this be a perfect example of finding an excuse to talk about an issue, as opposed to finding a link on the web?
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:39 AM on September 30, 2002


Because we tend to romanticize the past?

This speech about the show kind of reminds me of those people that want to live in Medieval times. They conveniently forget all of the diseases that were rampant and starvation-let alone the gruesome battles and deaths. But they consider medieval reenactments to do justice to the times.
posted by Raichle at 11:40 AM on September 30, 2002


(slightly off-topic)

One thing I noticed about the American Dreams TV trailer was the sudden change in the "panorama of history" incidental music in the climactic video montage.

They originally started with a strangely familiar grand orchestral theme, which I was sure I'd heard in a Civil War movie somewhere else... but after a few weeks or so, the melody changed. I had a feeling that someone's copyright had been infringed on, and they'd had to rush a re-composition of the music for the montage.

Did anyone else notice?
posted by brownpau at 11:43 AM on September 30, 2002


Why did it seem like such a simpler place and time?

Maybe because much of what they were experiencing was new to the Western World and America in particular, ie: counterculture, protest, open drug use, recovery from a world war, the threat of global annihilation, the death of a president, technology surging at a greater and greater pace, information traveling further and faster than ever before. Today we look at these things as either a given (information travels the world in a second) or a strong possibility (assassination, 'nuff said)--in other words, these things aren't new.
posted by ashbury at 11:45 AM on September 30, 2002


Also, the weed wasn't as strong back then.

As if you know... you never tried Tolstoy Mold! Otherwise, rks404, you are correct--the 60's were bleak, scary and oppressive--take a tip from one who was there. One other caveat about about retro films and tv series--where are the rust buckets? Where are all the 50's Merc's and '49 Chevy's, stock or channeled, the greasers and jocks drove? Where are all the clapboard, weathered gray houses at the edge of town, the bottles and beer cans by the hihgway? The 60's were not ready for a close up, I can tell you.

But feel free to expound on what you never knew, kids.
posted by y2karl at 11:50 AM on September 30, 2002


There is at least this: no AIDS back then. Be wary of all that"things were nicer back then" nonsense. The 50s were the complacent years in which nothing happened. Unless you got your butt sent to Korea. And, late 60s, Viet Nam.
posted by Postroad at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2002


I respectfully defer to my elders when it comes to knowledge about past drug potency. I admit, my only source of knowledge about the whole "marijuana was less potent in the sixties" meme was a school drug program, which in retrospect might not be the most reliable source of information.

I think I've got some of this "Tolstoy Mold" growing in the grout of my bathroom tile. I'll be sure to send you some, y2karl
posted by rks404 at 12:06 PM on September 30, 2002


Why is it so wrong to romanticize the past? It is entertainment.

Wouldn't this be a perfect example of finding an excuse to talk about an issue, as opposed to finding a link on the web?


The site is more than a one page news article.
I really was going for the way the issues were handled in the show. I found it interesting to see how NBC was going to go about portraying a housewife. I thought it was very tacky and trite for the show to throw Kennedy's death in there out of nowhere. There was a lot of poor writing but that doesnt mean it couldnt raise some questions. The reactions over Kennedy may have been over dramatized, but seriously if our president was killed and it was looked back upon 40 years later, would they even be able to dramatize the whole nation as haveing the same(let alone a sad one) reaction?
The show isnt very good but it is a family show which sort of breaks the mold from NBC's crime oriented dramas. I am not a huge TV watcher but I can't remember the last family drama on NBC. I didnt compare it as fresh to any other network. Maybe I should have thrown in my list of questions does the show hold any accuracy? I said why did it seem like such a simpler place and time? not why was it

This is only the second time I have posted and I have learned what not to do, so please dont rub it anymore than you have to
posted by Recockulous at 12:09 PM on September 30, 2002


I hate the baby boomers.
posted by jeb at 12:13 PM on September 30, 2002


ashbury said that there's a strong possiblility that he/she may try to assassinate the President.
posted by Witty at 12:13 PM on September 30, 2002


Why did it seem like such a simpler place and time?

