What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this iconic '60s sitcom was the first to cast a young, single, independent woman as the main character ... but she didn't exactly embody the pure feminist movement. Though Ann leaves her parents' home to pursue her dreams in the big city, she's unable to separate herself from their more-traditional expectations for her, and she sometimes lets her feelings for them override her personal ambition. Laughs usually revolve around mishaps at her many odd jobs, so the mild subject matter invites family viewing. But kids may need some timely background to appreciate why this show was groundbreaking for its time -- and even then they'll probably find the whole '60s-era package fairly hokey.
What's the story?
A groundbreaker when it debuted in 1966, THAT GIRL was the first TV series to star a young, single, independent woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated world. The show centers on twentysomething Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas), who gets the acting bug and -- against her parents' better judgment -- leaves her family's comfortable home in Brewster, New York, for the lure of the Big Apple. Once she gets there, despite her movie-star looks and bubbly personality, she's forced to hold down an assortment of temp jobs while she longingly awaits her big break. Luckily Ann has plenty of encouragement from her boyfriend, Don Hollinger (Ted Bessell), whose support of her ambitions is almost enough to counterbalance her overbearing father Lou's (Lew Parker) stern (to say the least) disapproval of her new lifestyle. Other short-lived characters likewise reflect the different sides of the feminist struggle, including Judy (Bonnie Scott), Ann's neighbor in early episodes, whose identity was defined by her marriage to a doctor; and an elegant, self-confident friend who comes to town to perform on Broadway.
Is it any good?
In typical '60s TV style, That Girl draws most of its laughs from comedic catastrophes -- in this case, the many odd jobs Ann unsuccessfully takes on in between auditions. While this makes for worry-free family viewing with older kids, it's unlikely that the show -- which is a bit cheesy by today's standards -- will appeal to tweens. Nostalgic adult fans of rosy, good-natured comedies will probably have to enjoy this one alone.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the feminist movement. When did women's possibilities begin to expand past the home? What historical events contributed to the change in women's attitudes about their own potential? What type of response did they receive from men in the workplace? What careers have become the least gender-based? Which seem to remain the most exclusive? Who are some of the women your kids admire? What roles do TV and other media play in social movements like feminism? Which of today's shows do you think might be considered groundbreaking a few decades down the line? Why?