25 September 2012 | zionadams
Even as a kid, I knew that I was watching something that had never been done before. It made me want to watch it more, if only to see my mother that uncomfortable with the messages conveyed; messages about birth control, the ERA, per-marital sex....can you see where I'm going here? Ann Romano was the divorced mother of two girls, one a potential beauty queen, one not so cute (but you got the idea that was her choice somehow). The chaos in their eyes was, we now know, genuine. The actors were in as much a state of flux as our nation. Women were emerging as independent beings who didn't need a man to make their way in the world. The entire sit-com was played out, probably 90%, in the Romano living room. I think they wore the same 5-6 outfits through-out the entire show. The mostly absent father was played as a philandering, abusive, schmuck and largely only used as a way to man-bash. The maintenance man, Schneider, made phallic gestures with his ever present hammer and was never really fleshed out as a character but at the end of the run he was suddenly more evolved and flirted around with Anne...never made any sense to me at all. I loved the complicated teenage angst, as I was approaching that age myself, and the questions that as a young girl I never realized I was even entitled to ask. It was the 1970's and women were cutting their hair, burning their bras, tossing their inhibitions to the wind...but at my military family household you would never have known it was happening. If I have one criticism of this show, and it's been a 'thing' with me for 30 years, it's the physical language used in the portrayal of Anne by Bonnie Franklin...I never understood her intense anger. She wasn't just driven to make it on her own, you got the idea she was capable of violence if her rights were challenged. It might have been because she was petite but her chin always seemed to be up and stuck way forward...unnauturally posed so that you could actually see her neck rather than her face, and during those shots she was typically photographed from the side...you'd never have seen her face-on otherwise...it was truly 'in your face' and she'd effect that pose while grinning...it was almost maniacal. Again, the actress and the character were both up against a wall. The show had it's critics but refused to back down. A lot was on the line and everyone was watching. There were moments where she seemed less frantic, less controlling, and had touching moments with her daughters...but they were few and far between. By far, the daughters were the central characters, especially Mackenzie Phillips character, Julie. She was too tall, too thin, had acne and was a perpetual wreck...she embodied the way a lot of teen girls felt back then. Everyone wanted to be Barbara; organized, clean, funny, beautiful. A lot went on in that living room!