The Family (1974 documentary series)

Discussion in 'Reality TV Forum' started by Mel O'Drama, Jul 26, 2017.

  1. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

    Message Count:
    3,306
    Trophy Points:
    5,561
    Ratings:
    +6,427
    Member Since:
    28th September 2008
    Some free time, wet weather and a veiled reference in an episode of Happy Ever After all led me to discover this fly on the wall series, which I'd never heard of before.

    This morning I took a peek at the first episode just to see what it was about, expecting to quickly click back out. Instead I found myself watching the first three episodes non-stop.

    It's a little slice of Britain as it was four decades ago. The family is boisterous, dysfunctional, sometimes unlikeable... and completely fascinating. I'm completely immersed and will continue watching when I get another free hour or so.


     
    • Like Like x 2
  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

    Message Count:
    2,032
    Trophy Points:
    6,327
    Ratings:
    +3,207
    I've never seen it but I know it was a big deal at the time and a big influence on Caroline Ahearne when she conceived The Royal Family.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

    Message Count:
    3,306
    Trophy Points:
    5,561
    Ratings:
    +6,427
    Member Since:
    28th September 2008
    Now that you've said it I can see the similarities (but I'd probably never have worked that out for myself).

    According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia it also gave material to Benny Hill and the Monty Python gang:






    Six episodes in and I'm still completely fascinated. The family dynamics are a psychologist's dream.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

    Message Count:
    7,003
    Trophy Points:
    8,250
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    somewherie on the prairie
    Ratings:
    +13,353
    Member Since:
    April 2002
    Wow, a reality show from the seventies! I think I'd like to see that.
     
  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

    Message Count:
    3,306
    Trophy Points:
    5,561
    Ratings:
    +6,427
    Member Since:
    28th September 2008
    Eleven episodes down - one to go. I'm loving this series so much.


    Everyone smokes, no matter what the occasion and no matter who is around (those poor kids). The family mostly wash themselves in the kitchen sink, but occasionally have a bath in the kitchen. Around ten members of the family live in a three bedroomed flat with one toilet. Very little of this stuff would fly today, so it only serves to show how times and attitudes have changed.

    What is completely timeless is the dysfunction and family tensions. And the double standards that people have. Here's a family that is liberal in so many ways and very conservative in others.

    The double standards have come across strongly in their attitudes towards race and marriage. Youngest daughter Heather is dating a boy of dual heritage (or, as the series announcer describes him: "half caste" *shudder*). The boy's mother talks in one breath about how intolerance comes from ignorance and in the next about her own intolerance towards "Pakistanis". Heather - who is present - is asked for her own views on Asian people and her reply is concise: "they smell". Throw into the mix that Tom told a disgusting racist joke and it's a strange combination.

    The family are very pro-marriage: Margaret and Terry married at seventeen, eldest son Gary married at sixteen and nineteen year old Marion is seen by her parents as missing out on the best years of marriage by not yet being wed (the implication being that if she's not married by twenty she's missed the boat). But both Margaret and Terry have had affairs (youngest son Christopher is not Terry's biological son), Marion is happy to wear white for her big church wedding while casually acknowledging that she's neither a virgin nor a churchgoer and has no intention of attending church after the wedding (adding to the layers of hypocrisy, she thinks the idea of a pregnant woman having a white woman very unpleasant).

    Things have got a little meta now. The series is on the air and we're seeing that reflected in the way the family are treated. They have journalists knocking on the door and filming them in the street which they're all handling with different degrees of diplomacy (mother Margaret gave them a firm "no", while eldest daughter Marion marched up to a street photographer and told him to "p*ss off").

    We've seen reports of the Marion and Tom's impending nuptials in the paper ("TV wedding of the year"). Margaret and Marion have pressured Tom like crazy into getting married, and one of the reasons given is because Marion wants to have her wedding televised. But it's been interesting to see how they handle a degree of celebrity - a far rarer thing forty years ago than it is now.

