Season One, Volume One
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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
onfession: I watched a lot of “Love American Style” as a kid. Although those memories are a distant blur, for many, the show’s most well-known aspect remains its catchy theme tune, the lyrics of which now bewilder me:
Loooooove, American Style,
Truer than the Red, White and Blue
Loooooove, American Style,
That's me and you
And on a star spangled night, my love, my love, come to me
You can rest your head on my shoulder
Out by the dawn's early light, my love
I will defend your right to try
Wait a minute, pal: “I will defend your right to try?” To try what? To try resting my head on your shoulder, which you’ve already seduced me into doing? I don’t get it. If any reader does, please e-mail me and explain what the hell is going on there.
Looking at “Love American Style” today, I wonder exactly what my childhood attraction to it was, well, aside from the tune, which, despite the lyrical quandary, still pops in an addictive way. Each one-hour episode typically features three different, self-contained vignettes/sketches strung together with unrelated throwaway gags that often star Stuart Margolin and a giant brass bed. The bed frequently shows up in the vignettes, too. How many brass beds did the production own? Aside from the revolving cast, the bed and the theme song are the stars of the show. There is no ongoing storyline to follow.
Oh, hell, I’ve complicated things.
“Love American Style” makes “The Love Boat” look continuity-heavy. It’s just these 10 to 20 minute pieces -- they’ll either amuse you or not, and there’s always a new one right around the corner. These tales could be divided into two categories: romance or farce. The former are dated pieces of comic social commentary that have little relevance in the ‘00s. The latter – like most farce – still sorta work. Like “Love and the Living Doll,” for instance, featuring Arte Johnson and his inflatable date. Forget the doll, it’s Arte Johnson. What more do you need to know?
In many ways, though, it’s the fare that doesn’t work that makes this set interesting. For instance, the term “swinger” is bandied about between couples so frequently you’d think it was a norm. This was 1969 and people had no problem talking about such things on prime time TV? These days, swinging is a goofy “Austin Powers” gag or a serious “Nip/Tuck” issue. What happened? Well, I’ve narrowed it down to either Ronald Reagan or AIDS, or possibly both. But 15 years later, you never heard such talk from the Keatons or the Huxtables, while now, almost 30 years later, it’s prime “CSI” fodder. It’s also bizarre to see the many different types of women asserting themselves as equal to men. Today, it’s stuff that even the most backward dude would find dramatically baffling. But no matter what the issue, with these stories, there’s always a happy ending.
Again, I may have complicated things.
As for the cast of the various episodes, the last person I would’ve expected to see on the first “Love American Style” DVD release was Harrison Ford, but there he was: on Disc Three, Episode 14, in a segment called “Love and the Former Marriage.” In fact, he’s the highlight of the otherwise unengaging tale. He plays a goofy, hippie college type whose vernacular is peppered with the phrases “groovy” and “far out.” (Keep in mind, this was in 1969, four years before “American Graffiti.”) But aside from Han Solo’s solo, here’s a list of reasons that make this set worth checking out: Mantan Moreland, Larry Storch, Gary Lockwood & Stefanie Powers (together!), Bill Bixby, Connie Stevens, Bob Crane, Phyllis Diller, Ozzie & Harriet Nelson, Tina Louise, Carolyn Jones, Red Buttons, Robert Reed (as a swinger), Rich Little, Jessica Walter, Scatman Crothers, Regis Philbin, David Hedison and…Norman Fell! (I eagerly await “The Ropers: The Complete Series” on DVD.)
Special Features: None. Sorry, folks. Most of the people involved in this show are dead, senile, or uninterested in commenting on their 20 minutes worth of work. However, if this set does well, a Stuart Margolin commentary sure would rock on the next volume.