A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Patty Duke Show is a mid-'60s sitcom centering on look-alike cousins (both played by then-rising starlet Patty Duke) who navigate high school together, despite their significant differences of personality. The comedy is all very innocent; most stories concern a misunderstanding of some kind, and the characters' attempts to set things right usually result in even more chaos. There are some romantic teen relationships but not even a hint of sexuality. Even though it makes excellent family viewing, parents will enjoy the dated comedy more than kids will. If your tweens and teens tune in, they may be struck by the strict gender roles on display as well.
What's the story?
THE PATTY DUKE SHOW stars Patty Duke in dual roles as Patty Lane and her identical cousin, Cathy Lane. The show opens with the arrival of globe-trotting Cathy at the Brooklyn home of Patty and her family: brother Ross (Paul O'Keefe), mother Natalie (Jean Byron), and father Martin (William Schallert). Despite their amazing resemblance (explained by the fact that their fathers are identical siblings), impulsive Patty and sophisticated Cathy couldn't be more different from each other, and even with her worldly cousin's efforts to keep her grounded, happy-go-lucky Patty always manages to find herself in one mess or another. Also central to the cast is Patty's longtime boyfriend, Richard (Eddie Applegate).
Is it any good?
Dated gender roles and a black-and-white format can't dim this classic's huge appeal, mostly due to Duke's masterful toggling between starring roles. Clearly not one to be typecast, she is equally comfortable playing soft-spoken, idealistic Cathy as she is the quintessential American teen, Patty. The contrast between these two personalities is the show's most recognizable quality and yields many of its laugh-out-loud moments. (Well, that and the fact that each girl can manage a spot-on imitation of the other's voice, making for some hilarious scenes.)
Also notable, especially in light of the modern sitcom track, is the absence of concerning content such as sexuality or language. There's virtually no controversy to be found in these stories, which usually revolve around Patty (and less often, Cathy) falling victim to some kind of misunderstanding that balloons into full-scale chaos and hilarity. Yes, it's whitewashed and plenty hokey at times, and the outfits and hairdos are a hoot, but The Patty Duke Show remains excellent family viewing even decades later.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how special effects have changed since this show's time. Are split-screen scenes obvious here? How does new technology help blur the line between fantasy and reality? Is that ever a disadvantage to viewers?
Do you notice any stereotyping in this show? How does the passing of time make such content more obvious? In this case, are stereotypes negative, or are they merely a representation of how times were when this show was filmed?
How does this show portray women in particular? How has the female experience changed since this show first aired? Is true gender equality still yet to be achieved, or are we there?
Themes & Topics
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For kids who love classic comedy
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