I've been watching a lot of "Kate and Allie" lately. While others are binge-watching the hottest shows of this year, I find myself on YouTube, returning to one of my favorites from the 80s. I was the age of the kid characters when I got attached to a show about two moms, but it was the adults I was watching then. And these days, as I am suddenly (how did this happen?!) closer to the age of the moms, what brought me back every week then holds me even more now.
What's the attraction? The pace (as with many shows from that period of time) is slower than what we're used to now. Though the characters live in New York, which ought to feel familiar, the only real New York familiarity is in the opening location sequences--the families otherwise inhabit a New York City nothing like my New York City reality. There are no cell phones, much less smartphones (many of the storylines would be radically different if there were). There are no laptops, or kids at different schools, or clutter in a too-small apartment. And yet, I find the shows just as engaging as I did as a suburban teenager all those years ago.
I am surprised, at least a little, and then I realize what should be obvious to a soap veteran like me--good TV isn't always about bells and whistles. It isn't about always reflecting reality. What connects us, as it did on soaps for years, is good characters. Characters who are relatable, not because of the gadgets they have, but because of the way that they manage and the weaknesses that they overcome. Characters who might be a little like us, but not exactly. Characters who allow us to let our guard down and spend a little time with them.
It's not that there aren't lots of shows now that do just that. But it's fun to be reminded that things we enjoy stay the same...and that, as the song goes, "just when you think you're all by yourself, you're not."