Reviewed by Monika Bartyzel
In the words of my friend: be patient, because one day everything will be on DVD. It has been almost 40 years since the show aired, but in the throngs of new releases and re-releases comes Love, American Style — Season One, Part One. Spanning five years (1969-1974) and airing along with classics like The Brady Bunch and The Odd Couple, the hour-long show featured a weekly, quirky collection of vignettes focusing on the many facets of love – not that fond look as the lights went out over two cold, single beds, but rather the diverse realm of sexual interest, from old-school computer dating to swingers’ parties.
It’s an interesting little show that somehow exists in a limbo between the realms of old social norms and new boundary-pushing (within the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, that is). In one episode called Love and the Pill, instead of pushing abstinence, a mom and dad cook up a scheme to sneak their daughter the pill. They hope that by convincing her boyfriend to covertly feed it to her, she won’t get pregnant when they travel overseas together. The vignette is strange and pretty progressive. However, at the same time, there are lots of stories that still uphold some old and tired stereotypes. In Love and the Other Love, for example, wife Pat doesn’t get mad when her husband is 2 hours late for her dad’s birthday dinner, or when he shows the car much more concern than her, or that he sold the family car for a 2-seater he won’t let her drive. In the end, she wins out, but that “men will be men” is pretty tired, and really contrasts against the boundary pushing in other episodes.
But still, Love, American Style is a fun, humorous show that’s good for some light fluff and a blast from the past when you need an escape from the everyday grind. It’s also chock-full of recognizable faces. There are old-school names like Ozzie and Harriet, Red Buttons, and Scatman Crothers, as well as personalities who are still around today. You can see Regis Philbin, pre-talk show. Jessica Walter, of recent Arrested Development fame, pops up as a soon-to-be bride and daredevil. But the best appearance is by Harrison Ford. He appears in the episode Love and the Former Marriage as a humanities student who is about to run off and marry the daughter of a divorced couple. However, when the ex-husband is called over to solve a family crisis, Ford ends up counselling all of them and rethinking his hasty decision.
As a DVD set goes, this is very, very basic. Scratch that – very, very bare-bones. The episodes are the only media to be found on these DVDs. There are no special features of any sort, which is a bit of a waste. While it would be difficult to put together a lot, since the show is so very old, it would’ve been nice to see some of the actors talk about their experiences as guest stars or show regulars. It also would have been nice to have a run-down of all the actors who pop up in future episodes – as a sort of trailer and teaser to get you interested in what’s to come.
This brings up another point – this is only the first half of the season, so you’ll have to wait and then fork over more money for Part Two. Seeing that there are no perks to these DVDs, this act seems like nothing more than a desperate cash-grab, which is a shame since a number of the episodes are enjoyable. That being said, there is one thing about this set that is really impressive – its packaging. The collection is encased in one normal-sized, clear DVD case, and the slip-in cover has the episode list and guest stars listed on the back, so that you can see it through the case and easily pick the episodes and stars you want to check out. (Note: While the episodes are listed by air date, they were filmed in a different order, so the list isn’t numerically listed.) But that’s not all — instead of those ultra-wimpy and easily-broken plastic cases that come with many other television sets, this case has the regular DVD holder on the back side of the case, as well as a durable, swinging, plastic center insert that holds the other two discs. You can pop it open whenever you like without worrying that every bend in the case is one step closer to it breaking off.
All in all, this is a fun and simple set. You probably won’t howl with laughter over the episodes, but there are a number of chuckles that pop up, and if you’re looking for something fun and retro, you can’t get much better than this. There’s swinging tunes, swinging clothes, and lots of retro quirk — as well as, of course, swinging swingers. It’s also the show that brought us Happy Days – but that’s another episode in another set.