Maude was a 1970s TV sitcom created by the brilliant Norman Lear. Brilliant because all of his TV sitcoms were hits. Back then there was one big similarity in his shows, they were all so loud. When I was researching The Jeffersons, another Lear creation, I found many newspaper articles complaining about how loud the Jeffersons characters were, loud and rude to each other. People wanted to know why a Black family had to be portrayed in such an unfavorable light. Well, starting with the very first episode of Maude, I had to turn the volume down on my laptop. Maude hollers at Walter, the husband, Carol (the daughter, hollers at Maude, when their neighbor Arthur, comes over, they all holler at him-during the second episode Arthur shouts that he will never set foot in their house again! The sitcom went on from there for six seasons. Crazy! Of course, 30 some-odd years later I am probably a lot more sensitive to loud noises. Be that as it may, Maude was indeed a hit comedy show, and Bea Arthur was exactly the right choice to play her.
Bea Arthur was an accomplished actor by the time she was chosen for this part. She made her TV debut in 1951 on Once Upon a Tune a weekly half-hour television series that aired on the Dumont Television Network, and had started acting on stage in 1947.
This post however is about how one of the very first episodes helped make this show of relevance to its viewers. On September 19, 1972, the episode “Doctor, Doctor” aired. In this episode, Arthur, the next-door neighbor (who was a doctor), found his granddaughter and Maude’s grandson playing doctor behind the garage, without a stitch of clothes on. Arthur was incensed. He wanted the grandson, Phillip, punished. Maude and her daughter, Carol, played by Adrienne Barbeau, poo poo’ed the idea saying they were just kids and interested in their bodies. Big loud argument ensues. Should Phillip be punished or not?
This episode was relevant to me because…….one day I went out into our yard where the owner had a shed and I found my six-year-old daughter in the shed with my neighbor’s little son and they were both naked. I was aghast, but I didn’t know what to do so I called my mother. She said to me what was said in the Maude episode, that I should not spank her because that could make her ashamed of her body. Just tell both kids that it was not the right thing to do to take your clothes off outside and then take the little boy home and get on with my day.
I’m going to have to call Melony and ask her if she remembers that day. Probably not since she did not get a spanking. Haha.
Anywho, stick around, this sitcom’s topicality was varied and controversial and the portrayal of the characters was right on. As in “Right on, Maude.” Bea Arthur is a master of timing and provides a lot of laughs. I hope I can write a book on this show that throws out good vibes from the 70s.
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