Sunday, May 07, 2006

So long, farewell: 7th Heaven

Look at that picture! They all look so young, don't they?

And when you vote in the best-of-TV survey, don't vote for 7th Heaven. Please.

Anyway, I thought I might provide brief eulogies for the seven long-running series leaving the air this year. I've seen enough episodes of all of them (save for one, which might surprise you) to offer a concise enough analysis of what was good and bad about each series.

The first show to air its series finale (and The CW confirmed it wouldn't be back last week) is 7th Heaven. It's also the longest-running of the shows leaving the air, clocking in at 10 seasons. It's also the longest-running family drama of all-time (using The WB's stringent requirements that the show be ABOUT a family and not just SUITABLE for family viewing), beating The Waltons out by one season.

But why did a show this mediocre and, well, WEIRD last that long anyway? At its best, 7th Heaven was nothing more than an idiosyncratic 50s throwback, like one of those shows produced by the church where a modern family would confront a moral crisis, then resolve it through good Christian living. Now, in theory, there's nothing wrong with this, but 7th Heaven tried to blend these conventions with the modern soap, so we got a show where people were waiting to get married so they could hop in to bed together and have sex solve their relationship problems.

Plus, it had a dog named Happy, credited as being played by a dog named Happy.

7th Heaven started out as a show that wasn't exactly BAD, per se. Its first few years, when the family was mostly intact because Jessica Biel hadn't left to pursue movies and the title of Esquire's sexiest woman in the world, the show was fairly entertaining for what it was. It was safe, granola-y programming, the type your mom might like to watch.

But then things went off the deep end.

There's a common stereotype out there of the judgmental fundamentalist Christian. I think 7th Heaven may be more responsible for that stereotype than any work of culture in the history of the world ever.

Okay, I exaggerate (somewhat), but the producers did seem to have no idea how to build a consistent moral universe (see the comments about sex above). Plus, with the exit of Biel (and later Barry Watson), the household at the center of the show became a revolving door, letting character after character enter the show, then leave when they didn't gel with the central ensemble. At least Happy remained a constant.

Plus, as the little kids grew up, the show just got kind of creepy. They all turned out uniformly attractive, and, soon enough, they were getting married or sleeping with the neighbors or sleeping with the latest boarder in the house.

And the moralizing got SO SHRILL. No one in the central family could ever be in the wrong, but those surrounding them certainly could. And the judgments passed down from the Reverend were always right. If you didn't listen to him, surely awful iniquities would befall you.

And the acting was always pretty bad. And in the musical episode, the singing was even worse.

Look. There's always going to be room for moralizing in pop culture. There has to be. We, as humans, get some perverse pleasure from seeing fictional characters have their comeuppance handed to them on a silver platter when they do something wrong. We like our white hats and black hats.

But that doesn't mean the moralizing has to be as thuddlingly obvious as it was on this show.

The next shows to leave the air are Malcolm in the Middle and The West Wing. Check in Saturday to see what I think of those.


Tram said...

Great news!

It just got resurrected.


calvierude said...

Nice post as the show is!!! 7th Heaven is a show with great acting, nice story and writing skills all are fabulous. So watch 7th Heaven TV Show with full episodes from here and enjoy your precious time...