Even in the 30's, there was Reefer Madness.

(By the way, B, i, and link buttons do not function within Mozilla 1.*.)
posted by the fire you left me at 12:17 PM on September 30, 2002


American Dreams is a shameless retread of Rags to Riches, an earlier NBC project which highlighted retreads of Golden Era hits. Rags even had its own JFK assassination episode, as a sweeps week special.

Given the pattern of behavior, it won't be long before a Solid Gold retread comes sliding out of the chute. But hopefully by then, network programming will be streamed via broadband and Rhino Records could file an online patent suit...
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:18 PM on September 30, 2002


Why did it seem like such a simpler place and time?

rks404, I'm with you. When reading texts from that era, you see how people saw a society trying to tear itself apart, politically and culturally. The Vietnam war was more costly and unpopular than a current war in Afghanistan or Iraq is likely to be. And we worry about foreign terrorists now, but back then they had foreign terrorists and domestic "urban guerillas". Sure, we have AIDS now, but on average diseases cut down more people earlier in life in the 60s than they do now. And so on.

Of course, we romanticize about most bygone eras. It seems only the bleak 14th century with its Black Death and maybe the US Civil War were bad enough not to be seen as a "simpler place and time". Or are there any other eras that fit in the same category?
posted by Triplanetary at 12:19 PM on September 30, 2002


Note to Self: find more synonyms for "retread".
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:21 PM on September 30, 2002


witty, I'm hoping that you're some sort of president. :)

Recockulous, I think kafka is questioning the quality of your link--remember that the onus is on linking, then discussion, not the other way around. With a few minutes of research, you could have found other, less commercial or pop-culture oriented sites as well as the one you used to prop up the discussion.
posted by ashbury at 12:24 PM on September 30, 2002


I spent my childhood in the 60's. Being an adult now, I look back and cannot imagine what those times looked like to my parents' generation.

To me, it seemed normal to have a war in Vietnam. After all, it went on through just about all my childhood. It seemed normal to hear about riots. It seemed normal to lose national leaders to assassination. (one of my earliest memories was of the Kennedy assassination. I thought Lyndon was going to be Jackie's new husband.) None of this was a big hairy deal to me. It was the backdrop to our lives, and we thought that was just how life was.

If I had been an adult with an adult's sensibilities back then I doubt I would have seen the era as idyllic and tranquil.
posted by konolia at 12:30 PM on September 30, 2002


Trust me, kiddies, it wasn't idyllic and tranquil. (But it was fun...)
posted by languagehat at 12:47 PM on September 30, 2002


I hate the baby boomers.

We hate you right back, you whiny little punk.
posted by timeistight at 12:51 PM on September 30, 2002


What some comments are forgetting (or ignoring) is that the first episode takes place before the eruptions of the mid- and later -60s. For the most part, the tone of the show reminded me a lot of growing up in the early '60s. (I'd've been about the age of the youngest son in the show.) Yes, we do tend to romaticize the past and look at it with fondness, forgetting the problems and the like.

The music used on the show was out of time sequence, too, I think. "Heat Wave" was a top40 hit on the east coast during the summer, and I'm not sure if the Beach Boys were on Bandstand in 1963 (could be, but I don't remember hearing them until later).

Well, I liked the first episode, mostly for the memories it brought back. I'll continue watching, but reserve judgement.
posted by paddbear at 12:55 PM on September 30, 2002


Thanks ashbury, point taken.
posted by Recockulous at 1:09 PM on September 30, 2002


konolia, great point there. When you're a kid, you tend to accept things as they are and think that is normal. Scary to think about how kids growing up in the shadow of the US Civil War or the genocide in Rwanda turned out...
posted by Triplanetary at 1:11 PM on September 30, 2002


One thing I noticed about the American Dreams TV trailer was the sudden change in the "panorama of history" incidental music in the climactic video montage.

