Who raised you? (on television)

First of all- I must say… I had GREAT parents. Raised me brilliantly, if I do say so myself.

But I realized (for the 100th time) the other day, while watching Nick at Night, that Dr. Huxtable and Mrs. Claire Huxtable feel awful close to being my TV family… if not my aunt & uncle.

Weird right?

I was watching the Episode where it’s Dr. Heathcliff’s mother’s birthday, so they have Olivia singing. It’s the same episode where Rudy and her friends lie to go to a silly 16+ club to watch their celeb-u-crush sing. I kinda realized– I grew up with Rudy. I think we’re the same age? I learned TONS of rough life/family lessons from Bill Cosby.

Like: Don’t Drink (thanks Vanessa & the apple juice chugging game), family is important (Sandra & Denise family continuously living with the Huxtables, despite Heathcliff’s ill feeling, he loves them regardless), Apartments & independent living = expensive (Thanks Theo), Growing boobs doesn’t come from mail-order medicine (Thanks Rudy), Even the quiet kids are hilarious (thanks chubby friend of Rudy), anniversary & birthday gifts aren’t always things you can buy but also the love & time you put into expressing your appreciation, You can eat the center of a cake by cutting out the middle/filling it with paper towel/covering icing (Thanks Dr. H & Olivia), soapy hallways make GREAT slip-n-slides (thanks College Theo), it’s okay to have friend fights during sleep overs (thanks Rudy), Scary teachers can be the best ones (thanks Theo), Culture is inspiring and fun!

I learned to appreciate Jazz. I saw a unique perspective of African American family culture (all the heritage & art worked in the show). More than anything– the way in which Mr. & Mrs. Huxtable ALWAYS worked together in the HEIGHT of respect & class & love– for everyone. Everything they did in parenting was fresh and well meaning and positive.

I feel strongly for these IMAGINARY folks.

When thinking about who ELSE raised me on television– I think of the Seavers (Growing Pains), the Bradys (Brady Bunch), the Tanners (Full House), the Keatons (Family Ties), the Arnolds (Wonder Years), the Taylors (Home Improvement; albeit I was in college), and Mr. Belvidere (yes, even the butler). Punky Brewster and My Two Dads (and, a hate-to-admit-i-sigh, Blossom) were HUGE influences as well– showing me it was FUN and OKAY to be creatively unique– that it was OKAY to be a goofy, fun-loving girl and to do so didn’t necessarily mean I was a “tom boy”. I was me. Punky-defined, but me.

They pop up in my head now, these families & TV influences– helping me associate various problems to experiences… granted, not MY experiences, but better have the influence of a pretend interaction than nothing to draw from at all.

Again, my family did a great job– but it’s ONE family with ONE set of experiences. And so these family shows introduced other ways of doing things that I would not be privvy to.

So here’s my question… and the WHOLE POINT of this blog topic– who is raising YOUR children on television? Can you think of 5 TV families your kids might be associated with to draw from? Now try to think of APPROPRIATE TV families on MAJOR television stations… How many can you think of now? Television DOES influence children. It does. We may not like to admit it– we may avoid admitting it… but it’s the truth.

Look at how teens have taken to Laguna Beach and My Super Sweet Sixteen. Look at how Bratz dolls and The Pussycat Dolls have affected the sexy-levels of youth.

When I was young– I watched Cheers, Empty Nest, Sisters, ER, CHIPS, Roseanne, Alf, Three’s Company, etc > all shows that had adult themes. They may have put alternative notions into my brain– but those notions would have come sooner or later anyway (thanks school, peer-pressure, and youth-bubble-popping). They were dramas, and Dramas have a way of feeling extraordinarily unreal– or, not unreal, but DISTANT. And they were ALWAYS poo-poo’ed by what I learned from MY family and MY TV Families.

In this day & age where Sex in television seems to be everywhere, and where ‘risque’ behavior is peppered throughout all family television shows… Who is raising your children in media? Do you know what your kids are watching? Do you know who is influencing them?

The “influence” is going to happen– that is, unless you yank that boob-tube out of your house completely.  It’s not necessarily BAD either (I mean– I’m making a living out of what I got from TV and I LOVE my job).  Be curious, find highlights, take interest.  It’s kinda exciting to see what kids are gravitating to– where they’re learning certain things– what they enjoy.

Aside from the bigger question– I would LOVE to hear who RAISED YOU on TV, or in Books, etc. So feel free to leave your alternative families in the comments 🙂


  1. August 24, 2007 at 3:08 am

    Oh, Izzy, you ARE my hero for adoring the Huxtable clan! Clearly our generations have collided despite your comparable youth to my ‘seasoned’ persona…;-)

    I grew up on Cosby even via record album (yes, those vinyl things) which I bought in the ginza for entertainment as a young ‘un when I lived in Japan. (TV like “Hogans Heroes” in Japanese was comedy in itself by seeing Germans and Americans dubbed in Japanese) Anyway, I listened to Cosby a lot instead, and his monologues were a hoot…I ended up doing his ‘Noah’ schtick for a HS talent show I think.

    In the 80s I collected Huxtable scripts as my prototype for how ‘good dialogue and plot points should be,’ back in the day when I thought I’d take a stab at sitcoms but didn’t want to move to L.A. (closest I came was doing a screenplay workshop at the BBC/U.London via Cal!)

    Anyway, ironically, just a couple of weeks ago in our dorm at the Women Leaders for the World (www.gwln.org) gig, my regal roomie from Uganda (who reminded me of Claire Huxtable herself with her wry wit) was plopped on the common area couch watching reruns of Cosby at all hours. We broke into an in-depth giggle fest and media analysis of families, values, sitcoms, styles, elegance, grace and of course…class vs. crass.

    Cosby exemplifies all to me…And yes, I’ve seen him every time he’s been in town with his grizzled grey beard and comedic timing. He still has that pointblank stare with chin dropped to chest and ‘you gotta be kidding me’ irony. Makes me laugh just thinking of that look…

    On the more recent sitcom front, Cheers, Frasier, and yeah, I’m a Sela Ward fan…why did they have to cancel “Once and Again” after Sisters? My 12 yr. old tween loves Gilmore Girls which we watched via Netflix dating way back to when she was 16…but as you said, even as the characters grow up, and topics turn dicey it can be a ‘teaching moment together’ for critical thinking skills.

    I’m not big on ‘bubble-wrapped’ childhoods, because it boomerangs, but as a parent, I get frustrated being blindsided too…Sure would be nice to have a modicum of sensibility out there without having to be a funnel. Alas, it’s all over the board and random; each piece of media, whether site or show has to be evaluated on its own merit each time around..nothing is a given. ‘Twas ever thus I s’pose…

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