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February 7th, 2010

Smartmom Loves her TV Families

Here it is. The Smartmom column from this week’s Brooklyn Paper.

It’s winter and Smartmom and Hepcat often find themselves in their newly re-decorated living room watching television. Why not? They’ve got an incredibly comfortable new couch, a new rug and a new console, which holds their slick flat-screen TV.

Heck, they’re like any other modern family watching TV shows about, er, families.

People know their television families better than their own: True, TV families aren’t a bit like real life as they’re usually richer, better looking and equipped with better comeback lines. But something connects us. Maybe it’s watching the mistakes, the melodrama, the way they screw things up that helps us reflect on our own complicated and muddled lives. It can only make us feel better about ourselves.

Smartmom and Hepcat’s favorite new show is “Modern Family,” a half-hour mockumentary on ABC, which follows Claire, a neurotic suburban mom of three, married to Phil, her appealingly immature husband. Interviewed in the first episode, he says: “I’m the cool dad, that’s my thang. I’m hip, I surf the Web, I text. LOL: Laugh out loud. OMG: Oh my God. WTF: Why the face?”

Smartmom can relate. At one time, she though LOL meant “lots of love.” Needless to say, the Oh So Feisty One got a big kick out of that. And she’s tried to be hip and cool with her kids and that usually backfires big time. Teen Spirit doesn’t want advice from his mom. And OSFO could care less what her mom thinks about anything.

It’s just a phase, Smartmom tells herself again and again.

On “Modern Family,” Claire’s daughter Haley, is a 15-year-old version of OSFO. She rolls her eyes profusely and looks like she’s on death row every time she has to interact with her parents.

Claire and Phil get tongue-tied when it comes time to reprimanding their children. That’s another problem Hepcat and Smartmom used to have. But really, what’s so hard about telling OSFO that she’s grounded? She’s already slammed her door midway through Smartmom’s sentence.

And Teen Spirit is 18. Smartmom and Hepcat still haven figured out what the new rules are anyway.

Is he supposed to come home at night?

Claire’s brother Mitchell is gay and he and his male partner, Cameron, have just adopted a Vietnamese baby. They’re a strangely mismatched set: Mitchell is the nervous Nelly while Cameron, born to be a dad, is comfortable in his own skin. He’s also unselfconscious about his considerable girth.

“Apparently your body does a nesting, very maternal, primal thing where it retains nutrients.” Cameron tells the off-camera interviewer. “Some sort of molecular physiology thing; that’s science. You can’t fight it.”

Smartmom knows all about that phenomenon. Marriage and children have added too many pounds to her delicate frame, and it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with those orange flavored Milanos. It’s science. You can’t fight it.

Smartmom and Hepcat are also obsessed with “Big Love,” an HBO series about a Mormon family in Utah that practices polygamy. The show, which is downright addictive, is about Bill Hendrickson, his three wives and seven children. While the premise is unfathomably sexist, it is fascinating they way the women share their hubby with their sister wives.

Hepcat is pretty sure he’d never want to be a polygamist.

“One wife is enough,” he told Smartmom.

Indeed, Hendrickson has his hands full with three feisty — and strong-minded — women (which is supposed to make up for the sexism of their lifestyle).

That said, what if the show was reversed and a woman had three husbands? Now that might be fun.

Sunday nights are also packed full of TV families. There’s “Desperate Housewives,” which Smartmom adores for its over the top silly, funny melodrama. She loves glamorous Gabby, who is blatantly clueless about raising her two overweight daughters. She makes every mistake in the book, but deep down she has a heart of gold (hmm … sounds familiar).

And then there’s ABC’s “Brothers and Sisters,” which presents the kind of large family that could only exist on TV. They have plenty of money, gorgeous homes and drama a-go-go that keeps the writing staff busy (divorce, political careers, cancer, miscarriages, affairs, gay parenting). And holding it all together is the uber nurturing matriarch played by Sally “You Like Me” Fields. Despite the fact that the character’s “selfless mother” bit makes Smartmom gag, Fields is an appealing actress.

So why does Smartmom love and endure Claire and Phil and Mitchell and Cameron and Bill, Barb, Nikki, and Margene and Gabby and Carlos and the whole Walker gang?

Well, it’s fun to sit on the new couch and watch how fictional families live. Maybe it makes her feel a little bit better about her life, warts and all. And sometimes, Hepcat and Smartmom even hold hands.

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