Are you ready for Must-Remember TV?
Do you remember that awesome opening when the soft music would play over that mysterious hand painting the faces of each member of the family? I loved it when the brush stroked over Tina Yother's lips ... Oooooh, Sha la la laaaaaa...
Tina Yothers wasn't in Valerie!!! Gah! I get that show confused with Family Ties all the time. It doesn't help that the gentle humor that prevailed in both shows skewed the line between the two. Oh, and Valerie also had two additional sons and no Malorie...and the dad was cooler, an airline pilot (tsssss hot!) and the show focused around the mom. Okay not a lot of similarities but still it didn't help that each shows breakout male star epitomized that Eighties de rigueur of swagger and cool that shaped the lives of many an adolescent teen. Screw that Jesus freak Kirk Cameron!
But let's face it people, Jason Bateman was really the Go-Bot to Michael J. Fox's Transformer, in terms of both ethos and quality there really was no comparison ...unless you think about how Jason never tried Cocaine or voted Republican on the show. So a few minor points to Jason there. Also, how could we forget the indelible bond that both boys created with us, the American people, for their portrayal of the hirsute Howard boys in Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf Too. Ummm, Mr. Bateman, I believe that I'll be taking back some of those cool points now. Thanks.
Valerie (1986 - 1987 ) sort of just popped in there as a TV show in my psyche sometime "back when" and I was instantly hooked. Yeah, there have been a million shows better than Valerie but at the time, the Hogan family just seemed to be a little fresher than most. I think it came along right when I was going into those rough years in school when everything around you finally mattered and you became ...ummm, aware of yourself. I connected with the warmth of the family and even the layout of the house. What I remember most is the kitchen/dining nook area that most of the dialogue took place in with its odd counter top island in the center of the room, and the even stranger picnic style table. Sure, the topics on the show were pretty run of the mill for the most part however I remember specific episodes dealing with the use of condoms, depression and even death.
What cemented this series in my mind is the fact that it was the very first time I remember anyone dying on a TV show. I was so shocked when Valerie dies in a car wreck! This came with no warming to me as I watched the show religiously and other than the "Very Special Episode" promos, never knew that David, Willie and Mark would lose their mom. What brought this home to me was that about a year before this happened a good friend of mine lost his mom, also the first time I had to deal with the uncomprehensable reality of death. Of course this was in a time before the internet and daily entertainment downloads, Extra or Access Hollywood so I had no clue that Valerie Harper was holding out for more money and the writers and producers just decided to bank on the fact that people were really watching because of Jason Bateman and felt that it was easier to lose Rhoda. This was not something that Entertainment Tonight would have showcased.
The next season Valerie became Valerie's Family (1987 - 1988 ) and introduced glass-eyed Wheat Thin hocker Sandy Duncan as Sandy (really!?) Hogan...or Aunt Sandy, which also freaked me out because my mom's name is Sandy and all my life my cousins referred to her as Aunt Sandy. I was certainly familiar with Sandy Duncan from that great guest appearance on the Scooby Doo Mysteries. I really had a hard time digesting the fact that Valerie was gone (still unaware of the real reasons) but Sandy was such a ray of sunshine and someone needed to take control of those wild Hogan boys!
Thus ended the reign of all things Valerie and the show name-changed one more time into the most oft-remembered The Hogan Family. 1988 - 1991
What family sitcom would be complete without the nerd best friend? Like every Branson theater show has a clown, every great sitcom had a nerd. Family Ties had Skip, Too Close for Comfort had Monroe and The Hogan Family had Bert. Bert was my all time favorite because he was so nerd core, and he had the best nerd laugh! Poor guy. Bert was mainly there to serve as the foil to cool David and as a constant punching bag for Willie the brutish son that I never really cared for. As for Mark, I think I associated myself with Mark the most because I liked his sense of humor, the fact that he was always the last to get picked for anything and kind of a wall flower, but really I could go toe-to-toe with him when it came to garish oversized sweaters. I had 'em all, in most every color and design. I was a frequent shopper at Chess King! Yes, I think the reason I liked the Hogan Family the most is the fact that they acted like a real family, you knew a guy like David, you sat across from Mark in Social Studies, you had a friend who had lost a parent or knew some kid who lost their house to a fire. For me they truly captured a golden time in the Eighties, when I was young enough to start to remember things.!
(It's so sad looking back at those old ads knowing now that Valerie would bite it and not being able to tell Jason Bateman about it!)