    At first they can be seen lapping it up. On the morning of the wedding, Margaret bemoans that a journalist is lurking outside the house as though it's the most prosaic occurrence. But it's easy to sense her barely suppressed glee that she is now someone who is newsworthy (I was reminded of social climbing Patricia in the first Sons And Daughters episode casually dismissing her photograph in the social pages as a terrible shot). Marion beams when she spies the crowd of people outside the house. Tom grins for all he's worth at the attention he receives as he arrives at the church.

    But once they've got what they want they are miffed that they can't control it. Leading to the groom attempting to physically remove a number of journalists who won't stop taking pictures by pushing them while the bride shrieked.

    We've also been given some soundbytes of the general public's responses to the show. Newspaper reports have trashed the show; old ladies have denounced it as "dirt"; while other people have embraced it and are hooked "it's nice to see how other people live", laughs one. As someone who missed this, it's great to get a sense of the phenomenon.



    I'm hooked, Willie. It's no airs and graces look at this family's life. As someone who finds the seventies quite fascinating this show perfectly captures the zeitgeist of working class England at that time.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  6. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

    Message Count:
    7,003
    Trophy Points:
    8,250
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    somewherie on the prairie
    Ratings:
    +13,353
    Member Since:
    April 2002
    I wonder what it's like to be filmed 24/7. Does the camera become a friend, a confidant and admirer?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

    Message Count:
    3,306
    Trophy Points:
    5,561
    Ratings:
    +6,427
    Member Since:
    28th September 2008
    I have a feeling their feelings around it will be discussed in the final episode. And perhaps even more so in the 1984 reunion show that I plan to watch after the final episode.

    My tolerance threshold for house-guests is low at the best of times. And I'm uncomfortable being filmed or photographed. You can imagine how I'd feel about someone coming into my home and filming me eating breakfast. The camera would become my mortal enemy.
     
  8. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

    Message Count:
    7,003
    Trophy Points:
    8,250
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    somewherie on the prairie
    Ratings:
    +13,353
    Member Since:
    April 2002
    Aha!
    That's how I feel about it now, but I wonder if that would change. Or even miss the camera when the show is over.
    How weird is it when you stop being a celebrity?
     
  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

    Message Count:
    3,306
    Trophy Points:
    5,561
    Ratings:
    +6,427
    Member Since:
    28th September 2008
    Hindsight can be a chilling thing.

    I'm watching the last episode and Jimmy Savile has just shown up. His first words to Terry before slowly nibbling 15 year old Heather's hand: "You realise, of course, that tonight I must kidnap all your ladies. 'Cos I have learnt to love 'em. I don't know which one I want yet."
     
  10. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

    Message Count:
    3,306
    Trophy Points:
    5,561
    Ratings:
    +6,427
    Member Since:
    28th September 2008
    The final episode and the reunion episode both had a sense of anti climax at the end. Both thoroughly enjoyable though.

    The last episode had a few more talking head direct interviews rather than the interaction/observations of the other episodes, but it was interesting to see how they viewed the experience and what they hoped for the future. And seeing where they were ten years on contrasted nicely with this.

    It's a shame Terry wasn't included in the reunion. It would be good to see his new life and hear what he had to say about things. Margaret seemed very happy with her new life. I love how proud she seemed of the bar in her living room, bless her. Karen talking about discovering Gary in flagrante delicto with the "old slapper" from down the road got pretty intense. I wouldn't wish to have been on the receiving end of that wrath (I find it a little odd that the wronged party invariably attacks the third party rather than the person who betrayed them, but that's human nature, I suppose).

    Heather really impressed me in the reunion. She'd grown into the most level headed of them all and I loved her outlook. Young Christopher, too, seemed to have turned into a genuine, nice young man. He probably had the least say in being in the spotlight, so it was brave of him to appear here.

    I really grew to like this family - warts and all. Now I'm curious about the American version on which this was based.
     
    • Like Like x 1

Share This Page