They retooled the whole ad campaign for the show a month or two ago, toning down the American Bandstand angle. The music change you mention was probably part and parcel of this retooling.

I am not a huge TV watcher but I can't remember the last family drama on NBC.

I'm thinking Providence.
posted by hilker at 1:19 PM on September 30, 2002


I hate the baby boomers.

Like, we really, really care, pre-spermboy.
posted by y2karl at 1:37 PM on September 30, 2002


I hate the boomers AND the Xers. The past always sucked.
posted by owillis at 1:52 PM on September 30, 2002


owillis, you're just jealous that your generation doesn't even get its own name.
posted by timeistight at 1:56 PM on September 30, 2002


Well, there's always "Generation Y" (though as a '77er, I take issue with the 1981-after distinction)
posted by owillis at 2:03 PM on September 30, 2002


your generation doesn't even get its own name

We're called the "Fuck off generation."

You know what you can do.
posted by rocketman at 2:04 PM on September 30, 2002


as a '77er

Hmm... '77, Boston

By the way, what's your mother's name ... son.
posted by timeistight at 2:13 PM on September 30, 2002


The past always sucked.

Like you know what you're talking about, mr. kryptonite spermboy.
posted by y2karl at 2:18 PM on September 30, 2002


To be honest, I've always been a bit confused by the ongoing quest to label and generalize all things by decade and generation.

Take my above example. I'm sure you could make a strong case that Oliver's and my generation (we're the same age) is largely a bunch of fuck-offs. But hey, we're young.

What's most likely to happen, though, is some smartass will either write a newspaper article or a novel describing one member and use a snappy catch-all to generalize across the generation.

That, or some Pepsi marketing manager will think of a phrase and feed it endlessly into the culture until we're so browbeaten that we submit. And start calling ourselves "Generation neXt." Blech.

timeistight: hee hee. i hadn't heard that one since boy scouts.
posted by rocketman at 2:18 PM on September 30, 2002


Let's see... I was born in '77. I'm 25 now. I work only with Boomers, and they are the ones who sign my checks. Oh, and good ol' Mom and Dad are boomers as well. Me... I have no problem with "them."

I also enjoyed the show. I saw a lot of connections with the 90s. In 40 years, I can't wait to see the promos for the new drama:
"It was a simpler time. The stock market was booming. Girls flocked to New York to be on TRL. Until..." <cue 9/11 montage> "September 11: An event that changed a generation."
As someone who appreciates a well-done family drama, I thought it was very well written and directed. Yes, Six Feet Under (and the like) is an excellent show, but not as appropriate for some viewers as this one (ignoring, of course, the 15 y/o's stripping on a bus...).
posted by mychai at 2:20 PM on September 30, 2002


Boomtown was better.
posted by Dirjy at 2:57 PM on September 30, 2002


I hate the boom towners.
posted by timeistight at 3:03 PM on September 30, 2002


I'll stop now.
posted by timeistight at 3:04 PM on September 30, 2002


in terms of depictions of recent history, I thought Homefront was great series (it was post-WWII), and got into what happened to the vets and the women who had entered the workforce during the war, and racial issues, etc without sugar-coating too much...a
posted by amberglow at 3:07 PM on September 30, 2002


It seems to me this show is simply trying to cash in on nostalgia during the unease of the Current Situation(s). Don't this show and others (Do Over, That Was Then) play off our cultural memory more successfully now more than ever? ...I mean as a way to placate us more than television in general does already.
posted by yonderboy at 3:07 PM on September 30, 2002


there is one reason that this show exists, and it is to recycle american bandstand clips. or did none of you notice that dick clark's production company birthed this particular baby?

ugh. i'm so sick of boomer nostalgia. and it's only getting worse now that the aging process is meandering along (unless, of course, they can get their botox fixes). it's just resulting in an ever-increasing tendency to romanticize/cannibalize youth at an even more rapid rate -- look at the obsession with teenage demographics, which occurred just as boomer kids were turning teen. you think that's a coincidence? it's just more plys on the boomers' self-absorbent towels.
posted by maura at 3:08 PM on September 30, 2002


One thing I noticed about the American Dreams TV trailer was the sudden change in the "panorama of history" incidental music in the climactic video montage.

