Beliefnet
Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Free thinking. Reading about TV’s current trend toward reboots and remakes (i.e. The Odd Couple, Fuller House, Heroes Reborn, The X-Files) and catching an interview with the highly-likeable veteran TV actor John Amos (below) got me to thinking about a nearly forgotten series I think could be successfully updated.

As you probably guessed from the headline and the above video, I’m talking about Our House. The hour-long family drama starring Wilford Brimley and Deidre Hall (Days of Our Lives) premiered on NBC in 1986 to generally good reviews and ran for two season before succumbing to the one-two punch of competition from an in-its-prime 60 Minutes and football overruns.

Here’s the show’s original premise (as described by Wikipedia): After his son John dies, retired widower Gus Witherspoon (played by Wilford Brimley) invites his daughter-in-law Jessica ‘Jessie’ Witherspoon (played by Deidre Hall) and her three children to move to California to live with him until they can get back on their feet financially.

Despite protests from her children, Jessie, along with 15-year-old daughter Kris (played by Shannen Doherty), 12-year-old son David (played by Chad Allen), eight-year-old daughter Molly (played by Keri Houlihan), and their basset hound named Arthur leave Fort Wayne, Indiana, to start their new lives in California. As they settle into life with Gus, they realize that he can be difficult to live with. A major part of the plot each week was centered on the conflict that can arise when extended family tries to live together in the same house. As the man of the house, Gus imposed rules on the three grandchildren the same way he raised his own children but later learned ways to convey his lessons to the kids without being gruff. Jessie and the kids learn that beneath Gus’ stern facade is a man who is wise about the ways of the world and cares about them very much.

Here’s how I’d suggest updating it: Gus Witherspoon, a 75-year-old African-American retired U.S.  Army colonel invites his financially-struggling white daughter-in-law Jessie, three biracial grandchildren (15-year-old Chloe, 12-year-old Caleb and 8-year-old Molly) and basset house Arthur to live with him in his Atlanta home after the death of his war hero son in Afghanistan. Gus’ best friend is Binh Pham. They met during the Vietnam War when Binh saved Gus’ life. Gus returned the favor by helping Binh and his family escape to America following the fall of Saigon. (In the original Gus’s friend was played by Gerald S. O’Loughlan (The Rookies).

Those would by my changes — but, otherwise, the gentle spirit of the original show would remain intact.

Why I think this would work. As I’ve written here many times before, I think viewers are hungry for kindhearted shows that uphold traditional values and depict people of diverse backgrounds actually getting along and caring for each other. While the broadcast networks, to their detriment, continue to go the edgy route (to diminishing returns), I think they’d be wise to consider a change of course. Of course, I could easily see a show like this landing on UP TV, Hallmark Channel or even the new streaming Dove Channel.

The best thing to happen to television in recent years is its increased diversity. The worst thing is the increasing celebration of crudeness, darkness and just plain nastiness — which, IMHO, has as much to do with overall ratings declines as technology. A new Our House would be built on the solid ground of the former and provide a safe haven from the latter.

That’s a balance that will find an audience — especially with a strong, personable star like John Amos (Good Times, Roots, The Mary Tyler Moore Show) . Watch the interview below and I think you’ll agree, the guy belongs back on television.

John W. Kennedy is a writer/development consultant specializing in teleplays, screenplays and novelizations. He can be reached at john@jwkmedia.com.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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