laughing with television comedies

The challenges of older women and crazy families can be pretty entertaining ….

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It’s hard to find comedies that engage my mother. Her sense of humor has changed over the years. She doesn’t stay current with pop culture, so does not always understand the references in current shows. There are two programs that always manage to make her laugh and that we have watched over and over again: The Golden Girls and Keeping Up Appearances. 

The Golden Girls (TGG for short), which originally aired from 1985-1992, focused on four older women with distinctive personalities who faced their aging processes from different perspectives. Mom loves this show. She enjoys the give and take between the characters, as well as how the show presents growing older. Of course, she may not remember all the references in The Golden Girls, but she is more likely to understand those older topics than those on the newer comedies. She also appreciates smart writing and funny lines, which TGG features.

Over the years, Mom never mentioned with which of the characters she identified, but now she is firmly in the Sophia camp. Sophia is the 80-something year old mother of Dorothy, so age alone would probably account for leaning in that direction. But, it’s more than just similarity in ages – she likes Sophia’s feistiness, energy and lack of filter. Sophia says whatever is on her mind and Mom admires that honesty and pluck.

She also enjoys the friendships. Mom’s friends are 400+ miles away and they communicate via phone calls and letters – it’s not the same as face-to-face discussions and shopping trips. The friendships on The Golden Girls are terrific – there is respect and fun, serious issues and silliness. The characters remind her of what she has lost, but rather than being sad for herself, these are good memories and seem to tap into the happiness she felt when she was able to hang out with her friends. Sophia, Dorothy, Blanche and Rose seem to be surrogates for those close companions and confidants.

Keeping Up Appearances (or KUA) is a British comedy that originally ran in 1990-1995 and focuses on an overbearing and pretentious middle-age (or older) woman (Hyacinth), her poor husband (Richard), her extended family (sisters, brother-in-law, father and son) and assorted neighbors. Mom loves this program because of its silliness. Like The Golden Girls, the characters are distinctive and entertaining – I’ve come to like the show more than when I saw it the first time. The comedy is broader and generally more physical in nature than TGG, but it’s the appeal of the characters and talent of the actors that really bring it home.

KUA focuses on relationships – though in this case, it’s between family members. The sisters – Hyacinth, Daisy, Rose and Violet – really do pull together and love each other … though Hyacinth doesn’t necessarily want to acknowledge them at times. Even between the obnoxious Hyacinth and her long-suffering husband, there is both love and exasperation. The episodes are an exercise in the ridiculous. In some ways, it is surprising that Mom loves this show, but she usually laughs from start to finish.

Both of these programs bring the funny (finding the funny everyday). They also highlight the ability of people to come together, regardless of personality and perspective, and appreciate each other. They celebrate families – official or intentionally created – and what we have to do to get along and how, at the end of the day, we come together and laugh.

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