They retooled the whole ad campaign for the show a month or two ago, toning down the American Bandstand angle. The music change you mention was probably part and parcel of this retooling.

And they may have used a temp score originally. That happens a lot in movie trailers (since the trailer may have to come out before the score is finished, or even started) and I'm sure the same goes on in promotions for new TV series. I seem to recall the score from "Conan the Barbarian" was very popular in movie trailers for a long time.
posted by kindall at 3:11 PM on September 30, 2002


did none of you notice that dick clark's production company birthed this particular baby?

Yes, I even heard him talk about the show on Saturday. He was being interviewed on a tv show and made a similar reply. The music is what everyone will be able to enjoy and like as the AMB clips being the best part of the show because the whole family would know them. As songs from ABS are well known hits that all age groups have heard.

So what is new?, as long as you repeat old stuff as a new hit year after year.........Dick Clark. Why, as the commentators remarked that Dick in his tv clips of yesteryear with today still looked the same, timeless.

Will we see anything new?, well I guess not with Dick Clark productions in the works.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:05 PM on September 30, 2002


It seems to me this show is simply trying to cash in on nostalgia during the unease of the Current Situation(s).
I thought that the launch of this program was really well planned to coincide with the post 911 patriotic and sentimental feelings. I opted not to watch it, because I am sick of propoganda.
Also, it could easily serve as an outlet to promote the conservative ideals of the late 50's and early 60's, and I am personally for the fuck-it-all freedom of the millenium.
posted by Raichle at 4:38 PM on September 30, 2002


What I remember as a child of the 60's (besides the things posted by konolia) is the certain belief that sooner or later we would be exchanging nukes with Russia.

There was also the huge, insurmountable generation gap..i.e. everyone over 30 was not only a square, but also not to be trusted. Men over 30 looked absurd with their dorky haircuts and straight-legged pants.

The Black Panthers frightened me and the SDS frightened me. I thought you went to college, started with some sit-ins, took over the Dean's office and then blew-up the chemistry lab.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:40 PM on September 30, 2002


trying to cash in on nostalgia

Time is recycled over and over in music and clothes. Think I joke go look at your parents old albums and clothing. Or just look at your own old albums and clothing. What's new, not the smell. I'm now seeing the clothes and music from the 80's recycled. Maybe that's it, they won't move on for something new to be recycled.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:51 PM on September 30, 2002


thom, that's obvious, that's why I bought the new Interpol CD, it reminds me of The Velvet Underground and Joy Division. What I am refering to is the timing of this attempt to utilize nostalgia, Raichle elaborated on my point quite well.
posted by yonderboy at 6:11 PM on September 30, 2002


I'm waiting for That '90s Show.

"Remember Vanilla Ice and The Ninja Turtles? Good times man, good times."
posted by owillis at 6:54 PM on September 30, 2002


I thought you went to college, started with some sit-ins, took over the Dean's office and then blew-up the chemistry lab.

Stop it, you're making me nostalgic...
posted by languagehat at 7:28 PM on September 30, 2002


Hmmm, there are more boomers here than I thought. Bodes well.

Why did it seem like such a simpler place and time?

Kennedy Assasination 1 + MLK Assasination + Kennedy Assasination 2 + Vietnam War + Watergate... + 911 = loss of innocence.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:48 AM on October 1, 2002


yonderboy, I got you, But some comments above made me comment with your remark as my base. Sorry you thought I was pointing at you my bad if so as I wanted to comment w/o the pointed finger. Thanks for your help.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:04 PM on October 4, 2002


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